The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 17
The Prophet Series: Elisha part 17
2KI 5:17-27 And Naaman said, "If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules' load of earth; for your servant will no more offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter." And he said to him, "Go in peace." So he departed from him some distance. But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, "Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him." So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw one running after him, he came down from the chariot to meet him and said, "Is all well?" And he said, "All is well. My master has sent me, saying, 'Behold, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.'" And Naaman said, "Be pleased to take two talents." And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of clothes, and gave them to two of his servants; and they carried them before him. When he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and deposited them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. But he went in and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, "Where have you been, Gehazi?" And he said, "Your servant went nowhere." Then he said to him, "Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? "Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cleave to you and to your descendants forever." So he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
The scripture is unlike all other human books in that it presents the whole character of men without embellishments, omissions, or exaggerations. The final conversation between Naaman and Elisha is odd, and yet so very real. Naaman requests two mules' load of earth so that he can build an altar to Jehovah out of Jewish soil. In his own mind this makes sense. Jewish water cleansed him, and his offerings, no longer to his false gods, but to Jehovah alone, should be done on an altar made upon Jewish soil. Fair enough, but this is against the Mosaic Law. He also asks for pardon when he goes into the temple of Rimmon, the Syrian thunder god, and assists his king in worship of the demon. Certainly he would have been executed if he refused to enter the heathen temple, and a better man would have risked his life to openly worship Jehovah, but men are men, and Naaman, a brand new believer, is weak.
Elisha doesn't encourage Naaman in these things, but he doesn't argue with him, which we may find odd. Elisha applies what we read in the New Testament: the strong is to bear the burden of the weak. To yoke this man with the Mosaic Law at this time of his conversion seemed unwarranted to Elisha. Maybe we imagine ourselves in the prophet's place, explaining to the Syrian the commands that Jehovah placed upon Israel, and bringing him to reason and light, but Elisha did not. He simply said, "Go in peace."
Paul said in 1Co 9, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more," and again, "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some." The question begs, how far and to what length do I go in bearing their weakness? We have no guidance in the Bible besides the love of Christ and the justice of God. Any of us who are strong spiritually has to judge the extent to which we bear the weakness of the weak without reproof or correction, and this must be done on a case by case basis. The point of the matter is to not heap upon them burdens that should be carried by the strong, or else they may quit on the spiritual life as impossible. None of us know what we are capable of until we have matured over years and years of striving with God. So we say to our children when we take them on a long hike and they become overly weary carrying their little packs, "I'll take that pack along with my own, but be sure to finish the hike. Soon enough you'll be carrying more than I can."
Certainly Naaman is sincere, and not many would openly renounce their old gods and publically worship Jehovah at an altar, even if it was not one sanctioned by God. As for his continued presence in the temple of Rimmon, he did not say that he was going to worship the false god, but that he would only fulfill his sworn duty to his king. It is even a clear testimony of his conversion, since he felt such service to be intolerable and begged forgiveness for it. He twice asked to be pardoned for it. These are not the best course for the man, but it is a course none the less, and we can imagine Elisha thinking, "The Lord will teach him and the Lord will keep him. I will not make an issue out of this." … "Go in peace."
Our minds are not completely changed when we come to salvation. We speak of this often in Bible class. All of us carry erroneous ideas and values into the Christian way of life. Here we see historical proof of that fact. A new convert under the grace of God, enthusiastic yet stupid. Ah to be young again… wait, nah, scratch that. We all wish we had today's brain in yesteryear's body, but none of us could have gone about it in any other way. Rather than lament our past, we should thank God in the heavens that He stood by us, and by His grace He led us thus far. Look back and smile at your youth. If you are a lover of Jesus Christ today, you didn't waste it.
Gehazi exposes himself.
The evil within Gehazi comes to the surface due to his true love of wealth. The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. Money follows his lover everywhere he goes and his lover is always ready to covet something that falls upon his eyes. Gehazi has hidden his evil for many years, but in order to get the wealth he loves, he has to allow his evil to show itself for a short time. It is like a small rodent that has to expose himself to predators and come out of the security of his earthen hole to find food. He hopes Elisha will not see him, the great prophet who has God given vision, which only shows how deep his desires have blinded him.
Grace has no reason.
Gehazi only sees a fair exchange. Israel gave healing and so Israel should receive Syrian riches. After all, Syria has been plundering Israel for years. It's only right. But is grace ever revealed in this way? Grace is God given for no reason. It is never given because it is fair and right to do so. There are no ledgers with balanced sides in grace. God gives to us for no other reason than He is love. If giving is done for a reason, even a good one, it cannot fall under the title of grace. Gehazi, like so many who have walked and are walking this earth, cannot see grace. Grace is foreign to the one who has not touched the invisible God.
Spiritual work has no equivalent in money. That's why we could pay a Gehazi for his work but we could never pay an Elisha. A pastor is never paid. He is to be supported so that he can give all of his time to the study of scripture. If a pastor looks at his pulpit as a job, then he has his reward in full. A pastor who faithfully gives instruction in righteousness cannot be recompensed, for what price tag would we put on righteousness? This is true of all spiritual gifts and ministries of every individual Christian. The church gives to the world. She gives the gospel and truth, and she seeks nothing in return. The Lord Jesus Christ is her Husband. Would He not provide for her?
Hypocrisy in religion.
It is said that the devil quotes scripture. He did so when he tempted the Lord in the wilderness. Gehazi states, "As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him." Such is of the worst kind of deception. It is the same as a building, labeled a church, but which houses only the passions of man and intense selfishness while they all are made to shelter themselves in the shadow of religion. They talk religiously, but are filled with hypocrisy and vice. Gehazi would be the lead officer in such a church.
"It's the principle of it all."
Wrongs have always been done by principle. This means that they must be justified. Gehazi justifies this wrong on the fact that he is an Israelite and Naaman is a Syrian (Aramean). People who desire wrong will tell you why on principle, and they will think you stupid when you can't seem to come around to their "just" reasons.
"Do you not see? Do you not hear?"
Gehazi has been in the presence of Elisha for many years. He has seen this great man of God deal in grace and goodness time and time again, and at this time, he is a witness to his gracious dealings with Naaman. It is amazing that it has no impact on him. We wonder the same at all in the world. The grace of the Lord is known to all. There is hardly a person on this earth, in our day, who does not know about the cross of Christ, and yet many remain unmoved. Gehazi witnessed a miracle and all he could do is calculate how much it was worth.
Forbearance precedes judgment.
Gehazi gains his desire but gets something extra. He sought the Syrian's wealth and he also found the Syrian's curse of leprosy. Slowly would his skin and hair and nails turn brittle and lifeless and opaque. The judgment of God came upon him, but only after years of witnessing God's grace and love directly through the work, teaching, and prayers of his master. It is a warning to all Israel. Gehazi was an Israelite, but he did not escape the curse of the Law. He was not the only one. There were many in Israel with leprosy, and none of them were cleansed. The cause of this leprosy would portray its true source when the Lord of glory finally came into the midst of His people. They rejected Him. His words damaged their own pride. Pride is the leprosy of the soul. They thought Him to be an arrogant and brash man since He did not fit their warped idea of their Messiah's demeanor.
LUK 4:24-29 And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his home town. "But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.
To Him be all glory and honor,