Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gehazi Changes His Mind

The Devil held a great anniversary, at which his emissaries were convened to report the results of their several missions. "I let loose the wild beasts of the desert," said one, "on a caravan of Christians; and their bones are now bleaching on the sands."

"What of that?" said the Devil, "their souls were all saved."

"For ten years, I tried to get a single Christian asleep," said a third; "and I succeeded, and left him so." Then the Devil shouted, and the night stars of hell sang for joy.—Martin Luther

I believe this is a great strategy of Satan. Not that he can cause committed, mature Christians to step into some great sin. But that he can wear down our resolve to live for Jesus. He can cause us to take our eyes off Jesus and place them on our circumstances and ourselves, so that we will begin to doubt the grace of God and begin to look for our own definition of blessing, and through that, retreat into sin.

I believe this is what happened in the life of Gehazi, the disciple of the prophet Elisha. It’s a warning to you and I because it could easily happen to us, as well. In this post I want to look at the, “The Fall of Gehazi:”

2 Kings 5:20-27
20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?”22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’ ”23 So Naaman said, “Please, take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and handed them to two of his servants; and they carried them on ahead of him.24 When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed.25 Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, “Where did you go, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.”26 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?27 “Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow.

Gehazi Was a Man of God

In our text we see the greed of Gehazi. We see how he abandons the things of God to run after money. We understand that this is evil. How can we sell the power of God? The Gospel and the power of God are always free, that’s how it is supposed to be,

In our church we pray for the sick and we don’t charge people for our prayer. What would you think if in the back of the sanctuary we had a sign like this:

Healing from:

Cancer….$100
Pneumonia….$75
Coughs, colds, flus…$25
Back Injuries….$15.00
Warts….$0.25

We don’t charge for these things. We don’t have a price for weddings. We don’t have admission tickets for church services. These things will always be free will offerings.

In our text Naaman comes to Elisha for healing and he’s healed. God does a miracle and completely heals Naaman of his leprosy. Elisha sends him away with no charge for his healing. But Gehazi runs after him,.and asks for a price. This is a very interesting moment because I don’t think that this has always been in Gehazi’s character. I believe that when Elisha chose him, that Gehazi was a man of God.

Because there is something that Elisha saw in him, when he was chosen to be a disciple. Do you think that Gehazi would have chosen him if he knew that his character was like that? He’s a prophet of God. God would have spoken to him about Gehazi’s character, don’t you think?

Gehazi, at the moment in our text, has been with Elisha for a while. Elisha has used him for many things.

2 Kings 4:12-16
12 Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him.13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’ ” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”14 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.”15 So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway.16 Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!”

So Elisha has used Gehazi to call the Shunammite woman. This is the woman who provided food and shelter for him. He wants to repay her in some way. But what strikes me about this is that it is Gehazi who perceives this woman’s need. He’s the one who sees deep into her heart and sees what she really needs, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He understands that that she isn’t likely to have someone to care for her after her husband dies. Gehazi sees that need in her life.

You can see by her reaction, that this is an issue of great importance for her, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!” What we are seeing here in Gehazi is compassion. He’s compassionate about this woman’s plight. He wants to see her receive the thing that she needs most; what will bring joy into her life. That’s not the attitude of a greedy man, is it? Greed is well illustrated in the following story:

An old saint, while journeying, overtook two travelers. One was greedy, avaricious, and covetous; the other was jealous and envious. When they came to the parting of the ways, the saint said he would give them a parting gift. The gift was this: Whoever should make a wish first, would have his wish fulfilled—and the other man would get a double portion of what the first had asked.

The greedy man knew what he wanted, but he was afraid to make his wish. He could not bear the thought of his companion getting twice of what he had. The envious man was also unwilling to wish first, because he could not stand the idea of his companion getting twice as much as he would get. So each waited for the other to wish first. At length the greedy man took his fellow by the throat, saying he would choke him to death unless he made his wish. At that, the envious man said, "Very well, I will make my wish. I wish to be made blind in one eye." Immediately he lost the sight of his eye—and his companion went blind in both eyes. And so, the legend goes, Envy and its companion, Avarice, has blinded and cursed the souls of man ever since.

This story is a perfect example of the way a greedy man thinks, but this isn’t how Gehazi is thinking. He’s showing genuine concern and compassion for the Shunammite widow.

Gehazi is also used to attempt to raise this woman’s son:

2 Kings 4:29-32
29 Then he said to Gehazi, “Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on your way. If you meet anyone, do not greet him; and if anyone greets you, do not answer him; but lay my staff on the face of the child.”30 And the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her.31 Now Gehazi went on ahead of them, and laid the staff on the face of the child; but there was neither voice nor hearing. Therefore he went back to meet him, and told him, saying, “The child has not awakened.” 32 When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed.

Even though there was a failure of Gehazi’s part and this child wasn’t raised. Elisha had sent him on this mission. He was acting in Elisha’s place. He was a representative of the prophet. You chose those to represent you that would act in the same character with which you would act.

I had a General Manager who said something to me, a number of years ago that I thought was profound. There was a young man who worked for him. This kid was good looking, he was smart; he was personable. He was an excellent salesman and because of those attributes and he acquired a lot of business for the trash company we worked for. But he decided that he was interested in a young woman in the office, and as their relationship blossomed there were telltale marks of their physical relationship all around his neck. And I remember that this General Manager warned him, that those marks were not appropriate given his type of work. The next time he showed up with them, he was fired. As the GM’s supervisor, I was concerned that he would fire a young man with such great sales and he made this reply, “He is representing this company, he represents you, and he represents me, I can’t vouch for his character and so I can’t let him be my representative.”

People often ask me for letters of recommendation, as they look for work. But I don’t always give them if I can’t vouch for their character. Or I will give a guarded one, “ I like this person, but I don’t know what his work or character is like.” Why do I do that? Because in recommending him I am making him my representative. He now represents my judgment. Elisha the prophet must be at least that careful about whom represents him. That person doesn’t represent just Elisha, he is also God’s representative. So I don’t believe that Gehazi had this character flaw when he began serving Elisha. I believe that he was a man serving God.

But this represents a huge danger to us. The danger is that we may start out our walk with God in the right ways: Living for Jesus; doing the right things; having a real burden for souls, but that we can be overtaken by sin. I believe that’s what happened in Gehazi’s case. Not that he was evil, he seriously pursued the things of God. He was a disciple. I’m sure he understood that he would be the prophet after Elisha’s death. He was working toward that goal, but at some pint he derailed and we can see his end in scripture.

The Change in Gehazi

Beware of growing covetousness, for of all sins this is one of the most insidious. It is like the silting up of a river. As the stream comes down from the land, it brings with it sand and earth, and deposits all these at its mouth, so that by degrees, unless the conservators watch it carefully, it will block itself up, and leave no channel for ships of great burden. By daily deposit it imperceptibly creates a bar, which is dangerous to navigation.—Feathers for Arrows – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The sin of greed and covetousness is rarely explosive it is a sin that builds up over time. It’s different from a sin like sexual lust. People can be affected immediately with that. People are always having one-night stands. You may not have left the house thinking, “I’m going to do something stupid and reckless,” until the opportunity presented itself. Greed and covetousness are not like that. It is something that builds up in you. Greed is a lifestyle.

I’m not really writing about greed. This post isn’t written on the evils of greed. What this post is really about, is that we can be servants of God, and if we aren’t careful, sin can overtake us just as it did in the life of Gehazi. Where did Gehazi go wrong? When did this begin to rise in him? There isn’t really insight into that in the Bible, but we can see his thinking in verse 20 of our text:

2 Kings 5:20
20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”

First of all, Gehazi says, “My master has spared Naaman.” But Elisha didn’t heal Naaman, God did. Elisha recognizes this fact, by not accepting Naaman’s gift. But Gehazi sees it as an opportunity to payment. He sees it as something they should be paid for. “ My master has spared him. Elisha’s done this wonderful work.” “Isn’t that worth something? Naaman thinks it is.” This is where his thinking begins to get murky…”If he’s willing to give, why shouldn’t we accept it?”

What Naaman is offering will make them fabulously wealthy. What Naaman is trying to give them is an enormous sum of money. But that isn’t what Elisha's looking for. He isn’t using his ministry for personal gain. He’s doing the will of God.

Secondly, Gehazi says, “But as the Lord lives…” I swear to God, I’m going to get some of that money. My master spared him and we deserve this money. That’s what he’s saying. It’s like politicians that have sold out the security of their country for money. I preached a sermon once on Congressman “Duke” Cunningham. He thought because of his service he deserved to take money from a defense contractor. This is Gehazi’s way of thinking.

Gehazi probably has never been rich. He’s the servant of the man of God. I’m sure that wasn’t a real lucrative position. He may see this as an opportunity for wealth and perhaps he thinks something like this:

"Here’s an opportunity to be blessed and Elisha turns it down. But I’ve been a good servant, he should have thought about me.” He’s struggled for years, he’s worked hard, he’s done the right thing…and now he’s wondering where’s the blessing of God. He thinks he deserves to be blessed, and he swears by God that he’ll have what’s owed him..

I had dinner a while ago with a man who was selling his home on a short sale. That means they have foreclosed and they will forgive part of the debt. But prior to the foreclosure he bought another house. And then stopped paying for the one he is short selling. Because he could get a nicer house for less money and he thinks he’s better off. A real estate agent in the church suggested this to him. And he used words like, “I’m blessed.” He said he was praying that his son-in-law would be able to find something like that.

This man has been a Christian for years. He really thinks this is the blessing of God for all the work he has done for God over the years. But God can’t honor that, he’s stealing and lying. There is a twist in his thinking that I think is similar to Gehazi’s. I’ve made all this sacrifice for God and he’s going to bless me…I swear to God.

Finally, Gehazi acts on his impulses. This is where he steps into sin. He was tempted before, but now as he takes action that temptation becomes sin. He makes up a story to tell Naaman. Then he lies to Elisha. God can’t honor that sin and the leprosy comes upon Gehazi.

The problem is that we are always tempted. It’s the strategy of Satan to wear down the saints. We see our sinner friends with all kinds of blessing. We see them enjoying things that we don’t have or can’t afford. We’re involved in the work of God shouldn’t we be blessed? The real issue comes in the definition of blessing that you use.

The Real Blessing

The word blessing has several meanings:   According to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary blessing can be defined, among other things as:

1. To invoke divine care upon
2. To confer happiness upon

The really interesting aspect of the word blessing is found in the root of the word. The word bless comes from the old English word that means blood. So blessing comes from the word blood.

Where is blessing found? It is found in the blood that was shed for us. Our salvation is the blessing of God.

Gehazi gave up his salvation. The leprosy of Naaman came upon his family for generations. So greed may be seen as an inherited curse, passed from fathers to children. It’s a curse that must be actively broken, repented and renounced as a curse.

We need to protect ourselves from every type of sin. We need to remain in right thinking about blessing for one thing. We need to examine our hearts; we need to look at our motivations for the things that we do. Even in struggle there’s blessing…if you have the right definition of blessing. Rejoice not that you have everything you want, rejoice that your name is written in heaven.

I have a friend who isn’t saved. She comes from a fairly wealthy family. But right now she has nothing. She and her husband live in an apartment with the linoleum peeling up in one place. They have to share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. All of her furniture is second or third hand. They are not in a great financial position. But she is happy and delighted to be there, because she has a husband who loves her and is devoted to her. She has the right outlook on life.

I know a number of Christians that can learn from her attitude. She is grateful for what she has not bitter about what she doesn’t have. I’ve been reading a blog entitled, “Words of Eternal Life,” by Mike McArthur and he has been listing “Gifts I have noticed this week.” He’s thankful for small things: Blessings in his life. It occurs to me that this is how we should view life. By dwelling on those things we fight off the desire for more.

In the church world I have seen too many people with the same thought process of the man with the foreclosure. I’ve done a lot for God I deserve to be blessed. You need to think that you’ve already received the blessing you’re no longer on the way to hell.

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