Why All the Rage?

Moriah’s Hope Reflected by Iris Carignan (http://www.iriscarignan.com)

2 Kings 5:1-14 (NRSV)

1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, 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 give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Why is everyone so angry in this passage? Things start out well enough. We are introduced to Naaman, a mighty warrior who is greatly favored yet suffers from leprosy. He is a Gentile seeking a cure. Where does he go? God’s sovereignty in this passage has delivered the messenger of the gospel in the person of a little girl from Israel who was carried off by the Syrians and now works in the service of Naaman’s wife. The situation appears to be one of great frustration and loss to this young Israelite girl, but she is undeterred. She is faithful and true. Her message to Naaman that there is hope in the presence of God changes everything for both the Gentile and the Israelite. However, everyone seems to be angry in this passage. The King of Israel seems to be put out by Naaman’s request and when Naaman arrives at Elisha’s home and is prescribed a healing dip into the Jordan, he appears to be offended by the cure. Yet, he goes forward in a reluctant faith to be washed. The result—he is cleansed. He is made good as new. 

Ironically, the one person in this story who has the greatest occasion to be angry is the one who continued in faith and lived boldly. The little unnamed Israelite girl who was taken from her home and family and put to work in a house away from her family did not allow resentment, anger, or sorrow to obstruct her purpose in life.

We often find ourselves in situations that are difficult and unfathomable. We may be tempted to lose our hope and vision, but our faith points us to the greater reality in life. Our God is sovereign. He knows the paths we will travel upon. He goes on before us and prepares the way. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that all the good works we do are prepared for us in advance by Christ who leads us to walk in those works. Today, as you see your life, be hopeful. Know that you are living in service to Christ who has prepared you and placed you to be a witness for the glory of God. 

Prayer: Merciful God, grant us the strength to live our lives trusting you. May we understand that we are to speak your Gospel to others, see people as you see them, and serve others in your name. May we do these things with the humble mind that we were lost and far from you, but you brought us into your family though your most precious blood. In Jesus name, Amen.

Called: Ephesians 1:1-14


Ephesians is a rich letter from the Apostle Paul to his brothers and sisters in Ephesus. Written around 60 AD, Paul gives us a beautiful look at how orthodoxy (right faith) leads to orthopraxy (right living). The operative phrase in the entire book is “in Christ” (or some formulation of that phrase). Ephesians leaves us zero doubt that sanctification (being made holy by God) and justification (being declared righteous) is only in Jesus Christ. One way to remember this is by paying attention to how many times Paul uses some form of “in Christ” in his letter. He wants the reader to never forget that it is only in the person of Jesus Christ that we have any hope for relationship with God. Our relationship with others flows from this restoration we have to the Father by Christ Jesus. There is nothing we can do, say, or think that can get us into right relationship with God. The late Adrian Rogers once said in a sermon, “I wouldn’t trust my best fifteen minutes on earth to get me into heaven.” It is only in Christ alone that we have any hope to defeat sin and death.

In. Christ. Alone.

Lutheran theologian Walter Obare Omwanza has stated that “the unity of the church is given by God and not an achievement of human beings.” Omwanza rightly identifies that Paul is proclaiming that unity of faith is only possible in Christ Jesus. No human action can create the true unity that humanity desires. Omwanza echoes the prayer of Jesus in John 17. In John 17, while in the Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for unity of the disciples. This unity was not to be for the sake of unity alone, but it has deep theological significance for the world. The unity of the followers of Christ will provide a witness to the world that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has defeated sin and death for all time. Unity is not a wish dream nor is it an ideal. It is a reality found only in the Triune God that communicates the gospel in a mighty way.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul opens his letter by addressing the people of Ephesus as saints. Many times we do not think of ourselves as saints. We often times think that a saint is a perfect person who does most everything correctly. However, the Bible teaches us that everyone who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, even though we are imperfect, are God’s saints. These folks in Ephesus were faithful to Christ and that is the only requirement to be considered a saint. Therefore, in Christ, fallen humanity has hope and assurance that we are all saints with a purpose to glorify God.

In verses 3-14, Paul then instructs us on the all encompassing work of God in Christ
Jesus. Verse three begins with worship as Paul blesses God the Father because of the work of Jesus Christ. The Father of Christ has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. In verse four, we learn that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Also in verse four we are implored to to be “holy and blameless” before God. This is an impossibility apart from Jesus Christ. We are clothed in Christ and when God sees us he no longer sees enemies, but rather his children. The love of God has predestined us for adoption as children of God. It is for God’s purposes alone that this is done. God has blessed us in his grace in Christ. We have redemption in Christ and forgiveness of our sins. In the person of Christ, God has lavished all wisdom, grace, and insight upon us. Christ is the assurance for all time that we have been reconciled to the Father in heaven.

Not only have we this assurance, but we also have an eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus. All these blessings we have in Christ ought to cause us to worship and serve God with faithful hearts. It is the Holy Spirit of God–the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead–that inhabits all of the children of God and creates within them the faith that leads us to Christ again and again and again.

These opening verses reveal the foundation of our lives in Christ Jesus. No matter where we are or when we are, we have reason to worship the Triune God. This is better than good news–it is the Gospel.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to address the elephant in the room–election. The concept of God choosing and predestining his people for these eternal blessings cannot be ignored. What does he election mean?

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was formed because our first ministers rejected the idea of election and double-predestination. As I see it, we cannot avoid predestination as Cumberland Presbyterians because the Bible uses those words and teaches those truths. However, we have to understand what it means for God to elect his people for salvation. Forgive the brevity and simplification of the next two paragraphs as the doctrine of election is a deeply nuanced doctrine.

One explanation of election focuses on the decree of God. Briefly, this explanation teaches that God has determined and decreed who will specifically be saved. God has predetermined his elect and it will be done.

An alternative to this view of predestination by decree is that God has predestined his people in Jesus Christ. Karl Barth tells us in his Dogmatics II.2, that Jesus Christ is both electing God and elected man. And because of this reality of Jesus, he has the final word over the fate of his creation. This makes the central question of election not “Who are God’s elect? but rather, it is the very question Jesus asks his disciples in Mark 8–“Who do people say that I am?” Election and predestination is in Christ alone. Therefore, whenever God’s elect is asked the question “Who is Jesus?”, their answer is this: The Son of the Living God; the Messiah; the Savior of the World; the Lamb who takes away the sin of the World; the image of the invisible God. Those in Christ’s flock know his voice. His is the voice of our Lord and Savior. Who do YOU say Jesus is?

These first fourteen verses prepare us for an encounter in which we can understand the truth of our God. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our being. Unless we recognize the truth of who we are in Christ, we will never find the promised rest our hearts so desire. Amen.