Thursday, December 15, 2011

the attention of the world

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, "Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant."
2 Kings 5:15

The story of the healing of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, is classic Sunday School fare for kids. I remember hearing it often as a child growing up in church. Some of the more difficult problems were glossed over: the threat of Syrian war, the captivity of a Jewish girl in forced servitude, or the gruesome effects of leprosy. But for the most part, I remember the details of a miracle... Naaman is cleansed of leprosy after seven washings in the Jordan river.

The interesting part of the story comes when you contemplate the reality of a Gentile warrior coming to a lowly Hebrew prophet, and finding healing from the God of Israel. It is the Abrahamic Covenant at work, even when God's people were acting more like heathen people than the Gentiles themselves were... at least the Syrians. The nations of the earth are being blessed by the God of Israel, in direct fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham.

Naaman's response is confessional. He is ready to devote his life to the worship of Yahweh. He had despised Israel to the point of disdain at the thought of washing in the muddy Jordan. But now he was hauling home Israeli soil to build a mud brick altar on which he planned to sacrifice exclusively to Israel's God. He has converted. And it is at this point that we again are reminded that even in the Old Testament, God desired that the nations come to Him. He wants the world to know His grace and glory!

If God could use one prophet and a dirty river to do His work of reaching the world, imagine what He wants to do through His church! It is time to stop pursuing a selfish enriching agenda like Gehazi did and instead point to the glory of God like Elisha. From there, the world can see God and we can be agents of His glory. Christians should be proclaimers of God's glory in the gospel to all the earth.

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