The Repairability Index

The Repairability Index

Sunday, July 3, 2022
| 2 Kings 5:1-14

We don’t like it when things break. This is especially true when what breaks is virtually impossible to fix!

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. We’re familiar with this time-tested adage, but why does it ring true? Because we know that when something really is broken, it can be difficult to get it fixed.

Usually when something goes on the fritz, we know what to do. If the car breaks down, we take it to a car dealer or our favorite local mechanic. A bicycle goes to bicycle shop. We might even repair it ourselves if we’re handy. Sometimes a malfunctioning smartphone or computer can simply be handed to the nearest teenager for a quick fix. Even if something more complex like a marriage or relationship goes off the rails, we can go to a therapist, counselor or pastor.

But what do we do when a device isn’t working, and we don’t have a clue how to fix it? Even if we find a skilled tech who can deal with it, we might discover that a repair is too costly and not worth the time and effort. We’re better off shelling out the cash to buy a new device … which will fail within 18 months … and we swap out again, parting with more cash … until it fails, and the pattern continues. We know how it goes.

To break this cycle, France stepped to the forefront on the world stage in 2021 and, according to one source, began to require “makers of certain electronic devices, including smartphones and laptops, to tell consumers how repairable their products are. Manufacturers selling these devices in France must give their products a score, or ‘repairability index,’ based on a range of criteria, including how easy it is to take the product apart and the availability of spare parts and technical documents. … The repairability index represents part of France’s effort to combat planned obsolescence, the intentional creation of products with a finite life-span that need to be replaced frequently, and transition to a more circular economy where waste is minimized.”

Well, hallelujah! France can now boast, Liberté, Egalité … and now, Reparabilité!

 

Can Humans Be Repaired?

Let’s move for a moment from objects to living human beings. Can humans be repaired?

Another way of saying this is to ask whether humans can experience healing.

Humans themselves have been answering this question since the time of Hippocrates, Galen and even Amenhotep, the chief physician of the Ramessid Egyptian Dynasty in 13th-century B.C. New Testament writer Dr. Luke was himself a physician. Jesus referred to the medical arts when he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17). And, of course, Jesus became famous as a healer himself. Sometimes, he had to flee from the crowds who were seeking a miracle.

Medieval doctors believed that the body had four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. They tried to heal people with leeches, bloodletting or drilling a hole into the cranium when necessary.

We’ve come a long way since then, and the medical profession today is one of the most respected careers. Justifiably so. Clearly, we believe that the human body can be repaired, fixed and restored to normal function. And if the body is damaged beyond repair, perhaps an artificial body part — a hip, knee, arm or leg — will do.

The human body has a strong repairability index.

But what about the soul, mind, relationships or marriage?

 

Naaman’s Story

The case of the Assyrian commander in today’s reading is an interesting one, because here’s a guy who gets a twofer: Both his body and soul are healed! Let’s go over this by looking at four important facts.

 

1. Naaman was sick.

“He suffered from leprosy” (v. 1). This affliction (known today as Hansen’s disease) was as feared and dreaded then as perhaps cancer is today. It was a diagnosis no one wanted to hear. You can imagine Naaman seeing his doctor, and praying to himself, “Don’t let it be leprosy! Don’t let it be leprosy.”

His fears were justified. One writer describes the disease in detail: “Ancient leprosy began as small, red spots on the skin. Before too long the spots got bigger and started to turn white, with sort of a shiny, or scaly appearance. Pretty soon the spots spread over the whole body and hair began to fall out — first from the head, then even from the eyebrows. As things got worse, fingernails and toenails became loose; they started to rot and eventually fall off. Then the joints of fingers and toes began to rot and fall off piece by piece. Gums began to shrink, and they couldn’t hold the teeth anymore, so each of them was lost. Leprosy kept eating away at the face until literally the nose, the palate, and even the eyes rotted — and the victim wasted away until death.”

The Bible says, “Though a mighty warrior, [he] suffered from leprosy.” This is the thing about disease: it is no respecter of persons. He was a big man. A powerful man. A wealthy man. But he had leprosy and had to bear the social stigma that went with it.

Contrast his situation with the Hebrew servant girl, one of the two heroes in this story. She was weak. She had virtually no status in the Assyrian culture. She was the spoils of war (v. 2), a captive, a servant, a youth and a girl. But … she didn’t have leprosy. Naaman was rich and powerful, but had an incurable disease; she was weak and powerless, but had her health.

 

2. This nameless servant-girl dared to make a suggestion.

Her status as a nobody notwithstanding, she had the courage to speak up. She saw a need and filled it. She didn’t have a shred of schadenfreude in her body. Instead, she lifted her voice to offer encouragement to her oppressor: “There is a fix for his condition,” she said to Mrs. Naaman. “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Mrs. Naaman had a chat with her husband, who conferred with the Assyrian king. Arrangements were made for a quick trip to their sworn enemy, Israel. For Elisha’s king, however, the trip was a political nightmare. But now, here is the godless, Assyrian general freshly arrived “at the entrance of Elisha’s house” (v. 9).

 

3. Fix-it jobs require faith.

This is certainly true whether you’re taking the car to see a mechanic, or your daughter to see a doctor. The object of your faith is the mechanic or the doctor. You have to trust them. You have to believe the surgeon operating on your child did not get through med school on a pass/fail basis.

This business of seeking a cure for a disease is tricky. On the one hand, we are all headed for death. It is a destination none of us can avoid. But on the other hand, who can blame us for seeking a cure and thereby extending our lives for as long as possible? In the end, however, death will claim us, and no amount of praying, fasting, pleading, crying or hoping will change this.

This is where faith comes in: When the praying is done, we live by faith. Our lives are not our own. We believe our lives are in the hands of God, so whatever befalls us, it’s good. We’re good. To God be the glory.

At some point, the body is not fixable.

But, fortunately, for Naaman, the news was positive. The Assyrian commander could expect a good outcome, except …

 

4. Pride often gets in the way of repairs and healing.

This is true in matters of the spirit as well as the body. How many arguments have you had with a spouse or coworker that escalated out of control because you just couldn’t let it go? You would rather be right and lose a friend than pick your battles and save a relationship. You’d rather be right than happy.

Naaman is at the house of Elisha, the great prophet in Israel, and immediately, things go south. Elisha doesn’t even appear! Instead, barely acknowledging the general and the effort he has made to travel such a great distance to see him, he sends him a text message that reads: “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”

This was totally unacceptable! “But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage” (vv. 11-12).

Suddenly, Naaman is a nobody. It’s like he had to take a number at the clinic. He felt disrespected. He felt he was being treated as any other leper waiting for a word or touch from the prophet.

Here’s the thing: Naaman, in his pride, had forgotten — like we do so often — that he was, in fact, no different than others in their hour of need. He was the beggar, the sinner, the leper, the human, the needy. He was all of that. In the sight of the prophet and of God, there was zero about Naaman that distinguished him from other lepers.

Now he was forced to bow in humility, and in that humiliation, he realized a truth that is so hard to accept. Like all of us, he was in need of help. He could not go it alone. He’d have to accept Elisha’s help or go home a leper. He could be humbled and healed, or proud and leprous. He could go big and go home as a leper, or he could go small and go home, healed and whole. His call.

Naaman’s problem was pride. God does things in God’s way, but Naaman had this all figured out. He wanted God to do things in his way. When God had other plans, he had a royal fit. “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!” (Italics added.)

Notice the telling words, for me. Don’t we secretly feel this way, too? Perhaps we know at some level that God has many sheep in his pasture, but at a deeper level, we know that we’re special. We are some of God’s favorites. God will surely “wave his hand,” or use a magic wand, or cast some spell, so that my life can be changed for the better. Surely, God knows I need this promotion, or a new job. God will do something to save my marriage, to heal my disease or to patch the holes of my ruined and broken life.

 

The Healing Waters

The good news is that there “is a balm in Gilead.” Help is available, and often it comes from an unlikely source.

In Naaman’s case, it came from unnamed servants (the other heroes of this story), who called an emergency intervention, and had a “come to Jesus” meeting with their master and lord: “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (v. 13).

And so, the mighty Naaman, reduced to humbling himself before the God of Israel, enduring the snub of a prophet of the Most High, walked down to the muddy Jordan, removed his clothes and in so doing, revealed his scabrous and broken body to his servants, and then lowered himself into the water until he was seen no more. Then, he shot up out of the river, gasping for air, and took a second plunge and repeated this until the seven-fold baptism was complete.

You know the story. When he emerged from the final rinse, he was whole and healed. His faith, along with some help from his friends, had made him whole.

 

Beyond Repair

Still, most of us know that sometimes things are beyond repair. The car is totaled. The laptop soaked with spilled coffee cannot be brought to life.

In Naaman’s story, we see an adumbration of the New Testament idea of the old nature vs. new nature dichotomy that the apostle Paul explains in Romans 5-8. You can’t put lipstick on a sow, or, as 19th-century London Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said in his book of proverbs The Salt-Cellars (published 1887), “A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog.” No, says Spurgeon and the apostle Paul, the hog nature must disappear. So here in our reading, in what looks like a rite of baptism, Naaman goes under the water, not once, but seven times — and emerges not a leprous hog, but a new man. Perhaps his nature has not changed (although there is evidence to suggest it has), but he now is a new, fresh, healed, different man. The “old man” (to use the expression of the KJV) is dead; the “new man” lives. “So if anyone be in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This is good news for those who feel that their relationship with God is broken or beyond repair. Rather than attempting a repair, the owner is issued a completely new phone, or, as the Bible puts it, a new nature, a new creation — a fresh start with an entirely new outlook and perspective.

This new nature, Paul explains, is nothing short of the nature of Christ himself.

 

That Said …

We must return to our world in which broken dreams, shattered relationships and unfulfilled expectations exist. Naaman’s story reminds us that in such a world we, too, can be repaired, mended and healed.

As you bring this sermon to a close, you might add — apropos to Naaman’s initial surly attitude — that a little humility goes a long way. Better to be obedient without understanding than to be disobedient and trust in our own wisdom.

  • The arms of love can comfort a human back into wholeness!
  • The balm of forgiveness can heal broken hearts!
  • The justice of restoration and restitution can reset the human condition!

Do you ever feel wounded, scarred, broken and falling apart? You, too, can be “repaired.” That’s what Jesus is all about. Repairs are guaranteed. As the gospel song puts it:

He’s the healer of broken hearts,
He’ll mend your shattered dreams.
He’ll pick up all the threads
Of your broken life
And weave them together again.
To your soul, He’ll bring peace and joy.
A friend in need He’ll be.
The healer of broken hearts
Is Jesus of Galilee.

Amen!

 

—Timothy Merrill and Carl Wilton contributed to this material.

 

Sources:

Stone, Maddie. “Why France’s new tech ‘Repairability Index’ is a big deal.” Wired, wired.com, February 20, 2021. Retrieved December 1, 2021.

To see examples of actual repairability scores, see: “Indice de réparabilité Smartphone.” https://www.indicereparabilite.fr/appareils/smartphone.

 

Click here to download a ZIP file of the July-August 2022 issue as Word Docs.

 

The Other Texts

Psalm 30

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Things that Come in the Morning. Many people enjoy morning above any other time of day. Why is this? Because morning offers unique experiences. What are some things that come in the morning? The sun, i.e. light and warmth; the newspaper, i.e. the world at your doorstep; coffee; breakfast, i.e. energy for the day; a hangover. Okay, that’s not so great. What we’re getting at here (in terms of the text) is what the passage says about joy. When joy comes, it is like morning! Clearly, we can experience joy at any hour of the day. But going through adversity is like spending a long night awake, tossing and turning. When these anxieties are resolved, it is like the dawn of a new day. It’s like the smell of freshly brewed coffee. It’s like sitting down to breakfast in the sunroom. Pure joy! Pure blessing.

What Does the Text Say?

Psalm 30 is a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance from a deadly experience. The psalmist states immediately the reason he will extol the Lord: Yahweh has drawn the psalmist up (v. 2) from Sheol/the Pit (v. 3). The psalmist has two enemies: death and his enemies. Sheol, referred to more than 60 times in the OT, is the realm beneath the earth where all the living eventually wind up. In the middle section of the psalm (vv. 4-7), the psalmist, secure in his prosperity, says to himself that his comfortable existence would be his life forever (v. 6). But the sudden onset of calamity deprived the psalmist of all those graces that constitute the good life, including the psalmist’s ability to participate in the worshiping community. The psalmist cries out to God (v. 10) and receives a favorable response (v. 11). The psalm concludes with a vow to give thanks to the LORD forever. The psalmist’s assertion that his soul had gone down to the Pit (while his body, presumably, continued to languish on his sickbed) reveals one of the early stages in biblical thought in which persons were thought of as being composed of body and soul. This bifurcation of the individual into two “parts” will become more pronounced as first Persian and then Greek notions of dualism begin to influence biblical thought.

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Bad Seed, Good Seed. Cornfields across America are growing higher. “Knee-high by the fourth of July,” as the old saying goes … or even higher by modern standards. Of course, this assumes that the farmers have planted good seed. And that they planted corn. Because, as we know, there is a direct correlation between the seed that is planted and the harvest that is gathered. Sow corn; reap corn. The apostle Paul uses sowing and reaping as a metaphor for a very cool life lesson. Want to know where you will be in five or 10 years? Want to know how happy you’ll be down the road? Ask yourself what you are sowing.

We use the sowing and reaping metaphor as well. We refer to some incorrigible and obnoxious jerk as a “bad seed.” Nothing good will come of him. The harvest he reaps will be grim. Or, in our gardens we may struggle with seeds that are hard to germinate. Eggplant, parsnips, peas and spinach can be difficult to get started. What does one do? Seeds like this can be scarified or nicked to allow moisture to seep through the shell of the seed, or the seeds can be soaked overnight before planting.

The question is, What is your most difficult seed to germinate? The sowing and cultivation of character requires a lot of work. Is it hard for you to plant the seeds of patience, love, kindness, gentleness, wisdom, preparation or peace? Sow patience and reap appreciation; kindness and reap in kind; love and reap love or faithfulness; positivity and reap joy and a long life; integrity and reap trust. But sow anger, and reap fear; infidelity, reap divorce or mistrust; filthy language and reap scorn and loss of friends; abusive behavior and reap ruin and trouble with the law; a smoking habit and reap cancer; drunkenness and reap loss of job and marriage. So, choose the right seeds, be the right seed and reap an abundant harvest. Your barns and silos will be overflowing, like that corn growing right now in Iowa or Nebraska that’s “knee high on the fourth of July” … or even higher!

What Does the Text Say?

The primary preaching theme of this pericope emerges quickly: “God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow,” a concept adumbrated elsewhere in Scripture — Job 4:8, Proverbs 22:8, Jeremiah 12:13, Hosea 8:7 and 10:12, for example. From Paul’s perspective, we have a choice: On one hand, whoever plants seeds of the flesh will harvest a host of carnal sins — including conceit, competition and envy — and forfeit the promised inheritance of God’s kingdom. Conversely, whoever sows seeds of the Spirit will harvest “the fruit of the Spirit” and be empowered to crucify “the flesh with its passions and desires” (5:22-24). Paul is unequivocal: the chasm between life attentive to the Spirit’s guidance and life lived according to the flesh is vast. Thus, Paul exhorts the Galatian believers not to “grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at the harvest time, if we do not give up” (v. 9). Christians are to love one another, cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, and depend on the Spirit’s direction. Instead of living a self-indulgent life as a slave to our own desires, God’s grace demands that our interests turn outward, toward others despite the inconvenience of it all. We become “slaves to one another,” says Paul, and “whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of God” (v. 10; cf. 5:13). The apostle implies that if we cannot have goodwill toward those who share our faith, how can we expect to love and care for those outside of the faith … for those who may be enemies or hostile to our faith? How, indeed!

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Go on Your Way. This text certainly has “Evangelism” written all over it. But, honestly, for most of our congregations, eyes will glaze over. Not everyone has the gift of evangelism. Even Jesus appointed only 70 in this case. How does this text have relevance for Aunt Mabel, a nuclear family of five, a single parent or elderly pensioners? Two things stand out: First, the kingdom of God is near. The preacher can unpack what that means. Second, Jesus is dismissive about the 70 who come back all excited about casting out demons. Forget that, he says. What you can truly be happy about is that your names are written in heaven. What is cool about this is not just the implications for us about our salvation and eternal home, but the implicit understanding that “heaven” has taken notice of us. Our names are there. We are remembered. We are on the divine radar. Let us not be afraid.

What Does the Text Say?

“After this, the Lord appointed seventy others …” (v. 1a). Traveling in pairs was common practice in the ancient world, for obvious reasons of safety (a truth made in passing in the parable of the good Samaritan, found only in Luke’s gospel, at 10:29-37), and perhaps for such other reasons as mutual support, veracity of message and an example of the Christian life of harmonious cooperation. The aphorism Jesus quotes in verse 2 — “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” — carries a dual connotation. On the one hand, the Old Testament image of harvesting nations is the eschatological context of God’s final judgment (e.g., Isaiah 27:12-13); on the other hand, as here, the image expresses the masses who gladly heard the good news of the gospel and were ripe for gathering into the burgeoning church. They are sent with a variety of specific instructions. Curiously, the bulk of Jesus’ instructions in this passage, verses 4-11, concerns the conduct of his missionaries, rather than the content of their message. The mission met with unexpected success (vv. 17-20), but the ultimate source of joy for a messenger of Jesus is that those who proclaim the kingdom of God — “heaven” — are already members of it.

Worship Resources
Benedictions General

Go from this place with clean hearts and right spirits, knowing the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ. Teach others God's ways. Open your lips and declare the wonder of God's mighty works. Have a humble spirit. In the name of God our creator, Christ our redeemer and the Holy Spirit - our sustainer. Amen.

Prayers General

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I'm lost
In wonder, love and praise.

When worn with sickness, oft hast thou
With health renewed my face,
And when in sins and sorrows sunk,
Revived my soul with grace.

Ten thousand, thousand precious gifts
My daily thanks employ;
Nor is the least a thankful heart
That takes those gifts with joy.

Through all eternity, to thee
A grateful song I'll raise;
But O, eternity's too short
To utter all thy praise!

—Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist and poet.

Calls to Worship General

Leader: Dear Lord, we most humbly beg you to give us grace not only to be hearers of the Word, but doers also of the same;

People: Not only to love, but also to live your gospel;

Leader: Not only to favor, but also to follow your godly doctrine;

People: Not only to profess, but also to practice your blessed commandments,

All: To the honor of your holy name, and the health of our souls. Amen.

—Adapted from Thomas Becon (1511-1567), early English reformer.

Music Resources

Hymns
Lead on, O King Eternal
By Gracious Powers
Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing

Worship and Praise*
Our God (Tomlin)
I Shall Not Want (Assad)
River of Life (Powell)

*For licensing and permission to reprint or display these songs on screen, go to ccli.com. The worship and praise songs suggested by Homiletics can be found in most cases on Google by using the title as the search term.

COMMENTARY

on 2 Kings 5:1-14

Today’s lesson, the story of the healing and conversion of Naaman, is one of the better-known episodes from the cycle of stories told about Elisha, a prophet from Abel-Meholah in the northern kingdom of Israel and successor to the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19). The story of Naaman’s healing and conversion to Yahwism combines both the emphasis on the extraordinary, characteristic of the Elijah-Elisha stories (1 Kings 16:29-2 Kings 13:21), and the theological concern for Israel’s neighbors characteristic of the Deuteronomic history, of which the story is a small part (cf 1 Kings 8).

The Aramaean commander-in-chief bears a name whose root means “to be fair” or “pleasant” (a root shared by the name Naomi), which is exactly what he is not as the story opens. Not only does he suffer from a skin disease that may or may not have been what is medically defined today as leprosy (i.e., Hansen’s disease), which would have marred his appearance, but he is also described as a “great man” and a “mighty warrior,” epithets that would have evoked admiration among the story’s hearers - had they not been describing one of Israel’s enemies.

Although Israel and Aram (-Damascus, i.e., Syria) could make common cause against a shared threat (the Assyrians in 853 B.C., and Ahaz of Jerusalem in 734 B.C.; cf 2 Kings 16:5-9), such unity was the exception in their relations rather than the rule. From the time of Ahab of Israel (reigned 869-850 B.C.) until the death of Elisha some 50 years later, warfare characterized the interaction between the northern kingdom of Israel and its nearby neighbor, with only brief periods of peace (cf 1 Kings 20:1-34; 22:1-40; 2 Kings 1:1; 3:1-27; chapters 6-8, etc.). That one of Israel’s arch foes should bear a name meaning “pleasant” sets the ironic tone immediately that will reappear throughout this story.

That Aram’s victory (over Israel?) is attributed by the narrator to Yahweh, the Israelites’ own god, should not be surprising in this context. The idea that Israel’s fortunes and misfortunes alike came from Yahweh was a staple of Israelite theology (cf Deuteronomy 8:11-20), and in the present story the statement foreshadows Naaman’s ultimate and most significant realization, that Yahweh is the only true God.

The introduction of the “young girl” taken captive in a Syrian raid, who serves Naaman’s wife (v. 2), does several things in the narrative. First, it establishes both the range of the social stations that the characters in the narrative occupy, from the lowest (female foreign slave) to the highest (the king). Second, the servant girl introduces the theme of the “servant savant” vs. the clueless rulers (played out by both Naaman and the kings of Israel and Aram). Third, the virtuous, altruistic servant of Naaman’s wife will serve as a foil for the greedy, dishonest servant of Elisha, Gehazi (who appears at the end of the narrative, vv. 19b-27, not included in today’s lesson but clearly a part of the present narrative).

Word of Elisha’s healing powers had likely circulated throughout “Samaria” (v. 3), the region where his ministry was largely located. In 4:38, the prophet is said to be at Gilgal, which is probably not to be identified with the site where the Israelites entered Canaan for the first time (Joshua 4:19), but a town slightly north of Bethel (cf 2 Kings 2:2, which refers to “going down” to Bethel from Gilgal, suggesting a more northerly location for the latter), and in the southern hill country of Samaria.

Officialdom begins to work at cross-purposes with itself when the letter of introduction from the Aramaean king is interpreted, not unreasonably, as a sly provocation to war by the king of Israel (vv. 5-7). The letter’s contents, of course, were more appropriately addressed to Elisha than to King Jehoram, and the mix-up may be a wry criticism of the Aramaean king’s fastidiousness with regard to royal protocol: As a ruler, he felt he could communicate officially only with a peer.

Elisha’s epithet “man of God” fell to him as successor to Elijah, who was also known by that title (1 Kings 17:18, 24). It signifies, in the context of competing claims of genuine
prophecy (cf 1 Kings 18:20-40), that Elisha is a true servant of the true God. The point is emphasized in Elisha’s self-promoting assertion that Naaman should come to him so “that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel” (v. 8). The ultimate personal reality at issue in the story, of course, is Yahweh, not Elisha.

The comedy of ceremonial manners continues when Elisha instructs Naaman, through a messenger, to bathe himself seven times in the Jordan River (v. 10). Seven was a highly symbolic number, not only in ancient Israel, but also throughout the ancient Near East. Naaman takes umbrage at both the prophet’s use of an intermediary and the lack of “performance act” on the part of Elisha (vv. 9-12). Now it is Naaman’s turn to misunderstand the prophet, and it is his servants who must soothe his offended dignity by presenting an a maiori ad minorem argument: If the prophet had asked something difficult of Naaman, he would have done it, so “how much more” should he be willing to do something as simple as bathing in the Jordan to be cured? (v. 13). The argument persuades the servants’ truculent master, described, uniquely, as “father,” a designation ordinarily used by a disciple to a teacher, rather than by a servant to a master.

Naaman’s expectation that Elisha would “wave his hand” over Naaman’s leprosy (v. 11) reflects his deficient, magical understanding of Elisha’s healing power, which is one of the points of the story. The diagnosis and cleansing rituals for various scale diseases in Leviticus 13-14 provide for careful priestly examination, sacrifice and sprinkling (as well as isolation and ablutions on the part of the diseased), but there is no indication that waving of the hand over the affected part was included. Indeed, the expression of waving the hand is rare in biblical Hebrew; it occurs only here and in First Isaiah (11:15; 13:2; 33:15).

After heeding the prophet’s instructions, Naaman emerges from the Jordan restored, with flesh “like the flesh of a young boy” (v. 14), a description of purity found nowhere else in the Bible. It is possible that the comparison is meant to reinforce the ongoing contrast between elders, who are supposed to know what they’re doing, and the (young) servants, who actually seem to have a better grasp of the situation.

Apart from this story, Naaman appears only once more in the biblical record. In Luke 4:27, Jesus refers to the healing of Naaman as an example of a foreigner’s faith working wonders impossible among the chosen, but jejune, people. In the Lucan context, the reference is a judgment against the faithlessness of the Israelites. In Its original context, the story has a less negative connotation: It signifies God’s care not only for the chosen people, but for outsiders as well, a theme found elsewhere in the Deuteronomic history, and articulated most eloquently in Solomon’s great prayer of dedication of the Jerusalem temple (1 Kings 8:30, 34, 36, 39, 50, and especially vv. 41-43).

AT A GLANCE

When a gadget breaks, it’s often easier to simply buy a new one. In response to consumer complaints, France now requires “makers of certain electronic devices … to tell consumers how repairable their products are.” They must provide a repairability index number. What if we had such a number for the problems that afflict the human race?

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ANIMATING ILLUSTRATIONS

It’s one of the fastest-growing segments in the travel business: medical tourism. Medical tourism is traveling to another country to receive medical treatment.

Here in the USA, we’re used to being on the receiving end of medical tourism. Centers of excellence like the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan are used to welcoming well-heeled patients from all over the world.

In recent years, though, some Americans have proceeded in the opposite direction. They do it for financial reasons.

For certain routine surgeries, like knee replacements — or certain high-cost procedures like fertility treatments that may not be covered by insurance — you can shave tens of thousands of dollars off the cost by going to Thailand or India or Taiwan. Those countries boast shiny new hospitals that cater almost exclusively to medical tourists. The doctors are skilled: many went to medical school in the U.S. or Europe. Those financial savings — especially for the uninsured or underinsured — more than pay for the cost of the plane ticket and a couple weeks of R&R at some posh beachfront resort.

Medical tourism is not a new phenomenon, as the story of Naaman the Syrian suggests.


Some Canadian snowbirds are chartering private planes to head to Florida during the winter where anyone over age 65 is able to get vaccinated for Covid-19. …

Ontario couple Annie and Ralph say they have travelled south for the winter for “several years,” and despite travel advisories from the federal government, decided this year would be no different.

Annie explained in a telephone interview with CTV News from Florida that lockdowns in Ontario had left them cooped up in their home during the colder months. …

Annie is over age 65 and Ralph is over age 70. Neither has any major health issues except for high blood pressure. With the slow pace of Canada’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout, the couple estimated they would have to wait until April or later before being vaccinated.

However, Florida adjusted its vaccination plan in December to include non-citizen seniors aged 65 or older. …

The couple flew with four other passengers on a private flight with Momentum Jets, which charters jets and has recently started selling individual seats on them amid a spike in demand from snowbirds looking to travel south … flying private means Canadians can bypass airport security lines and busy boarding gates, limiting their exposure to others.

—Avis Favaro, Elizabeth St. Philip and Brooklyn Neustaeter, “Canadian snowbirds chartering private jets to fly south for faster Covid-19 vaccine access,” CTV News, January 7, 2021.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/canadian-snowbirds-chartering-private-jets-to-fly-south-for-faster-covid-19-vaccine-access-1.5257752

Retrieved February 4, 2022.


The Economist cites a classic case of planned obsolescence, the nylon stocking. The inevitable “laddering” or “running” of stockings made consumers buy new ones and for years discouraged manufacturers from looking for a fiber that did not ladder. The garment industry in any case is not inclined to such innovation. Fashion of any sort is, by definition, deeply committed to built-in obsolescence. …

Nevertheless, this is only one of many known examples; ask yourself why many of us feel the need to buy new cars every few years or get a new mobile phone every 6–9 months. Is this a conscious choice or have we been programmed to think that we need new and fashionable designs?

—Kem-Laurin Kramer, User Experience in the Age of Sustainability: A Practitioner’s Blueprint (Morgan Kaufman, 2012), 13.


The tailfin era of automobile styling encompassed the 1950s and 1960s, peaking between 1955 and 1961. It was a style that spread worldwide, as car designers picked up styling trends from the U.S. automobile industry, where it was regarded as the “golden age” of American auto design.

General Motors design chief Harley Earl is often credited for the automobile tailfin, introducing small fins on the 1948 Cadillac, but [it] … was Franklin Quick Hershey, who … after seeing an early production model of a P-38 at Selfridge Air Base thought the twin rudders of the airplane would make a sleek design addition to the rear of future modern automobiles. Tailfins took particular hold on the automotive buying public’s imagination as a result of Chrysler designer Virgil Exner’s Forward Look, which subsequently resulted in manufacturers scrambling to install larger and larger tailfins onto new models. As jet-powered aircraft, rockets, and space flight entered into public recognition due to the Space Race, the automotive tailfin assemblies (including taillights) were designed to resemble more and more the tailfin and engine sections of contemporary jet fighters and space rockets.

Plymouth claimed that the tailfins were not fins, but “stabilizers” to place the “center of pressure” as far to the rear as possible and thus “reduce by 20% the needs for steering correction in a cross wind,” while Mercedes-Benz called its own tailfins Peilstege, sight lines that ostensibly aided in backing up.

—“Car tailfin,” Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_tailfin.

Retrieved February 4, 2022.


[A story from 2011 about a classic case of a manufacturer interfering with repairability …]

Apple is switching to a new type of tamper-resistant screw. This is not a standard Torx, and there are no readily available screwdrivers that can remove it. This isn’t the first time they’ve used this type of screw — it first appeared in the mid-2009 MacBook Pro to prevent you from replacing the battery — and Apple is using a similar screw on the outer case of the current MacBook Air. This screw is the primary reason the 11" MacBook Air earned a lousy repairability score of 4 out of 10 in our teardown last October.

Apple chose this fastener specifically because it was new, guaranteeing repair tools would be both rare and expensive. Shame on them.

So what is this screw?

It’s similar to a Torx — except that the points have a rounder shape, and it has five points instead of six. Apple’s service manuals refer to them as “Pentalobular” screws, which is a descriptive enough term. It’s certainly better than what I came up with, which was “Evil Proprietary Tamper Proof Five Point Screw.” It’s best I stay out of the naming business. …

This screw head clearly has one purpose: to keep you out. Otherwise, Apple would use it throughout each device. Instead, they only use it at the bulwark — on the outside case of your iPhone and MacBook Air, and protecting the battery on the Pro — so they can keep you out of your own hardware.

—Kyle Wiens, “Apple’s Diabolical Plan to Screw Your iPhone,” ifixit.com, January 20, 2011.

https://www.ifixit.com/News/14279/apples-diabolical-plan-to-screw-your-iphone.

Retrieved February 4, 2022.


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CHILDREN'S SERMON

Hold up a softball and a softball glove, and find out if any of the children will be playing softball at any Fourth of July picnics over the weekend. Ask the children if throwing a softball is an extremely complicated thing. No! Ask them if hitting a softball is something that only an expert can do. No! Ask them if anyone can be an outstanding softball player the very first time he or she plays it. No! Have them tell you what you need to do to become a good softball player. Stress that you have to practice again and again and again, doing simple things like throwing and hitting and catching. Point out that no one starts out being outstanding, but people become excellent only by doing basic things over and over and over. Tell the story of how Naaman was healed by washing himself in the Jordan River over and over again — seven times! Stress that he didn’t want to do this, because it seemed boring and pointless. Then let them know that he was healed by following the guidance of God’s prophet Elisha, and by doing that simple thing again and again. Ask the children if there is anything we do over and over so that we will become outstanding Christians. Suggest that attending regular worship and church school and helping other people are simple things that will turn us into the excellent people that God wants us to be.


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