Posted by: mikebackup | February 10, 2012

It was a marvelous healing…

Reading – 2-kings 5:1-14

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.

We mentioned Naaman a few weeks ago when we were looking at the closing verses of Jonah. If you remember I was pointing out various Biblical characters that have sulked! Just pointing out Naaman’s sulk is an injustice to these verses. The narrative is rich in many ways, from the way the slave girl speaks out; to the way the King of Israel reacts, to how Elisha is confident in his faith, to how Naaman reacts when he gets his instructions, to how the servants then persuade him to do as he is told. There are many reflections that can be made here, but the one I’m going to focus on is healing.

Naaman’s journey to the point at which he is healed is a long and difficult one from his perspective. He was a powerful warrior and an army commander yet he suffered with a skin condition that would have caused him great distress physically, mentally and socially. We get no indication how long he had suffered with it, so it could have started recently or been a lifelong problem. His journey begins with the wonderful concern from a women of God who had been taken captive, then made a slave first by the Arameans and then by Naaman. She was instrumental in getting him to be healed, yet she should have been the least concerned person around. In verse 3 she appears very eager to get help for her master. Here is the first reflection of note that we can take. No matter how captive we are in our situation, we can offer healing to others especially to those whom we might see as our enemies or reason for a current difficulty. She didn’t heal him directly, but provided the sign post which in itself was an offer of healing. It would have taken courage to do what she did, after all she was just a slave. In your life are there close family and friends that you know need healing physically or mentally but aren’t doing anything about it? It might take real courage to talk to them about it and then take the step which you think will help – the doctor, the counsellor, the support group. You might even have to arrange the appointment and go with them. Get that far and you have done a great thing, the real difficulty is bringing it up in the first place.

Naaman then has to wait and has a period of referrals. Firstly he goes to King Aram who is very happy and generous in wanting to help. He writes a letter to the King of Israel and sends with it valuable gifts. Sadly the letter is not received with joy by the King of Israel and is in fact horrified by what is being asked of him. He thinks he’s being set up for a conflict with King Aram. Word somehow gets to Elisha who throughout his involvement is a model of laid back confidence in God, I get an image of a Jamaican! he says send ‘Naaman to me, let him know there is a prophet of God here’. In that section, Naaman isn’t commented on directly, we don’t know how long all that took. No doubt it was frustrating but he clearly had patience and that is something we can remember and practice. Everyone who needs healing of some kind that a G.P. is unable to diagnose and treat has to be referred to a specialist, consultant or the hospital, sometimes again and again. Sometimes answers are received other times it appears to have come to a dead end. We are taught here to be patient, not get angry and work with those that are trying to help. Be a ‘patient’ patient and that will be recognised, also be a patient next of kin or family member or friend. That doesn’t mean we don’t question or follow up, see how things are progressing. It just means we do those things in air of patience rather than an air of frustration.

Next is the slightly comical ‘prescription’ that Naaman is given by Elisha. Elisha doesn’t give it in person, but gives it via a messenger – ‘go and wash seven times in the Jordon and you will be healed’. After having come all that way, Naaman can’t believe that’s it and then snaps in anger. He had a preconceived idea of how this healing was going to happened. Again it is his servants that calm him and talk him round to following what has been said. When it comes to our treatment or the treatment of friends and family we must be humble and not be angered by what we think that treatment should be. If we have been patient, those giving the treatment will know the best course of action.

Then comes Naaman’s healing happening after what Elisha had prescribed. Naaman gets what many people get in the Bible and that’s a good physical healing. Where we now live and the time we now live means that we too get great physical healing. One of the great acts of God in this country was the placing on people’s hearts the creation of the NHS. How many millions get healed because of that decision every day? Sadly, in the majority of the world either through poverty or misguided governments God hasn’t been able to offer healing in that way. The next time you don’t feel patient or humble about treatment for a health condition just step back and give thanks that you get anything at all.

But we know that ultimately physical healing has a limited time span, we have to be spiritually healed as well. Our frail bodies will one day fail for good. We know that, it is part of creation; it gets us to the next part of the journey. Science shows us that nothing ever disappears, it simply gets transformed. Many people don’t realise that our bodies are at any point no more than a few years old, everything gets replaced. We grow old not because it doesn’t get replaced but because our cells are unable to replicate perfectly. One day our physical body will be transformed, it will no longer work and the atoms that make us up will go on to do new things. That is when our spirit is transformed as well. When that time comes there’s no need to fear if we are already healed by the knowledge and presence of God. We get ready for the next great adventure.

It was a marvellous healing – by Gerard Kelly

it was a marvellous healing;
after the months of asking,
of waiting;
after the desperate, slow deterioration,
the warring tides
of faith and doubt:
to be released in an instant,
from every pain.
it was as if the very molecules of his flesh
had been infused, invaded,
with the life of God,
until he was filled, fit to burst,
with the Shalom, the peace,
of the Father’s rule.
limbs that had fallen flaccid with weakness
waved and danced with joy;
lungs that had so utterly failed him
sang out with strength and boldness.

he ran
through the unfamiliar sunlight,
drinking it in,
experiencing all at once
the thousand and one feelings
that for so long had been denied him.

it was a marvellous healing:
to be so totally restored,
made whole,
rebuilt.
it had just surprised him,
a little,
that he had had to die
to receive it.

Prayers

When we fail to hear your holy word,
as did Naaman long ago,
let there be teachers, however lowly,
to redirect our sights.
Let life itself be our strongest lesson,
accepting what comes our way
and offering it,
like the leper did, to Jesus
for healing and cleansing.
But chiefly, Lord, put us under
the discipline
of those who want to learn your ways
and serve you all our days.
 
We pray Lord for those of us who keenly experience any kind of loss at this time.
May fuller life be restored in us.
Where our patience has come to its end,
replenish our spirits.
Where faith is ebbing away,
come, Holy Spirit.
When reputation is demolished and all manner of things are said against us,
bless us, dear Lord.
When we lose our powers to reason,
breathe into us your calm.
When memory fails and our grip on life is weakening,
help us to be more trusting of our need of you.
When we feel unattractive,
fill us with your beauty.
When we find others lacking in some way or other,
enable us to see them as made in your image.
When we are reviled and all manner of ill things are said against us,
bless us, dear Lord.
When health disappears and sickness besets us,
reveal your saving presence to us.
O Lord, who in Jesus endured suffering and made the grave a bed of hope,
turn our wailing into dancing. Put off our sackcloth and clothe us with joy.

Amen.


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