“One man with courage makes a majority.” Andrew Jackson
What is the difference between confidence and arrogance? The former is the result of achievement; the latter is hollow chest beating. The former inspires; the latter repels.
The Bible is not a series of stories about long-forgotten people engaged in irrelevant activities. It is a series of stories about real people, there is nothing new under the sun. What was true then is true now, what we can learn from them will help us in this life today. One consistent Biblical message is that the prophet of God overrules even the king.
We will see how Naaman and originally had no respect for the prophet of God.
And we will see how the number seven it helps us to discover one of the two behind this teaching
We know that when a (Hebrew) word appears exactly seven times within a Biblical tale, it provides a crucial clue. Only two words in Chapter 5 in the 2nd book of Kings appear seven times: LIFNEI, meaning before and implying subservience, and ADON meaning master, implying authority. This entire account revolves around power and subservience.
The opening verse sets the theme:
And Naaman, the army general of the king of Aram was a great man, LIFNEI before his ADON master…
(II Kings 5:1)
And the Arameans…kidnapped from the land of Israel a young girl and she was LIFNEI before Naaman’s ADON wife
(II Kings 5:2)
Naaman, a leper, reports to his master, the king of Aram, and says that this Jewish slave girl recounts that the prophet in Israel can cure his leprosy. The Aramean king assuming that all is under the power and authority of the king in Israel, just as it is in Aram, so he sends a request to Israel’s king ADON that he arrange for the prophet to cure his soldier. However, the king of Israel, knowing that he has no power LEFNEI over a prophet of God, is dismayed.
Elisha, the prophet confident and courageous, but not arrogant, hears about Naaman and then he sends a message summoning Naaman. The message to Naaman was from God thru the prophet, not the king. Naaman who was willing to subordinate himself to a king is haughtily unwilling to do so for merely a prophet.
When he arrives at Elisha’s house he doesn’t even dismount his chariot because entering someone’s home or office as a guest or supplicant means making you subservient. In response, Elisha sends a message directing Naaman to immerse in the Jordan and this message was delivered by Elisha’s servant. Naaman arrogantly responds that Elisha should have personally come out to heal him and furthermore back in Damascus there were rivers much better and cleaner than the Jordan. Observe the ongoing clash between: power and authority versus humility and subservience. Are we seeing this contrast?
Naaman’s servants persuade him to obey Elisha and after bathing in the Jordan, and he is cured. Whereupon he returns to Elisha but this time the text emphasizes that Naaman appeared before (subserviently) Elisha .He then proclaims his newfound faith in the God of Israel and wants to bless Elisha with gifts. Elisha, again using the Hebrew word for before, LIFNEI, rejects the gifts, asserting his subservience to God. ELISHA IS A SERVANT TO GOD, NOT TO THINGS. Elisha has continued in courage.
The story ends with Elisha’s own servant, Gaychazi, being cursed with eternal leprosy when he shows arrogance instead of subservience to his master, Elisha. Behind Elisha’s back, he went to Naaman and asked for money because he had been cured. In ancient Hebrew wisdom, the disease TZARA’AT, translated as leprosy, is a psychosomatic disorder in which the spiritual condition of arrogance produces physical manifestations. Confidence is gained through subservience to God, breeding humility and to all those who are part of one’s life.
“He doesn’t treat me with respect,” she complained bitterly. What exactly does she mean? Did he fail to rise from his La-Z-Boy recliner when she entered the room? Did he speak to her brusquely or patronizingly? Without further explanation, it’s difficult to know whether he’s a fool or whether she is excessively demanding. The Hebrew word for respect—KaVoD—is the same as the Hebrew word for heavy or weighty—KaVeD. This helps us understand that treating someone or something with respect means according due weightiness. For this reason, we use the word gravitas in English. Gravitas, derived from the Latin for gravity, implies weightiness. Without gravity, nothing would have any weight.
It wasn’t a new idea when Aretha Franklin sang in 1967, “…all I’m askin’ is for a little respect…”
Eve did so far earlier. Let’s examine a conversation between Eve and the serpent.…and [the serpent] said to the woman,…“Is it true that God told you not to eat of any of the trees of the garden?”(Genesis 3:1)
As any sales professional knows, never ask a prospect a question that can be answered with a yes or a no. That makes it too easy to end the conversation. A man trying to engage a woman in conversation knows the same thing. And the serpent, up to no good, knows he must engage Eve. Ordinarily, she might never have stooped to converse with the serpent but his scurrilous implication is too much for her to bear. She has to defend God from that defamatory accusation.
Therefore, she responded saying:…from the fruit of trees in the garden we may eat.…from the… tree in the middle of the garden,
God said don’t eat of it and don’t touch it lest you die.(Genesis 3:2-3)
Wait a minute! Eve wasn’t present in the garden when God told Adam in Genesis 2:17 that eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was prohibited. God said nothing to Adam about touching the tree! Clearly, after Eve joined Adam, he related to her the prohibition against eating the fruit of the special tree. However, ancient Jewish wisdom points out that Adam added an extra prohibition of his own. He told Eve that death would result not only from eating the fruit of the tree but also from merely touching the tree.
Ancient Jewish wisdom fills in more hidden information. After Eve finished speaking to the serpent in Genesis 3:3, he ‘accidentally’ stumbled against her and pushed her into the tree. After she touched the tree, the serpent says to her:
you won’t die (Genesis 3:4) The serpent’s logic is impeccable. You’ve touched the tree and nothing happened. The bit about dying if you eat of the fruit must be equally false.
Her respect for Adam was gone a little lie, a little misrepresentation then she thought that everything else has Adam had said must also be false. Eve lost all respect for Adam, that is why in the New Testament Women are called to respect their husbands to regain the trust that was lost in the garden.
When Eve tasted from the fruit and gave also to Adam (Genesis 3:6) she no longer believe Adam but believe the snake. Adam could have said, “We want to obey God and not eat of the fruit of that tree.
But he didn’t. Adam treated Eve as if she was a child pretending that his idea about touching the tree was God’s word. He showed disrespect by not allowing her to carry the weight of full knowledge and a shared decision. Adam didn’t love Eve enough to trust her with the complete truth. That is why in the New Testament we are told women are to love your husband because love was also lost in the garden. Adam realized he had lost Eve’s love and ate of the fruit at her request to try to regain her love, The consequences were fatal.
Don’t try this at home, but an experienced adult with nerves of steel can quickly whip out a tablecloth from beneath expensive china place settings without doing any damage. He would be relying on Newton’s first law of motion which says that objects tend to keep doing whatever they were doing. If they are at rest, they stay at rest unless some force makes them move. If they are moving, they tend to keep moving unless some force makes them stop. Being at rest, the plates initially resist the tablecloth’s impetus to move.Isaac Newton broke this important news to the world in 1687. Since then we’ve understood why plates remain on the table even while the tablecloth is rapidly pulled away. We’ve understood why a fast-moving truck will keep on rolling for a while, even after it has run out of gas.
What Newton, as a deeply fervent Bible-believer would not have been baffled to hear, is that physical laws have spiritual equivalent. Just as objects like plates and motor vehicles tend to keep doing exactly what they are doing, so do human beings. Whatever life habits we’ve fallen into, either good or bad; we tend to just keep on doing. Admittedly, it is possible to obey Newton’s first law of spiritual motion and continue doing the right thing by walking with God. However, that is not all that God expects from us. Noah, for instance, righteously walked with God. However, Scripture qualifies his praise by indicating that he was perfect, but only in the context of his evil generation. (Genesis 6:9)
When Abraham came along, he walked not with God, but before God.…God in front of whom I have walked…(Genesis 24:40)
What is the difference? If I am traveling together with another rider on a tandem bicycle, I have very little power to change direction, especially if he is in front.
The destination might be perfectly satisfactory, but it does not necessarily express my own conscious and deliberate choice. LIFNEI, meaning before and implying subservience, and ADON meaning master, implying authority. This entire account revolves around power and subservience. GOD IS THE POWER, WE ARE THE SERVANTS. We are connected, not independent.
By contrast, if I am riding my own bicycle ahead of my companion, my destination is entirely in my own hands. I can blame nobody else and nobody else deserves the credit for where I go. Abraham was willing to walk ahead of God and take responsibility for changing the direction of his life. Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that at age three, Abraham began searching for the Source of all. He resisted the prevalent thinking of his time and set out to search for the truth. Even those of us who already recognize the Source would do well to emulate Abraham. Like parenting —- riding a bike
It is time to step out and leave those things that are most familiar and which anchor you to behavior patterns that inhibit your potential for growth. Carefully examine your life for instances where you might be missing out on exciting possibilities by walking only with God instead of, like Abraham, before God.
This brings us to Newton’s second law of motion, which says that any object that has a force applied to it not only moves but also picks up speed. This law, too, has a spiritual equivalent. When we take the initiative by walking ahead of God, His force will not only move us to marvelous new opportunities but it will accelerate us towards them at ever-increasing speed. We only have to start the process by identifying those dragging anchors in our lives that prevent us from exploring desirable change. One of those anchors is often lack of courage.
When I think of courage I think Jesus. I think of his love for us his courage to go on the cross because he thought of me above all. So it’s time for us to think of him, it’s time for us to find our courage and walk into our destiny. Confidence is GAINED through subservience to God, breeding humility and respect to all those who are part of one’s life. Lack of respect can be fatal but, confidence and respect develop courage.
Courage changes everything. There was a moment in Israel’s history, when Jonathan son of Saul, friend of David and his armor bear, stood in front of an entire Philistine army. And Jonathan said: if they invited us it will be as a sign from God. Jonathan said if they do invited so we know they have given themselves into the hand of the army of Israel. Jonathan thinks he is the whole army of Israel and he is only one soldier standing there.
So they crawled on their hands and knees up to an army that was laying in wait and waiting for them. Probably I’m not a good military move. Jonathan took this as a sign from God. Now he was going on ahead of God because he had his instructions. And they got up to where the army was their presence caused the Army just to fall. They fell down on the ground. When they fell, the armor-bearer who carried around Jonathan’s equipment, was so excited he just went around and killed them all where they lay. An extremely simple victory for Jonathan who was the soldier and leader, and he didn’t even have to draw his weapon.
Reports of this victory spread like wildfire in the camps Israel and the camps of the philistines. The earth shook under the accolades of the courage of these men. Bible said it actually shook. The earth began to mirror the joy in the hearts of the people over this victory. Their own personal courage began to well up inside of them.
Finding your courage:
In this story about Jonathan, some of the Philistines actually were wearing the uniform of the Philistines because they were hiding. They ripped off their uniform and they ran to their families because they heard this report of supernatural courage.
Then we step out and he is behind us: Watching, Inspiring us to go faster, Encouraging us to go faster: Accelerating us to our DESTINY.
6043 W. Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60634