Alfred Place Baptist Church

5:15-19 Naaman wrestling with his new life in the Lord

2 Kings 5:15-19 “Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.’ The prophet answered, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.’ And even though Naaman urged him, he refused. ‘If you will not,’ said Naaman, ‘please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also – when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.’ ‘Go in peace,’ Elisha said.”

Now we are seeing a transformed Naaman; a healthy Naaman; a humbled Naaman, one who has experienced a miraculous work of God. He had had leprosy, but he has been healed, and what is the first thing he does? He goes back to Elisha, returning to the man responsible for his recovery but whom he hasn’t yet met. This is the man who snubbed him by refusing to see him, rather sending a mere servant with a message. Naaman now longs to meet this strange and mighty man responsible for delivering him from leprosy to thank him for telling him to dip in the Jordan, with the inward realization that he’d have refused to do that were it not for some of his servants pleading with him. So Naaman gathers all his attendants and brings them back to the man of God. They all stand before Elisha who finally comes out and listens to Naaman.

You notice that it is Naaman who breaks the silence. He takes the initiative and addresses Elisha, and he does so in the hearing of his whole entourage from Syria. These are the words they all hear from their master: “‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel’” (v.15). Naaman wasn’t being polite; these words are not customary; they were not Middle Eastern etiquette. There are no words of greeting like Naaman’s anywhere else in the Bible. Naaman had heard no talks on the existence of God; he hadn’t been presented with the theistic proofs, but he had, albeit reluctantly, done exactly what the word of God told him to do and thus come to know new life and faith. The source of it all was in Jehovah the God of Israel.

SAVING FAITH IS FOCUSSED IN THE ONE TRUE AND LIVING GOD.
There is no God in all the world except the God of Elisha, the God who had healed him of his leprosy. What is Naaman confessing?

i] There is no teaching like the words God has given by his servant Elisha and the prophets. Henceforth Naaman was going to put his understanding and his mind under the authority of the Lord. That is the first great hallmark of the Christian believer, that he believes a thing to be true because the Lord has said it. Henceforth he is going to follow this great teacher. From this moment on he is going to learn from this infallible teacher. From now on he is going to be a pupil of that divine and omniscient teaching found in Moses and the prophets. The confession that there is no God in the entire world save the Lord is a confession of faith in the teaching of the Lord, his prophets and apostles. Do we believe everything the Lord says? Do we believe it because God has said it? Do we follow him as a great teacher, the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, the inspirer, for example, of Isaiah writing chapter 53, the inspirer of Paul writing Romans chapter eight and his letter to the Ephesians? When we are faced with a dilemma do we instinctively say, “What does the Bible tell me as to the way I should go, what I am to believe, what I am to do? Do I go to the law and the testimony?” There is no God in the entire world who speaks like our God; there are no other Scriptures; there is no other holy book remotely comparable to the Bible. Naaman heard a word of command from that God, and with the greatest reluctance he obeyed that word, and then his life was transformed. Henceforth he would live by that Lord.

ii] There is no redemption like that accomplished by God our Saviour. God has loved us and devised the whole plan of salvation. He has taught us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. He has so loved the world that he has given his only begotten Son to become the Lamb of God. He has met the whole cost of redemption. He has become the entire argument with which a sinner can go to God. The believer can plead for forgiveness in that great name. I am asking you whether we have such confidence in the finished work of God the Son that we go to God with this argument alone, and with no other argument whatsoever. Do we know that there is none other name under heaven given amongst men where we must be saved. We plead the name of God the Son alone. “God be merciful to me a sinner because of what Jesus has done.” All the ground of hope that God should accept us lies in the Son he sent and what he has done for us.

Can we today contemplate the great white throne of judgment in all its splendour, and all its purity, and all its integrity where the only God there is dispenses justice? Can we look at that steadfastly and say, “Any man who goes to that throne and pleads the one name of Jesus Christ before the God who sits on that throne doesn’t need to be afraid.” Do you have that kind of knowledge of the Son of God, and that confidence in what Christ has done? I am not saying that no one should fear standing before God. Saving wisdom consists of the fear of the Lord, but sometimes we feel like this; “I don’t now whether or not I have Christ, but I do know this, that the man who has the Son of God doesn’t need to be afraid when he stands before him.” The man whose robes are washed white in the blood of the Lamb doesn’t need to be afraid. The man who is clothed in the garments of the imputed righteousness of Christ has no need to be fearful at that throne. That is our conviction, that we are sure that those who are covered with the provision of the blood and righteousness of Christ have nothing to fear, even when we’re not absolutely convinced that we ourselves are covered by it. It is such certainty in the blood of the unique Son of God that we envy in those who have full assurance of faith that their sins have been covered, even when we ourselves hesitate in affirming such knowledge to be ours.

iii] There is no Lord controlling and keeping us like this mighty King of kings. He is the God who works all things after the counsel of his own will. We follow his guidance; we accept his principles; we obey his imperatives. When he opens doors for us to advance we say, Thank you, and when he closes doors to hinder us we say, Thank you. When he says, Don’t, we don’t. When he says Do, we do. When he says Go, we go. When we defy, then we will learn his way was best. And I’m asking whether we have such faith in this Sovereign that we’ll always be contented to be led and ruled by him? Have we such trust in him that we look to him for defence, that at the last we know he will be there for us; he will be delivering us from our worst fears.

“A Sovereign Protector I have
Unseen yet for ever at hand;
Unchangeably faithful to save
Almighty to rule and command”
(Augustus Toplady).

We are subject to his rule; we rejoice in his protection, and so Naaman was persuaded in the uniqueness of this prophet of the Lord, and his mind submitted to Elisha’s words because they came from the only God there is. The Lord was his prophet, his priest and his King. This was his God henceforth. His knees bowed to him; he fell at his feet as one dead; he adored him in wonder, love and praise for what he had done in his life. It was not enough for Naaman to acknowledge with his lips that he was the only God but now he worshipped him and did his will in all things. Do we all have that faith in this unique infallible teacher, this compassionate high priest, this omnipotent king? Do we have him as our God? And are we aware that we have no need of any other god?

It was one of the great temptations confronting the church in Samaria in Elisha’s time, because it was always being encouraged to bring in the word ‘and.’ There was the temptation of the plus. There was Jehovah the God of their fathers ‘and’ . . . Jehovah plus the Baals, Jehovah plus the shelf of nature gods which you touched as you left or entered your house, Jehovah plus Rimmon and the powerful war gods of Syria. We too meet that temptation, Christ and . . . faith and . . . grace and . . . No, there is no ‘and’, there is just the Lord. All my hope on God is founded, and God alone. There is faith alone; there is grace alone; there is his glory alone, and there is no ‘and’; there is no ‘plus.’ Naaman confesses, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” You remember the simple Shorter Catechism question, “Are there more Gods than one?” and the answer, “There is but one only, the living and true God.” There is only room for this one God because he fills the heaven and the earth.

One Saviour alone; one way to God; one name given amongst men; one alone. Someone complains; “How can you reconcile that with the love of God for all the world?” Please think again. Suppose a crew of wicked pirates is shipwrecked on a desert island, and there they are struck down with disease and famishing for lack of bread. There is nothing before them but the prospect of a certain death. Then one day as they all grow frail, and overwhelmed with hopelessness someone sees a sail on the horizon and one solitary ship can be seen making its way towards the island. The boat is loaded with bread, and is has on board a marvellous and infallible physician. When the boat arrives it promises food and drink for all these evil men, healing for all the sick and then there is room to carry them all to a land where they will hunger no more, neither thirst any more, where none will complain, “I am sick; I am thirsty,” where there is no more death.

What would you think of those dying pirates if they objected to the food and drink and the medicine and refused to go with this amazing doctor, that in fact they preferred to starve and die on the barren island, because there was only one single ship by which to be delivered, only one solitary physician, only one supply of food. What would you think if these evil men complained because ships hadn’t been sent to all sides of the island, with food of various kinds, and physicians of various qualities? Wouldn’t you think they were crazy? What an ungrateful bunch of men. Now this is the case before us, only much stronger. The whole race of Adam has been cast away on this distant world to perish and die. They have no spiritual food and they are smitten with a disease which is rapidly hurrying them away to the second death. Death is what they deserve, but God in his mercy has sent to them in his only begotten Son, the bread of heaven, the great physician who can heal them of the sickness and death itself. Let them come and taste and see that the Lord is powerful and good, all sufficient for them so that they need no other Saviour.

An offer is made to every soul, not merely of a full supply of all their spiritual wants and a perfect cure of all their diseases, but also of a safe passage to that land where “the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne” leads and feeds His people by ‘living fountains of waters” and where God the Lord wipes away all tears from their eyes. And what are we to think of those who object to this solely on the ground that God has not sent many deliverers instead of one; who, instead of hailing his gracious offer and crying to every pirate to leave the island and get on board the vessel, they stand by, contemptuous and indifferent imagining that somehow or other they will still escape, though death and disease are raging all around. What fools! They will neither enter the ship of safety lying in the harbour nor can they see another sail over the whole sweep of the horizon. Indeed the Great Physician tells them solemnly that no other vessel will ever be coming to deliver them. Only this one! Only now. This is the one opportunity for life!

2. SAVING FAITH SHOWS ITSELF IN A NEW ATTITUDES.

Whenever God’s amazing grace comes into the life of a sinner it shows itself in a change of life. Let me give you some concrete examples. There was a domestic servant who wanted to join the Metropolitan Tabernacle and Spurgeon was quizzing her about her faith. When he pressed her for evidences that Christ had changed her, she blushed, and admitted, ‘Well, I sweep under the mats now.’ There was also the boy in Port Talbot during Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ ministry, who told his teacher about the dinners his family was enjoying on Sundays – gravy, potatoes, meat, cabbage, even rice pudding. Then he explained: ‘My father has been to the Forward and got converted.’ What the man used to spend on Friday night getting drunk he now brought home to feed his family. I know of two young brothers who came to see Ernest Reisinger professing faith in Christ. “What changes have taken place in your life?” he asked them. They told him that when their mother gave them their vitamin pills they now swallowed them, and when they were told to brush their teeth before going to bed they no longer moved the toothbrush under the tap for ten seconds but they brushed their teeth. In one case it may be a broom under the mat, in another it might be cabbage and rice pudding, in another it might be swallowing your pills and brushing your teeth, but the point is God’s transforming work leaves traces in its wake. So it was here in the life of Naaman and Elisha we see life from God in the souls of men in a number of ways;

Firstly, generosity, shown in Naaman’s words, “Please accept now a gift from your servant” (v.15). We often define the word grace by the mnemonic ‘Great Riches At Christ’s Expense,’ but we can also define it as ‘Great Resolution At Christ’s Energizing.’ In other words, where a work of divine grace has been wrought in the life of a man or woman there is new resolution to please God in everything. For everyone who says, “I know there is no God in all the world save this God” there is a new energy and determination to serve this God and serve his fellow men. A new life within us displays itself in new living outside ourselves. Naaman felt he was much in Elisha’s debt. What mercy he had received, this ungodly old soldier who had been transformed by the power of Elisha’s God. “Once I was a leper and now I am healed. Once I was a dying man and behold I live! What can I give to you the servant of the Lord for the benefits that I have received? Please accept a gift from one who is your servant.”

Don’t we see such a response often in the New Testament? In Jericho the man in charge of gathering taxes for the Romans while keeping a considerable percentage for himself was Zacchaeus. He was the most hated man in town; the people couldn’t touch him because he was protected by Roman soldiers. If there had been an assassination attempt the Romans would have taken and killed ten of the leading men of the community. Zacchaeus was a covetous, wealthy man, and yet there was a vacuum at the centre of his life. When Jesus came to town Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see him, and the Lord spotted him, commanding him to come down and Jesus accompanied him to his house. There Zacchaeus heard of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life and from that moment he began to serve the Lord. What was the first way he showed he possessed saving faith? By giving half his goods to the poor, and by repaying all those he had cheated four fold. Think of the impact that made in Jericho!

Again when Saul of Tarsus was converted he immediately asked, “Lord what do you want me to do?” From that time on he served the Lord Jesus and his people and everyone he met. His life was a life of service. Or again think of the Roman jailer in Philippi; no sooner had he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and been saved than he was cleaning and soothing the wounds of Barnabas and Paul’s scourging, and after being baptized inviting them into his house and giving them a meal.

A lawyer in London wrote to me ten days ago. He tells me that he is always reading my sermons on the website; they help him in his lay preaching – he is still a lawyer. I shared his remarkable testimony with you on Tuesday night, but let me tell the rest of you about the change that has taken place in the last couple of years in Paul’s life from a very anti-Christian background. These are Paul’s words;

“Gradually, as I came to believe, my life changed. I stopped swearing. I stopped using ‘Jesus’ or ‘God’ as a swear word. I didn’t get blind drunk, and more than this, I did not want to. I stopped worrying so much about what others thought about me and fear went. One day I threw away a large amount of pornography. I wrote to the taxman offering to pay five years of tax that I had fiddled. And then God started to show me my past. I bumped into Helen, a women whom I had hit. I hadn’t seen her in 10 years. We went out for a meal and I was able to tell her how really sorry I was and ask for her forgiveness.

“Finally there was one more thing. God reminded me of when I was young, about 8 or 9. I stole a lot of money from my parents, maybe one thousand pounds in today’s terms. My parents were poor and my mother ran a tiny post office from the house and I stole their money. But when I was 11 my Dad found some of this money and asked me if I had stolen it. I just denied it. I lied. I blamed my best friend, Darryl. He was my best friend whom I loved as a brother and I betrayed him. I knew that I would have to tell my parents the truth. This was something that in 20 years I’d never had the courage to do. God gave me the courage to tell my parents and ask their forgiveness. One sunny day I confessed to my Dad who simply hugged me, and told me that he loved me, and that it was a long time ago. So that’s it. God found me. I never looked for Him, I never wanted Him but He found me. In Jesus He tells me that He loves me and I believe him. I believe in Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus saved my life and I know it. If I had a year’s worth of perfume I would pour it all on Jesus.”

What of you? Does your everyday conduct speak to those who meet you that you are different? Is it saying, “Jesus Christ has cleaned up my life and he can clean up yours too.” Is there a new generosity in your life? I don’t mean just to your family because they are going to get it anyway after you die. That doesn’t count so much as generosity to people in need. Paul speaks to the former thieves in the congregation in Ephesus and he tells them, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephs. 4:28). Are you sharing with those in need? So generosity is the first mark of saving grace.

ii] Secondly, self-denial, shown in Elisha’s response; “The prophet answered, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.’ And even though Naaman urged him, he refused” (v.16). Think of all those crooks who call themselves ‘faith healers’ who fleece audiences with their demands for ‘seed gifts’ and blame all their failure to heal on the lack of faith in the sick or in their parents. Wretched men, soon to be condemned by God as liars and thieves. When Elisha refused to come out to talk to Naaman Elisha had been moved by one concern, for the salvation of Naaman’s proud soul. When Elisha refused to take Naaman’s gifts he was still moved by that motive. One thing that he wanted Naaman to realize and that was the freeness of God’s grace. When God gives to sinners he gives freely. Elisha wanted Naaman to return to the king of Syria and all his family, friends and the army officers and say to them, “The God of Israel took nothing from me but my leprosy. My gold and silver and the expensive garments were absolutely useless in dealing with Jehovah. He gave me everything and he took nothing from me in return.”

Elisha was immediately exemplifying to Naaman new values – contentment with daily bread, trusting in the Lord for tomorrow. We need wisdom in sometimes taking an offer of kindness with a grateful spirit. It is the Lord’s way of helping us, while at other times distrusting a gift as buying our loyalty and silencing our criticisms. Let’s seek a profound disinterest in material things; how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Let us learn quickly that it is better to give than to receive. So self-denial is the second mark of saving grace

iii] Thirdly, a longing to worship God aright. That is another mark of saving grace, shown in these words of Naaman, “Please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD” (v. 17). It is significant that Naaman doesn’t offer to buy the soil of Israel, nor does he (as captain of the host of Syria’s all conquering army) simply take it. “Could your servant be given some earth?” he asks humbly. Grace is already teaching Commander-in-chief Naaman humility; it’s making him think like a servant.

He has a new reality with a new fixed point which is conviction that Jehovah is God. He had been bowing and paying good money to his local God Rimmon, but “Naaman has now discovered something about Rimmon: he may look fine sitting there in his shrine, but he’s not much good when it comes to leprosy. And the bad news is that the enemy, a little way south just over the Golan Heights, worships a god who doesn’t have a statue sitting in a shrine, but who beats Rimmon hands down in the healing business. And Naaman recognizes that this god has reached out and touched him” (N.T.Wright, Following Jesus, SPCK, 1994, pp.64&65).

Naaman’s request displays the intentions of a young and ardent convert who’d had a life-transforming experience in Samaria. He was on his way home to Syria where he might be the only Jehovahist, the only Messiahist, in the entire country. He was going to feel a stranger and alien in his own land, and Naaman didn’t desire the soil as a relic, nor to give him luck, nor to make his praying more potent, nor to venerate the earth of Samaria, but the soil was to honour the Lord of Israel and build his own altar to the Lord back in Syria right on top of this soil. He is going back to Aram where he will worship the Lord exclusively by an altar which he will have erected and it will be earthed in the soil of the Lord’s own land. This was his intention of thus doing honour to God. The earth would be a tangible link with the community of faith.

The godly remnant in Israel looked at the temple in Jerusalem and they “took pleasure in her stones and favoured its very dust,” and don’t we love the place where we first heard of the Saviour? Don’t we treasure the building in which the gospel came to us not in word, but in power and with the Holy Spirit and with much assurance? Don’t we love the church building where our parents married, where we were wed, where we were baptized? I exhort you to be sympathetic with people who have supported and maintained a church building for years because of the hallowed memories they have attached to that place. I encourage you to understand them when there is a church merger scheme from denominational headquarters. They are told to close the building down and sell it sending the money to headquarters. Arrangements have been made for them to go and worship in a building they’ve never entered on one single occasion throughout their lives. That is hard. Don’t demean their reluctance to go. I think of the house in which I live. I will never say about the Manse, “bricks and mortar, mere bricks and mortar” because of all the memories I have of this place. Babies once lived there; limos pulled up outside there and I accompanied my daughters dressed in white on their journey to their wedding. True religion has sentiment and pathos, and while sentimentalism is dangerous, yet far rather sentiment than no religious experience at all.

iv] Fourthly, facing up to the dilemmas of being a consistent Christian in a fallen world. For Naaman the problem came to focus in participating in official theocratic duties in Syria. Experiencing the tension of certain of these responsibilities is another mark of grace. A man joined the army and a year later he came home and went to church where his friends talked to him. “Was it hard being a Christian in the army?” they asked him. “No,” he said, “not at all.” “Oh . . . we’d have thought it would be hard,” they pressed him. “ . . . I haven’t told them I’m a Christian,” he said. That is a feeble and forbidden response. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross. Paul said that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter tells us always to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is in us. The early disciples couldn’t help speaking about their Saviour. If your sins have been forgiven you are going to respond as Isaac Watts responded, “Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.” If you don’t actually tell people you are a Christian then still there is a way of life to which you are called to, holy and blameless, even if it merely consists of what you don’t do, and where you don’t go, and what you don’t say, that ought to make you stand out in the sight of all your companions. That Christian lifestyle should be like a big arrow pointing at you saying that you are different; you are presenting your body a living sacrifice to God.

So what do we make of these words of Naaman? “But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also – when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this”( v.18). It was part of the work he had to do as the Commander in Chief in Syria, to accompany the king to the festival once or twice a year of Rimmon. “My master bows down there and I am his right hand man,” he says. I don’t believe those words means that the king actually leans on his arm. He pleads with Elisha that though the prophet might hear on the grapevine that he has gone into the temple of Rimmon please will Elisha understand that that goes with the territory of being chief of staff. He cannot avoid that, but he won’t be worshipping Rimmon. “I don’t love Rimmon,” he is saying, “though I have to go into his temple for official functions at certain times.”

Naaman has done an awful lot of thinking in a very short time. Since leaving the Jordan and riding back to Elisha’s home he has thought about the future and his new faith in Jehovah. He’s been considering the danger areas and problems facing him back in Syria and this might be the one most open to misunderstanding. Naaman is starting to realise that he no longer fits in with the old crowd. He won’t be at ease with the religious and philosophical atmosphere of Syria. His fellow countrymen, even those in his own family, will be aliens to him because they don’t worship Jehovah. Here is this living, loving and healing God whom Naaman has come to know, and here is the reality of his muddled life living in a kingdom which has no time or place for Jehovah, surrounded by the lifeless and useless idols of Syria. You live with new values and look at the old patterns of life from a different angle. Tom Wright asks, “Shouldn’t Naaman have been prepared to say: ‘Rimmon be blowed, King of Syria be blowed, I’m going to worship Israel’s God and I don’t care who knows it’? Shouldn’t he have been like Daniel, opening his window towards Jerusalem to pray to Israel’s God even when he was in Babylon? Well, maybe. But it takes a while to learn to be a Daniel. You’ve got to start somewhere, and Naaman starts with the most important thing of all: to recognize the truth of the muddled situation you’re in, to ask for forgiveness where you seem to be compromising, and to take it one step at a time from there” (N.T.Wright, ibid pp. 65-66).

Naaman was actually miles ahead of thousands of people to whom Elisha was preaching. Think of the late king of Israel himself, Ahaziah. Look at the first chapter of this book and read 2 Kings 1:2-4 “Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, ‘Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.’ But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?” Therefore this is what the LORD says: “You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!”’” The king of Israel was praying to Baal without any qualms, whereas for Naaman his involvement in the temple of the god Rimmon, months before he had to go there, was already a dilemma. That is the response of an exercised growing believer.

We can say that this was the mark of a sensitive conscience for Naaman. He wanted to please God in everything, but he could see the problems his office as leader of the hosts of Syria was going to cause him. All this bothered him. He was an army man and he wanted things to be done just right. We wish that compromise had bothered the king of Israel, and many of the leaders of Israel who were utterly compromised as they worshiped Jehovah and also the gods of the nations that surrounded them. Here is Naaman who has erected an altar to Jehovah right in the middle of Aram. What a testimony he has to the Lord. When people see the smoke rising from his garden and smell burnt offering once a week then they know that he is worshipping the God of Israel the God of their enemies. That is where his heart is, not in the official gathering of the people and the King once or twice a year as they go along to the temple of Rimmon. You see how earnest Naaman is about possible compromise of his faith in Jehovah when he visits the temple? Have you noticed how he says twice, once at the beginning and again at the end of verse eighteen, “may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”

Maybe we are all facing different compromises; we all have a house of Rimmon where we now to another god and hope no Christian is watching us. We have shares in a company where the directors award themselves a million pounds Christmas bonus. We know that the junior employees are being paid peanuts. Are we happy to have shares in such a company? The economic and social life of the modern Western world, like every other human society without excep­tion, is guilty of all sorts of injustice. It dehumanizes some members of society in order to inflate the egos of others. What are we to do about it? Think ahead rapidly; work forwards from where you are as a Christian. Maybe you cannot work any longer in that business, that newspaper or radio company, that denomination. It’s no good trying to pretend for any longer that we aren’t compromised; we are. But you know that you have not been able to cut the knot of those compromises all at once. So plan ahead; think straight about what you’re doing; own up to the compromises which at the moment you can’t seem to avoid, when you bow yourself down in the house of Rimmon, and give your future entirely over to the Lord.

Today I have first explained what it means to say as a Christian that you know that there is no other God in all the universe. Then I have pointed out to you those words of faith must be endorsed by new life which showed itself in both Naaman and in Elisha in such graces as generosity, self-denial, a desire to worship God aright and an awareness of the dilemmas and tensions of living a consistent Christian life in a fallen world.

30th October 2007 GEOFF THOMAS