RPM, Volume 19, Number 23 June 4 to June 10, 2017

There is no God in All the Earth but in Israel

2 Kings 5

By Reverend Mr. Joshua M. Rieger

Tonight we come to 2 Kings 5 as we're looking at the Scriptures. We're going to be looking at the story in 2 Kings 5 which is found on pages 311 and 312 of your pew Bibles. We're going to be looking at the story of Naaman the general from Damascus who came to God's prophet in order to be healed. Before we do look at 2 Kings 5, though, let us go to the Lord in prayer.

Our Father who is in heaven, we come to You knowing that You alone are our hope for salvation, knowing that we have no hope for anything apart from You, so we come to You as we come to Your Word and ask, Lord, that You would teach us from it, that You would instruct our hearts, that You would make us a people who love You more dearly, a people who seek You more fervently, a people whose hearts are transformed by Your Word as You have given it to us. We pray, Lord, that we would leave here men and women who love You more dearly than we came, in Jesus' name, amen.

Let's read together from 2 Kings 5. We'll be reading the whole chapter.

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." So Naaman went in and told his lord, "Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel." And the king of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel."

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, "When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy." And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me."

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, "Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel." So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean." But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, "Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, "My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, "Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant." But he said, "As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none." And he urged him to take it, but he refused. Then Naaman said, "If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter." He said to him, "Go in peace."

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, "See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him." So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, "Is all well?" And he said, "All is well. My master has sent me to say, 'There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.'' And Naaman said, "Be pleased to accept two talents." And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, "Where have you been, Gehazi?" And he said, "Your servant went nowhere." But he said to him, "Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever." So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

The book of Kings is a book that shows us the unfaithfulness of the kings of Israel and Judah. The kings of Israel and Judah are judged on their actions throughout the two books of 1 and 2 Kings in relation to how they treat or feel about the temple in Jerusalem. It's a book that covers the ministry of Elijah and Elisha. At this point in 2 Kings, Elijah has already been taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot. Through the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, God lends credibility to His Word as it comes. He does miraculous works through these men to attest to His faithfulness, to His power. In a time when the kings are disobedient, through Elijah and Elisha, God is testifying to the fact that He is powerful and has all authority to fulfill His promises and indeed He will fulfill His promises. The people are evil, the kings are evil, and yet God is still faithful and He's going to see His promises fulfilled. And this is the message of the ministry of Elijah and Elisha.

But as we come to this story we see four particular things I want to show you in the story in 2 Kings 5 in the story of Naaman. First of all, I want us to see the fear of the king of Israel. The second thing I want us to look at is the pride of Naaman. The third thing I want us to look at is the mercy of God towards Naaman. And finally I want us to look at the justice of God that Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, sees.

First of all the fear of the king. There was a very famous battle during the rule of this king that Naaman serves. Here it calls it Syria. To most archeologists today we know this nation as Aram-Damascus. It's north of Israel. There was a very famous battle between Damascus and Assyria during the reign of this king. It's very likely that Naaman may well have made his name leading troops in this battle. There were eleven kings with the king of Aram-Damascus that went against the Assyrians. One of those kingdoms that went against the Assyrians was Israel. In fact, the king of Israel mentioned here would have been the king who led the people of Israel up with this nation against the Assyrians. So it was most likely in this battle that Naaman had one his fame and his fortune as a general. He was well-known, he was well-respected, and yet he had leprosy all over him. And he's come to a point where he knows that there's nothing he can do about his leprosy. He'd probably bathed in these two rivers in Syria that he talks about in this passage before. He's probably gone to the priests in his temple. He's probably gone to local magicians and seers and sorcerers looking for potential ways to be healed. He's come to a place where he knows, "I'm sick and there's nothing I can do about it. There's no way to get rid of this."

And yet his health comes from the strangest location. There's a young girl who is his wife's servant. The reason she is his wife's servant is because Naaman had led a raid into Israel and he'd taken this girl as kind of spoils of the raid and now she was a servant for his wife. He'd probably taken her away from her family. He may well have in it some way injured or even killed her family and he brought her to be his servant and now she's serving in his house, she's serving his wife, and she's the one who offers him a hope of healing, the last one that you might expect to offer him a hope of healing. I don't know why she came and told him how he might be healed. Certainly I would have had a little bit of animosity toward him if I'd been in her place, but for whatever reason she comes to him and she offers him the hope that, "There is a prophet in Samaria who can heal you."

And so Naaman goes to his king and says, "There's a chance that I might be able to be healed in Israel. Send me to Israel." And so the king writes him a letter to the king of Israel and he goes and he takes it and the king's immediate response is, he falls to his knees in fear. He tears his clothes. He doesn't trust in the Lord has able to take care of him. He doesn't show his trust in the Lord. Rather, he shows that he is fearful in the face of his enemies. The king of Israel is supposed to fear the Lord. He's not supposed to fear his enemies but it looks like this is a little bit different from what we might expect. God has been faithful time and time again to His king, to His followers. His king here, Jehoram, he knows the history of God's faithfulness to his people. He knows how God brought His people out of Egypt, how He brought them through the Red Sea, how He protected them time and time and time again, provided for them in the desert, how He brought them into the land, how He gave Moses and Joshua power as they battled against their enemies, how He stopped the sun in the sky, how He defeated their enemies time and time again at the hands of Saul as he was obedient and then at the hands of David and at the hands of Solomon. He knows of God's faithfulness and yet he's not fearing the Lord, instead he's fearing his enemies.

He knows God's promises to Abraham that God will be a shield and defender for His people. He knows how Abraham, when he went into foreign countries, even when he lied, was protected by God because of God's promises to him, and yet he doesn't believe these things. He has sent His judges and His prophets to the nation and communicated His will to them as we heard tonight in the children's devotional. He's done all of these things and yet the king of Israel has no hope in God. He doesn't trust in the miraculous works of God, he doesn't trust in the God who placed him on the throne, he doesn't trust in the God who's given him promises. He is the one of all men who should trust the Lord. He is the leader of Israel, the people to whom God has given promises and yet he fails to trust in the Lord.

And then comes Naaman. Naaman comes to the king and the king tells him, "I can't heal you. Go away. I don't want to fight with your king. Your king is just sending you to me so that he has some excuse to do battle with me. Get away from me. I don't want you anywhere near here!" So Naaman leaves thinking that, "I didn't think I had that much hope when I came. I guess I don't have much hope leaving." But he leaves, and as he's leaving, Elisha hears of the king tearing his clothes and he says, "Send him to me so that he will know that there is a prophet of God in Israel." And so the king sends Naaman to Elisha. I imagine the king, who is frustrated and fearful by this point probably is glad to find any scapegoat who might take the credit for the failure to heal Naaman. You know, "Don't lay it on my shoulders, lay it on Elisha's shoulders. That's okay." He's not fearing the Lord with regard to his safety; I seriously doubt that he fears the Lord with his ability to heal a leper.

And so Naaman goes to Elisha and as he gets to Elisha, he's a well-known man. He's led raids into Israel. He's taken servants back with him from Israel. He's led in battles and won great fame and great honor. He deserves a little respect and he knows that he deserves respect and he expects that respect. And that's no entirely wrong. Some of it is wrong, certainly, but that's not entirely wrong. When I was serving in the Navy and we'd have an Admiral come to the ship, if we didn't give him honor, we'd better be in trouble. You know, we're supposed to give somebody who has superior rank and has earned his authority and respect the respect that he's due. I remember when I was a new ensign, I had only been on board for maybe six months or a year, we got an even newer ensign than I was on board and he was Attorney General, John Ashcroft's son. And so the Attorney General would come down from time to time to see his son. And you know there are certain obligatory honors that you give to dignitaries and admirals and things like that when they come aboard. You ring a certain number of bells as they cross the quarter deck depending on their rank and you announce who's arriving. And if it's the Attorney General you would say, "Department of Justice arriving."

And so the first time he came aboard, you know I'm a brand new ensign, he sends one of his lackeys ahead and says, "Don't ring me aboard. I don't want to be here as the Attorney General; I just want to be here as ensign Ashcroft's father." And so you know, I obeyed the Attorney General. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. My captain was not happy that he didn't have a warning that the Attorney General was coming aboard. I certainly didn't give my captain the heads-up and the respect and the authority that he would have expected.

Well in this case, Naaman expects a certain amount of respect because of who he is. The problem is, he's prioritizing rank incorrectly. He's not coming to some lackey who happens to live out in a house somewhere in Israel. He's coming to a prophet of the Most High God. There's a superior rank here. And so when Elisha kind of just doesn't pay much attention to him, doesn't come out to see him, sends a servant out and tells him, "Go over to the Jordan, dip yourself seven times and you're going to be clean," Naaman is frustrated. Naaman thinks, "Who in the world are you to tell me that you don't need to see me? Who are you to send a servant to come see me? I don't know your name. I didn't know of you until my servant told me about you. You're not famous; you haven't won battles. You're not a king somewhere; you're just a prophet who lives out away from the capital city."

And really Naaman acts exactly like we would expect the leader in an opposing country to Israel to act. He's a man who has no regard for the God of Israel and he shouldn't. He tells us later on he bows down to Rimmon, the god in Damascus. He worships Rimmon. His only concern for Israel in the way in which its king and its people can help him — give him servants or give him healing or whatever else. He's a man who wants help. He knows that he's beyond help. No doubt he has spent all kinds of time looking for a healing for this leprosy, this skin disease. He probably has dipped in the rivers of Damascus. He can find no cure. They haven't healed him. His affliction should have brought him a measure of humility and yet it didn't. He's the one looking for help. He's not the one who should be dictating the way in which he gets it. He's the one who recognizes a need and yet he thinks that in some way he is able to tell the ones who can meet his need how it should be met. I have no doubt that if he had gone to one of his own king's prophets he probably wouldn't have acted quite like he did here and yet he comes to the prophet of the Most High God and he's indignant when he doesn't give him the honor that he's due. Having to beg a foreign king for help doesn't bring him any more humility. It might bring him shame, it might bring him a little embarrassment, but it doesn't seem to bring him humility. There is no hope in any but God. He listens to a servant girl up to a certain point if he thinks it will help him, but when it requires him to humble himself more than he's willing he doesn't listen anymore. When Elisha doesn't treat him with the honor he's due he storms out.

In the middle of this episode of pride and fury though, God's mercy shines through and we see how merciful is our God. In many ways the servants in Damascus are the heroes of this story. Certainly Naaman isn't the hero, really God is the hero, but on human terms God uses these servants from Damascus as heroes. First the Jewish servant girl comes and tells him that there is a way for him to be healed even though she certainly has no motivation for doing this. She transcends whatever anger someone would expect her to have. Now these servants tell him, "Wait a minute, didn't he say if you just dip seven times you're going to be cleaned? Isn't it worth trying? You've been trying to be healed for so long. Why not just try one time — I mean you can dip for seven times; it's not going to cost you anything. You might as well go over there." And so he goes ahead and he tries to dip in the Jordan. Naaman must have had some good qualities I would think. He must have been some sort of kind master, otherwise why would these servants want to serve him above and beyond in this way. There's no responsibility on their parts to tell him about this man in Samaria or to push him to go ahead and dip in the Jordan seven times, but for whatever reason they do. So he must have had some good qualities but the fact is, even this potential goodness is not something that makes him a good man.

Naaman is a foreigner. He's an enemy of the people of God. He has led raids into Israel. He has taken back servants. Even worse than being an enemy of the people of God he's an enemy of God Himself. He doesn't show any respect for the prophet of the only God, the living God. He's not of the chosen people. You know when we talk about election today in light of Christ's coming, in light of Paul preaching the Gospel to Gentiles, we recognize that there has been a call that has gone out to many of us, most of whom are Gentiles, that we received a call from before the foundations of the earth as we heard this morning, that God has called us to be His own and yet in the Old Testament, their only understanding of election was that the people of Israel were the chosen of God, they were the ones that He had called to Himself. Israel is a chosen race, the Israelites are chosen by God, they are the elect of God, and this man, in their eyes, is not. You know, there are even provisions for those foreigners who come in and live among the people of Israel. You know there's provisions like the blessing of the Sabbath for the servants of those who are people of Israel, not just for the people of Israel. But the blessings of God extend even to their servants and even to those who have come in to live with them.

But that's not Naaman. Naaman lives in another country. He battles against the people of God. He's uncircumcised. He's not one who's come within the tents of Israel. He's unclean for all of those reasons and then on top of that he has leprosy. On top of that he has this skin affliction that also makes him unclean. He hasn't even come to the priests to be examined like Leviticus 13 says that he's supposed to, which would be the first step. You have to be declared unclean before you can be healed but he hasn't even done that. But he isn't Jewish so no one expected him to do that. As an aside, by the way, it's interesting that the king allows him into his presence as a leper. You know the king is actually not obeying the law of God in Leviticus by allowing this leper into his presence. That doesn't have much direct dealing with this story except it shows us one more way the kings disregard for the fear of the Lord.

God has mercy on this man, though. As unclean as he is, uncircumcised, a foreigner who doesn't care about God, who doesn't care about His Law, who leads raids against His people, God has mercy on him in several steps. First, He provides a way to cleanliness through this man's servant who is an Israelite. Second, He provides a motive for obedience. He gives him these other servants who, even as he storms off angry, encourage him to at least take a chance on it. You know, "Try dipping in the Jordan seven times and see what happens. How's it going to hurt you?" Third, God actually cleans his flesh. Just like in Luke, as we've learned several times as we've been going through Luke over the last couple of years, when Jesus comes into contact, when Jesus the Son of God comes into contact with uncleanness, it doesn't make God unclean. When God comes into contact with uncleanness, the person who is unclean becomes clean. And in this story we see God's mercy bringing cleanliness to the flesh of Naaman.

And finally, not only does He clean his flesh, God brings cleansing to Naaman's heart and to his soul. He turns his heart of stone into a heart of flesh. He takes the proud foreigner and He humbles him. Where he was unwilling to do even the simple thing that the prophet asked him before, he comes back to the prophet and he says, in no uncertain terms — excuse me, I lost the spot. I'm sorry — "Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel." This cleansing has humbled him to the point that he knows the god he bows down to in Damascus is no god. No other god is any god. There is no God in all the earth but in Israel. The Lord God of Israel, Yahweh, is the only God, and we see that God has cleansed his heart. Naaman submits to the Lord God of Israel when the Israelites wouldn't submit to the Lord God of Israel. When the Israelites king wouldn't submit to the Lord God of Israel, this foreigner who's not circumcised, who hates the people of Israel, who is unclean, is the one on whom God places His mercy. It's amazing at the mercy of God in this situation.

But the story doesn't end there. It goes on with Elisha's servant. You know when Naaman comes back and he praises God, he says, "This is the God in whom I believe. I will no longer give sacrifices or worship any other god. This is the only God that I believe. In fact, I want to take some soil from this place with me so that when I get back from Damascus I can continue to worship this God." He says, "But please ask your God to pardon me, for one of my responsibilities as a general is to go into the house of Rimmon with my king to allow him to lean on me as he bows down to Rimmon and then to bow down with him. Will you ask your God to pardon me?" Now that's a strange request. Honestly if we're reading this, it seems like God's answer or God's answer through Elisha should be, "No way. If you're going to worship God, worship God, don't worship Rimmon," but for whatever reason Elisha says, "Go in peace." That seems a little bit different from the way that Daniel, when he went into exile, worshiped God, but for whatever reason, God through Elisha tells him to send Naaman on his way and tell him to go in peace.

But before he goes, Naaman says, "I want to pay you in any way I can." He brought ten talents of silver. He brought all of this gold. He brought ten changes of clothes, fine linens and clothing, and he wants to pay him. And Elisha says, "Don't pay me." Elisha isn't willing to take credit for something that God has done. Elisha isn't willing to take payment as if he is the one who has done something to heal Naaman. Certainly not with a foreigner who doesn't understand the worship of God, he doesn't want to do anything that would detract from God's glory, from God's honor. He doesn't want to do anything that would lead a foreigner to not understand that our God is a God who gives mercifully not because He's going to receive something in return but because He is a God who is love. And he wants Naaman to understand this and so he does not want any gift in return. And so he sends him off and so Naaman leaves.

But Elisha's servant — you know you've got good servants up in Damascus but apparently you don't have good servants down in Israel. Elisha's servant thinks, "He let Naaman off way too easy. I mean, Naaman raids us. Chances are a lot of that silver and gold and clothes came from here! I'm going to go after him and I'm going to get some!" So he goes off to Naaman, he goes running after him, Naaman sees him coming, Naaman stops his chariot and steps down, and he says, "Is there something wrong?" And Gehazi says, "Yeah, there are two men, sons of prophets who just came right after you left. They need clothing. They need some silver. Will you give me one talent of silver? Will you give me two changes of clothing?" And Naaman says, "I'll give you two talents of silver and two changes of clothing." And Gehazi comes back. When he gets to the hill he sends the servants who helped him carry this stuff away right away. He goes into Elisha. Elisha says, "Where have you been?" He says, "I didn't go anywhere." And Elisha says, "The moment that Naaman stepped off his chariot to see you my heart turned. The very judgment that was on Naaman is now on you and all of your descendants forever." This is a servant who isn't obedient, this is a servant who lies; this is a servant who is out for number one. He wants to further his own career, line his own pockets, make sure that — you know there's a little bit of Jonah's spirit in there — make sure that Naaman gets what's his due for being what he is.

It's a tale really, in 2 Kings 5 of flipping everything you'd expect upside-down. The unclean, uncircumcised foreigner receives the mercy of God and the Israelite who's trying to get back at the one who's evil is ultimately the one who receives judgment. God's very healing of Naaman is a judgment on His people because you see God giving mercy to this man who doesn't deserve it meanwhile giving judgment to His people who think they deserve it. They don't realize that they are just as unclean and just as filthy as Naaman was. They don't recognize the place of their own hearts. The one's whom God has called won't listen, they won't obey, they won't love the Lord their God with all their hearts and with all their souls and with all their minds. Naaman learned from God's miraculous work; he came to trust in God. Gehazi who had seen many more miracles than Naaman had seen — go back after church tonight and flip through the last three or four or five chapters before this. All Gehazi has been doing is watching amazing miracles. He's been watching the oil that was poured out of a small cup fill barrels and barrels and barrels. He's been watching people be fed without food. He's been watching people be healed. He's been watching all kinds of amazing miracles. He's seen all kinds of miracles of God and yet he hasn't learned.

This is the story of the stones crying out because the people whom God has called refused to. The very last person you expect to worship God, worships God, and the people who should be worshiping God, don't. Naaman learned not to trust in fame or in silver and gold. Gehazi's greed showed that it was in these very things that he placed his hope. The very uncleanness that Naaman was healed from was the uncleanness that Gehazi was cursed with. And ultimately, the very uncleanness that was on all the surrounding nations, all the nations around Israel who worshiped foreign gods, who worshiped idols, the very uncleanness that was on them was now the uncleanness that was to be on God's chosen people, Israel.

As we look at this passage we learn a few things. First of all we learn the amazing abundance of mercy that is to be found in our God. You know, tonight, whether you come to church as somebody who comes every single Sunday night, somebody who was raised in the church, someone who's been here since you were a child who memorized the catechism, who went through communicants or whether you come as somebody who's a first time visitor who's never set foot in a church before, you are in need of God's grace. I know people here tonight who grew up in this church who would tell you that their testimony was that after years of being here, well into their adult years, they realized they had never placed their trust in the Lord. And they went back and they pled with God for His mercy and He had mercy on them. It doesn't matter whether you are somebody who grew up here and kind of knows the Gospel and understands the story, if you come tonight and your hope is in anything apart from Christ and His shed blood and His resurrection, then you're in the same place that Gehazi, Elisha's servant was in. You're in the same place that Naaman was before he came to trust in the Lord. Not only are you outside the people of God, you're unclean, you're uncircumcised of heart, you are filthy and dirty in God's eyes, you're the vilest of sinners, but you don't have hope.

And so the thing to realize is that if you come burdened by sin, burdened by guilt, by shame, by an inability to battle sin under your own strength, by a hope in wealth or by a hope in your family relationships or by a hope in something else, then you need to flee to Christ because there is nothing so bad that Christ's death and God's mercy is not great enough for you. You know this story reminds us that God is going to send an even greater Prophet. Tonight in the children's devotional we heard that one of Christ's offices is that He is our Prophet. And this story reminds us that God is going to send an even greater Prophet who's able to heal from something other than leprosy. Whatever sin you're facing, you have hope in Christ.

But the story also reminds us that there is a payment for those who would reject God and His mercy. There is a penalty for the people, even if they're inside the community of the people of God, for the people who would chose, as the King James calls it, "filthy lucre," over humility and love of God and hope in Christ. There is a justice that they should fear. We're told to flee to the God of Israel in Exodus 34:6. It tells us, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." But the fact is, just because He's slow to anger doesn't mean it's not there. And if you are a person who time and time and time again has rejected God's mercy, you found your hope in other places, you trusted in the fact that you show up to church on Sunday and so that makes you safe, then eventually your chances are going to run out and you're going to be just like Gehazi was. You're going to be an Israelite who has been cursed.

Paul, in Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 10, tells the story of the Israelites who were coming out of Egypt and he tells the story of Exodus and Numbers and he brings up five or six or seven of their sins and he points to all of these sins. He says, "All of these people were baptized in the Red Sea, all of them came out, all of them were redeemed, and yet most of them did not believe." And he said, "Take heed, lest you fall." And that's the message of Gehazi. We have a great hope in this passage because for most of us here tonight, we are Gentiles. We are not of the chosen people of Israel, and yet Christ has called us, God has called us, Christ has brought us in, He has placed His mark on us, He has sealed us with His Spirit, and He has called us His own. And he offers that to those of us who are not trusting in Him and yet there is also a warning for those who fail to heed this mercy that God offers. And so we can't read over these passages without being aware of the fact that as great as God's mercy is, as slow as His anger is, that time that we're given eventually runs out if we don't turn to Him. Flee to Christ. There's a reason tonight that we sang, "In Christ Alone." Christ is our only hope. Let's close in prayer.

Almighty God, You are the Creator of the universe. You are the Redeemer of Your chosen people. There is none so sinful that he doesn't have hope in Christ. God, we ask for those of us who believe in You, Lord, that You would continue to humble us, You would continue to make us a people who say, "Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth except our God," that You would make us a people who don't hope in the things around us, don't hope in money or security or anything else, but place our hope in Christ alone. For those, Lord, here tonight who may not have placed their trust in You, Lord, I pray that You would make them aware of this in their heart of hearts, that they would recognize that they have no hope and that they would turn and flee to Christ. I pray that there would not be one left tonight still rejecting Your mercy, that Your Word and Your mercy to Naaman would be a beacon, beckoning us to You. Lord, I pray that Your Word would powerfully drive home Your message of mercy and justice in our hearts. In Jesus' name, amen.

Please rise and receive the Lord's blessing and then we'll sing stanza four of, "Gracious Spirit, Dwell in Me."

Peace be to you and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. Amen.

©2013 First Presbyterian Church.

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