God Made a Way–But Only One


Listening to a a recent Ravi Zacharias podcast, I was overcome by a need to reiterate what the apologist shared and both simplify and unpack it further. Thus, this post.

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.
—2 Kings 5:1-16 ESV

Naaman was a great and proud man, the General Eisenhower of his time and place, but leprosy had infected him. In time, the disease would rob him of his position and place in society, as lepers were forcibly outcast by the virulence of the disease and its horrible effects. In this era, no cure existed. A diagnosis of leprosy destroyed lives. In the Bible, leprosy exemplified the physical manifestation of the sin that bedevils all our lives.

Into Naaman’s household came the lowest of the low, a little girl of foreign birth now made a slave through enemy conquest. In his desperation, Naaman listened to that pittance of a person tell of a prophet who could heal him. Interestingly, Elisha had not performed a healing miracle yet, but this girl’s faith in the God behind the prophet prevailed.

How humbling to listen to a lowly enemy then go to another enemy for help. And yet Naaman went.

Naaman washes in the Jordan RiverBut instead of facing this opposing prophet, proud Naaman, already humbled in part by leprosy, was further humbled when the prophet sent a third-rate messenger to tell him to go wash in one of Israel’s rivers.

Naaman, enraged by the slight, cried out how the rivers back home were even better than Israel’s meager Jordan . His servant pleaded, and eventually Naaman relented. And he was healed.


If you are not a believer in Jesus:

Every person believes he or she knows what is right, yet each also knows that deep down inside, something is wrong. That wrong is sin. People try all sorts of ways to deal with that sin and its consequences in life, yet everyone fails.

Jesus said this:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
—John 14:6 ESV

Naaman lamented, ” 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?”

No. God made a way to be clean. One way. In the only waters that lived and healed.

To Naaman, it all sounded like foolishness.

People can try all sorts of ways to be clean: Buddha, Mohammed, self-fulfillment, self-mortification, this or that. But God made a way. One, exclusive way.

That way is Jesus. The living, healing water you need is found only in Him and nowhere else.

You can do what is asked by God, or you can succumb to the leprosy. But don’t say that God has not made a way. He has: Jesus.

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
—Acts 4:11-12 ESV

Lastly, God may be asking you to give up your pride and listen to one of those weird Christians you hate. The message of healing and life will likely come from someone you ordinarily disregard. That’s often how God works. Don’t let a superior attitude prevent you from humbling yourself long enough to heed what may very well save you.

If you are a Christian believer already:

Israel was filled with lepers, but they were not healed. Instead, the God of Israel healed a Syrian enemy of Israel.

God seeks out those who will believe Him, even if He must go outside the walls of the fortress to find them. Do not assume because you are inside that you will not be considered an outsider–and the outsider an insider.

Naaman listened to a nobody, the least of these. And he did as he was told, even if it violated everything rational and right. He alone was healed. He alone received absolution.

God will work in the lives of those who take Him at His word, and He is no respecter of persons. He used the lowest of the low to speak to the greatest. Take care in who you listen to. Take care in how you respond.

Even Christians will defend an inadequate river if they proudly operate from their own wisdom and not God’s.

Christians should also finish the story in 2 Kings 5, because an additional warning to us exists in the failure of one who had seen many miracles and yet did not have saving faith, Gehazi, Elisha’s own servant. The world is filled with Gehazis. Don’t assume you aren’t one of his kind or that you are better than he is.

God made a Way in Jesus. One Way alone. Come, humble yourself and be made clean.

Doom, and How God Frustrates It


Elijah didn’t die but ascended to God in a flaming chariot. Most of us know the story. Elijah was certainly a man of God.

Elijah was also something of a depressed prophet. He was always complaining about apparent circumstances, what he believed to be true about his situation. No matter the case, though, God never abandoned Elijah—far from it—and yet Elijah kept up the doom-saying.

One of Elijah’s “personal doom scripts” that kept running through his head was that the bad guys had killed all the other prophets and he alone was left. You read the life of Elijah in 1 Kings, and he repeated that script a lot.

God finally had enough of it:

[Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
—1 Kings 19:14-18 ESV

And Elijah never again beefed about being the last one left.

God had His 7,000. God even had a successor to Elijah lined up. Despite Elijah’s office as prophet, he seemed blind to those possibilities. All he could focus on was the doom.

God has his 7,000 at all times. In your life and in mine, God has a form of that 7,000 on-hand and ready to supply.

Even if you don’t see it, that reserve exists. God had fed Elijah by ravens, but the prophet, so stuck in his doom, was unable to understand that provision or believe that God might have preserved other faithful followers to stand with him. All Elijah could see was his personal circumstance. God had to enlarge his vision.

Funny thing is, the prophet who followed in Elijah’s footsteps inherited nothing of his mentor’s doom and shortsightedness. A classic instance of how Elisha did better than his predecessor is found in 2 Kings 6. The king of Syria was frustrated because someone seemed to be telling all his plans to the king of Israel. Eventually, a servant told the Syrian king that Elisha was receiving this info supernaturally. The enraged king decided to put an end to that:

Elisha protected by GodSo he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” [Elisha] said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.
—2 Kings 6:14-18 ESV

Elisha understood that even in the midst of apparent doom, the apparency was an illusion. Something greater from God was present, and all it took was a greater vision of what God was doing. Elisha knew and could see what Elijah failed to: God frustrates doom.

Doom will never win because God is greater. Today, make that your personal script.

Elusive Grace


Okay, so I admit it.

I’m the kind of guy who likes the one item on the restaurant menu that no one else orders.

I’m the kind of guy who when faced with a daily drive from point A to point B attempts to find a different route between those two points every time.

I’m the kind of guy who gave up on self-help books years ago because I never fit into any of the categories the author would use to illustrate solutions.

I’m pretty much always the odd man out. The contrarian. The iconoclast. The weirdo.

When people find out that I write speculative fiction and then discover that I’ve never read through The Lord of the Rings books because I found them dull, well my weirdness takes on new levels.

That said, I did enjoy the Rings movies. And again, being the weirdo, I definitely thought The Two Towers was the best of the three. My reasoning is that I found the most biblical imagery in the second film.

When Gandalf tells Aragorn to look up when things appear most desperate and expect to see him at a certain hour, I could not help but think of this passage:

And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
—2 Kings 6:11-17

At the bleakest moment in the battle at Helm’s Deep, Aragorn, remembering Gandalf’s words, looks to the rim of the valley and sees it lined with a vast army headed by Gandalf.

At the bleakest moment, a sign of hope. The very presence of grace. Once doomed, now saved.

How many Westerns made their money by sending the cavalry over the hill to rescue the beleaguered heroes pinned down by the relentless tide of opposition? 'Cavalry Charge on the Southern Plains' by Frederick RemingtonThe trumpet cry as the rescuers spurred on their chargers. The enemy routed.

Grace, all of it.

You would think, then, that in a country that bills itself as a Christian nation, in a land steeped in the last desperate stand before the cavalry arrives, that we would be drowning in grace as a people. You would think that our whole lives would be devoted to dispensing grace as often and to as many as we can.

You would think.

I spent most of the evening thinking about this disconnect. How is it that grace is so elusive in the United States? What is it about us that we can’t resist the spectacle of watching another human being go down in flames? How can it be that their ultimate fate means so little to us?

Most of you know that the foreclosure rate in this country is running about three times higher than normal. Where I live, the number of abandoned houses—those fled by their owners, no “For Sale” sign in the front yard, no realtor in sight—borders on the epidemic.

We as Christians may talk about grace, but if we want a painful example of how out of touch we are concerning grace, the very lifeblood of the Church, look no further than those families who lost their homes. How is it that those families seem to vanish into the ether, melting away to nothing like hoarfrost assaulted by hot breath? Where do they go?

It saddens me that I don’t know. All I do know is that they were in trouble and no one was there for them in the midst of it. All the potential in the world for Christians to step in and demonstrate grace, yet it never came to be. And now, as if sucked into that mysterious realm where singleton socks go, that family is gone. Sometimes they don’t even bother to shut the door behind them.

And we who are wise can pontificate about why they failed. We can talk about greed. We can talk about poor choices. We can talk about moral failures. We can blame it on the times, the media, the economy, the war, the peace, the current president, the next president—heck, we can talk for whole years at a time, but none of our talk reveals bare naked grace to the ones who need it most.

Is anyone besides me grieved by this? Is anyone else hounded by our lack of care, our inability to somehow take the grace we might have been shown in the past and minister it to someone in desperate need?

How is it that we hate failure in other people, yet we expect others to feel for us when we go down in flames?

There’s not a person reading this now who is not excruciatingly close to losing it all. Do we realize how readily our carefully crafted lifestyles can go to pieces in a matter of weeks? One bad investment. One miscalculation at work. One illness. Poof, and its all gone.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how healthy, how wealthy, how prepared, or how risk averse. When that time comes, it comes. You’ll need that grace. You’ll need someone to love you no matter how shattered you might be, someone who can minister the grace of Jesus Christ to you.

Now what if there’s no one there?

We all have to be the cavalry at some point in life. We all have to ride into the flaming arrows, the poison darts, the thick haze of flying lead. Because there’s no way anyone’s going to be our cavalry when we need it if we were never there for them.