Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What about Rage?

Over the weekend I was reading in the book of II Kings, and I came across the word "rage." Having read the KJV version of the Bible many times in my youth, I would have bet that word would not have been found anywhere in scripture, because I thought that the word rage was a relatively recent phenomenon, driven by enormous stress, manic exuberance, chronic depression, and, oh yes, the media.

The truth is that Rage has been around for centuries. Its roots are found in the Latin verb "Rabio," which meant "I am mad." Now I'm not talking about being mad about the outcome of a game of baseball, I mean "mad" as in having gone mad or crazy.The best example of this is when a pet gets bitten by a "rabid" animal and develops "rabies." A once harmless, lovable member of your family goes berserk, foaming at the mouth, biting and scratching anyone who gets in its way. This transition happens like the flip of a switch. One minute you are the happy, astute Dr. Jekyll and the next your are the dark, evil twin, Dr. Hyde, a ruthless, bloodthirsty killer.

Rage is an almost instantaneous shift from control to chaos in your mind that quickly smothers normal sensibility with an extreme rush of adrenaline and oxygen into the bloodstream. Suddenly you are quite literally transformed into mindlessness, as you are blinded from rationality. You become extremely agitated, shaking in many cases, as the adrenal glands pump you full of their intoxicating elixir. Usually you start screaming or worse, inflicting a verbal or physical assault on someone who does not realize that he now has Dr. Hyde right in front of him.

In II Kings 5 you can read about Naaman the Captain of the Syrian Army in approximately 700 BC. He lived in Damascus and reported to the King of Syria. In one of the wars with the Israelites, the Syrians took Hebrew prisoners, usually to do menial work during their captivity. The Bible calls my person of interest, "a little maid." She took care of Naaman's wife all day, every day. This little maid had not only a heart of gold, but was fearless with her trust in God. When she realized that Naaman was stricken with leprosy, she told Naaman's wife, "would to God, that my lord (Naaman) were with the prophet (Elisha) that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy."

Now that might not sound like much to the average reader, but I am here to tell you that she had some kind of courage to speak up as a servant to the number two man in all of Syria at the time. It is impossible to know if the "maid" was treated well, or if she was just one of many tending to her duties. Either way this young lady put herself out there for God, probably risking life and limb, if what she said was proven false. That kind of trust in God send shivers up my spine. Her small light for God was about to change the course of an entire royal family forever...

My guess is that having leprosy in 700 BC was like having stage 4 brain cancer today. Pretty much you are handed a death sentence, so saddling up to go visit Elisha some 200 miles southeast of Damascus was not difficult considering Naaman's options. With his rank and wealth he, no doubt, tried everything possible with Syrian medical practitioners and his god, Rimmon. Just the possibility of cure provided all the incentive he needed to make the trip and to top it off, his King sent a letter to the King of Israel announcing his travel and offering to pay a huge sum for anything that could be done. 

Interesting, the King of Israel reacted with fear and paranoia, especially since the Syrians had just ransacked northern Israel killing thousands and taking many prisoners. So Israel's King viewed the letter as a ruse and the first step in justifying another conflict. Fortunately for Naaman the word of his arrival and leprosy reached the ears of a second generation prophet named Elisha. He was the son of Elijah, a very famous profit in his own lifetime who was just as close our God. Elisha sent word to the King of Israel not to worry and to send Naaman to him.

Here is where it gets really good...Elisha never went out to meet him. He sent a messenger outside his home with instructions for Naaman to wash 7 times in the river Jordan. That was it, no muss, not fuss, or at least that's what Elisha thought anyway. Naaman freaks out at these instructions because they were too simple and too easy. He thought Elisha had disrespected him. After all, Syria had its own great rivers to bathe in that were bigger and better than any river in Israel. After the supposed disrespect, he had a major adrenaline surge or in layman's terms, he blew a gasket. He proceeded to freak out completely, yelling and screaming at everyone, for several reasons:

    1. He traveled 200 miles through desert for nothing, and he looked foolish.
    2. Elisha showed him no respect.
    3. What he was told to do was beneath his station in life, so it had to be false. 
    4. There were probably a few Syrian expletives in his "rage," and then he took off for home.
Seems to me that many of us, including yours truly, have let hurt feelings, pride and apparent lack of respect put us over the edge on more than one occassion. Fortunately for Raaman, God looks on the inside to decide your fate...

Raaman had some servants that maintained a more rational approach, that he at that moment. Somehow they convinced him with some simple logic to at least try a dip in the river Jordan, and 7 times. After the 7th trip in the water, the Bible says, "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a child, and he (Naaman) was clean." Suddenly all that rage melted, along with his hardened heart, and he became immediately grateful to "the man of God." But here is the grand crescendo that started back in Damascus with the "little maid." Naaman said and I quote, "Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel." What a tremendous turnaround in the heart of someone who served another god in his homeland. He went from rage to wanting to give bags of silver and gold to Elisha, which he politely refused. Naaman learned quickly that salvation cannot be bought and paid for because God has no interest in the things we value here on earth. He values the pure heart, and as you can see, He can tame a captain's rage, cure his terminal disease, and make him a believer faster than any of us could ever imagine!

Finally, Naaman originally was a worshipper of the Syrian god, Rimmon. Now that he had found the one true God, he needed one more item from his new friend, Elisha. You see Naaman already knew that he would have a problem attending the worship of Rimmon with the King of Syria right next to him, so he asked Elisha to intercede for him with his new Lord, so that God would pardon him whenever he bowed down to Rimmon. Elisha told him to go home healed and in peace.

Imagine the ride home...He had two miracles and maybe three happen to him in one day, all because of a captured Hebrew servant maid who sparked a progression of events that made a man not only physically whole again, but more importantly spiritually. Imagine coming home disease free on the outside, with a renewed heart and soul on the inside.

Many think this is just a child's story, but as usual, I differ with all of them. This powerful story that could not be more relevant to all of us in 2012. A tiny voice in a foreign land was used by our God through his servant, Elisha to make another believer against all odds. It just does not get better than that...

Thanks be to God,

                                     The Digital Disciple

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Hearing from you is certainly not a requirement. Consideration of what is researched and written is all I ask of anyone who stumbles upon my writings. I believe that my God will take it from there. With His help I try to separate fact from fiction, sense from nonsense, and ultimately clarity from chaos.


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