Devotional Week 40 Thursday
“Choose life, that you may live and may love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days.”
Deuteronomy 30: 19, 20
“God gently calls us every day:
Why should we then our bliss delay?
He calls to heaven and endless light;
Why should we love the dreary night?
Praise, Lord, to Thee for Matthew’s call,
At which he rose and left his all;
Thou, Lord, even now art calling me;
I will leave all, and follow Thee.”
William Walsham How
Today’s Study Text:
“But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, ‘Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.’ So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, ‘Is all well?’”
II Kings 5: 20, 21
“The Chariot We Choose to Follow”
“As the soldier follows his general,
As the servant follows his master,
As the scholar follows his teacher,
As the sheep follows its shepherd,
Just so ought the professing Christian
to follow Christ.”
What does the word “discipleship” mean to me?
What are the criteria I use to make my decision as to whom I will follow?
“If anyone serves Me, he (she) must continue to follow Me (to cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying) and wherever I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him (her).”
John 12: 26
“It costs to follow Jesus Christ, but it costs more not to.”
His name was Gehazi, which historians surmise may have meant, the valley of vision. We are told that this young man served as Elisha’s servant and assistant.
As with most of us, Gehazi was a person whose behavior exhibits both strengths and weaknesses.
We have already witnessed his concern for the welfare of the great woman of Shunem for if we recall, it was Gehazi who pointed out to Elisha the fact that this woman’s home was childless and that the blessing this lady, who appeared to have everything she might want, could potentially desire would be a child. This was a kind and insightful observation by Gehazi. And in my opinion, it gives us a view of one of his strength’s – empathy.
However, in our study text for today, we find that Gehazi exemplified a weakness which many individuals are quick to identify as greed. Indeed, Gehazi’s actions appear to be greedy for after hearing that Elisha had turned down Naaman’s offer of new clothing and silver and gold, Gehazi quietly headed out the door to see if he couldn’t acquire some of the loot for himself. Over the next few days, we will take some time to uncover the poisonous affects upon our lives that result when we harbor the toxin of greed. But before we get to greed, I want to look at our study text for today in a little different way.
To let you in on how I prepare each day’s devotional, for weeks in advance, I read as many resources as I possibly can, especially spending time uncovering the truths which have been explored by some of the men and women of God whose ability to dig deep into the Bible is an ability I greatly admire. The messages in the devotionals each day have benefited from the long years of study by individuals like Matthew Henry, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, William Barclay, J.C. Ryle, Philip Brooks, Amy Carmichael, Raymond Dillard, Dale Ralph Davis, and the hundreds of professors, pastors and scholars who have contributed to the current, tremendously valuable resources found in the Revised Common Lectionary, Feasting on the Word. If I went on to list all the other treasures I am blessed to draw from, I’d continue for another ten pages.
The fact is, that after reading all these volumes, the last thing I do each day when I begin my morning writing routine is to take the “Study Text” for the day and I pray over that text as I read it in my King James Version of the Bible which was a gift from my parents when I graduated from the Family Nurse Practitioner program. In the front of this Bible, in my mother’s exquisite handwriting, which many of you have been blessed to see for up to this point in time she has addressed nearly all of the envelopes, by hand, that carry our gift bookmarks all over the world, is this text: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17: 11, K.J.V.).
It is the inspiration from this text which is like a daily infusion as I read the study text and ask my heavenly Father to open my inadequate mind, to the glory of the truth that is carried within the passage.
Here’s the interesting thing for me. Some days, when my human understanding has lead me down a certain pathway, as I’ve prayed over the study text, reading it for the last time before I put pen to paper, it is as if a beam of light focuses on a word or phrase that I’d completely overlooked in the past.
Today is one of those times when after reading so many commentaries, which rightly focus on the characteristic of greed that reared its ugly head in the life of Gehazi, all of a sudden, light shown on these words in II Kings 5: 21, “So Gehazi followed Naaman.” Just four simple words but they jogged my memory because several days ago, I had been reading something by the much-admired author F. B. Meyer who asked this probing question: “What process of decay had been at work in Gehazi’s mind to allow this downfall?”
After going back and reading II Kings 5: 20, I had a question for myself, “Who was Gehazi talking to when he had this apparent conversation?” The Message Bible gives an answer with this paraphrase of II Kings 5: 20, “But (Naaman) hadn’t gone far when Gehazi, servant to Elisha the Holy Man, said to himself, ‘My master has let this Aramean Naaman slip through his fingers without so much as a thank-you. By the living God, I’m going after him to get something or other from him!’”
As F.B. Meyer intimates with his question, long before the distasteful characteristics and the evil propensities became visible for others to see in Gehazi, within his mind, he was talking to himself. And just maybe this conversation went something like this: “I really like Elisha. I enjoy the admiration with which he is treated. I like being in his presence. I am impressed with the way God responds to Elisha. Hallelujah! During the drought we’ve been fed. During times of trouble we’ve been protected. But if Elisha would have accepted the help Naaman wanted to give him, our money troubles would be over. We barely get by sometimes. Why couldn’t Elisha have looked out for our future this time?”
Frankly, this kind of thinking sounds very reasonable. Planning ahead. Looking out for the future. I think that the conversation Gehazi had with himself was a back-and-forth that many of us have had when weighing the issues we all face in our lives. But when at the core the issue became, “whom” will I follow, we had better think twice, for rather than standing at the side of Elisha and honoring the commitment he had made to God, as Matthew Henry so uniquely shares, while Elisha “refused” Naaman’s treasures, Gehazi coveted them. “His heart was packed up in Naaman’s chests, and he must run after him to fetch it.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. As Jesus told His followers in Luke 12, and I am intentionally sharing the way The Message Bible lays out this passage of Scripture in such a clear tone: “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” (II Kings 5: 29-34, The Message Bible).
In the case of Gehazi, the place he ended up “being” was running behind a Syrian General eating the dust from a chariot carrying a treasure chest with his heart locked inside. He chose to follow a chariot that carried the clothes and money he wanted for himself.
I love the poem in our Text and Thought of Encouragement which in my way of thinking says it all:
“Praise, Lord, to Thee for Matthew’s call,
At which he rose and left his all.”
We read in Matthew 9: 9, “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and He said unto him, ‘follow me.’ And he (Matthew) arose, and followed Jesus.”
We have the choice – follow the chariot with our heart in a treasure chest or follow Jesus with our heart in His kingdom. It’s a clear choice. But in the end, following Jesus is the only choice that matters at all!
“Elisha was poor; the Sons of the Prophets were no less so. Another person in Elisha’s place might have thought Naaman’s present most seasonable, and might have imagined that God had designed it as a provision for him and for those about him…But Elisha was not so anxiously concerned for his external welfare, as that the prospect of temporal comfort should make him indifferent to every other sentiment but that of extravagant joy at blessings of this sort. The conviction that He who feeds the sparrows, and clothes the lilies, would not suffer him to want, was too habitual to his mind, for the occurrence of such divine intervention in times of need to excite in him even the smallest emotion of surprise. With a free and unembarrassed mind he could look beyond the temporal blessings that flowed to him; and, whenever he deemed it advisable, it was an easy thing to him to subordinate all temporal advantage to higher considerations; yea, Elisha could joyfully sacrifice it when possessed, for he had certain assurance that some better provision would be made for him. Oh, may the Lord raise us to so expansive, free, and cheerful a place of loftiness.”
F. W. Krummacher
I Will Follow Thee
“I will follow Thee, my Saviour,
Wheresoever my lot may be,
Where Thou goest I will follow;
Yes, my Lord, I’ll follow Thee.
Though the road be rough and thorny,
Trackless as the foaming sea,
Thou hast trod this way before me,
And I’ll gladly follow Thee.
Though I meet with tribulations,
Sorely tempted though I be;
I remember Thou wast tempted,
And rejoice to follow Thee.
Though Thou leadest me through affliction,
Poor, forsaken though I be;
Thou wast destitute and afflicted,
And I only follow Thee.”
James Lawson Elginburg
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author