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Seeing the LORD in Fine Brush Strokes

January 22, 2023; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Epiphany 5 B Christ - Great Physician.jpg

Seeing The Lord in Fine Brush Strokes

 

Rev. Kurt Lantz 3 Epiphany 2 Kings 5:1-15a

January 22, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON

 

 

Dear people in need of healing,

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

The young captive slave girl is painted with God’s fine brush as He lays down the strokes of paint on the canvas of His masterpiece.

 

During the Season of Epiphany we meditate upon various portions of Scripture that all play a part in Jesus Christ revealing Himself to be God in flesh, who has come into the world to heal us of all that sin has done to bring disease to body and soul. It is like examining various parts of a painting which are little detailed scenes in themselves, and yet we also have to step back to see the entire masterpiece in order to fully appreciate the full glory of God in Jesus Christ.

 

The account of Naaman, the Syrian commander and leper (2 Kings 5), is one little part of God’s masterpiece recorded in Holy Scripture. It serves to reveal to us (as it did to Naaman) that God was present among His people through the prophetic ministry of Elisha in order to provide healing, not just for Israel but for all nations. That is part of the great masterpiece that also reveals to us today that the Lord is present among His people here through the ministry that proclaims His Word and delivers His healing restoration to all.

 

Naaman was a greatly renowned and respected commander of the Syrian army but he was a leper, diseased to the extent that people knew he needed healing and there was none available to him. None of his military or royal connections offered any hope. It was at the suggestion of a captive slave girl that Naaman found some inspiration to seek treatment in a foreign country.

 

The Bible clearly tells us that Naaman was a successful commander of the Syrian army because “the LORD had given victory to Syria” (2 Kings 5:1). The LORD, the God of Israel had given victory to Israel’s enemy. Understandably, to many in Israel that was not convincing evidence of the LORD’s presence among them. It would have rather suggested that the LORD was absent from His people, or present but unable or unwilling to defend and protect them.

 

But God’s ways are not man’s ways and His ways are often hidden from the mind of man. It is dangerous for us to take world events and interpret them for ourselves. We know that God is at work even on the global stage but what he is doing there can only be seen by us as the broad, undefined strokes of paint that provide an unfocused background to His masterpiece. We don’t see much definition.

 

The Bible goes on to tell us that the oppressing Syrians went on raids into Israel and on one of these they captured a young girl who was taken to be a slave to Naaman’s wife. Now the fine brush strokes are brought out in the work of this young maid who faithfully serves her captors and confesses to them that, despite their conquered status, the LORD has His prophet in Israel who is able to heal and to save.

 

The works of God are revealed in people who humbly and faithfully fulfill their vocations. The glory of God can be revealed in a slave girl serving her captors. The glory of God shone through her even more than it did through the king of Israel, who seemed totally unaware that he had a healing prophet in his territory, let alone the presence of God at work through Elisha’s prophetic ministry.

 

The king of Israel was focusing on world events, those broad brush strokes that don’t provide much definition to our eyes. He interpreted his position of submission to the Syrians as evidence of the absence of God. He saw the request of the king of Syria as a threat because he could not see the presence of God with His people or believe that people of other nations would desire to come to the God of Israel.

 

There is despair whenever God’s presence is forgotten or He is deemed impotent or unwilling to save. Naaman was in despair over his leprosy and what his life would be like as the disease progressed and debilitation led finally to death. He did not know that there was a God able and willing to heal him. The king of Israel was also in despair over international affairs. As a subjected ruler he knew that it was only a matter of time before he was removed either by his enemies or by his own people who would look for a stronger leader. He had forgotten there was a God present, able, and willing to defend him.

 

But the young slave girl (even in her time of captivity), having been removed from her homeland and from her people, with no prospects for her future, under subjection as a slave... she did not forget. Not only did she know that the LORD was present with His people, but also that her LORD desired to heal and to defend and to save not only her but all people. And knowing that her LORD was present to defend and save her, she was bold enough to confess to her oppressor that the LORD was present and able and willing to save her captor. The presence and power of the LORD with His people gave her the strength, hope, and faith to live (even in captivity) confessing the glory and majesty of the God of Israel, hidden from the exalted and powerful.

 

The cure for despair is confidence in the LORD’s presence. The slave-girl had it. Even as a captive she was not in despair. Naaman and the king of Israel did not have it. Even in their exalted positions they were in despair. Elisha, as the prophet of God, stepped forward in order that their despair might give way to hope, not merely in Naaman’s physical healing but in knowing that there is a prophet in Israel (v. 8) and ultimately that “there is no God in all the earth but in Israel” (v. 15).

 

The faithful life of a captive slave-girl led Naaman to the prophetic ministry of Elisha through whom God offered healing in word and sign. Yet Naaman, accustomed to looking for majesty and glory through world events, refused to see the majesty and glory of God in the waters of the Jordan River. It was his servants who urged him to accept healing from the LORD who makes His majesty and might known in humble means. And in the dirty water of the Jordan River Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy and of his despair, having come to know of the presence of the LORD in a subjugated nation, in the word of His prophet and in the dirty water to which He attached His promise.

 

What is revealed to you of the majesty and glory of the presence of the LORD with His people? We certainly don’t see much of it in how the nation of Israel is ranked on the world stage. We must be careful also that we do not equate it with the success on the global stage of any nation that claims to be Christian. Although God does work on the global level, He doesn’t reveal His majesty and glory in the ways that man might expect.

 

And so we have the humble appearance of God in the person of Jesus Christ, descended from the kings of Israel, but coming from the house of a carpenter. And when He appeared, Israel did not suddenly become a world power. The nation remained in subjection under the Roman Empire. But the LORD revealed His presence among His people in Jesus Christ, by healing lepers (Matthew 8:1-4) as He had done through Elisha centuries before; and drawing people from other nations to Himself, as a Roman centurion (another commander of a foreign army) came to Jesus for healing for his servant (8:5-13).

 

Whether the centurion had known about Naaman’s healing or not, we have seen in the masterpiece of God’s revelation of Jesus Christ, that little scene where Elisha provided healing without even going out to Naaman but just by speaking the promise. And we have seen the little scene where the centurion believed with certainty that Jesus did not have to come to his home in order to heal his servant, but merely “say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). These little scenes of the grand masterpiece, separated by hundreds of years, reveal to us that Jesus is God present with His people to heal and to save all who will come to Him.

 

Through the faith of a faithful slave girl, a Syrian army commander found healing. Through the faith of a Roman centurion, a servant in his household found healing. Who will find healing in Christ Jesus through your faithful and humble confession that there is a God present here who saves through His Word?

 

Right here the Lord is present and one of the places where He attaches His promise of cleansing is in the waters of Holy Baptism. It is such a simple and humble thing in which such a great and glorious promise is given. People in the world, like Naaman, scoff at it. Even many in other Christian denominations deride Baptism and look more toward great cryings out to the LORD and the waving of hands and other things like that. Yet we have seen in the grand masterpiece that as humble servants we have the opportunity to confess like the servants of Naaman, “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?’” (2 Kings 5:13).

 

The One who is more than a prophet, Jesus Christ, God in man made manifest, has spoken a great word to you. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19). He is with you always. He is present to heal and to save, and so He gives you faith, hope, and love to live in His promises even as He paints you into His masterpiece with such fine brush strokes.

 

 

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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