"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Raising The Standard: Courage Is Following Instructions In the Face Of Danger

How Does Scripture Illustrate Courage In Following Difficult Instructions? He was a very influential man, accustomed to giving orders rather than taking them. But when he discovered that he had a desperate problem which he could not solve, he was open to any kind of counsel.
The advice he received resulted in a long trip for a possible solution. The power of his position and the favor he had with the king were obvious in the elegant procession that pulled up to a small house on the outskirts of that foreign city. He climbed out of his royal chariot and knocked at the door, expecting the prophet who lived there to go through elaborate religious procedures to solve the problem. The he planned to show his appreciation by giving him twenty thousand dollars worth of silver, sixty thousand dollars worth of gold, and ten handsome suits of clothing. The door opened and Gehazi, the prophet's servant, stood there. "I have instructions from the prophet for you, "he said. "If you follow them completely, all traces of your problem will vanish." He was greatly disappointed and offended that the prophet had not met him in person, and he was sure that following these instructions would only worsen his condition. He angrily climbed back into his chariot, shouted at the horses and rode away in a rage. As he began the long journey home, his assistants reasoned with him. "If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, you would have done it. Why not follow the simple thing he has instructed you to do?" The man knew that the instructions were difficult to follow because they spelled death to his pride and disregard for his power and prestige. But after reconsidering the situation, he turned his chariot around and carried them out. To his amazement and overwhelming joy, they worked! Excitedly, he drove back to the prophet's house, urging him to take the gifts he had brought. But the prophet refused because the Lord had given him instructions not to take the gifts. He then affirmed his belief in the God of the prophet and returned home. The great dignitary, Naaman, was humbled by washing himself in a muddy, filthy river, but because he was willing to follow difficult instructions which seemed contradictory to common sense, he was healed (From 2 Kings 5:1-19)
Was It Dangerous For Naaman To Visit The King Of Israel With Such A Request?
Israel and Syria had been enemies for years. During the previous reign of Israel's King Ahab, Ben-hadad of Syria provoked him to war and one hundred thousand Syrian foot soldiers were killed in one day (1 Kings 20:29). In an attempt to recapture the city of Ramoth-gilead, Ahab was defeated by the Syrians and died in battle (1 Kings 22:324-35). Jewish tradition states that on this occasion it was Naaman who drew his bow at random and struck Ahab in a joint of the armor (Josephus Antiquities viii15.5; cf. 2 Kings 5:1). Naaman was responsible for leading raiding parties into the land of Israel and bringing back captives to be used as Syrian slaves (2 Kings 5:2). Since the prophets of the land were subject to their rulers, Naaman's request for healing had to be directed to the King of Israel. His unreasonable request to be healed from an incurable disease could have been interpreted by the Israeli king as a provocation to war (2 Kings 5:7; cf. 1 Kings 20:7-9). If the prophet Elisha had not rebuked the king and called for Naaman, it is possible that a war would have been precipitated.
Why Didn't Elisha Deal Directly With A Man As Important As Naaman?
The Lord not only desired to cure Naaman of his leprosy, but He desired to cure him of his pride as well. Unaware that his former accomplishments were from the Lord (2 Kings 5:1), Naaman had become a very proud man. He did not approach Elisha humbly but as an important captain in the Syrian army (2 Kings 5:9). He regarded Elisha, a prophet of the Lord, as his inferior when he said, "... he will surely come out to me" The "to me" is in an emphatic position meaning "to a person like me." (2 Kings 5:11). His refusal to follow Elisha's directive indicates that he was not used to humbling himself before another's instructions (2 Kings 5:11-12). To humble Naaman, the Lord arranged for him to be afflicted with leprosy, was then directed to a servant girl, treated in a manner uncommon for a man of his high position, and forced to wash in a muddy foreign river. The treatment was effective and Naaman learned that "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6).
How Was Naaman Used As An Example To The Entire Nation Of Israel?
When Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, one of the examples He used was that of Naaman the Syrian. He told His people that there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, but only Naaman was cleansed (Luke 4:27). The inference is that the Israeli lepers were too proud to humble themselves before the Lord as Naaman finally did. Jesus went on to warn them that if they would not receive Him, he would leave them for those outside of the nation of Israel - like Naaman - who were willing to receive Him.
How Does The Wood Duck Illustrate Courage In Following Difficult Instructions?
The female wood duck perched motionless in the four inch opening of her tree nest. Beneath her in the rotted hollow of the oak, six day old ducklings huddled together. Once again her alert eyes scanned the landscape which she had investigated carefully that morning. She studied the tall grass for any movement which would betray the presence of a mink or raccoon. She listened to the water of the nearby pond for the splash of a large turtle or the croak of a bullfrog. She searched the sky for a circling hawk or owl. Satisfied that the area was free from immediate danger, she fluttered to the ground. Then she looked up to the small opening forty feet above her and quickly gave a signal. There was an immediate response from above. The ducklings jumped up and scrambled toward the opening above them using the claws on their feet and the hooks at the end of their bills to maintain a foothold. When they reached the opening, they took their first glimpse at a new world. Far below their mother waited. The ducklings could not yet fly, but their mother urged them to jump. This would be a huge leap - the equivalent of a man jumping about 400 feet, but it had to be done. It would determine her ducklings survival. The first duckling pushed its body out from the perch and leaped. Its webbed feet and downy wings helped break the impact of the fall. Seconds later it safely bounced on the soft grass and peat floor at the base of the tree. Then it wobbled awkwardly toward its mother and waited for the rest of the brood to follow. One after another they reached the opening and jumped down. As each duckling descended, the mother increased the tempo of her call. Within a short time five huddled close to their mother. She continued urging and calling to the last duckling remaining in the tree. Finally, when she felt she could no longer expose the vulnerable ducklings to danger, she gave one last call and then walked away with her young to the safety of the nearby brood pond. The five that obeyed the difficult instruction had a good chance of survival. Death would come to the one who either could not or would not jump.

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