Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“And Jesus called (to Him) the throng with His disciples and said to them, ‘If anyone intends to come after Me, let him (her) deny himself (herself) forget and lose sight of himself (herself) and his (her) own interests and take up his (her) cross, and join Me as a disciple and side with Me, following Me continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me.’”
Mark 8: 34, Amplified Bible, K.J.V.
“There are many crosses, and every one of them is sore and heavy. None of them is likely to be sought out by me of my own accord. But never is Jesus so near me as when I lift my cross, and lay it submissively on my shoulder, and give it the welcome of a patient and unmurmuring spirit. (Jesus) draws close, to ripen my wisdom, to deepen my peace, to increase my courage, to augment my power to be of use to others, through the very experience which is so grievous and distressing.”
Today’s Study Text:
“’Now therefore,’ (said Naaman), ‘I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.’ But he (Elisha) said, ‘As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none.’ And he (Naaman) urged (Elisha) to take it; but (Elisha) refused.”
II Kings 5: 15, 16, K.J.V.
“Vending Machine Grace”
“Put your money in and take your blessing…Human beings have always wanted God to be subject to magic – how convenient it would be for us if we could coerce the deity by having the right magical formula! But God…does not give His sovereignty and glory to another.”
Raymond B. Dillard
How would I describe the false concept of “vending machine grace”?
Have I ever felt that I had to pay for God’s blessings?
“That persons should be most welcome to the throne of grace who feel themselves most poor and destitute, and most willing to obtain what they desire without any desert on their part, is incomprehensible to ‘the natural man.’ How difficult it is to us, even when renewed by grace, to sacrifice to this truth our legal conceptions, our ideas of service and reward.”
F. W Krummacher
“We cannot seek grace through gadgets.”
J. B. Priestley
If you had told me, several months ago, that the book of II Kings was a “grace” filled part of Scripture, I would have been skeptical. But I think you’ll have to agree that the book of II Kings carries in it some of the most eloquent descriptions of grace because these portrayals of God’s grace are woven carefully into the real-life experiences of individuals just like you and me. People who were struggling with the same problems you and I find common in our world today – health issues, financial challenges and family crisis. What we see is that in the face of tribulation and trial, God reaches out and rescues. As Pastor and Author G. Campbell Morgan so beautifully expresses, “Grace is love in action.”
And no where do we see heaven’s love expressed with a continual outpouring of heavenly care more than when a debt-laden mother stood behind closed doors in her humble cottage, along with her two boys, and began to pour oil from a meager supply until every jug and clay pot in her house was filled. That’s grace – God’s underserved favor or as Thomas Fuller so eloquently describes grace, it is “God, by the seasonable weeping of the heavens, causing plentiful laughter on earth.” Doesn’t that just make your heart sing! Because grace is such a precious gift, never to be abused or taken lightly, it is critical that we dig deep into the words contained in II Kings 5: 15-27, a passage in Scripture which I’ve had trouble with because it is one of those places in the Bible where we can easily find our heavenly Father getting a black eye for He comes off looking rather harsh.
First, if we review our study text for today, we find that Naaman, overjoyed by the fact that he was healed, showed a tremendous heart of gratitude by immediately heading back to Elisha’s house to say, “Thank you!” But he didn’t arrive empty-handed. He came bearing gifts. II Kings 5: 5 tells us that Naaman arrived in Israel with, “ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.” This wasn’t a last minute “re-gifting” on the part of Naaman. He came, willing to pay dearly for the opportunity to be “whole” again.
As Raymond B. Dillard, in his captivating book, Faith in the Face of Apostasy astutely notes, “(Naaman) had brought plenty of money, and so he expected the prophet to deliver on the magic. Naaman wanted ‘vending machine grace’…the prophet was expected to appear, accept the pay, and ‘wave his hand over the spot.’”
Here’s the problem. This is the kind of world Naaman lived in. This is where he came from in Syria. It was how his world operated. It was what Naaman was used to. You pay the price – you get the payoff. You have the means – you own the moment.
Sad to say, way too frequently, even in Christian churches, this same philosophy is not only taught, it is practiced. God’s blessings go to the highest bidder – or so some teachers and preachers happen to say.
If there’s one clear lesson which immediately stands out when Naaman arrived at Elisha’s door bearing gifts, it is this as Raymond Dillard makes clear: “There would be no mumbo-jumbo here.” As Dillard notes, “God’s prophet (Elisha) was not just a better magician than what Naaman had seen at home. Instead, the focus would be exclusively on the actions and grace of God.”
In II Kings 5: 15, we find that Naaman believed he was the one with the blessing in his hand for he urged Elisha to, “Take a blessing of thy servant.” However, II Kings 5: 16, informs us that in no uncertain terms, the prophet Elisha, “Refused!” As Elisha told Naaman, “I stand before God. I report to Him. He is the One who deserves the honor, not me.” Commentator Dale Ralph Davis offers this explanation for Elisha’s very direct response: “Why was Elisha so adamant (note his oath) about refusing Naaman’s gift (v.16)? Doubtless because he wanted to impress on Naaman that Yahweh is a God of grace. One doesn’t bribe, manipulate, or cajole Yahweh like pagans do their gods, Yahweh doesn’t forever have His hand out looking for a pay-off, Yahweh is simply a ‘gifty’ God.” I love the thought that my heavenly Father is a “gifty” God. And let me assure you, this isn’t just some “happy thought” thrown out there to make us feel good in tough times. In fact, throughout Scripture, God repeatedly reminds us that He is a giver of good gifts. However, my all-time favorite passage of Scripture regarding my Father’s generous, kind and gracious desire to pour His “unmerited favor” – His grace - upon each one of us, is found in Hebrews 4: 16 where we are encouraged, invited and emboldened to: “Fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy for our failures and find grace to help in time of every need, appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it” (Hebrews 4: 16, Amplified Bible). Praise God that our Father is the Gift-Giver for a needy person like myself.
I don’t have anything that’s worth two cents to pay for the grace I get when I arrive at my Dad’s door. And this was the truth about the God of heaven and earth that Elisha wanted to impress upon the Syrian General Naaman. The God of Israel was the Giver. He was not the taker.
What a lesson for you and me to incorporate into our hearts today. From words penned by Augustus M. Toplady in 1776 to the old favorite hymn, “Rock of Ages” “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” Praise God, we will never be turned away from our Father’s door, when we arrive empty-handed. As G. B. Duncan penned, “A Christian never lacks what (they) need when (they) possess in Christ the unsearchable riches of God’s grace.” May we never fear coming to our Father’s door because what we have is meager, indeed. Instead, may we boldly come before our Father’s throne where we will always find help in time of need.
“When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.”
Robert Murray M’Cheyne
“A drop of grace is worth a sea of gifts.”
A Prayer for Grace
“View me, Lord, a work of thine:
Shall I then lie drowned in night?
Might thy grace in me but shine
I should seem made all of light.
But my soul still surfeits so
On the poisoned baits of sin,
That I strange and ugly grow,
All is dark and foul within.
Cleanse me, Lord, that I may kneel
At thine altar, pure and white:
They that once thy mercies feel,
Gaze no more on earth’s delight.
Worldly joys like shadows fade,
When the heavenly light appears;
But the cov’nants thou hast made,
Endless, know nor days, nor years.
In thy word, Lord, is my trust,
To thy mercies fast I fly;
Though I am but clay and dust,
Yet thy grace can lift me high.”
Thomas Campion (1567-1620)
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.