Devotional Week 39 Wednesday
“’Am I a God at hand,’ says the Lord, ‘and not a God afar off? Can anyone hide themselves in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ says the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth,’ says the Lord.”
Jeremiah 9: 23, 24
“Do you think that the infinite God cannot fill and satisfy your heart?”
“Let me not dwell so much within
My bounded heart, with anxious heed –
Where all my searches meet with sin,
And nothing satisfies my need –
It shuts me from the sound and sight
Of that pure world of life and light.”
Anna L. Waring
Today’s Study Text:
“And he (Naaman) brought the letter to the King of Israel, saying, ‘Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.’ And it came to pass, when the King of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.’ And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the King of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, ‘Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.”
II Kings 5: 6, 9
Definition: “To form a conception or opinion beforehand, as before seeing evidence or as a result of previously held prejudice.”
“Do not think of the faults of others but of what is good in them and faulty in yourself.”
Teresa of Avila
Has there been a time in my life when I allowed the differences I saw in others to block the compassion I had in my heart?
What specific prejudices have made me have a closed-mind to someone who was a child of God?
“Prejudice is a great time saver. It enables you to form opinions without bothering to get the facts.”
“We have to know the facts of a case if we want the privilege of having an opinion about it.”
When I was about twelve years old, our family moved to Los Angeles where we rented an old house that was what people called a “freeway house.” This particular Spanish-style stucco home was on land that was to be used for a freeway. The state had purchased the homes in a given area and while they waited for the freeway construction to begin, they rented out these homes to recoup some of the expense of purchasing them in the first place.
I loved this old rambling house with its nooks and crannies. But my favorite spot was the attic where I could hideout. What made this such an ideal spot was that the floorboards were not nailed together closely. There were small slivers of light that showed through these areas where a young person like myself could “spy” on the rooms below. There was only one problem with these narrow “spy-holes,” and it was the fact that they were so skinny, it limited your vision to one specific area. It was nearly impossible to see on either side of the slits and so your view was limited.
As I’ve thought about the idea of “preconceived notions,” I’ve found myself reflecting on those days when I lay on a wooden floor, trying to keep surveillance on the happenings downstairs in our old house. What I saw never gave me the whole picture, that’s because the small spaces I looked through didn’t let me see that much. Instead, I only got a limited picture of what was happening.
Today, our study text is all about what happens when our viewpoint is blocked by preconceived notions which have their roots planted in the soil of long-held prejudices and narrow judgments based on false information.
The events in our study text today took place when two leaders, in two countries, Israel and Syria, almost got into a war because of errors in judgment relating to assumptions they errantly made regarding each other.
Now let me be quick to interject, I haven’t made this story up but I wouldn’t blame you if the thought came into your mind that I might just be trying to make the Bible sound more contemporary. The fact is, I didn’t have to adapt this story to fit the circumstances we see playing out in the world today. The Bible easily stands on its own. And what we find is that truths which applied to events that took place thousands of years ago, fit right into today’s history as if meant to alert you and me to the vital importance of God’s word.
Here’s how this complicated situation developed – and just to identify the key-players – they are the King of Syria; General Naaman, leader of the Syrian army; the king of Israel; and Elisha, “the man of God”; and an Israelite slave girl.
We must not forget, the Syrian army, under the command of Naaman, had military success when they went up against Israel’s army. The fact is, God empowered Naaman as we learned. So the history between these two countries was not a positive one.
When the story begins, the King of Israel, sitting on his throne, has a visitor. In walks the Syrian General Naaman, with a letter from his boss, the King of Syria, who basically appears to be asking for the King of Israel to heal his General of leprosy because a little Israelite slave girl said the king has the power to make this happen.
Rather than asking a few questions and trying to get the facts correct, Israel’s king jumped to the conclusion this was a trap he was being led into so he started ripping up his clothes, as if in mourning, certain that inevitable destruction was going to come upon him for although he was no devout follower of Yahweh, he did get one thing right – he knew he did not have the power to heal Naaman.
Thankfully, someone got word to Elisha before everything blew up and the prophet came to the king’s rescue with these words, “Let (Naaman) come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (II Kings 5: 8, K.J.V.).
The preconceived idea held by a foreign king that Israel’s king could heal his General almost brought the two nations into an impasse, had there not been a “man of God” who stepped forward to intervene.
If we look around today, from world events to personal relationships, I think it is safe to say that preconceived notions, judgmental thinking, hostile accusations, and something as simple as jumping-to-conclusions are at the heart of so many of the hostile situations, whether on a worldwide scale or right within the walls of our own homes. Dr. Paul Tournier offered this insightful thought and I’ll add, it applies to both men and women, “A man’s judgment of another depends more on judging and on his passions than on the one being judged and his conduct.” How true this is and it applies to nearly every interaction that takes place. What we, individually, bring to situations, has a huge affect on the conclusion that is put into place.
As I read about the confusion which ensued from misread actions between two nations when Naaman sought to find a cure for his diseased body, I was struck by the fact that it is the compassionate, caring spirit that often, as the famous song states, becomes the “bridge over troubled waters” which provides a pathway for true hope and healing, whether in our homes or on a global scale.
In the words of M.A. Thomas, penned from India:
“Nothing seems to be moving,
It is still - so very still,
We cannot feel the world around us;
We do not hear the people around us,
We do not care,
We do not listen,
We want to be by ourselves.
Lead us from indifference to solicitude;
Lead us from insensitivity to sympathy;
Lead us from inertia to alertness.
Lord, we want to care, we want to hear.”
“Make us true servants to all those in need,
Filled with compassion in thought, word and deed;
Loving our neighbor, whatever the cost,
Feeding the hungry and find the lost.
Lord, make us healers of body and mind;
Give us Your power to bring sight to the blind;
Love to the loveless and gladness for pain,
Filling all hearts with the joy of Your name.”
From One Worship
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
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