WHAT TO DO WITH GOD'S PROMISES
Dear Christian friends,
What a great and glorious day when we get to heaven! The details will be revealed. On this side I guess I would like it to go a little bit like this: I’d like to get on my knees and praise God that he gave me this inheritance. I want to thank God for forgiving my incredible number of sins and showing grace. Then I’d like to see Mom and Dad, my brothers who are there, my grandparents, uncles and aunts, and three cousins who died early in life. Judy miscarried two babies; I would like to see them. If you knew my Dad, he would probably say, “Hey, I want you to meet the apostle Paul and Abraham and David.”
I can see myself looking around for some of the friends I had early in life. There were a lot of kids in our neighborhood. We spent a lot of time together. Many of us went to the same church. We had a great Sunday School. I wonder how many of them remained faithful over the years. There is Virginia Caron who said she wanted to hug me when I got there. Those were the last words she said to me before she died. There are all the people that I ministered to on their deathbeds during the past 40 years.
I want to meet some of the people we got to know from the Bible...like the young lady that is mentioned in the sermon text today. We will get to find out her name. She teaches us “What to do with the Promises of God.” 1) Share them, but most of all 2) Believe them.
Naaman was a crackerjack general in the army of Aram. We would call it Syria today. He was the top of his class at Aram’s West Point. While he avoided the spears and arrows of the enemy, he didn’t avoid the effects of a sinful world. He had leprosy. This disease causes flesh to rot and people to lose their fingers and toes. It was only a matter of time before fatal infection. It was only time for Naaman’s military funeral.
The country of Aram was just north of the border of Israel. There were constant border wars between Aram and Israel. That’s the reason this nameless Jewish girl ended up as a servant in Naaman’s house.
While nameless, she loved the Lord. “She said to her mistress, ‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’" Naaman’s wife told her husband; her husband asked the king for some sick days. "By all means, go," the king of Aram replied. ‘I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’ So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy."
She knew Elisha was a prophet of the Lord, and she knew that God had given Elisha the power to give him the comfort of forgiveness and a future in heaven. She also knew from time to time God empowered him to do miracles. If Naaman would only go to see him!
Isn’t the web of people who were exposed to Word of God from this nameless servant striking? She told Mrs. Naaman; Mrs. Naaman told her husband; Naaman told the King of Aram. The king wrote a letter to Joram, the king of Israel. Look how many people were touched because a nameless young servant girl did not keep quiet.
Only God knows how many of these people became believers! Perhaps only Naaman and the Missus, but none of them could say, “How was I to know who the Lord is?”
Go back to the first century. We meet two men. One is the Roman Emperor Nero; he was a madman. The other is the apostle Paul. Nero, by virtue of his office, was probably the world’s most recognizable man in the world. Look at the other man – the apostle Paul. In his own words he was not very impressive. While his calling in life was to preach Christ and him crucified, he said he didn’t speak very well.
But now look 20 centuries later and make a comparison. Nowadays we call our sons Paul and we call our dogs Nero. Because Paul and others went from continent to continent, from city to city, from house to house, from person to person, we know Jesus as our Savior. Because he and others like him preached the crucified and risen Christ, there are millions and millions of Christians who know that when death overtakes, there is a future which is better by far. Christ crucified assures us of that. Now it’s our turn to be Paul, to share.
But before you can share the promises, you must believe the promises. “Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. "By all means, go," the king of Aram replied. "I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy." Naaman told the king of Aram about the prophet Elisha. The king thought so much of Naaman that he gave him all kinds of money and goods to give to Joram, King of Israel. Joran was supposed to grease the skids with Elisha so Naaman would be healed. Obviously, the king of Aram thought that the prophet of God could be bought and Naaman would be healed.
God promises a lot of things in the Bible. Some promises are scary. He promises to turn away from all who turn away from him. He promises to condemn all who don’t believe he exists. But he also promises blessings. Those blessings are always free. No one earns them. No one can pay for them. That’s not what the king thought. He thought he could pay for the miracle of renewed health for Naaman. What a dummy! “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” What doesn’t the LORD own? God deals with anyone and everyone on the basis of grace.
When God promised the Children of Israel that he would deliver them from the Egyptians and take them to the Promised Land, he explained to them the reason why: “’Do not say to yourself, "The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness. No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land.” See! It’s all grace.
How do we know that we are going to heaven? “By grace are you saved through faith and this is not of yourselves it is a gift of God not of your own works so no one can boast.” The only thing we can do is thank God that he is so gracious. King of Aram, you were so wrong. The reason there is such a thing as a LutheranChurch body is because the church, of all things, believed that the forgiveness of sins could be bought too.
Then there is King Joram, the king of Israel. King Joram was not a believer in the Lord. He worshipped a calf-idol. When he received the letter from the King of Aram, he felt nothing but fear. “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy." How did King Joram react? Pretty predictable…“As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, "Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!" Joram thought the King of Aram was finding a reason to go to war.
Joram worshipped a calf-idol. Why would someone do that? Because the sinful flesh would have no restrictions. There were no commandments. There were no don’ts or do’s. There was nothing but you can do whatever you want. The sinful flesh loves that kind of religion. It appeals to the sinful self than God who rules over all. To them religion was not about a God who helps but a god who permits. No wonder he began to sweat when the King of Aram’s letter came.
If Joram had only remembered the Lord’s track record with the very nation he was leading. Job said, "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” While it is true that some history had taken place. God’s special people from whom Messiah was to come was now split in two. But when they were one, the LORD personally led them from Egypt to the land in which they lived. He was visibly present by cloud by day and a light by night. He divided the Red Sea at the beginning of the journey and backed up the flooding Jordan to get them into the Promised Land. He led them as they conquered one enemy after another. Joram, you weren’t a very good student. You didn’t study your own history! You exchanged it for a calf.
There is a huge lesson for us. The sermon theme is “What to do with the Promises of God.” If you don’t know them, how are you going to know what to do with them? The promises of God are found in the book that he wrote. Do some digging. Do some Bible study! And believe what you read.
Then there was Naaman and how he reacted to the promises of God – the two ways. “So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed." But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage.”
Naaman was told to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. It didn’t suit him. Why the Jordan? The Jordan is a cesspool. It’s way over there. The Abana and Pharpar rivers were nearer. Besides it all sounds so hokey.
There are a lot of things the Lord says that human reason has a problem accepting. God became flesh and lived among us. One died on the cross to bring life to everyone. A little water applied to the flesh in the name of the Triune God saves from an eternal hell. That same water connects us with the one who became flesh to wash our sins away. Bread and wine contains much more than just flour, but miraculously is the vehicle of the very body and blood of Jesus that conveys forgiveness of our sin. No matter when or where we are we can cry out to God in prayer and promises to answer every prayer he hears of all of this people with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a ‘not yet’ or ‘I will give you something better?’
There are a ton of other promises. What do we do with them? Put your human reason aside when it comes to the black and white promises of Scripture. Eventually Naaman learned that. He believed. Not only are we going to meet that nameless servant girl in heaven, we are going to meet Naaman too. That’s the lesson we learn when it comes to, “What to do with the Promises of God.”