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Good News in a Bad News World (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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May 25, 2024 4:00 am

Good News in a Bad News World (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 25, 2024 4:00 am

Naaman had wealth, power, and prestige. Yet all his success was overshadowed by leprosy and the inability to cure himself. Hear Naaman’s story, and discover how each of us faces a similar dilemma. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Here's a man in the Old Testament, a man named Naaman, who had wealth and power and prestige. And yet, in spite of all of this, his success was overshadowed by his leprosy, which left him helpless to remedy his own situation. We'll hear today about Naaman's story on Truth for Life weekend, and find out how each of us faces a similar dilemma.

Alistair Begg is teaching a message he's titled, Good News in a Bad News World. 2 Kings 5, verse 1. Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram.

He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands from Aram had gone out and taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria, he would cure him of his leprosy. Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. By all means go, the king of Aram replied. I will send a letter to the king of Israel.

So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read, With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you, so that you may cure him of his leprosy. As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, Am I God?

Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me! When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message, Why have you torn your robes? Make the man come to me, and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored, and you will be cleansed. Naaman went away angry and said, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot, and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Farper the rivers of Damascus better than any of the waters of Israel?

Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed? So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman's servants went to him and said, My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then when he tells you, wash and be cleansed? So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him. And his flesh was restored and became clean, like that of a young boy. Amen. Now, before we consider this passage together, a word of prayer. Now make the book, we pray, live to me, O Lord. Show me thyself within thy Word. Show me myself, and show me my Savior, and make the book live to me.

Amen. Once upon a time, those memorable words from childhood are a cause of joyful reflection for those of us who were the happy recipients of stories being read to us, especially as the day would end. Just the opening phrase was enough to get our imaginations firing, and whether it was in the realm of fiction or of fantasy, nonfiction, whatever it might have been, we loved to have a story told to us. And we used to wait eagerly and expectantly in the hope that it was going to end the way we loved for it to end, the way that allowed us to go to sleep happy and contented, with the closing phrase, And so they all lived happily ever after. And now we've become adults, and we still love stories, fiction and nonfiction. And because I know how much so many of you like stories, I thought that I would turn you to one of the great stories in the Old Testament. And we have just read a part of it here in these opening verses of 2 Kings 5.

It's the story of a man called Naaman. Now, as we've grown into adulthood, we know that not all of the stories end with such happy conclusions. For there is so much in life that is marked by pain and by sadness. Indeed, there is a lot of bad news. It's not all bad news. We know that there are many joys, much that we share that gives us a smile and a spring on our step. And yet the fact of the matter is that even a cursory reading of our daily newspapers confronts us with the pain and the emptiness that is so much a part of life for us. I put it to you that we are in need of some good news in a bad news world. For there is, even in the best of our days, a plaintive song which seems to play in the back of many of our minds. There's a sort of sad music of humanity.

I don't mean the upfront and honest acknowledgement of it. Do you realize how long ago it was that Barry Maguire sang Eve of Destruction? The Eastern world, it is exploding. Violence flaring and bullets loading. You're old enough to kill but not for voting. You don't believe in war but what's that gun you're toting?

And even the Jordan River has bodies floating. But you tell me over and over and over again, my friend, ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction. Some of you aren't old enough to remember that. But you are old enough to have listened to the song that was popularized by Ann Murray.

I rolled out this morning. The kids had the morning news show on. Bryant Gumbel was talking about the fighting in Lebanon. Some senator was squawking about the economy. It's gonna get worse, you see.

We need a change of policy. There's a local paper rolled up in a rubber band. One more sad stories, one more than I can stand. Just once how I'd like to see the headlines say, Not much to print today.

Can't find nothing bad to say. Because nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town. Nobody OD'd. Nobody burned a single building down. Nobody fired a shot in anger.

Nobody had to die in vain. We sure could use a little good news today. And here, in the heart of the Old Testament, is a good news story in a bad news world. Once upon a time, there was a man called Naaman. Now, people say to me, many times, I find the Bible such a confusing book. I've been told that there are 66 books, and it covers centuries, and it was written by a number of authors, and I just find it all so perplexing, and I don't know where to begin. Well, for those who are confused by the Bible, I want to tell you this. The Bible is ultimately one story. There is one theme which runs through the whole of this book, and it is the story of the relationship between God and man—how it began, how it was spoiled, how it may be rectified, and how one day it's going to be perfect. Fine, says somebody, but I would like something a little more practical, you know.

I don't like to live in the realms that are simply theoretical. I need to say again to you this morning that this is the most practical of books, because this book is a mirror. This book is a map. When we look into this book, we see ourselves. When we look into this book, we discover the nature and the cause of all of our troubles. And what's even better, we discover the answer to the troubles that we face. Indeed, the story of this book, the message of this book, is good news in a bad news world.

And it is and it is wonderfully illustrated in the story that we now consider. I'd like to note with you three things concerning Naaman. First of all, to notice his context, and then to notice his condition, and then to notice his cure. First of all, his context. We all have a context in which we live, an environment, a framework, the things that influence us and the matters that we enjoy, and the people with whom we spend time. What do we know of the context in which Naaman lived?

Well, there are two things in particular I would like you to notice. One is that Naaman lived in a very desirable place. If you think of what is for you the desirable place to live in in America, then that's where he lived. For me, it is probably Santa Barbara.

So I imagine Naaman in Santa Barbara, Montecito to be exact. For you, it may be somewhere else. But it was a really nice spot. Syria was a delightful and a colorful country. Damascus, the main city, was a city of wealth and leisure. It provided all the kinds of cultural attractions that men and women look for. There was the beauty of art.

There was the enjoyment of music. There was all of the opportunity for recreation that opened up before them. There were two fine rivers which flowed down into the center of the city, rivers which began in the mountains of Lebanon, and all of their pristine beauty and purity flowing down into a fertile oasis of trees.

And it was down in this oasis in the lowland that the city of Damascus had been built. And if we'd been able to go back in time to the period that is described for us here, then we would have found Naaman exactly in that context. And we would have said to one another, boy, this is a nice place to take a vacation, and this would be an unbelievable place to stay. He lived in a very desirable place. Secondly, we're told that he enjoyed an enviable position.

Look, if your Bible is open and you can see this for yourself. First of all, he had power. He was a commander.

He wasn't a private or a lance corporal or a corporal or a sergeant. He was a commander. And he was a commander of the king's army. And as a result of that, he had people who reported to him, just as many of you do this morning here.

He was responsible for people's lives, just as some of you are this morning. And his position was a powerful position. It was also a prestigious position, insofar as we are told that he was a great man in the sight of his master. You see, the king would have a lot of people who were under his sphere of influence.

Indeed, they were all under his sphere of influence, but he wouldn't regard them all as great. But we're told here that when the king looked at Naaman, he regarded Naaman as a great man. It wasn't simply that the people looked up at him and said, my, what a great man Naaman is, but when the king upon his throne looked upon Naaman, he viewed him as a great man. He was in an enviable position. He had power and prestige. He was highly regarded, and particularly because he was a valiant soldier. He was, if you like, a brave heart in his own generation. And people understood that. And also, in his enviable position, he had possessions. They usually come with power and prestige, and in his case, they had.

When you simply read in verse 5 all that he was able to take on his journey in search of a cure, you realize that he had a lot of stuff. I was only able to do a little bit of calculation, and you know how poor my calculations are, and so I stopped, but I was already up in hundreds of thousands of dollars when you calculate the price of an ounce of gold on the market at the moment. I didn't take time to look up the silver, but we were close to three-quarters of a million in gold. We added into that the silver.

Then you've got to put the fine clothing in, and this guy had cash. In fact, from any angle, Naaman had made it. Naaman was living the American dream before America was dreamt of. He had power. He had prestige. He had possessions. He was like Richard Corey, made famous in the song of Paul Simon.

They say that Richard Corey owns one half of this whole town, and with political connections, he spreads his wealth around. Born into society, a banker's only child, he had everything a man could want—power, grace, and style. That was Naaman. He'd be on the front of People magazine. He'd be at all the right parties. But when we've said all of that, we haven't said the most significant thing about Naaman. Because that comes in the final phrase of verse 1, and it is introduced with the word but.

You will notice that. He was great. He was highly regarded. He was victorious.

He was valiant. But he had leprosy. There was one dimension to Naaman's existence which cast long shadows over everything else that he enjoyed. All of his proud achievements were somehow or another dimmed by this one factor. When people thought of him, yes, they knew him as powerful and prestigious and a man of wealth and worth, and yet they knew one thing about him.

Naaman has leprosy. Well, I said our second point was his condition, and we're clearly there. His context is that he lived in a very desirable place, and he assumed a very enviable position. And don't miss the point this morning, ladies and gentlemen.

By any stretch of the imagination, if you've traveled the world at all, you know that even at our most impoverished in this group, we live in a very desirable place, and we enjoy very enviable positions. But what was his condition? Well, it was simply this, that he was leprous. That he was leprous. And so all that he enjoyed, all the variety of his opportunities, all the benefits of his possessions, could not come close to tackling his problem. There wasn't, if you like, anything that he was able to do, and the leprosy was spoiling his life. Well, you say, this is very interesting so far.

Never knew this was in 2 Kings 5, never knew about a man called Naaman, didn't realize there were three A's in his name. But you know what? Are you ever going to sort of bridge the gap? Because after all, this is historically interesting, but this is practically and personally irrelevant, some people are saying. I didn't want to come here and listen to a historical lecture.

No, I'm glad because I didn't plan to give one. And let me explain to you. Naaman's condition was a spoiling, spreading, ugly condition. A spoiling, spreading, separating, ugly condition. It is a classic biblical picture of the condition of men and women this morning in the United States of America, the condition that the Bible calls sin. And it is here, earthed in the Old Testament, an amazing illustration.

And this is the point of contact. The physical condition faced by Naaman is a picture of the spiritual condition faced by each one of us. Each of us is aware this morning that whatever else is in doubt, man is not today the way that God intended him to be. Well, the Bible is absolutely clear. The Bible says this, that in the beginning when God made the heavens and the earth, when he planted man and woman in the Garden of Eden, everything was good. There was no disappointment. There was no unhappiness.

There was nothing wrong at all. It was, if you like, to pick a word again from the sixties, groovy. And then read the story for yourself, homework, the early chapters of Genesis, and sin enters into the human condition. And suddenly there is death. Suddenly there is murder. Suddenly there is sexual abuse. Suddenly there is absolute chaos. And suddenly life is robbed of its wholeness, its completeness, and its perfection. And that is why this morning, dear folks, when each of us describes our context and we're able to say to ourselves, well, you know, my name is so-and-so and I have done this and I've been there and I've achieved this and I've earned that and I live there and I visit here and so on, at the end of all of that, at the end of all of that, we're heading inevitably for the little word but. And the word leads us into the fact of our condition, as clearly ours as was Naaman's leprosy, framed for us in Romans 3 and 23, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Leprosy was no respecter of Naaman's status. And sin is no respecter of yours or mine. The reason the Bible says all is because it means all and because it is all. And there is not a man or a woman or a young person in this building at this moment who is free from that inclusive phrase. And it is this sin which detracts from our happiness. It is this sin which finds us living, many of us this morning, with great regret, wondering why it is that we cannot wash out, as it were, the spots of our past existence, living with guilt, living with fear, living with a deep-seated resentment and anger, living with a sense of emptiness, living with a sense of aloneness.

And no matter what we try and do, and no matter where we're able to go, still this plaintive song, this melody keeps playing in the back of our heads. There wasn't a chariot, you see, that Naaman could ride. There wasn't an outfit that Naaman could wear that could cure the condition that was so obvious to him every time he took a shower.

And there's not a car that you and I can buy and drive. There's not an Armani suit that you can go out and purchase and wear that will take care of the settling dust of sin which spoils and spreads and separates, detracts from our happiness, and frankly makes us ultimately positively unhappy. Why are men and women today so unhappy in our world? Why so many gloomy faces? Why in this land of great opportunity are men and women the way they are? Why is it that on university campuses there is so much deadness and futility and failure?

What is the reason? Well, psychologists and sociologists are at all kinds of extremes to provide an answer, and the Bible is very, very clear. And sin is ugly, as sure as leprosy was ugly. No matter how we may try and dress it up, sin is downright ugly. They may try and make sexual sin look attractive on the inside pages of the Friday Plain Dealer, but it is downright ugly.

They may make greed look something very attractive, but it is downright ugly. And so it is that many of the ugly buildings through which we walk in the architecture of our days, and many of the strange artistic representations that have emanated from the mind of our contemporary thinkers, stress for us the great disengagement of life, the great incongruity of so much. And before us is a picture of our own human condition, so much that is marked by ugliness.

And it doesn't matter who we are, it doesn't matter where we are, it doesn't matter when we lived. Sin is not an intellectual problem. It's a moral problem. That's why, you see, no matter how good your SAT scores were, they weren't good enough for you to deal with guilt. If you could get a 1500 and be free from sin, it'd be worth trying for, but you maybe got one, and you know you can't.

That's why financial status can never take us high enough to get beyond the cloud level that lingers as a result of this terminal human condition. And when, loved ones, this morning we pare it all away, the fact of the matter is that just like Naaman, we're in deep trouble. Ultimately, we're just miserable sinners. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend with Alistair Begg.

We'll hear the conclusion of Naaman's story next weekend. As Alistair mentioned in today's message, the Bible is the most practical book of all times. It is a mirror by which we can see our sinful selves, and it's the map that leads us to the cure. That's why, in addition to studying along with us on Truth for Life, we highly recommend you spend time in God's Word on your own. You can have access to God's Word right at your fingertips, no matter where you are. Just download the Truth for Life mobile app to your phone or your tablet. There's a complete ESV Bible in the app.

You can download it for free when you search for Truth for Life in your app store. You can also access a complete ESV Bible online at slash Bible. While you're on our website, be sure to check out a book we're recommending called Parenting Essentials.

This is a practical handbook to help parents establish a joyful, Christ-centered home and help them raise responsible, compassionate, God-honoring children. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for studying with us this weekend. Today we discovered that sin is a spiritual leprosy. Next weekend, we'll learn about the cure. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-25 04:14:52 / 2024-05-25 04:23:46 / 9

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