Friday, April 15, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 68. The Wicked Servant Gehazi

Prophets And Kings
Day 68
The Wicked Servant Gehazi

Elishas servant Gehazi shows himself to be a greedy and wicked man today.

2 KINGS 5:19b-27
Up til now we haven't been told a great deal about Elisha's servant Gehazi. He's only spoken a couple of times in the Scriptures. The first time was when he pointed out to Elisha that the Shunammite woman's husband was old and she had no child. The second time was when he tried to revive the Shunammite's son from the dead by placing Elisha's staff on him and it didn't work. He has seemed to be an obedient servant, doing whatever Elisha told him to do, but today we learn there is greed in his heart.

"After Naaman had traveled some distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, 'My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.'" (2 Kings 5:19b-20) As Elisha's personal servant and constant companion, Gehazi was likely present when Naaman tried to pay Elisha something for his help. Gehazi spotted the enormous amount of money the Aramean army general was carrying. He's offended that Elisha refused to accept anything. He feels that it's one thing not to accept gifts from their own countrymen but quite another thing not to accept gifts from foreigners.

"So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. 'Is everything all right?' he asked." (2 Kings 5:21) Naaman shows the respect for Elisha's servant that he would show for Elisha himself. He's concerned that the servant came running after him. He thinks something is wrong.

"'Everything is all right,' Gehazi answered. 'My master sent me to say, 'Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.'" (2 Kings 5:22) When Gehazi decides to give in to greed he begins sliding down a slippery slope that leads to other sins. Now he has told a lie to a man who is a new believer in the Lord. Now he has borne false witness against his master Elisha. He is sinning against these men who belong to the Lord, sinning against God, and sinning against his own soul.

A talent of silver weighed about seventy-five pounds. Gehazi is bold in the amount he asks for, but not as bold as he could have been. He has a pretty good idea of how much silver and gold Naaman has on him but he dares not ask for more. He can't risk Naaman becoming suspicious that Elisha would ask for a large amount after previously turning down any payment at all. He also knows Naaman is carrying gold but he doesn't ask for gold. In Gehazi's mind, he probably knows he's sinning, but he thinks of it as a little sin. "'By all means, take two talents,' said Naaman." (2 Kings 5:23a) Naaman is so happy to be made whole, to have his disfiguring and terminal illness cured, that he probably would have joyfully given away everything he owned if the prophet needed it. He ends up offering Gehazi double the amount he asked for, about one hundred and fifty pounds of silver.

"He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi." (2 Kings 5:23b) I can just picture Gehazi pretending to refuse the extra talent of silver, pretending to let Naaman talk him into taking it. The silver weighs about as much as a slender man would weigh, so Naaman goes a step further and sends two of his own servants to carry the silver home for Gehazi, lest he be burdened by its weight. 

There is only one godly man involved in this transaction and it isn't Gehazi. I think today's passage illustrates the fact that it's possible for a person to be a regular churchgoer, or be brought up in a Christian home, and still not have a relationship with the Lord. Gehazi has been Elisha's closest friend during the years of Elisha's ministry, has seen the miracles, has heard the preaching of God's word, and yet he is the scoundrel in this story. He reminds me a bit of Judas Iscariot who lived for three and a half years in close association with Jesus, witnessing the miracles and even performing miracles himself in Jesus' name, and yet his heart somehow remained cold. Naaman, on the other hand, arrived in Israel as a pagan man, an idolater, and now he is made whole in every way, both physically and spiritually. 

"When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in his house. He sent the men away and they left." (2 Kings 5:24) I bet Gehazi couldn't send these men away fast enough! As the three of them topped the hill, he was eager to relinquish the men of the heavy bags and get them out of town before Elisha saw them. He's now resorted to behavior that tends to come after we sin: he attempts to hide his sin.

"When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, 'Where have you been, Gehazi?'" (2 Kings 5:25a) Elisha asks a question to which he already knows the answer, just as the Lord in the garden of Eden asked Adam and Eve what they had done. Confession is good for the soul and Elisha is giving his servant the opportunity to confess and repent.

But Gehazi doesn't take the opportunity offered to him. "'Your servant didn't go anywhere,' Gehazi answered." (2 Kings 5:25b) 

"But Elisha said to him, 'Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes---or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves?'" (2 Kings 5:26) The Lord gave Elisha a vision of what Gehazi was up to. In the vision, Elisha actually saw Naaman getting down from his chariot when Gehazi ran after him.

Elisha says it is wrong to accept money for Naaman's physical healing and for the salvation he found in the Lord. Do church pastors charge people money to lead them to Christ? Do church pastors charge people money to baptize them? Do church pastors charge people money to join the church? Elisha will not charge anyone for spiritual gifts they receive from the Lord's gracious hand. If a man leads a church and visits the sick and preaches funerals and presides over weddings, I feel he deserves to be paid a decent living. These are his works in the Lord and as the Bible says, "The worker deserves his wages." (1 Timothy 5:18) But this does not apply to what Elisha did for Naaman. It's the miracle of healing that Naaman tried to pay him for and it was the Lord who performed the miracle. Elisha was merely the Lord's messenger. He cannot accept money for work he did not do.

Gehazi refuses to confess and repent, so Elisha passes sentence on him. "Naaman's leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.' Then Gehazi went from Elisha's presence and his skin was leprous---it had become as white as snow." (2 Kings 5:27) We will see Gehazi again, speaking with the king, and there will be no mention of his leprosy in that passage. There are several explanations for this. The accounts in several books of the Bible are not always in chronological order, so it could be his conversation with the king takes place before he contracts leprosy. Or, because his leprosy is white, by the Mosaic law it is considered the non-contagious type and this allows him to remain in normal society. He would be marked by his condition but wouldn't be a danger to others. Some scholars even suggest he repented later on and was cured, but we simply don't know. All we can say for certain is that Gehazi's own actions brought his condition on himself.

Not all our afflictions in life are the result of sin or bad choices. But in Gehazi's case, the Bible is careful to point out that he gave in to the desires of his covetous heart and things snowballed from there. He had a wonderful opportunity to confess to the godly man Elisha and to pray a prayer of repentance with him, but he stubbornly stuck to his lie. His punishment seems severe to us but I think we have to consider the times he lived in and the position he and Elisha held in the community. Those in authority in the church come under greater scrutiny. The eyes of believers are on them. The eyes of unbelievers are on them. Elisha is the most famous prophet in Israel and everyone knows Gehazi is his closest friend. The people expect these men to set an example to follow. If sin is found to be in Elisha's household and in his servant, it gives unbelievers an opportunity to mock the Lord. It may cause believers to lose heart and stumble in the faith. Because the nation carefully watches Elisha and his servant, the Lord allows Gehazi to contract a condition that cannot be hidden. White leprosy was not considered deadly or contagious but it was a visible illness. It demonstrated to the people that those in religious authority over them cannot sin and refuse to repent without reaping consequences. 

In our times, the world watches the followers of Christ. The Lord Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and is not on earth in the flesh for people to observe. So they have to look to His representatives for an idea of who He is. It's important to live in a way that doesn't dishonor His name. We will mess up from time to time but we don't have to be like Gehazi, refusing to recognize or repent of our sin. When giving instructions to the church the Apostle John said, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father---Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." (1 John 2:1) The world doesn't expect Christians to be perfect but I think they do expect us to admit our faults and be sorry for them. The people of Israel didn't expect Gehazi to be perfect but expected him to set the example of admitting his sin to the Lord and being sorry for it. The world needs to see us bringing our faults to the only One who can clean us up and make things right. I've messed up a lot of times and in a lot of ways and have received grace and mercy I don't deserve, both from the Lord and from my fellow man. Being human, I will mess up again. But we have an advocate with the Father and this is in the legal sense of a defender, a lawyer, a counselor, who will say to the Father when we come to Him sorry for our sins, "This one is Mine. She has been made clean by My blood. Her penalty is paid. Please accept her prayer of repentance on My behalf." And the Father will bang his gavel and say, "Case dismissed." Gehazi could have experienced the refreshing relief of admitting to Elisha and to the Lord what he had done. I believe Elisha would have happily bowed down in prayer with him in support of his desire to be right with God. I think, if he'd had the proper attitude, Gehazi could have gotten back to his feet forgiven and determined never to make the same mistake again. 

We will make mistakes but our Lord gives us opportunities to keep the situation from snowballing from there. The quicker we are to confess to Him and ask forgiveness, the sooner we can be back up on our feet living for Him. He desires to make us well. When we stumble, He wants to catch us. When we fall, He reaches down a hand to pick us back up. It's up to us whether or not we take His hand.

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