Among the many other benefits of studying the history of Israel is that we are confronted again and again with the great mercy of God since His “longsuffering is everlasting”. (Psalm 136:1 thru 26, check it out). Jeroboam and the nation, Israel, have deliberately turned their backs on God who through His prophets continues to woo them.
During the first decades of Israel God continued to speak to them through Elijah and his successor Elisha. Later He spoke to them and also to Judah through the writing prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Also involved were the prophets referred to as “minor” because their written messages were brief.
Before Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal (already mentioned earlier) God was caring for him. His personal needs were met in various ways. At God had instructed ravens to cater his meals. I suppose the ravens could have been cultivating grain in a little garden. But it is more likely that God bypassed the laws of nature, like sowing seed, reaping a harvest, milling and perhaps even cooking and furnishing Elijah with the end product. This also occurred at least twice in Jesus’ ministry, furnishing food multitudes.
God’s mercy doesn’t dry up even though the brook does. God has already lined up a widow to prepare Elijah’s next meal and many meals for him and for the widow and her son. God’s mercy was so great it resulted in raising the widow's son from death. God again sped up the laws of nature in continuously filling the widow’s flour bowls and oil jugs. God’s mercy toward Elijah spread out on many of those he came in contact with. Sounds like the New Testament exhortations and encouragements for believers to be faithful witnesses to those God brings into our lives. Are we?
There are many other short stories that are part of the long story that began in Eden and will continue to unfold before we arrive in the New Jerusalem. Many of these are recorded in the early chapters of II Kings. In Chapter 5 we find the very interesting story of Naaman. Naaman was commander of the army of Syria and a favorite of the king. a very interesting part of the story was a little Israelite girl. Her name is not given to us but she is so much a part of the story I will give her a name. call her Sarah, after her great, g, g. (etc.) grandmother.
Syria was in almost continuous conflict with Israel. On one of the raids against Israel, as was the custom in those days, captives were taken. Sarah was among these captives and ended up in Naaman’s home, as a helper for Mrs. Naaman. I would guess her to be in her early teens. And she was obviously well aware that Naaman had leprosy.
One would have thought that in view of having been torn from her family and made to work for the Syrians, she would be bitter toward them. and would have been happy for Naaman’s misfortune. She had obviously been taught the commandments of the Mosaic Covenant and she had responded positively. Perhaps her parents had been among the 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (see I Kings 19:18). But she had regard for the condition of the “enemy” and was concerned for Naaman’s welfare. In addition to her concern for the leper, perhaps she also viewed this as an opportunity for God to display His glory to a heathen nation.
Sarah informed Naaman’s wife of a prophet Samaria who could heal lepers. Now we have no recorded incident of Elisha healing anyone of leprosy. But Sarah had understood the Mosaic covenant and also the history of God’s dealings with people and she recognized that her God was omnipotent and therefore could heal leprosy. Naaman responded by informing his king who wrote a letter to the king of Israel requesting that he heal Naaman. He sent Naaman with the letter and numerous costly gifts Israel’s king.
When he arrived in Samaria the king was distraught. Amazing that the king of Israel needed to be reminded, by Elisha, that there was a god who was able to do things, like heal lepers, and suggested Naaman be sent to him. Naaman was greatly offended when the prophet failed to appear but only left a note with the instruction to be followed for healing. Only Naaman’s servant could convince him to obey Elisha’s instructions and experience healing. He was then greatly appreciative and returned to Elisha with thanks and with gifts Elisha would not accept. More about that next Blog.
A little later we have recorded the story of the recovered axe head. It is very interesting to consider the incidents that are recorded in Scripture. Were they all to be in the record the Bible would be hundreds of times it is profitable to attempt to understand why each incident recorded has its own peculiar reason to be included.
There are, example, many things this story Sarah and Naaman can teach us. Not the least of which is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:310). Jesus taught His disciples that our neighbor is the person who is near us and that is quite inclusive. The author of Hebrews encouraged being hospitable to strangers because the stranger could possibly turn out to be an angel. (13:2) And there is an interesting passage in Mathew (25:31-40) where Jesus informs His disciples that how we treat others is an indication of how we relate to Him. Some years along I-81 I noticed a car and several people that seemed to have some problem. I rarely respond since there is so much danger along the highways. But for some reason I exited and came around to the parked vehicle. I was told by the driver that they were on the way to a funeral in New England and had run out of money and gas. I helped him get his tank filled and gave him all the cash I carried, which was not very much. I have often thought about that incident and wondered who I had actually helped.
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10)