August 1, 2017

Grace offends?

NOTE: This post is for July 31 and is late because I am at my sister's and it took awhile to get on the Internet!

The religious people in Jesus’ day were not happy with Him, particularly when He told them about the grace of God in their history, implying that they must depend on God rather than their own merits. He gave them this example:

“. . . And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.” (Luke 4:27–29)

The story Jesus referred to would be familiar to them, but not popular. Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man in high favor with his master, because the Lord used him to give victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

In one of their raids, his army took a little girl from Israel and put her to work for Naaman’s wife. One day she told her mistress about a prophet who could cure Naaman of his leprosy. Naaman went to his king and told him that news. His king sent a letter to the king of Israel with a generous gift asking him to cure Naaman.

The king of Israel read the letter and was upset. He said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

However, Elisha the prophet heard about it and offered his services so that Syria would know that there is a prophet in Israel. Naaman went to Elisha’s house and Elisha’s messenger told him, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”
Naaman was angry. He thought the prophet would stand before him, call upon the name of the Lord, wave his hand over the place and cure his leprosy. He wasn’t impressed with the Jordan either, thinking the rivers in his own country were better. The Jordan was just a muddy creek to him. But his servants were wise. They said,

“My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 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. (2 Kings 5:1–14)

Salvation is like that. God’s grace is apt to select the most unlikely person. This man was a pagan idolater, an enemy of the people of God and a long way from God’s prophet who had many other needy people nearby. Yet God reached this man.

For most of us, this choice makes no sense. However, does the grace of God ever makes sense? He declares that faith comes by hearing, arranges the good news to be heard, and opens the hearts of listeners, sometimes the hardest of hearts. When my sister became a Christian in a foreign land, she began to pray for her family. She thought I would be the last one to be interested in Jesus Christ, but to her surprise, I was the first one to be saved.

Dear Jesus, I’ve no idea why You chose me to be Your child, yet am incredibly glad that You did. Not only does this blessing fill me with joy, it also fills me with hope. As I pray for others, I often say that because You saved me, You can save everyone and anyone on my prayer list.

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