Thursday, 21 July 2011
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
On Sunday afternoon we had a wonderful gathering for worship high in the Pennines. After prayer, preaching and praise we sang our way out of the building into the swirling rain to baptise three candidates. One of our Elders and I baptised Rob and Katie, a couple in their 30s, and we then baptised Ezra, my oldest boy. It was an afternoon of witness, joy, some tears, plenty of rain, and great food and company.
Before the baptisms I preached on 2 Kings 5. It was ten minutes before the start of the service that I remembered that my sermon notes were on top of the printer at home, 4 miles away. I wasn’t too fazed, though, as the Namaan episode is very dear to my heart, and I’ve preached on it several times before. Working through 2 Kings 5 again last week, I was struck afresh by the brilliant skill of the narrator in giving us so many lessons about the work of grace and the nature of the human heart, in the midst of the story’s twists and turns. In no particular order, here are a few for you to ponder.
1. The Lord is Sovereign over the nations, and not in the pocket of His own covenant nation
The Lord gave Syrian Namaan his victories (v. 1), including victories over
2. The unimportant are the really important
A tiny hairdressing slave-girl with a believing heart and a courageous witness; a prophet’s servant with a message; Syrian slaves with a volatile master to keep happy. These unnamed nobodies are the linchpins of the narrative, and of God’s saving purposes. What was the boy’s name who Augustine heard in the orchard, which led directly to his conversion? Who knows - but who cares! God uses nobodies, and far better for us if we are and always will remain nobodies, but receive the privilege of being used by the Sovereign Lord.
3. God saves the unlikely
Namaan brought misery to this nation, and any Israelite would happily see him drowned. Instead, he came out of the water ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven! There are no ‘likely’ converts – but plenty of unlikely ones.
4. True converts are almost always offended
Namaan was. He was insulted that he didn’t get the red carpet treatment, receive some Power Religion, and march off back home with even more pomp and splendour that he set off with. He was humiliated at the commands given him, and was convinced that he knew better. Very rarely is anyone converted without having first been deeply offended. The Cross continues to offend, and sometimes our true comfort as we share its message is seeing its offence register with our hearers.
5. There is only one place and one way to be saved
One slow, smelly river. One blood-caked Cross. Namaan found that this was where the power of God was to meet him. ‘And there, may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.’
6. The Word did it all
Namaan thought he was getting religion and a mighty boost to his ego. Instead, he got a message delivered to him by a servant of a man of God who didn’t come out to bow and scrape to him. The message was more than enough, though. Namaan was healed, not through the magical properties of the
Treasure the lessons in 2 Kings 5, and please take them to heart. The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin.