Saturday, August 8, 2020

Originally, this was my first post in 2011. Now, newly updated in August 2020 - I give you, "Barriers to Belief"

...Lessons from the wilderness...
updated 8 August 2020
Barriers to Belief

2 Kings 5:1-14 (NASB95)
1 Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.” 5 Then the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, “And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.” 8 It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. [1]

            The story of Naaman has a lot to tell us today.  In it we begin to see certain principles emerge, principles that are in effect today, principles that if we let them, will become barriers to our belief, and cause us problems as we seek out the kingdom of God.  These barriers fall into place with what we have been learning of the Holy Spirit, because, they tend to reveal to basic attitudes, known or not, that can cause us to run aground of God’s plan for our lives. 

For those of you who are more familiar with me, I like to look at Scripture in different ways, to get you to see threads underneath the stories, to look at them from a little different perspective.  In the story of Naaman, we want to see how these threads connect, and add to our study, thus adding to what God wants us to see.  Any move that God does in our lives usually consists of these three threads:

(1)   An attitude or pattern of behavior on our part is identified.
(2)   A Sovereign God establishes within us who really is in charge.
(3)   An unknown instrument of faith is used by God to change the way we do things.

           To see these threads, let’s look at Naaman. Naaman was a great man.  A warrior, captain of the host of the king of Syria.  Bible says he was honorable and a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.  Now, without a doubt, Naaman was also a proud man, as we’ll see later on. The point here is, this is thread number one.  The attitude of the man is being established.  Remember that here is a man who leads armies, he was the man who the Lord used to engineer the deliverance of Syria.  He was wealthy, a man that commanded respect, yet he was smote with leprosy.  Still he was proud.  Pride is the original sin you know.  It was pride that brought down Lucifer; it has been pride that has brought down many.  Pride has two distinct attributes associated with it:

        It is the one vice no man is ever truly free of.         
It is also the most unconscious fault we have.

           Pride is not vanity.  The proud individual is best characterized by the example of a dictator.  If a dictator cares not what people think of him, he will have his own way. It is in this doing of things our own way that pride lives in. Naaman was a proud man (thread 1), and then, the second thread is revealed, that of a Sovereign God proving who truly is in charge. God smites him with leprosy. 

           Now what about our third thread?  Look at vs two thru four.  Here is the real heroine of the story of Naaman. Here is the unknown instrument of  faith, the little maid, the slave of Naaman’s wife. She told Naaman’s wife, that if only Naaman would go to see God’s prophet, Elisha, he would be healed. That’s all. No "...well maybe if he went to see him he might get lucky and be healed...", no, it was if he would, he would be!  What faith!  This young girl just knew that God would deliver her master: for she knew her God. She knew that it was a Sovereign God that was in control of our destinies - in spite of what usually occurs: we wish (or think) we are (or were). 

            Wanting to be in control is the root cause of most of our own troubles. Two principles emerge that both believers and unbelievers share. 

(1)   Principle #1: Most unbelievers (and more than a few believers) are willing to go God’s way as long as God goes their way (we’ll see the examples of these principles in a minute).
(2)   Principle #2: Many believers end up going their own way, trying to make it look like it was God’s way.

            We live in troubled times.  Man, since the fall, has been trying to live in paradise, to create a new Eden without the controlling influence of God. Crime, wars, murders, famines; the list is endless.  How does man seek to solve these problems?  With his own solutions.

            In his pride, man thinks that he can do it his own way, but there is no solution, no political or academia solution that can solve these without a Sovereign God taking charge. There will never be social justice or an end to "inequality" if there is no acknowledgement that God exists. The world, the unbelieving world, sees this and rejects this solution: we as believers do also. Too many of us go our own way and act as if it is God’s way. 

            For example: we sell the gospel of Yeshua, Jesus the Christ. The Bible is the largest selling book in history. Look at all the ad campaigns, rallies, announcements about the latest greatest translation, flyers, commercials, telethons. The word of God is peddled, packaged and marketed. The ways of the world have crept into the realm of God. How can we not help but think that this hurts God’s heart, to see His people so in tune with how the world does business? Is belief in God a business? Should it be? I can understand the need to cover the cost of printing etcetera. But I must also wonder, can we truly justify doing things our own way by saying “God has asked me (or told me) to do this” when we know the truth - that most of the time it all comes from our own heart. To sin is bad enough, but to justify the sin by using the name of God?  How much worse is this?  

            If the world sins, dwelling in its vices and debaucheries, that is to be expected. If one who calls themselves by Christ’s name falls, this vice ridden world yells “Hypocrite!” Vice will defame virtue, for our virtue has gone it's own way, instead of going God’s way. We as believers, whether we call ourselves Christian or Messianic must ask ourselves:

 “Are we going our own way, and making it look like God’s way” 
“Are we going God’s way, no matter the cost, even if it hurts”.

            Should not the Word of God be given freely to all, so that all may hear of the One who loved us enough to die for us?

            We see in 2 kings, that Naaman wanted it his way. He went to see Elisha, who wouldn’t even go to the door to meet this "great" man. He expected God to be impressed with all the wealth he had brought to buy his healing; he expected a wave of a hand and "TAA DAA! Be healed!"  

            What he got instead was a servant to come to the door and tell him to go dip in the Jordan River seven times and be healed. Anger and resentment flared in him "...why the waters of Syria were better than the dirty water of Jordan!"  Yet, in the end, he submitted to God’s way, and was cleansed.

            Contrast this now with Elisha’s servant, Gehazi.  Elisha had received Elijah’s mantle.  Gehazi had been with Elisha from probably the start.  Elijah had performed 8 miracles, all recorded in the Bible. Elisha received a double portion, and had done 16. Gehazi saw them all. Now Elisha isn’t your ordinary evangelist. After Naaman was healed, he came and tried to pay Elisha with the treasures he had brought from Syria. 2 kings 5:16 clearly shows principle #3: God’s ministers ought not to make merchandise of His ministry.  Naaman came with new attitudes, those of thanksgiving (v. 15), reverence (v. 17), and humility (v. 18).  

             A Sovereign God affected those changes, all because of a little maid’s faith. Gehazi, who had witnessed miracle after miracle, who walked with God’s mighty prophet, who on the outside, appeared clean and going God’s way, grew greedy in his spirit. He lied to Naaman behind his master’s back and made a gain for himself, but was exposed in the end. He went his own way, making it look like God’s way, and lost. Naaman’s curse became his.

             We must be wary of playing the hypocrite. God’s word says “blessed are the pure at heart, for they shall see God..”  

             What can the world offer you that you would become or remain a hypocrite to God? If you desire to taste all that is Good and all that is pure, would you lie or cheat your way to get it? Nothing, no wealth, no position, no THING, can compare to seeing the face of God. Does material gain mean so much to us that we go our way and expect God to rubber-stamp it?

We must ask ourselves:

What is better? 
The relationship between our will and our faith or the gains we imagine we can make by using faith to enhance our material needs?

(Luke 4:16-27)  
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 
22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? 
23 And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. 24 And he said, Verily I say unto you,  No prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; 26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. [2]
             Here in these passages, Christ shows this relationship. We want God to work, but truthfully, we will miss the miracles of God because we don’t expect Him to work. According to our faith, it will be given to us. We are comfortable. We are content with our creeds, our songs, our sermons, our what-evers, and we no longer expect God to breakthrough. If we don’t expect it, it won’t happen. What has happened to our relationship of faith to will?

Actually, what is our relationship between truth and reality?

Truth was the original sacrifice. Mashiach was and is the Truth, the Life, and the Way.  Truth, if we go our own way, is the next sacrifice. It must be that we preach the Messiah and Him alone first. If this is not what is preached, then the reality is truth has been sacrificed -again. What does it profit us to crucify our Lord again, if we don’t accept the first sacrifice as truth?  The truth is evident in the way He walked - by all that God had taught Him, by all that God had instructed Him to say. He walked the Torah of God, the words passed down and written by Moses. What do we hear today?

We hear prosperity, we hear about blessings, we hear all that tickles the ears, all that pleases our souls, but we don’t come expecting. We come to be entertained, and promised a chicken in every pot. We hear preachers and teachers and rabbis that extol the virtue signaling of the social justice crowd; we hear politicians who promise us that pot of chicken, paid for by the hard work of others. We hear that no one is accountable for their own actions, that it is the fault of "systemic racism" built into a system dominated by "white supremacists". We demonize one another by our skin colors and never look inward toward the content of our own characters where the real problems lie. Everyone wants their lives to matter, at the expense of others. We never look to the three threads of truth, that uphold the two principles that define our realities.  

When the storm clouds hit and the levees break, those that we should have been telling truth to, cry out “Hypocrite!  Lies!  Where is your God?”  We hold those on the right on one hand as racist, deplorables, credulous boomer rubes, misogynists, xenophobics; on the other hand we characterize the left as intolerant, illiberal, violent, anarchists, marxists, snowflakes and death cultists. No more are those who have differing opinions toteralted and afforded dignified debate. We are balkanized in opinion, direction and all other matters that once made for a civil society.  

We’ve gone our own way, decided what is right in our own eyes, and either turned our backs on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or created our own god and pretend that it is THE God.  

What God then? The god of humanism and social engineering or the only true God? That is where truth comes in. Truth hurts. Truth preaches sacrifice, truth preaches suffering, truth says that there is no other way than the One True God’s way. Truth says that with God’s way, pain there might be, but joy follows in the morning. This is the relationship between truth and reality. Are we not all created by the same God, believer and unbeliever alike? Malachi 2:10(a) says:   "...Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?..." This isn't about selling the truth for profit, it is about changing our hearts so we recognize each other once more as being all created in His image. Truth and reality are found in this last statement. We will have differences; there will be injustices; there will be suffering and joy. But brethren and not-yet-believers: there is no longer any reason that can justify hate. Lev 19:18 (NASB)  says: 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.' Likewise, in Mark 12:28-31 (NASB):

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, 

Barriers need to come down.

A man of pride, a Sovereign God, and an unknown servant who in faith came expecting.  Pride was bowed down, God healed, and faith was proven, barriers to belief broken.  Where are we today?  Do we look at God like He is a game show, where it is the prizes that excite us, where the roar of the crowd drowns out that small still voice?  Or do we come, and bow our knees expecting God to be God?  In the end, what prevails?  Faith, or will?   Don’t tell yourself “It must be from God ‘cause it looks so good to me!”  Tell yourself and God, “Not my will, but thine be done…”

May God richly bless you this day, Amen.

[1] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[2] The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

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