Blessed… A House of Prayer and a Hideout for Crooks

Then Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.” People who were blind and lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and legal experts saw the amazing things he was doing and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were angry. They said to Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” he answered. “Haven’t you ever read, From the mouths of babies and infants you’ve arranged praise for yourself? Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there (Matthew 21:12-17, Common English Bible).

One day, early in the morning, while serving a former church, the church secretary called me. Vandals and/or thieves had broken into the building over night. It appeared that there was more vandalism damage than things that were missing. Still, it was rather unsettling.

When I arrived at the office and first walked into my study, the first thing I noticed was, the guitar I kept in the corner was gone. The second thing I noticed was, my computer monitor had been overturned.

An interior office door had been kicked in but nothing appeared to be missing. When we walked to the sanctuary, we found the lead guitar player’s guitar sitting on a few steps. They left the guitar but stole the case. We walked to the parlor and found a television was stolen. Down in the preschool at the other end of the building, most of the damage was vandalism. It was in the nature of shaving cream the vandals found in a supply closet that was sprayed all over the office and hallways.

Without question, things could have been worse. No one was hurt. Not too much damage was done and not too much was stolen. My guitar nor the guitar player’s case were ever recovered.

For a short period of time, our church was a haven, we didn’t know it and would never have allowed it had we known, but it was a haven for thieves and vandals. Thankfully they were long gone before the arrival of anyone on the staff.

At the same time as this happened, our congregation was in the middle of a prayer vigil. People were coming to the church during the day and evening to pray and still others would pray at night. It was also close to Easter time. When I read this passage back then, the irony of a hideout for thieves and a house for prayer all in the same building.

While I know Jesus meant that the priests and the Pharisees were cheating the people or allowing the people to be cheated. Jesus wanted those same people to be able to come to the temple to pray. Because we are all sinners, even if we remove the money changers from the equation, there were still thieves and other sinners occupying the temple.

We are no different today. Our churches are filled with paradox as we have thieves and sinners coming to our worship centers to pray. But friends, I don’t think that would bother Jesus as much as it bothers some of us. Jesus’ complaint wasn’t against your average sinner who was working, praying and trying to find change. Jesus complained about those who would take advantage of a situation. If we are on our knees, it is difficult to take advantage of a brother or sister.

Does your prayer focus ever target the changes that need to be made in you? Which will your church be, a hideout for thieves or a place of recovery and prayer for sinners? The answer is up to us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… When Jesus Got Angry

Then Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.” People who were blind and lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and legal experts saw the amazing things he was doing and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were angry. They said to Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” he answered. “Haven’t you ever read, From the mouths of babies and infants you’ve arranged praise for yourself? Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there (Matthew 21:12-17, Common English Bible).

Pastor Bob had a reputation in his preaching for being a spirited preacher. His proponents called him fiery and passionate. His critics said he was emotional and angry. One Sunday morning after a particularly hard-hitting and driven sermon Pastor Bob was met at by one of the women of the church who was not fond of Pastor Bob’s emotional style.

“Anger does not become a Godly man,” Edith said.

“But Edith,” the pastor replied, “Even  Jesus got angry. Why, one day he went into the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers.”

Edith stood there for a minute thinking and then said, “Yes, Pastor, that is true. And, that is one of the things I don’t like about Jesus.”

There are many people, like Edith, who believe that anger is a sin. In light of today’s lesson I would respond by saying, they are wrong. I cannot think of a more clear example of anger than what we see when Jesus goes in and cleanses the temple. He overturns tables and slings a whip around. He calls the people there crooks. This is not a picture of a calm and reserved man. Let there be no doubt, this is one angry man.

So, if anger is a sin and Jesus got angry then we would also need to reach the conclusion that Jesus committed sin. Peter wrote, “You were called to this kind of endurance, because Christ suffered on your behalf. He left you an example so that you might follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, nor did he ever speak in ways meant to deceive. When he was insulted, he did not reply with insults. When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.  He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed. He did this so that we might live in righteousness, having nothing to do with sin. By his wounds you were healed.  Though you were like straying sheep, you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your lives (1 Peter 2:21-25).

It isn’t anger that is the sin. The sin is in what we do with that anger. In the lesson Jesus got angry to bring about change in the temple. All too often, when we get angry it is to advance ourselves. Anger to bring about change in the world is positive and can become positive. There are things in the world that could and should make us angry. The question becomes, how will we respond to our anger.

What makes you angry? What are you doing with your anger?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… How Soon They Forget

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task. He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away. Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said, Say to Daughter Zion,Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring. The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them. Now a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds in front of him and behind him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. “Who is this?” they asked. The crowds answered, “It’s the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:1-11, Common English Bible).

When Jesus and the disciples came into Jerusalem there were cloaks and palm branches in the air and on the ground marking the way Jesus was to go. It was Jesus being treated as a king. There were people who were shouting and praising as they lined the route into the city. People were saying “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who came in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Before we could turn around there comes a question, “Who is this?”

Really? “‘Who is this?’ THEY asked.” Really? You just sang praises to “the Son of David!” Now you have to ask “Who is this?” Really? You threw your cloak on the ground for his donkey to not only walk on but to do other things donkeys do as they walk the road, and now you ask, “Who is this?” Really? You took the time to cut palm branches. That would mean you had to climb the palm trees to reach them. You waived those branches at him as you sang and now you have to ask, “Who is this?” Really?

Yes, really, that was the question of not one, but when Matthew wrote “they” the word means more than one. While there is no way to know how many, Matthew at least makes it sound like they are several people. I would love to say, “What a stupid question.” In reality, however, the question should actually be, “What a sad question.” The Messiah is right in front of them and yet they do not see it.

The answer to their question quite possibly is even more sad than the question itself, if that is even possible. “It is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Think about that for a minute. Here is Jesus, riding into the city. He is treated like the royalty he is at one moment, the crowds asking him to be the Messiah and “save us (see “Blessed…Amid Shouts of Hosanna”)” and before Jesus can even dismount the donkey, he has gone down in status from Messiah to prophet.

Let there be no doubt, Jesus was not the Messiah the Jews were seeking. They missed the sign of the donkey (see “Blessed…On a Colt) that Jesus came in peace. Still, Jesus had not yet had the chance to disappoint the crowds as to the kind of Messiah he would be. And yet, he went from Messiah to prophet in just a moment’s time.

If Jesus could go from Messiah to prophet in the blink of an eye, it is little wonder how the same people could be shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” five days later.

What kind of Messiah do you expect Jesus to be?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessing… On a Colt

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task. He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away. Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said, Say to Daughter Zion,Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring. The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them. Now a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds in front of him and behind him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. “Who is this?” they asked. The crowds answered, “It’s the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:1-11, Common English Bible).

There is a group of Scriptural books we Protestants don’t generally have in our Bibles called the Apocrypha. There are 14 of these books that our Roman Catholic friends use that we Protestants do not see as Holy Scripture. Just because we do not view them as Holy Scripture does not mean there is not something we can gain from reading and even studying them. It is important, however, to note that we do not study these books as Scripture but they are valuable because they can teach us some of the history of the Israelites.

The books of the Apocrypha happen during the period that theologians and Biblical historians generally call “The Intertestamental Period.” They occur historically after the end of the Old Testament but before the first writings of the New Testament. They provide us with insight into that period.

1 Maccabees is one of these books. This book along with 2 Maccabees in particular point to the things that happened in Israel’s history in the years immediately prior to Jesus’ birth.

There is one story in 1 Maccabees that would have been familiar to Jews during Jesus’ life. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem it would have been a scene that would have made most any good Jew would have remembered. The first story was an important part in the history of Israel.

Jerusalem and the temple had been lost to the Seleucid Dynasty. The Seleucid leader was named Antiochus who forbade all Jewish religious practices and brought Hellenistic practices into the temple including the sacrifice of swine on the altar. The Jews were outraged.

A Jew named Judah Maccabees raised an army that sought to defeat Antiochus and the Seleucid Dynasty. When Maccabees won Jerusalem he came riding into Jerusalem on a stallion amid waiving palm branches along with cloaks and palm branches on the ground covering the road as Maccabees came into the city.

The story is a familiar allusion. When one reads both stories there is really only one noticeable difference between the two stories beyond the entering riders. Maccabees came riding into Jerusalem on a stallion. Jesus came riding in on the fold of a donkey. It is an important distinction.

Maccabees rode into Jerusalem on a stallion, a symbol for a conquering hero. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the fold of a donkey. The donkey being a symbol we have actually scene once before in Jesus’ story as he and Mary rode into Bethlehem on a donkey. The donkey is a symbol for one who comes in peace.

Here are two stories that are very much the same and at the same time are also very different. The Jews saw Jesus coming in and remembered the story of Judah Maccabees. They still today celebrate Maccabees and his victory over Antiochus. They celebrate the victory as Hanukkah. Hanukkah is Maccabees, the conquering hero’s legacy.

The Jews missed the donkey. It is the key symbol. Jesus didn’t come to conquer the Romans as the Jews had hoped. He came as the Prince of Peace. And, Jesus too had a legacy. We who believe in him are that legacy.

How do you demonstrate to the world your part in that legacy.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Amid Shouts of Hosanna

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task. He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away. Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said, Say to Daughter Zion,Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring. The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them. Now a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds in front of him and behind him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord![b] Hosanna in the highest!” And when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. “Who is this?” they asked. The crowds answered, “It’s the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:1-11, Common English Bible).

Jesus and the disciples enter Jerusalem in today’s lesson. It is the story we commonly call, “The Triumphal Entry.” When Jesus entered the city, he had sent the disciples ahead to secure a donkey that he would ride into the city. We will actually talk about the significance of the donkey tomorrow. As he rode into Jerusalem, people took off their cloaks and laid them on the ground for Jesus and the donkey to walk upon. Along with the cloaks there were palm leaves. It is where we get the name we give the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday. As all this was happening, the people were shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the Lord!”

In his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Volume Two, the late Scottish theologian William Barclay talks about the word “Hosanna.” It is an important word in today’s lesson.

Barclay shares that in it’s origins the word “hosanna” had as its meaning, “save us.” He says, that the word originally meant, “save us.” Barclay does point out that the word might have evolved by this point in history into the praise word we know today.” Yet, even if we assume that is true, isn’t it interesting that of all the words of praise the Jews could have used that day, the word they selected had its origins in the phrase “save us.”

I find it interesting because that is exactly what Jesus came here to do. He came to save us.  As he made his way down the road entering Jerusalem, he was on his way to the cross. He was on his way to save us. “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Blessed is He who comes to save us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… We Want to See

As Jesus and his disciples were going out of Jericho a large crowd followed him. When two blind men sitting along the road heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” Now the crowd scolded them and told them to be quiet. But they shouted even louder, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus stopped in his tracks and called to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord, we want to see,” they replied.  Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they were able to see, and they followed him (Matthew 20:29-34, Common English Bible).

It was a very busy weekend. My apologies for the missed posts.

There is one last thing I want to lift up about this story before moving on. It has to do with our prayer lives.

This story confirms something for us that perhaps we have already known for some time and have failed to put into practice when we pray. We often pray things like, “Lord, I want to be more faithful in serving the world.” When in truth, we should be praying that but also adding to it, “…help me to find uses for my carpentry skills, perhaps through volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.

When I read this lesson I am struck by the idea that these blind men were shouting,  “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” There is nothing specific here. It is a generalized , “show us mercy.” Think about that for a minute. These men sat in a conspicuous place every day to beg money from passers by. What if Jesus would have thrown a couple of coins their way. Would Jesus not be showing these two blind men mercy by giving them something that would help to at least their immediate needs? Sure, a couple of coins would at least help with the purchase of food that would meet the immediate need of hunger.

The question really becomes, would the gift of a couple of coins meet their real need. Jesus knew the real need in the story and it wasn’t to give someone a couple of coins. He knew exactly what the men wanted. But, instead of just giving the men what they needed, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do?”

When we first pick up this lesson and read Jesus’ question, the first thing to go through the minds of many people is, “Well there is a stupid question. There blind, of course they want to see.”

But this is not a stupid question. Without question, Jesus knew their needs. Jesus knew their desires before they ever asked. Still, for reasons we may never know, God expects us to ask, to be specific in the things we really want done in our lives.

“What do you want?” Jesus asks.

“We want to see,” was the men’s reply.

We want to see as well. Perhaps in we learn to be specific in prayer, God will help us to see too, to see spiritually.

What have you specifically asked of God in prayer?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Average Joes… The Aramean General

TheArameanGeneral

Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was honored by his master, and he had much respect because the Lord used him to give victory to Aram. He was a mighty and brave man, but he had a skin disease.

The Arameans had gone out to raid the Israelites and had taken a little girl as a captive. This little girl served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “I wish my master would meet the prophet who lives in Samaria. He would cure him of his disease.”

Naaman went to the king and told him what the girl from Israel had said. The king of Aram said, “Go ahead, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left and took with him about seven hundred fifty pounds of silver, as well as one hundred fifty pounds of gold and ten changes of clothes. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “I am sending my servant Naaman to you so you can heal him of his skin disease.”

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes to show how upset he was. He said, “I’m not God! I can’t kill and make alive again! Why does this man send someone with a skin disease for me to heal? You can see that the king of Aram is trying to start trouble with me.”

When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent the king this message: “Why have you torn your clothes? Let Naaman come to me. Then he will know there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots to Elisha’s house and stood outside the door.

Elisha sent Naaman a messenger who said, “Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times. Then your skin will be healed, and you will be clean.”

Naaman became angry and left. He said, “I thought Elisha would surely come out and stand before me and call on the name of the Lord his God. I thought he would wave his hand over the place and heal the disease. The Abana and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, are better than all the waters of Israel. Why can’t I wash in them and become clean?” So Naaman went away very angry.

Naaman’s servants came near and said to him, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? Doesn’t it make more sense just to do it? After all, he only told you, ‘Wash, and you will be clean.’” So Naaman went down and dipped in the Jordan seven times, just as Elisha had said. Then his skin became new again, like the skin of a child. And he was clean (2 Kings 5:1-14, Common English Bible).

I am Naaman. I am commanding general for the armies of King Ben Hadad II, King of Aram and Damascus. I have worked hard throughout my life to learn the art of warfare and to gain the trust and confidence of my king. The king almost always listens to me and follows my advice. He said, “You are the general. You know much more about this than I.” Occasionally he would tell me to do it his way, but not often. When he gave me an instruction, I ALWAYS followed it.

Before, the biggest problem I ever had was dealing with some little pesky army that had a general who wasn’t smart enough to know when he was beat and men in my lower ranks who believed they knew more about how to fight a war than their general. Some of them weren’t smart enough to keep their mouths shut or to know when they were insubordinate. They almost always paid for that mistake. When they wouldn’t follow my instructions on the battlefield, they almost always paid for it with their life. I never had any of the men executed, but when you don’t follow your leader’s instructions in battle the results can be devastating for all concerned.

When I was a younger soldier, I spent much time on the front lines, where the fighting is fiercest and the danger is greatest. In more recent years I am back further behind the lines. With the weapons at our disposal, it is much safer behind the lines. That simply meant, I had far less to fear. Well, at least I had little to fear in battle. In the world outside the army, I would soon learn, I had much to fear.

Our army had just returned from battle. The first thing required of me was to make a report, in person, to the king. I had sent a messenger to report when the battle ended but King Ben Hadad expected me to report to him immediately on my return. I wanted to always meet the expectations of my king. Once my officers and men were in and working to get things in order, I left to see the king.

When I walked in, King Ben Hadad took a quick look at me and then did a double take. He immediately asked me what was the sore on my face. I didn’t realize I had one so I told him it must be a scrape, a battle wound. Perhaps I deserved your Purple Heart. I didn’t think it was anything to worry about. At first the king just said, “It doesn’t look like any battle wound I have seen but if you say so….” I went on and made my report from the battle. We had a decisive victory and had almost no casualties. That pleased the king. We rarely lost battles which was a really good thing because when we did lose, I incurred the wrath of my king. But, even when I won, he was none too happy if the casualties were high. High casualties made it difficult to fight another day. No men generally means no war.

After making my report I requested from the king to be dismissed. I was excited about a few days at home and wanted to go home and see my wife and children. The king told me I was free to go. As I was making my exit the king stopped me. “I want you to go see one of the physicians about that battle wound of yours.” I told him I really thought it was nothing but I would do as requested.

Just because I said I would do it didn’t mean I was going to do it right then. The king didn’t say when I had to go to the physician, just that I had to go. I headed for home and family. When I arrived home my wife seemed a bit frazzled. That, however, was nothing unusual. With six kids at home, four boys and two girls, well, I am sure you can imagine.

When I walked into the house, I was immediately bombarded with questions. The boys wanted to know all the details of the battle. My girls, including my wife wanted to know about my battle wound. What could I tell them? I knew nothing about how I got it.

“The king told me to go see one of the physicians about the wound. He wanted it checked.” I said.

“So did you go,” replied my wife.

“Not yet, I was more interested in getting home to see you and the kids. The king probably meant to go see a physician right then but that isn’t what he said so I decided to take advantage of the loop hole. So here I am.”

“I completely agree with the king. That wound doesn’t look good to me at all. First thing in the morning, you go!”

“Yes, dear, I will.”

The next morning, bright and early, I went to see the physician. I was not ready to hear what he had to say. I had leprosy. Today you know a great deal more about leprosy than we did back then. There were a number of skin diseases in my day that looked a great deal alike. Some were more dangerous than others but we really couldn’t tell them apart. Anyway, with the physician’s diagnosis, I was about to be banished to the country-side around the city. I was about to go from having it all, to having nothing. No army to lead. No king to visit. No wife and no children. I couldn’t risk exposing any of them. Now, when I saw someone coming, I was to yell as loud as possible, “diseased!” so people would know to avoid me.

I made my way to see the king. I stayed a distance away and he wanted to know why. I told him what the physician said. He told me exile was the only alternative, he couldn’t risk losing his whole army. He then dismissed me. I could see the tears in his eyes as I left. There were tears in my eyes too.

I went home but I stayed outside and made my wife come out to me. I told her what the physician had said. I so wanted to hug my children but the risk was too great. So, I headed out of the city.

Later in the day my wife was talking with a friend. My wife also has a handmaiden who is a slave girl, captured during a battle with the Israelites. In her captivity, she became very committed to my wife and even to me. After overhearing the conversation between my wife and her friend about the disease that exiled me, the slave girl came to my wife and said, “I wish the general could come before the prophet who lives in Samaria. He would cure him of his skin disease.” My wife and the girl talked a little longer. Then my wife headed out of town, out to the leper colony to talk with me. She told me all about what the slave girl said. I then told my wife to send, Jacob, the oldest of the children to request an audience with the king. If the king won’t see you, tell Jacob all you know about my disease and the prophet in Samaria.

Much to my surprise, the king agreed to see my wife. He told her for her to request an audience with the king, a most unusual thing for a woman to do, he knew it was truly important. My wife explained what she knew about the prophet and then asked the king if there was anything he could do. He told her to get me to come into town, to come to his home. I think my wife must have ran all the way. I know I ran all the way back to the king’s home.

“So you want to go to Israel to see if there is something the prophet of their God can do?”

“Yes, my King!”

Go to your home. Avoid people as much as possible both as you travel and once you are home. Pack what you will need. While you are gone I will get some additional supplies ready along with a small contingent of soldiers to travel with you to Israel.

“Yes, sir.” I replied and left for my home. I knew that if things didn’t work out as I had planned I might never see my home again. While I was at home, it broke my heart to keep my children away from me but leprosy is such a contagious disease, we just couldn’t take the risk.

When I returned the king had soldiers ready to travel. Additionally he had supplies loaded on pack horses that were ready to travel. There was 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold and ten sets of fine clothing. The king, while not getting close to me, had a letter for me to carry to Joram, King of Israel. With that, my party set off on our way.

When we arrived in Israel I immediately went to see King Joram and presented him with the letter from King Ben Hadad. The letter explained the situation and asked for King Joram’s help in getting me cured. It all scared King Joram who thought sending me there was just pretence for going to war and the only way Joram would be able to stop war was for me to be cured. So, Joram tore his clothing, a sign of grief and mourning in Israel.

It didn’t look as though anything was going to happen. I thought I had wasted time and my king’s resources but I had to see if a cure were possible. Now it looked as if it were not. I couldn’t set out on my own to find the prophet as I had no idea where to even start looking. Still, I decided to hang around for a few days and see what happened.

One day a messenger came into our camp. The prophet had heard about my plight. The prophet asked why the king was grieved. He told the king to allow me to go and see him. Then I and all of Aram would know the power of Israel’s God. The king passed the word to us that we were to set out immediately.

It didn’t take us long to be on our way. We traveled for a full two days and part of another day before we arrived at the home of the prophet named Elisha who sent a messenger out to tell me to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times. He said then and only then would I be cured.

I have to tell you friends that really made me angry. I was so mad I seriously considered having my men storm the prophet’s home and drag him out of the house. I thought he would at least come out to see me. Didn’t he know who I was? Didn’t he know what I could do to him? But, he did not leave his house. So, I started venting to my men. “Go wash in the Jordan? That little creek these people call a river. I crossed bigger and better rivers on my way to Israel, any one of them was better than all the waters of Israel. Go wash seven times in the Jordan. Pfftht. Ridiculous. All right men. Load up. Let’s go home.”

“But General,” said Abdiel, my second in command. “Did we travel all this way just to go home with our mission unfulfilled? Had the prophet told you to do something difficult would you not go and do it? If the cure for your disease is as simple as taking a bath, should you not at least try?”

I argued with him a bit but he, the man who quite possibly would benefit most from me having leprosy and no longer able to command my army, was telling me to follow the prophet’s silly instructions. It made me think, “How can I go home and tell my king I did not follow the prophet’s instructions.” Then I ordered the men to load up. “We will go to the Jordan and when this doesn’t work I can go home and tell the king thank you but it was a foolish errand.” And, we moved out.

When we arrived at the Jordan there was hardly enough water in the river for a child to take a bath, let alone a full grown adult man. Still, I stripped off all my clothes while my men stood guard. A few of them were paying more attention to me than to what might have been happening around us. I walked out into the so-called river. Once out in the deepest water, I dropped down into the water, let the water go completely over my head and then came up. I looked at my arms and my body. Nothing had changed. I really thought if this was going to work I would see some improvement. So, I dipped down into the water again. I came back up and looked again. Still, there was no change. I dropped down into the water a third time. When I came back up a third time, there was still no change. I was no longer a bit bothered by all of this. I was downright mad! I started to walk out of the water again. My thinking in that moment was, I am done. Why do I need to waste still more time with this? I was muttering as much, as I was making my way out of the water.

But Abdiel was not going to let me leave here without at least trying to get me to do everything possible to insure a successful healing. Abdiel says, “But my General. The Prophet said to bathe seven times in the river. You have only bathed three. You must bathe four more times.”

I just stopped where I was and dropped under the water. When I came back up I shouted at Abdiel. “That is four. Are you satisfied? There is still no change. The prophet’s stupid idea isn’t working. There is no healing here. We are just wasting time and I am looking foolish by doing something so ridiculous. This will never work. It is time to go home.”

“As you wish my general, but it is better to look foolish trying to find a cure than to live the rest of your life as an outcast from the world, to live with leprosy. You are right my general, you have been washed four times, but the prophet said you are to bathe seven times.”

I turned around, walked back into the deeper water and immediately I dropped under the water again. When I came back up Abdiel yelled, “That is five.” But I didn’t hear him because I dropped right back down in the water again. This time when I came up I just yelled, “SIX” and dropped back in the water one last time. When I came up I just said, “Seven,” and started walking out of the water. I didn’t even look at my skin. I knew nothing had changed. I was actually thinking that perhaps it took a bit of time for the water to soak into the wounds before they would go away. Yes, perhaps by the time we made it home to Aram the sores would be gone.

That is when I looked up at my men. Some of them were pointing at me. No one was making a sound. Every one of my soldiers were wide-eyed. There were looks of disbelief on all their faces, even Abdiel looked as though he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“What?” I asked. “That was seven. It is time to end this foolishness and go home. Get ready. We will head back to Aram as soon as I am dressed. Get packed and mounted.”

“But my General,” Abdiel said, “Your skin. Look.”

I still didn’t look. “I know nothing has changed. Perhaps by the time we get home but probably not. I will forever be a leper.”

“No my General, you don’t understand. Look at your skin.”

“Abdiel, will you not let this go? OK…” I looked at my arm. There were no sores. I looked at my chest and stomach. There were no sores. I ran from the water and examined my legs. There were no sores. I grabbed the closest soldier. “Examine my back I told him.”

“No sores,” the soldier replied.

“What??? This foolishness actually worked. Quick, let me get dressed. We must go back to see the prophet.”

As soon as I was dressed we made our way back from the Jordan River to the home of the Prophet Elisha. Once we were there, this time the prophet came out from his home.

“I am cured. I thought this would be a waste of time and effort but now I know there is a God in Israel. Further, Israel’s God is more powerful than any other god. As we traveled back here from the Jordan I began to consider the power of Israel’s God. I came to realize that the God of Israel is the only God. From this day forward, now and forever, I will only worship Israel’s God. Now, please, I must give to you a gift to demonstrate my thankfulness for what you have done for me. Abdiel, quickly, have the men unload the gold, silver and clothing.”

“Stop!” commanded the prophet and my men froze in their tracks. Elisha continued, “As sure as the Lord lives, I will accept no gift. I did nothing but give you the instructions from the Lord. God worked and you followed the instructions. There is no need for a gift for me.”

“Please, allow me the honor of giving you something,” I pleaded with Elisha.

“No. I cannot accept a gift for what I did not do. All this, is the work of the Lord. Now, you and your men, Go in peace.”

Seeing that Elisha would take nothing, we loaded up and began making our way back to Aram, and for me back to my old life except one thing had changed. I would never again worship the false gods of Aram. I might go with my King to the temple, with the king on my arm I might bow down to assist the king, but I would not worship a false god. I knew there was but one God in all the world and that God is the Lord. That I would not forget.

As we made our way home I thought about one thing over and over again. What if we were making this trip when I started to quit after four dips into the water? What if I had stopped when the sores were still on my body? The only answer I could see would be, if I hadn’t followed the instructions God gave me through Elisha, I would not have received the blessing of healing.

God gives us many instructions. Sometimes we hear those instructions through prayer. Sometimes we hear them in our Bible study. Sometimes we hear them in worship, perhaps in the lyrics of a hymn or in the words of a pastor during a sermon. Sometimes we hear them in the still small voice we call our conscience. Sometimes we might hear them in the gentle rebuke of a friend, much like I heard them from Abdiel. However we might hear them, the truth is, if we don’t follow the instructions, we just might, no, we probably will forfeit the blessing. I pray that you have many blessings. I pray that you never forfeit one.

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved