A story of God’s mercy and justice

I assume most readers have heard the biblical story of Naaman the leper (2 Kings 5). For those who aren’t familiar with it offhand, Naaman was a military commander under the king of Aram, a neighboring kingdom of Israel’s, and was a leper. I had heard the story in church, but only the “nice” part of it, where Naaman gets healed. When I came across it in my daily Bible reading, I realized that there is more to the story.

An Israelite girl who had been taken captive to Aram, suggests that Naaman go and see the prophet Elisha in Israel, to be healed of his leprosy. Naaman mentions this to his king, who says “by all means” and sends him off with gifts for the king of Israel.

Eventually Naaman reaches the home of Elisha. Now Naaman had expected Elisha to heal him by standing over him and invoking the Lord in a mighty voice, or in some such dramatic fashion. But Elisha only tells him, “Bathe in the Jordan River seven times and your flesh will be healed.” Naaman says, “I came all this way for this? Don’t we have better rivers at home?” But his servants say, “If he had asked you to do something outlandish you would have done it. How much more that he only wants you to do something simple?”

So Naaman does it, and of course he is healed.

After his healing, Naaman goes back to Elisha and says, “Now I know there is no God but in Israel. Please accept these gifts.” But Elisha refuses the gifts and Naaman goes on his way.

Now for The Rest Of The Story:

Elisha has a servant named Gehazi, who apparently can’t believe that Elisha refused the gifts. Gehazi hatches a plot, and goes running after Naaman, claiming that Elisha has received some unexpected visitors and would like some of the gifts after all, to give to the visitors. Naaman says, “Sure, take what you like.” So Gehazi takes two talents of silver and some clothing, and hides them in the house.

Later Elisha asks him, “Where’ve you been?” Gehazi says, “Oh, nowhere.” But Elisha has seen in a vision what Gehazi has done, and as a result, Gehazi is struck with leprosy.

That’s all. I just offer this as a counterbalance since in my experience Christians hear constantly about God’s love and mercy, and never about his justice. Not that I don’t like hearing about mercy. Where would I be without it? But without justice the Gospel is pointless. There’s no need to repent of sin if all the Gospel means is, “God is really, really nice and he loves you and wants you to be happy.” If that’s all God is, and if that’s all he wants, then everyone’s eternal happiness is absolutely assured, whether they believe the Gospel or not. In which case, what’s with Mark 1:15 (“Repent and believe the good news!”)?

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5 thoughts on “A story of God’s mercy and justice

  1. The purveyors of apocatastasis are whistling past the graveyard. They would do well to consult Mt 25:31-46, wherein we read what Christ said He will do on the Day of Judgment. Have a great weekend, Agellius. God bless!

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  2. Pingback: More on justice and mercy | Agellius's Blog

  3. Spot on, Agellius. I love the Namaan story for this very reason: it demonstrates the merciful healing power of God, the importance of heeding the Lord’s prophets, and the reality that there are consequences for our actions, as poor Gehazi learned.

    Your commentary at the end reminded me of this verse from Latter-day Saint scripture which I include in the spirit of interfaith sharing and respect: “O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more, do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:30).

    In other words, don’t deny the justice of God, for it’s real. But I like the notion that we should let the justice, mercy, and long-suffering of God (all of them!) have full sway in our hearts and let those attributes of the divine bring us down to humility. After all, mercy will claim the penitent. Otherwise, what’s the point of the gospel of Christ if it demands nothing of those who hear its message? The “good news” should incline us to turn away from our sins and follow Christ, not rejoice in thinking that we can continue with an eat, drink, and be merry mentality/behavior.

    Thanks for the great post.

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