Expect God

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This healing does not go as expected.

Naaman, this brief character of the Old Testament, gets mentioned in Luke 4 as Jesus is stating how prophets are not accepted in their hometowns. Naaman was as outsider, yet this is the one individual Elisha cures of leprosy. Naaman then worships the Lord and Elisha forgives his sins, sending him in peace.

2 Kings 5:1-15

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This healing does not go as expected.

Naaman, this brief character of the Old Testament, gets mentioned in Luke 4 as Jesus is stating how prophets are not accepted in their hometowns. Naaman was as outsider, yet this is the one individual Elisha cures of leprosy. Naaman then worships the Lord and Elisha forgives his sins, sending him in peace.

Naaman is not the expected recipient of such a gift. Naaman is not the expected individual to be praising the Lord. However, he does seem to expect much, perhaps due to his status. And he has some rather clear expectations about how this healing of his should come about.

Look to verses 9 through 14, Naaman shows up in style with his horses and chariots and expects big things… Naaman gets a messenger who tells him to go wash in the river. Naaman is outraged! ‘Really? This is the treatment I get? I thought that for me surely Elisha would come out! I came here for instructions to wash in the river?’

In Jesus’ time, a centurion leader sends for Jesus’ help, but has the opposite request. The centurion asks that just a messenger be sent. (Luke 7)

These two different people seeking healing are very relatable, though different in humility. We seek the Lord for help. I’ve prayed for lots of things. I have had one specific prayer answered exactly as I prayed it. It rocked me back on my heels. I had prayed for the Lord to come to someone I love in a dream and it happened immediately that night. The next morning, I was astounded.

I share the one occurrence of an answer to such specific prayer to look toward every other occurrence. Pretty much every other time, the Lord has acted in a way different from how I would have expected things to occur.

After my first year teaching I got notice my job was not guaranteed for the coming year due to class sizes. I prayed for a change by the end of the school year. It didn’t happen. Instead I ended up serving in camp ministry and then back to school work, leading to one of the busiest summers of my life when I was called to serve as interim program director the following summer. It was exactly what needed to happen for myself and for the ministry even if I longed for a relaxing summer and job security instead. Thank the Lord that God’s plans were greater than my own even if I got pretty tired in the process.

We are to expect God, not our own agenda.

When we look to our own expectations, how can this distract us from seeing how God might show up?

How are we expecting God to show up? Who do we expect God to show up with and for?

Look at the unnamed characters of today’s story. This is all set in motion by the faith of a girl who was a captive from Israel who now served Naaman’s wife. She was in an opposite position compared to Naaman, a servant in his house, but she sets something life-changing in motion for him as she mentions hope for Naaman from the Lord through the prophet, Elisha. (She is probably taking significant risk if this doesn’t work out.) Naaman’s wife, also unnamed in the story, is the one to bring this message to Naaman. It is Naaman’s servants again who change the story as Naaman thinks the command to wash in the Jordan is ridiculous. He turns away! But these servants say, “Wouldn’t you have done whatever the prophet had commanded if it was something difficult?”

The king of Israel thinks this is an impossible task and pretext for war. Naaman expects a big show. But Elisha and the unnamed faithful know that God is at work here.

We have the miraculous work of God, not Elisha, in this story, changing the life of an outsider. And I love the people used to make the change. Everyone is of a lower societal status than Naaman and not even named in the text.

Even the word of healing itself is not brought by Elisha, but by a messenger.

Naaman is fully made clean as Naaman is also brought low.

Naaman offers great gifts to Elisha, but they are refused. What is important is his declaration that there is no God in earth except the God of Israel and he makes quite a statement that we might pass over easily. “Please accept a present from your servant.”… Your servant…

Servant… perhaps better translation here and for the previous servants in our story is ‘slave’. Naaman is putting himself in the place of those lowly heroes who don’t even get names in our text today.

What does this mean for us?

We are called to be humble. This isn’t to deny things that are great about us. Naaman should not say, ‘Oh, I’m not that great of a commander or warrior.’ That is false modesty. If you’ve been given the gifts for something, own it. If you have practiced to become good at something, don’t deny your ability.

The humbling is in denying elevation over someone or something else while acknowledging your place simply as a human being.

As we humble ourselves, we remember that we have been created like our neighbor in God’s image and despite any earthly elevations of status or ability we share in the title of human and child of God.

Naaman has ideas that something big should happen at the hands of Elisha. We don’t necessarily know why he expects this, but we know he is elevating himself to places of decision-making that are beyond him. He expects God to fit his agenda rather than expecting God in humility.

He is not in the place of God to determine how he will be made well.

We are also not in the place of God to determine the way in which we will be made well.

We set aside our own expectations and look with expectancy to God’s presence in healing. We look to the one who can do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

We know the prayers that don’t seem to get answered. Some prayer and healing doesn’t look like what we’d ask for.

Just as we do not bring about our own salvation and we look to Christ alone, we are united as we pray for what we need and desire that this is dependent on God’s will and not our own.

I remember the miraculous way my brother’s life was spared in a terrible car accident and the pain surrounding a friend who died at just 16-years-old from cancer. Both were prayed for.

I don’t need to go into great detail about either of those stories. You have your own stories. We can relate to gratitude for someone whose life was preserved and grief in death. You can probably relate to those prayers that we pour out for healing and for life to be preserved.

What I want to share with you is that both of those individuals have continued to be a source of life, faith, and healing. The healing didn’t stop when my brother was spared or when my friend was released from her earthly pain. The work of the Spirit has kept healing far past these events through the continued faith and blessings of both of those individuals.

So, what is next for Naaman as he is healed?

Elisha says, “Go in peace.” Elisha’s servant thinks Naaman got off too easy from that and Elisha should have taken some sort of physical gift that was offered. So the servant, Gehazi, runs after Naaman to ask for a couple of coins and changes of clothes for some made-up visitors that Gehazi claims have come from a long ways off.

Though Gehazi is in the wrong here, we see something worth mentioning from Naaman. Naaman quickly gives what is asked for.

Elisha had healed him and he was on his way home. Naaman doesn’t really have an obligation anymore as Elisha had taken that obligation away. Naaman is already freed from the leprosy, cured of disease! He seems to act freely now because of what has been done for him. He is not just cured, but wholly healed.

Though we don’t know the rest of Naaman’s life, it appears he is blessed for the glory of God so people know God is present in Israel. His whole company sees what happens and this story doesn’t get lost as Jesus recalls it hundreds of years later. He is blessed in order to be a blessing to others and to point to God.

And so are we. As we come to God with hope for healing…

We expect God to bless us in what God knows we need in order for us to be blessings to others and glorify God.

We expect God’s healing in God’s way for all of God’s creation.

We expect God to use the voices of God’s people, frequently the voices we overlook and overpower.

We expect God to be our God, to grant the healing God knows we need, to call us to share in healing with our neighbors, and to give us a heart to serve and trust as we expect God’s good work now and forever. Thanks be to God.

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