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Monday, August 6, 2012

Easier Coming or Going?

I heard it said recently that on average a given person only responds and seeks Salvation after there has been what I think of as an 'in your face' invitation to come to the Throne of Grace at least three times.  That number may be significantly higher, but I don't think there is much argument that most folks don't come to Christ with any fewer promptings. What often happens in a Christians life after the initial trip to the Throne of Grace, regardless of how many or how few invitations led up to that life-saving trip, is that for any number of reasons many Believers turn away from Grace. 

While Grace leading to Spiritual Salvation is by and large a New Testament concept, if we ignore the Old Testament presence of Grace, to both Old Testament Worshippers and pagan god worshippers, then at the very least we are committing a serious injustice in regards to the authority of God.  With this in mind, let's take a good look at chapter five of 2 Kings by breaking this bit of Scripture down into six sections, which will make it much easier to clearly understand what God would have us to learn from this piece of the Old Testament.

'Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.'  (II Kings 5:1    NKJV)

This first verse is pretty much self-explanatory, in so far as the author of this Book is introducing the pertinent facts about Naaman, who along with Elisha and Gehazi are the main characters of chapter five of 2 Kings.  The only thing absent in this background on Naaman is that like his master, the king of Syria, Naaman was a worshipper of pagan gods, specifically in the temple of Rimmon.  (Note: Rimmon, in addition to being a town allotted to the Tribe of Judah (See Joshua 15:32), was also the chief [pagan] god of Syria.)  It's important that we establish this background on Naaman, if only for the purpose of developing what is contrary to what many may believe in regards to God's intent for Old Testament people other than the Children of Israel.  We mentioned earlier that Grace was present in God's dealings with Old Testament people, and while that Grace didn't lead to Spiritual Salvation at that time, it did provide the means to salvation of a different sort, usually being delivered or rescued from bad situations or imminent physical harm or death.  The point of establishing Naaman's pedigree, so to speak, is to realize that this Old Testament Grace was not only available for the Children of Israel.

The next five verses lay the groundwork for Naaman to even consider going to what to him would be a foreign land in search of salvation, that being delivered or rescued from his affliction of leprosy.

2 And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” 4 And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.”   5 Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”  So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.'  (II Kings 5:2-6    NKJV)

I've often said, and firmly believe, that we do not have a God of coincidence.  There is no room in any Christian's life for 'luck', good or bad, or things that 'just happen.'  With that fact firmly in mind, think for just a minute about how events were orchestrated so that; 1) Naaman, a pagan god worshipper, had leprosy; 2) a young girl of Israel had been captured from her homeland and was now a servant to Naaman's wife; 3) this young servant girl had the steadfast belief that Elisha, a prophet of God in Samaria, could by the power of God heal Naaman of his affliction and; 4) that while the king of Syria did not worship God, he still sent Naaman to the king of Israel with a letter of introduction and expensive gifts for the express purpose of receiving healing from his leprosy. 

'7 And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.”  8 So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”  9 Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” '  (II Kings 5:7-10    NKJV) 
Now things start to really get interesting in this mini-saga of Grace in Naaman's life.  First, upon receiving the letter of introduction from the king of Syria, Joram the king of Israel from 852-840 BC, immediately thought the worst. While a quick read of this Scripture makes it very clear that Joram, the king of Israel at the time, was extremely upset when he read through the letter from the king of Syria, a more thorough reading combined with an understanding of the times will serve to wonder just exactly why Joram was so agitated.  Look back at 2 Kings 5:2 and you'll see a part of why King Joram might have looked at Naaman's letter of introduction with not only anguish, but quite possibly with suspicion as well.

'And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife.'  (II Kings 5:2    NKJV)

The thing that was probably foremost in Joram's mind was that here he had the king of Syria's right-hand man, who had in the recent past, as evidenced by the age of the Jewish servant girl, raided victoriously against Israel, coming with a letter of introduction that in his mind basically demanded the king of Israel to have Naaman healed.  Was there an underlying connotation?  I would say that it's safe to say, 'Yes'.  At least in Joram's mind.  We also have an irony here, and that's putting it mildly.  As the subsequent events tell us, the intent of Ben-Hadad II, the king of Syria from 860 through 842 B.C., was not to put the king of Israel in any kind of jepardy.  His apparent purpose in this matter was also his honest intent, to seek healing from leprosy for the supreme commander of his armies, Naaman.  This is what illustrates the irony I mentioned just a moment ago, that being that in a time of specific need, and we can be sure that Ben-Hadad II and Naaman would've already exhausted all of the resources available to them in both their own land of Syria and their temple of Rimmon before even thinking of following the Israeli servant girls advice to seek help in a foreign land from what to them was a foreign god, these two men, who were pagan-god worshippers, were so much more ready to turn to God for His grace than was Joram the king of Israel.  From the Scripture, Joram's first reaction was to rant and rave and throw a big fit about how Ben-Hadad II was trying to pick a fight with him, (See 2 Kings 5:7).  This is something that we, as humans, are prone to do, to think the worst about everything that happens.  It's our first instinct to only see the negative aspects of any given situation, and so the question comes to mind, "Where is God in all of this?"  Keep this in mind as we move on.

Now we come to a very important happening, and this event, although it did in fact take place about 850 years before the birth of Christ, the lesson to be learned in many ways is more relevant today in regards to the Believer's status before God while living in a secular world gone completely mad.

8 So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”  (II Kings 5:8    NKJV)

Let's look closely at the words of the prophet of God, particularily the last sentence in this verse when Elisha made the all-important point that only if he (meaning Naaman) came to Elisha would it be possible for Naaman to know that there is a prophet [of God] in Israel.  Now let's tie this lesson in with the question we're keeping in mind from our look at verse 7, that being, "Where is God in all of this?"  The point I'm working towards in all of this is that it's easier for us, especially as New Testament Believers, to separate ourselves from the Grace of God than it was for us to come to the Throne of Grace to begin with.  There are several reasons for this, with the first being that after the initial 'flush'  of the newness in Christ begins to fade away, we begin to try and maintain the feeling of Spiritual well-being by our own means.  We begin to decide what we should feel, and think, and do as Christians.  We morph into the type of Believers that Paul described in the beginning of Romans 10.

10 'Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.'  (Romans 10:1-3    NKJV)

I'm going to leave you with this thought today, and my prayer for everyone is that this thought, and the admonishment it holds, will never leave anyones thoughts.  Our Lord God promises us that He will, '...never leave us nor forsake us...'  Now this promise of God to us has to be held true in our hearts and minds or nothing else will ever come of our coming to the Throne of Grace.  If you think about it for just a short minute, if this most basic of promises is not true, then the shed blood of Christ is of no value and carries with it no hope.  But now let's look at the other side of this equation, so to speak.  God promises us to never leave us, but He doesn't promise us that we'll never leave Him, and that's where the trouble begins.  I made the statement earlier that it's far easier for us to separate ourselves from the Grace of God than it was to make the  initial trip to the Throne of Grace.  The only way to successfully guard against this happening is to keep Elisha's words in mind, "Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”  Naaman came to Israel seeking to be cured from his leprosy, and since he was a worshipper of pagan gods, it was only natural for him to go to the secular leader of Israel. That's how things are done in the non-Christian world even today.  Then we have King Joram reacting in a totally natural and worldly fashion, which we still see today, by assuming the worst.  Joram was the king of Israel, so it would only be logical to assume that he was a believer in God, yet his reaction to the arrival of Naaman with his letter in hand was what we would expect from anyone except a believer in God.  But it's sad to say that this exact sequence of events is what is seen constantly throughout the churches filled with New Testament Believer's around the world today.  Why is it so much easier to fall away from Grace than it was to obtain Grace in the first place?  Maybe it's because most of us come to Christ only after exhausting all other resources, and we feel as if we have nowhere else to turn to.  Then when things no longer seem so bad, we begin to try to rationalize away the awesomeness of God.  We try to either elevate ourselves to His level, or lower Him to ours, or maybe combine the two.

So, is it easier to come to Grace, or to fall away from Grace?

Be Blessed in your daily walk in the Light of His Grace!!!!