Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:1–3)
Almost invisible in this great story of Elisha healing Naaman of his leprosy is the young Israelite girl whose simple sentence makes the miracle healing possible. She’s unnamed, and far from home because raiding parties from Aram were pillaging Israel of its food, it’s wealth, and of some of Israel’s people, including this young girl. Naaman has given her to his wife as a maid or a slave girl. What are the prospects for human flourishing for the girl? Not good. Only whatever Naaman’s wife decides her future to be. But the girl’s life is not wasted, and it’s not tragic. She simply speaks what she knows, the there is a good God in Israel, and his servant, the prophet Elisha is being used powerfully by the God of Israel. She’s got faith in Elisha’s God, and says so.
We all have a Frontline where we have some possibility for interaction with those who don’t know and love God. You and I don’t need to be Elisha, just a small person who speaks what she knows in a timely fashion. And God can do amazing things!
Prayers Not Answered
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:36–37)
Elijah’s prayer is answered! Fire from the LORD falls from heaven, consuming the soggy sacrifice and the altar, and the prophets of Baal are disgraces and soundly defeated. But Elijah’s next prayer is not answered.
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (1 Kings 19:3–5)
Not only does the LORD not grant Elijah’s prayer, but he provides food and sleep for Elijah before bringing him to Mt. Horeb, where Elijah is given a rare experience of the LORD’s presence. The LORD passes near to Elijah much in the same way that the LORD passed by Moses (Exodus 33:21-22). Who else in Scripture gets this privilege?!
It is more important that we pray than that we know what to pray for.
Asking a Difficult Thing
Elisha has just learned that his mentor and father figure, Elijah, will soon be taken from him by the LORD:
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. (2 Kings 2:9–12)
Elisha did see Elijah taken away, which was God’s sign to Elisha that he would be doubly blessed by the Holy Spirit. It makes me think we ask far too little from God. There are certain kinds of requests that God is pleased to grant.
What are you asking for?
How much is enough?
Then the king made a huge throne, decorated with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. The throne had six steps and a rounded back. There were armrests on both sides of the seat, and the figure of a lion stood on each side of the throne. There were also twelve other lions, one standing on each end of the six steps. No other throne in all the world could be compared with it!
All of King Solomon’s drinking cups were solid gold, as were all the utensils in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. They were not made of silver, for silver was considered worthless in Solomon’s day!
The king had a fleet of trading ships of Tarshish that sailed with Hiram’s fleet. Once every three years the ships returned, loaded with gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. (1 Kings 10:18–22)
Solomon had the best of everything, and of some things he had more than anyone else did. We have to ask: How much is enough? In our culture the temptation to upgrade is constant, isn’t it? Do we even recognize it as temptation? Not every upgrade is a sin, but how do we discern among the many options? That’s a good question, but not the first one to ask. First is: How much can I give? Then we can begin to sort out lifestyle options.
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” — C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Solomon spared no expense in providing for himself, and it was his undoing.
Pastor Mark loves his wife and grown children, the Word of God, and words. And coffee, chocolate chip cookies, Apple products, small video projects, and the New England Patriots.