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Archive for June 14th, 2018

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elisha, You continued the prophetic pattern of leaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen

About Elisha: Elisha, son of Shaphat of the tribe of Issachar, was the prophet of God to the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 849-786 BC. Upon seeing his mentor, Elijah, taken up into heaven, Elisha assumed the prophetic office and took up the mantle of his predecessor. Like Elijah, Elisha played an active role in political affairs. He also performed many miracles, such as curing the Syrian army commander Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5) and restoring life to the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-7). A vocal opponent of Baal worship, Elisha lived up to his name, which means “my God is salvation.”  

 Elisha was the Lord’s prophet who by His Word many great deeds (miracles) were accomplished in Israel in the midst of it’s apostasies, Israel still heard the Word.  I think the greatest “miracle” was the healing of Naaman the Syrian:  2 Kings 5. Naaman was a VIP and significantly, a Gentile and a leper.  Being a Gentile and a leper meant Naaman was unclean twice. And it be must be noted at this time in the news:  a Syrian.

Naaman the Syrian went afar to find relief and he received even more.  Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, like  a 4 star general.   It just so happens he has a young Israelite girl taken captive as a servant.   He hears from her that there is a “man of God” who might heal him in her country:  Elisha.  General Naaman goes to Israel with his entourage and eventually comes to Elisha’s home:  it would be like a limousine pulling up to a bungalow. “If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1: 40) Elisha tells Naaman to Go wash 7 times in the Jordan and you will be clean;  but Naaman responds to the prophet,

“Can’t you just wave your hand and make me clean? Are not the rivers Pharpar and Abana in Syria better than the Jordan?” 2 Kings 5:12 

Rev. Peter Leithart points out in his commentary on 2 Kings the many connections of the ministry of Elisha with water involving miracles done through him:  the water at Jericho is purified 2 Kings 2: 19-22;  water comes from nowhere to sustain armies and animals  (3:20), iron floats, 6: 1-7;  Elisha directs Jehoram to give water to Aramean soldiers, 6:22-23 and in the longest narrative involving water, Naaman the Syrian is cleansed in the Jordan River of his leprosy.   Then Rev. Leithart  concludes,

“Tertullian says, “Nunquam sine aqua Christus“–Christ is never without water and the same can already be said of Elisha.  He is a son of his heavenly Father, the creator who divides water from water and walks upon the sea.”

It is clear, Rev. Leithart points out that Naaman is insulted by the invitation to dunk himself in the Jordan River.  It is an insult to even some Christian’s sensibilities that the Lord would wash away our sins in Baptism.  Again, Rev. Leithart: 

“But that is exactly the point.  Baptism is an insult to the wisdom of the world: through the foolishness of water God has chosen to save those who believe.  Baptism is a stumbling block for the powerful, who want to do something impressive or at least have something impressive done to them.  God says, trust me, let me wash you up, and you can become a temple of the Spirit and sit at my table in my kingdom.  He says, become as a little child and believe what I say about baptism…all baptism is infant baptism”

The result of the Lord’s healing in the water is that Naaman confesses to Elisha his faith: I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.  Naaman wants to respond in the only way he probably knew how:  monetarily.  He wants to pay for his baptism. Naaman urged Elisha to accept the gift.  No, says Elisha.  Why?  The greatest miracle for Naaman given, by grace, was faith…FREELY given. But the story continues with Elisha’s servant Gehazi shaking down Naaman for money.  And Elisha’s response, the judgement of God, drives home the point:  you can not buy God’s grace and favor.  It is free. Gehazi becomes a leper as Naaman had been.

The Lord creates the faith by His Word which alone heals.  There was greater healing that day in the Jordan:  Naaman’s soul.  Just think: From an arrogant General to a humble believer saying to a foreigner, “your servant“!  From a non-believer to a worshiper of the true and only LORD in the midst of temple of Rimmon.  Elisha and Naaman show us the way to be baptized believers in a foreign land.

“If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1: 40) What a simple, clean faith.  You can make me whole, You alone.  The leper (Mark 1)  knew he could not make himself clean.  Naaman did not make himself clean. Only cats clean themselves.  We are not spiritual cats!  We can not clean our souls by our actions or words.  We must turn to water and soap, outside of us, to clean our bodies and so our souls.  I speak of the Word of God.  His Word is in the water, the water of Baptism as it was for that time-conditioned sacrament for Naaman.  “If you will, you can make me clean” “I will;  be clean” (Mark 1:40) This is the I will of His sovereign grace to sinners and His  Word is His will:  Baptism.  This Baptism’s authority comes from the Name of God (Matthew 28:18 ) and the great and powerful deed, central to all human history and each and every individual’s history:  His death and Resurrection (Romans 6: 1-11)

 

Supplement:  from Luther’s Small Catechism, Holy Baptism:

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household

First

What is Baptism?

Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

Which is that word of God?

Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

Second

What benefits does Baptism give?

It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are these words and promises of God?

Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

Third

How can water do such great things?

Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:5–8)

Fourth

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?

St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom. 6:4)

From Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House, cph.org

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