Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Servants

My hubby is currently preaching through the books of Kings. Last week, he preached on II Kings 5 and a passage just leapt out at me.

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” [II Kings 5:1-3]

There are several noteworthy elements to this section, but the one that struck me the most is the attitude of the servant girl. Picture this: She has been taken from her home and thrust into servitude in Syria, Israel’s worst enemy. Yet, she doesn’t have a bitter or hate-filled heart, but rather a servant’s heart. She has compassion for her master and wishes that he could be with one of God’s prophets. As the passage continues, we read of Naaman’s humbling and healing. He becomes a believer in Yahweh. All because his wife’s servant girl served her captor and had mercy on him.

What’s interesting is that the II Kings 5 is bookended with scenes of servants. The first shows us an Israelite slave serving her master, a Syrian. The concluding scene shows a servant of the prophet Elisha and his treatment of the same Syrian.

Instead of seeing him as a brother, Gehazi holds this Gentile God-fearer in contempt. He is like the Pharisees of the New Testament who hold the Romans in contempt and criticize Jesus for celebrating with them, the wrong type of people.

Overcome with gratitude, Naaman had offered Elisha gifts for healing him, but Elisha had refused:

And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. [II Kings 5:15, 16]

Gehazi doesn’t care about Naaman. When I read the passage, I can imagine his snarl as he says, “this Syrian”. Gehazi decides to take advantage of the hated Syrian. However when he does this, Elisha curses him with the leprosy that had previously been Naaman’s:

But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?” And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’” So Naaman said, “Please, take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and handed them to two of his servants; and they carried them on ahead of him. When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed. Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, “Where did you go, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.” Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow. [II Kings 5:20-27]

The servant girl had a personal reason for hating Naaman. She was taken from her home and forced to be a servant. Gehazi had no personal reason other than a personal bigotry - two servants with two vastly different dispositions. The servant girl’s actions are recorded and thus honored, while Gehazi’s actions are recorded to his shame.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justly,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Singin' In The Rain

I love the old Hollywood musicals and Singin' In The Rain is one of my all-time favorites from that era. I've watched the movie so often, I can quote entire scenes! In fact, one of the best anniversary gifts I've ever received from my hubby was a surprise evening at a dinner theatre for a performance of Singin' In The Rain (complete with the title song and rain!)

The dancing in the movie is incredible. Donald O'Connor's Make 'Em Laugh is such a physically demanding dance number and yet he makes it look effortless.

And then there's Gene Kelly. His dancing is athletic. Masculine. None of Astaire's graceful lines, but plenty of strength, agility and athleticism. Danny Kaye is a close second, but Gene Kelly is my favorite dancer.

Alas, I thought those days were long gone, but to quote Robert Plant, "dancing days are here again." In December, R & B star Usher filmed a tribute to Gene Kelly and reenacted his signature dance, the title sequence from Singin' In The Rain at the Rock the Movies Awards. When my friend Paul Pugh raved about this to me, I was skeptical, but Paul was right. Usher did a marvelous job! You can see it here. And you can watch a side-by-side comparison of his version with Kelly's here.