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Sermon from January 3, 2021

Click HERE for an audio version of this message.

2 Kings 5:1-5, 15-17

  Sometimes it might seem that since Israel was God’s chosen nation, they were the only ones who knew the one and only true God. But that’s not the case. In fact, God did not choose a nation to be his special people to exclusion of other nations. He chose a nation to be his special people to make sure he had people through whom he could display his glory to all nations.

  From a practical, human point of view, we might say that the location he chose to be Israel’s land shows that he intended to reveal himself through them to other nations. The land of Israel is a narrow strip of habitable ground sandwiched between the desert and the Mediterranean Sea. The greatest nations on earth; Egypt to the south and Assyria, Babylon, Persia to the north, had to pass through Israel in order to trade with each other or to make war on each other. There were lots of natural opportunities for others to learn about these peculiar people and the God they worshipped who claimed to be the one and only true God.

  Although we cannot say that the United States is God’s chosen nation today because Paul instructs us that Israel in the New Testament equals all believers, we can see some similarities. Up until recently, the majority of people in the United States had a Christian background of one kind or another. As the world’s superpower, many people from almost every nation from around the globe come here to trade, or get an education, or make a better life. As Christians who live here, we still have many natural opportunities to share with those we meet what we know and believe about our God who is the one and only true God, the only savior for all people.

  From our Scripture readings today, we see that God used some unique ways to make sure powerful leaders and people of other nations learned that he is the one and only true God.

  We started with Daniel. He, along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, was captured by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar who were besieging Jerusalem. He was taken to Babylon and trained to serve in the Babylonian government. Amazingly he served as the head of the Wise Men, and in other important government positions, under at least 3 different kings, and the last king was one who had captured Babylon. He served Darius even after a hostile takeover.

  You know how God used these men to display his glory. He rescued Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace. He rescued Daniel from the lions’ den. As a result of Daniel’s rescue, King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in the entire earth: …People should continually tremble and be afraid before the God of Daniel, because he is the living God, who endures forever. His kingdom will not be destroyed, and his dominion is eternal. He rescues and he saves. He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.

  Then there was the man from Ethiopia. We don’t know how he first heard of the one true God. As treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopia, it may be that he had come to Israel on a trade mission. In some way he had learned about the one true God and had come back to Jerusalem to worship. He had purchased a very precious scroll, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and he was reading it as he rode in his chariot on his way back to Ethiopia. He had learned that the God worshiped by the Jews was the one and only true God, but there was a lot he still didn’t know. He didn’t know who the promised savior was or what he had done.

  In this case God honored what the Spirit had spoken through Solomon, that those who seek him will find him. He did it in a miraculous way. He pointed Philip to a specific place and a specific chariot. He told him to get close to that chariot so that he could hear what the Ethiopian was reading. Everything was arranged so that all Philip had to do was to offer his help and explain that the words of Isaiah he was reading were fulfilled by Jesus, the promised Messiah who offered himself as the Lamb of God to pay for the sins of the world, including his. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church today claims that they were founded by this man.

  The Holy Spirit may never tell us to go to a specific road and walk up to a specific car, but he does place opportunities before us every day. Keep your ears open. Listen for questions people are asking that can open the door for you to tell them about Jesus. Watch for signs that people are wondering about God, or what the future holds; for people who are discouraged. Be ready to share with them what you know about God, what Jesus has done for you and for them, and how God gives wonderful and certain hope for the future through his word.

  What about the Wise Men? We know that they came looking for the one born king of the Jews, the Messiah, but how did they hear about a coming Messiah? How did they know look for a star that indicated his birth? We don’t know for sure, but remember Daniel was the head of the Wise Men, and Babylon is in the east. We celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to worship Jesus at a house in Bethlehem as the Gentile’s Christmas. As far as we know, they were the first non-Jews to worship Jesus as their Savior. They remind us that God has always intended salvation to be for all people.

  Finally, there is Naaman. He is a Gentile. He is a very powerful and successful general in the Army of the king of Aram, modern Syria. Did you notice that God takes credit for granting success and victory even to Gentile rulers like Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus, and Naaman? God is not just ruler over Israel. He is ruler over all nations even if they do not acknowledge him.

  Naaman was very blessed, but he had one problem. He had an incurable disease. He had Leprosy. As it happened, on one of his raiding parties into Israelite territory he had captured a young girl who became his wife’s servant. When she learned of her master’s leprosy, instead of wishing evil on the one who had taken her from her homeland and family, she mentioned that there was a prophet of God in Israel who had the power to heal his leprosy. So Naaman got permission from his king along with a letter of introduction to the king of Israel to go to Elisha to be healed.

  You might remember it took a little convincing for Naaman to do what Elisha said and wash in the Jordan, but when he did, he was healed. Not only was he healed physically, but he was brought to see that the Lord is the one and only true God. Listen to what he said to Elisha, If you do not want anything, please give me, your servant, as much dirt as two donkeys can carry, for your servant will never again burn incense or sacrifice to other gods, but only to the LORD.

  Naaman’s servant girl was not an important person in a foreign government like Daniel was, but God used the simple witness of that lowly servant girl to bring great blessings on her gentile master.

  We have covered a lot of different times and places in history in our readings for today. What have we learned? That God has always wanted all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth that he is the one and only true God, the only savior for all. We have learned that God uses lots of different ways and lots of different people to get the good news of salvation out to nations around the world. He can use a faithful Christian serving in government who remains faithful even in the face of persecution. He can guide us so that we are in just the right place at just the right time so that we can answer a question someone has about God or his word. If he can use a quiet wish of a lowly servant girl. He can use you too.

  Think about how God can use you to display his glory, to bring someone half-way around to the world, or across the backyard fence, to know that there is only one true God who sent his Son to be the Savior of all.  Think about ways that you can give a quiet witness like Naaman’s servant did in your everyday conversations at work, or at school. If you are on Social Media, think about ways that you can share a devotion, or maybe just post something about what God has done for you. Our church Website and Facebook page have been seen by people in many counties around the world, including Pakistan.

  Some Christians seem to have the attitude, “we have a nice building, everyone knows where it is, we will be happy to welcome them if they come.” But the great commission doesn’t say build a building and wait for them to come. It says, GO and make disciples of all nations.

  God has ways of getting the good news of salvation out to all people even without us. But he wants to display his splendor through us. He wants us to see ourselves as missionaries, as his witnesses. He has made us his chosen people, his holy priesthood, so that we might declare his praises to all. He wants us, no matter where we live, no matter what our position, whether in a position of power or a lowly servant and everything in between, to be always ready to give anyone who asks the reason for the hope that we have.

  We have the sure and certain hope of eternal life because God, the one and only true God, sent his son to live and die in our place and then he raised him from the dead. There is no other name but Jesus whereby anyone from anywhere on earth can be saved. Do everything you can to let everyone know that truth.