Reading the Old Testament never gets old. I mean, Leviticus can slow me down, but for now I am in 2 Kings and love it. Just this morning I read about Naaman, “captain of the army of the king of Aram.” He was “a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.”
A little girl from Israel served Naaman’s wife. This little girl mentioned that if Naaman could get before the prophet of Israel (Elisha), then he could be cured of his leprosy. The king of Aram allowed Naaman to go to the king of Israel and sent a letter to him asking him to cure Naaman of his leprosy. The king of Israel knows he is unable to do such a thing and worries that the king of Aram will be upset and wonders what evil will come on Israel when the King of Aram finds out he can’t help. In this process, Elisha realizes what is going on and tells the king of Israel to send Naaman to him.
Naaman goes to Elisha, but is not happy with the instructions Elisha gives him for being cured of his leprosy: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” Naaman is offended and leaves, taking his leprosy with him.
After encouragement from his servants, he returns to the Jordan and does just what Elisha told him to do and “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.”
After this miracle, Naaman wants to pay Elisha in gifts. But Elisha would not take anything from Naaman.
Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, overheard the conversation and wonders why in the world Elisha wouldn’t take a little something for the huge blessing that he just heaped on Naaman. Being healed of leprosy was no little thing, after all.
So while Elisha said, “As the Lord lives,…I will take nothing,” Gehazi said, “As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” And Gehazi does just that. He lies and he takes some gifts. And then he tries to keep it from Elisha, the prophet of God. That did not go well for him. In the end, Gehazi is the one who has to live with leprosy. Whew. That is rough.
What is also rough is reading this story and seeing yourself in Gehazi. The little girl and Elisha each showed no self-interest. Gehazi, on the other hand, operated out of his own self-interest. He thought it a waste to leave anything on the table in this ordeal. He wonders what sense that possibly makes? He sees no harm in taking payment even though he nor Elisha actually did anything for Naaman. It was all God, all grace.
Too many times I am given opportunity to act self-lessly, and I may initially obey. I may even hear the Lord remind me that He sees me and He is my reward and that is enough. Yet, I change my mind and decide I need the credit for this or that. I need the acknowledgement. I need the affirmation. I need the payment for my obedience. The quiet approval of God is not enough for me in that moment, so I “run after” what I think I need to take from the situation. And it never ends well.
Even and especially in motherhood I often wonder, “Is this eventually going to pay off—all this self sacrifice and giving? Will my kids ever acknowledge my hard work or will I be taken advantage of forever?”
This morning after reading 2 Kings chapter 5, I was asking the Lord to help me round this learning curve and truly dive in to gracious living and giving through and through. I asked Him to help me be like the servant girl and not like Gehazi.
And then I read 2 Kings chapter 6. Elisha is in Dothan and his attendant fearfully informs him that they are surrounded by “an army of horses and chariots….What shall we do?” The attendant was afraid and tempted to panic.
Elisha tells him to not be afraid because “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” I imagine the attendant scratching his head and looking around, unsure Elisha knew what he was saying. Elisha prayed for him to have his eyes opened to the unseen. “And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
Elisha saw God’s provision. Then, the attendant saw God’s provision.
G.Campbell Morgan, my all-time favorite Bible scholar, says about this section,
“It is such a consciousness that maintains the heart in strength and courage and quietness on the day when otherwise there might indeed be panic. That man always endures, who sees Him Who is invisible. This is the true function of faith and so faith becomes the secret of endurance, and the actual method by which we may take hold upon all the sources of strength.”
I am sometimes tempted to panic when I evaluate my life and wonder if I am wasting it with all the mundane tasks. I question whether I have invested in the right places and people. I am tempted to look for some worldly accomplishment to give me worth. The things God values are often not the things the world values. They are usually quite opposite. So how to do we keep making the Christ-honoring decisions, the selfless choices?
The secret of endurance is faith! And at the end of my time with the Lord, I was refocused on seeing Him. I was reminded that He is all I need. I made the connection that the way to avoid being Gehazi, looking out for my own self-interest at the expense of others and of the truth, is to ask for courage to walk in faith, building up my muscles of endurance so that I don’t go running after what I think is rightfully mine and instead sitting in my rights as a child of God with open hands ready to be filled with whatever God knows I need. I was reminded that in times I am tempted to panic, He will always take care of me in ways I may or may not be able to see. But Lord, would you open my eyes that I might see You? And strengthen my faith when I cannot.