Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eczema and Messes: A Blessing?

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
- 2nd Kings 5:14

Maggie, my 2-year-old daughter, has a skin disorder called eczema.  She can also be a “bull in a china shop”.  The two aren’t necessarily connected but she understands both the pain of a skin disorder and the consequences of making messes.  She recognizes when she makes a mess Mommy or Daddy have to clean it up and she shouts a joyful “all better” every night when we apply the medicine to her eczema break outs.

So with the help of her trusty Jesus Storybook Bible I found it particularly easy the other night to explain the story of King Naman who was healed of his leprosy after he finally submitted to The Prophet Elisha's call to dip himself seven times in The Jordan River.
I was so moved because, in a tiny way, she “got the Gospel”. After she declared Naman’s face “messy”, we learned that even though he was a successful king he was sad.  He didn’t have any friends; they didn’t want to be around him because of his sickness.  So desperate was he for healing and relational restoration that he followed a simple slave girl’s advice to consult The Prophet Elisha. 

Initially the idea of being healed by such a simple act seemed preposterous to Naman; He   was a self-reliant and spiritually-calloused king.  He believed his sickness to be purely physical when in fact he was a deeply wounded, embittered man.

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
- Matthew 9:12-13

It's clear from scripture that Naman's disease has deep theological underpinnings.  Leprosy begins within but results on the skin(externally). In that way it's much like sin.  As Schaeffer put it so deftly last week, “since the fall, man has become psychologically divided from himself in his rebellion”.

Unaware of who we are created to be, we don’t know ourselves. The worldly search for identity leads us to either indulge our passions/appetites becoming beasts or follow only our intellect becoming emotionless, calculating machines. In both instances we become less than human; and far less than what those who are born again by His Spirit can become in Christ.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Similarly man's thought-life is full of iniquity. We are far too often unwilling to believe the promises of God. According to John Piper it's this internal unbelief which leads to external sin and draws us further away from the holiness of life in the Spirit.  Jeremiah says we've fooled ourselves....

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.
- Jeremiah 17:9-10

It is God alone who makes sense of our desperate position apart from Him and makes reconciliation possible. Leprosy, like sin, was incurable by man. Naman’s healing and restoration of relationship with his people was a miracle that could only come from God...not from himself and not from his fellow man. Once he realized this he "came to the end of himself" and did the "childish" thing accepting his position as the created and submitting himself to His Creator's power.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
– Matthew 18:3

May we, like Naman, receive God's ever-present offer of healing and wholeness. Believing Jesus to be both our portion and our peace, may we see this story like a child.....

...The Way Maggie Sees 2nd Kings 5:

1. Naman had "boo boos" all over his body. (The Problem - The Human Condition)
2. Elisha told him to get in the bath tub. (The Solution - Spiritual Baptism)
3. After doing so he was “all better”. (Repentance and Restitution)
4. Finally he was happy and thanked the Lord. (Reconciliation and Thanksgiving)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
- Psalm 139:23-24


PS: From a man who knows a bit about making messes and who cleans them up!

This Week:
Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday Morning - True Spirituality, Chap. 11
2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

The Magills at KE Cellars in Tyler - Friday Night 6-9! 
The Magills at Breckenridge Villages in Tyler - Saturday 4:30! 

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