Overcomers working for beast governments
Jun 25, 2014
Last week end, before gathering locally for our monthly meeting, I asked God for a topic to teach the group. He surprised me by giving me Luke 4:27. This is where Jesus mentioned Naaman, the Syrian leper, who was healed in the days of Elisha.
That was the tenth miracle-sign of Elisha found in 2 Kings 5. With this direction came the revelation that the ninth sign of Elisha was set and done as far as God is concerned. It is time to begin thinking about the tenth sign.
So I did a study on the healing of leprosy according to the laws of leprosy (Leviticus 14:1-7) and how it applied to Naaman. That study is revealed fully in my book, The Laws of the Second Coming, chapter 10. When we consider this sign in the context of the previous signs, it tells us that the gospel of the Kingdom is to be preached to the world (“Syria”), and that this gospel will be accepted. (The ninth sign is the funding for this.)
I ran out of time and did not complete my study, but the passage in 2 Kings 5 goes on to reveal an interesting principle that Naaman himself mentioned after Elisha refused to take any payment for his service. We read of this in 2 Kings 5:17, 18,
17 And Naaman said, “If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no more offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant; when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 And he [Elisha] said to him, “Go in peace.”
Naaman wanted “two mules’ load of earth” from the land of Israel to take back with him to Syria. He explained that it was because he would no longer offer sacrifice to other gods. Presumably, Naaman wanted to set up his own place of worship, perhaps an altar, using earth from Israel, to signify that he was worshiping the God of Israel. He did not want to use Syrian earth which the ruling authorities had devoted to false gods. Since Naaman was not the king, he did not have the authority to dedicate the land of Syria to God, so he took back to Syria some earth that had been dedicated as the Kingdom of God.
Earlier, in 2 Kings 5:15, he had told Elisha, “Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.”
Yet Naaman still had a problem, for he was the top General of the Syrian Army and the right-hand man of the king. It was his job to guard the king and to accompany him when he went to the house of Rimmon to worship his god. Could Naaman remain a secret believer in Yahweh? He had to bow before Rimmon along with the king. How could a worshipper of Yahweh fulfill his Syrian duties with a clear conscience?
Naaman asked for “pardon” ahead of time, knowing that he would face this dilemma upon his return to Syria. Elisha’s answer was to “go in peace.” This was the common blessing used in Scripture, using the Hebrew word shalom. It indicates approval (Judges 18:6; 1 Samuel 1:17; 2 Samuel 15:9; 2 Kings 5:19).
Because this is given as part of the tenth sign of Elisha, it raises an interesting question for us today. First, we are assured that the Gospel of the Kingdom will be effective, not only among the populations but also among the leaders. Some of these will face the same problem that Naaman faced. What should we require of them? How should we counsel them when they ask us about how to act? Should we insist that they be put into a situation where they are in danger of being harmed or even killed?
I believe that is the question that is answered by Elisha’s statement, “Go in peace.”
Perhaps it is a question of conscience that cannot be answered in the same manner for all men. Naaman was a new believer. Perhaps God does not expect so much from new believers. The answer no doubt would have been different for Elisha himself, who, as a mature believer, might have expected God to rescue him and perhaps even destroy the temple of Rimmon.
God required more of Moses than He required of the Israelites in general. We are all held accountable according to our level of knowledge, as seen in Luke 12:47. Why would it be any different with Naaman?
Worshipping God in Other Denominations and Religions
There is also a broader implication in this question. The Apostle Paul disputed often with the rulers of the synagogues throughout his travels. The synagogues generally rejected Jesus as the Messiah and hence remained in a state of unbelief. Yet Paul’s conscience allowed him to worship in the synagogues, as long as he was allowed by the people themselves. He even worshipped freely in the temple in Jerusalem.
In all of these cases, the only reason that Paul did NOT worship in the synagogues or in the temple was when the Jews refused to allow him to do so. Paul himself did not separate himself from them; they separated themselves from Paul.
Does this principle extend to other religions and temples? I believe it does. Suppose I go to China some day and meet some Buddhist elders. Shall I act confrontational? Or should I “go in peace”? If I go to a Buddhist temple, where they worship the Creator but do not know Him by the name Jesus (as Christians do), how shall I act? I know that I can worship God in any place without violating my conscience.
It is important to respect people’s beliefs and religious practices, especially when we are their guests. If I believe that my beliefs are better than theirs, then I should show this to them by the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in my life. If they see Christ in me, then they will want to know my secret, and we may then discuss it.
Conversely, if I see Christ in them, I would want to know their secret. Who can tell the secrets of the heart? If they have been seeking Him, they may already have developed a relationship with the Creator, even in the most unusual places. We all know that the Spirit of God leads people long before they know it. We only become aware of the Spirit’s work in our lives at the moment of revelation, when we recognize Who has been leading us since the beginning.
I have a minister friend named David, whose life was spared miraculously many times before he reached the crisis point where he became a believer. Once he was riding in a car (as a passenger in the front seat), going up a long hill. Suddenly, a truck came rushing around the bend in the road and crashed head on into his car. The driver was killed instantly. But just before the impact, he found himself on the side of the road watching the crash. His life was spared, though he did not know Jesus at that time. In fact, at the time, he was a drug dealer with a rather bad attitude.
In the overall sense, we ought to view everyone as a future believer in Christ. If they are already Christians, then they—like us—are on a path that will end in absolute Truth. We ought to recognize that none of us yet possesses all of the truth, and so we should forgive those who do not yet understand our own truth. God has all of us on a different path.
In a way many of us have already confronted this issue. Denominational Christians are often forbidden to worship in other churches. This separatist view used to be more prevalent that it is today, but it still is strong in certain denominations. I personally have no problem worshipping God in a church that has different beliefs—even when some of them believe teachings that I consider to be quite wretched (or “Babylonian”).
There is a time to be confrontive and a time to be peaceable. Usually, the situations we face are in peaceable times.
These are important issues which are raised by the tenth sign of Elisha and the subsequent actions of Naaman the Syrian.
Joseph and Daniel
Joseph found himself working for Pharaoh in the book of Genesis. It is interesting that God gave revelation to Pharaoh, even though, as history shows, the Egyptians worshipped many gods which the Bible later condemns. Joseph did not seem to have a problem working for Pharaoh, nor even of marrying Asenath, the daughter of the priest of On. Joseph did his work with integrity, as if he worked directly for God Himself.
Years later, Daniel was made the head of the Magi. The Magi were the intellectuals, the “wise men,” who understood the movements of the planets and the meaning of the constellations. How could Daniel be the head of the Babylonian Astrological Society and still remain a true believer? How could he counsel Nebuchadnezzar and his successors for seventy years in Babylon?
The only real problem came after Babylon had fallen to the Medes and Persians, when King Darius was tricked into making a decree forbidding people to pray to God (Daniel 6:7). Daniel continued to pray, but submitted to the consequences. In that case God delivered him, and the story became prophetic of future things that will occur in our time, no doubt, after the fall of Mystery Babylon.
The point is that Scripture gives us the examples of Joseph and Daniel to show us how to conduct ourselves as believers under the authority of beast nations. Daniel is our prime example to show us how to live in Babylon while in captivity. Joseph shows a similar example of dealing with religious societies that do not have accurate views of God.
In the end, we see that the divine plan is working out in spite of all the ignorance and multiple views of the nature and character of God. Recognizing the sovereignty of God has a calming effect, allowing us to conduct ourselves peaceably in our various callings without being overly upset at other men’s ignorance (as we may see it).
Many worship “the unknown God,” as in Acts 17:23. Paul did not insult the people for their ignorance and stupidity, but helped them obtain knowledge of that “unknown God.” Shall we not do the same?
Dr. Stephen Jones