May 9, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Jacob Chang, Gracepoint Berkeley

2 Kings 5:1-27

Naaman’s religious understanding consisted of worshipping a deity whose favor had to be purchased by bringing gifts and sacrifices.  Given this background, what is behind Elisha’s refusal of Naaman’s gift?  How does this apply to me today? Elisha wants Naaman to know that God’s favor cannot be bought.  If Elisha had accepted Naaman’s gift, Naaman might have felt like he had paid in part for his healing and his view of God would have changed accordingly.  To Naaman, God would have been a deity who was more powerful than the Aramean gods, but similar in that he accepted gifts and sacrifices in exchange for blessings.   The next time Naaman wanted to approach God, he would think, “Last time, I brought ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of silver to be cured of leprosy…” and he would calculate accordingly based on the seriousness of his request.  Especially someone as proud as Naaman – he would always make sure that he brought an appropriate sacrifice for God.  So Elisha refuses to accept Naaman’s gift and, by doing so, tells Naaman that God offers his blessings freely to those who don’t deserve them, not because he expects any sacrifice on our part, but because he is good.  This might have left as strong an impression on Naaman as the healing itself.  If there is an all-powerful God who is also merciful and good, then it follows that you would want to worship this God.

I can approach God with the same mentality as Naaman, thinking that I need to bring “sacrifices” for God’s blessing.  This mentality manifests itself in thoughts like, “God won’t listen to my prayers if I haven’t been faithful with DTs and ministry” or “God won’t use me to impact others if I don’t have my act together.”  I have to see that God listens to prayers and uses people not because of how faithful or competent they are, but because of his goodness.  He listens to my prayers because he is merciful.  He allows me to be part of his ministry because he wants me to share his heart.  And my response should be like Naaman’s – this is the God I want to worship, not because I have anything to offer him, but because there’s nothing else worth worshipping after I have experienced God’s goodness.

Gehazi was such a tragic figure.  He was Elisha’s personal servant in the same way that Elisha was to Elijah (c.f. 1 Kings 19:21), and thus, could have been the next spiritual successor after Elisha.  Reflect on the fact that it was for “two talents of silver and two sets of clothing” that Gehazi forfeited his mission and identity.   What are some similar pathways people follow today?
For a prophet-in-training (or for anyone in those days), I suppose two talents of silver and two sets of clothing was a substantial gift.  The fact that Naaman only brings ten sets of clothing along with all that gold and silver suggests that one set of clothing had a similar value to a talent of silver.  Answers.com says a Greek talent of silver was worth $10,760, or enough to pay 200 rowers for a month of work.  So the modern equivalent to two talents of silver and two sets of clothing would be at least $40,000, not taking into account inflation.  But even if it were ten times that, would anyone say that what Gehazi forfeited was worth it?  Gehazi was supposed to be the next prophet after Elisha, the one who would speak to Israel on behalf of God.  He sacrificed that identity for silver and clothing, which seems so foolish.  But people make the same sacrifices today.  They sacrifice their faith for the sake of career, putting all their energy and hopes into their job and drifting away from church.  Or they sacrifice fellowship with others for the sake of living in a nicer house, a nicer neighborhood.  On a smaller scale, people might make the same sacrifice by making small compromises in their lives, living for small upgrades in their homes, cars, clothing, and possessions.  But I think the common theme is what people are serving.  Jesus was right when he said you can’t serve both God and Money.

What is expressed in Elisha’s rebuke in v.26?  What is the “time” that I need to discern as I consider the “two talents of silver and two sets of clothing” in my life?
Elisha’s rebuke expresses the inappropriateness of Gehazi’s fixation on material possessions given Gehazi’s position and the spiritual climate of his country.  I think the “time” I need to discern is my position (i.e., the blessings I have received and been entrusted to pass on through this church) and the spiritual climate I am in.  We hear a lot about the sad state of college students these days (e.g., Nation of Wimps, kidults, hookup culture, depression, suicide) and on top of that, the relativistic worldview that denies any absolute truth or morality.  I somehow stuck around at our church and through that, I received a lot of love and training for bringing the gospel to college students.  I have been placed in a church that specializes in college ministry, where I can serve with other like-minded people with whom I share a common history.  We have a vision for planting churches in college towns.  These are all blessings I’ve received.  In light of that, it would be more than inappropriate for me to be focused on “two talents of silver and two sets of clothing,” trying to hoard a little extra for myself.  Like the parable of the talents, it would be wicked and lazy if I didn’t do anything with the blessings God has entrusted to me.

Submitted by Grace Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

· Gehazi was such a tragic figure.  He was Elisha’s personal servant in the same way that Elisha was to Elijah (c.f. 1 Kings 19:21), and thus, could have been the next spiritual successor after Elisha.  Reflect on the fact that it was for “two talents of silver and two sets of clothing” that Gehazi forfeited his mission and identity.   What are some similar pathways people follow today? Gehazi forfeited his mission & identity for two talents of silver & two sets of clothing. Money and possessions/things of the world are the reasons for why he forfeited his identity of being Elisha’s next successor and & the mission of being a messenger of God to the people. Similar pathways people take would be simply going where they get a job & to where higher education calls them without consideration of the spiritual environment. There are people who in their desire for more money, invest more time, energy, & strategy into their career and moving up the corporate ladder. There are people whose desire is to upgrade their standards of living, buying newer & the better looking things for their house and for themselves and being consumed by this effort. I have also seen those who don’t have material possessions and wealth but who are consumed by their efforts and thoughts of getting there, and thus forfeiting God’s mission and identity.

What is expressed in Elisha’s rebuke in v.26?  What is the “time” that I need to discern as I consider the “two talents of silver and two sets of clothing” in my life? 26 But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Expressed in Elisha’s rebuke in v.26 is a frustration that Gehazi could be concerned for gaining these material possessions, at a time where he should be focused on something far more important that is at stake. There is a sense of urgency regarding the time that Elisha was expressing; people like Naaman need to be instructed & directed to the only true God and eternity of people’s souls were at stake, but here was Gehazi concerned for his own personal welfare, of getting more money and clothes himself, which are but temporary.

The time that I need to discern as I consider the two talents of silver and two sets of clothing in my life is that the world that I am living in is godless, that as a result more lives are broken and being destroyed by Satan & his lies. It is also a time where most Christians are watering down the gospel and even seen with very little difference in the way they live from people of the world. Many people’s view of church and of Christianity is consumeristic, looking for programs and ways in which the church can benefit them and their families, and ready to drop their membership and move on if the church doesn’t suit them. There is no spiritual potency and church is seen with jaded eyes and as a failed institution.

I see so clearly how material possessions and money is not going to provide security and God has shown me many real life examples. With the recent event of the tsunami & earthquake that occurred in Japan, it was a chilling reminder that all can be swept away in a flash. Like what happened with someone I know, his sudden aneurysm & hospitalization cost their big luxurious house and store going into bankrupsy. Contrasting that to my parents who have always lived off of bare minimum, without any greed for more or to upgrade their way of life, but in just serving God, they have been content. With her diagnosis of my mom’s terminal cancer a year and a half ago, my parents have become more practiced in depending on God’s presence and his word and I have seen them, especially my mom, being more secure and at peace than ever. The best place that a person can be in order to experience unshakable peace and security is in dependence on God, and this is the kind of life that I want to pursue and not succumbed to the false promises of material possessions and money. Concretely, I need to refute lies that come to cause me to believe this and continue to invest in relationships with people, in leading them to cross the line of faith and to making disciples.

 

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One Response to “May 9, 2011 Devotion Sharing”

  1. Jeff Chiu says:

    Thank you for sharing, esp. the first point that “God’s favor cannot be bought” as I kind of missed that point in my DT.

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