2 Kings 5:1-19; 6:8-23
Winning a war with God and compassion? How could this ever work?
When we read our newspapers, or watch television, or go to the movies, we come to the opposite conclusion.
The human way to win wars is to blow the enemy away, so we train our children to be like Rambos, and we glorify wars, and killing, and weaponry.
On the other hand, Jesus commands us to love one another (John 13:34), and even our enemies (Luke 6:27-28).
Some of us have seen this happen in our own lifetime.
Martin Luther King showed the African-Americans and the rest of society how to do this, and that true compassion would finally achieve real and lasting equality.
And Gandhi peacefully led the oppressed people of India to independence.
People in this country and others always seem to look at the bloody Old Testament passages as an excuse to go to war, or to justify a violent solution to a problem, but this was never God's intent.
When all else fails, God allows evil to befall the evil people; but He also always tries to bring them to love and peace and compassion.
Some 2,830-40 years ago, God showed us a way to win a war by being compassionate, and He did it for ungodly people so that they might return to Him.
There are two parts to this story, which are contained in 2 Kings 5:1-19 and 6:8-23.
1. Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
The Lord gave victory to Aram (Syria) because Israel had turned against God, and God was allowing their own evilness to befall them, so that they might once again seek the face of God.
And one of the ways God chose to do this was to allow the enemy commander to have leprosy.
Let's go on.
2 Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife.
3 She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."
4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.
5 "By all means, go," the king of Aram replied. "I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing.
In today's dollars, Naaman is bringing with him more than $700,000.00
6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy."
7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, "Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!" (NIV)
When we are without faith, or have little faith, it is so easy to miss the hand of God in the things that are going on around us.
8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: "Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel."
9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. (NIV)
Now we might expect Elisha the prophet to do some spectacular thing to impress these people, but he didn't; he didn't even come to the door of his house.
He sent his servant to Naaman with a message to go and wash himself in the Jordan River seven times.
Think about how you would feel if you came to your doctor or someone else for help, and all he or she did was tell you to go jump in the river.
And Naaman became furious, because he, too, lacked faith.
But one of Naaman's servants spoke quietly to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" This was a man of faith, and Naaman listened to him and went to the Jordan and was cleansed, and because of it, he believed in God, and returned to his home in Aram.
Elisha did something good and compassionate for Naaman, and it turned his heart to God, but it didn't eliminate Aram's border war with Israel; nevertheless, the seeds of peace were planted.
Something more was needed, and again Elisha played a part.
Every time the Arameans would plan an attack, Elisha would tell the king of Israel where they would be attacking, and when the Arameans saw that Israel was prepared, they would not attack.
The king of Aram was also informed that Elisha knew all his plans in advance, so the king sent his warriors to capture Elisha.
15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.
16 "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
17 And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, "Strike these people with blindness." So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.
19 Elisha told them, "This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for." And he led them to Samaria.
20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, "LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see." Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.
21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, "Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?"
22 "Do not kill them," he answered. "Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food [Bread] and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master."
23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel's territory. (NIV)
God really has a sense of humor, doesn't He?
They came to capture Elisha, and then they ended up following Elisha into a trap where they could be killed, but He didn't want any of them to die.
God wanted these men to testify of the wonderful powers of God, just as He did with Naaman.
God used compassionate means to bring peace to the land.
It happened just as Jesus teaches us (Luke 6:27-28):
27. "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28. bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (NIV)
Wars don't begin with nations, they begin with people, and those we consider our enemies are not always those who are in other countries; some may be as near as our own families.
So if we find ourselves getting into a fight with our husband or wife, we are not to tell them to jump in the river.
Instead we are are to stop and quietly say, "I really love you, and I don't want to argue and fight", and if we truly mean it, it will be more cleansing than the waters that cleansed Naaman.
And I would chance to speculate that almost every one of us can think of someone we don't like, for whatever reason; it really doesn't matter why.
These are the people who we are to remember to smile at and offer a cheery greeting, and to place upon our Christmas card list.
It doesn't matter what someone has done to us in the past.
What matters to God, is what we are going to do today and tomorrow to resolve our differences and truly love one another.
If a captive little girl can have compassion on her captor, and a king can learn to feed his enemy, don't you think we can learn to do even more, because of what Jesus did for us?
Let's us pray...
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