Let me begin by apologizing to all the school age kids here for using those three bad words in my sermon title. Nothing is more depressing to a kid than those words, “Back to School.” But the reality is this week all the Lynden schools are starting up again. No doubt for those of you with kids in school the new clothes are bought, the new backpacks are full of school supplies. It’s time to start teaching and learning again. Education is important. Without it life is pretty hard. Psalm 78 is known as a teaching psalm or an instructive psalm, it has something to say to us about teaching and learning. It comes with a warning about what happens if we don’t pay attention and learn what we are being taught.
The scene opens in the foreign country of Syria, north and east of Israel. Syria was a powerful enemy of Israel and this story takes place during a brief period of peace or cease-fire. We are in Damascus, the great and beautiful capital city of Syria. Here we meet the principle character. Naaman was a five star general, a Patton, a MacArthur, a Schwartzkoph; the commander and chief of all the military forces of Syria. He was second only to King Ben Hadad II. We are told that he was a mighty man of valor; a great man held in high regard. He was the king’s right hand man and chief counsel. He was also a man of great wealth. He had a palace in the nicest suburb of Damascus, with a three-chariot garage, stables, servants and all the rest. Having said all this about the man, the last five words of verse 1 change everything, “but, he was a leper.” The impact of those words is like saying he had AIDS. Naaman was as great as the world could make him and yet there wasn’t a soul in Damascus, even the poorest outcast, that would trade skin with him to gain everything else he had. Naaman is a Scriptural picture of the human condition, of you and me. No matter how great or talented, gifted or exceptional, successful, or put together or intelligent, there is a “but” in our life. All of us have our leprosy, our calamity, our crisis, our personal brokenness, most of all our spiritual leprosy, that four-letter word that only has three letters - SIN. Our leprosy is personal and national.
The purpose of the book of Daniel is not to teach us history, but to teach us spiritual truth. This is the revelation of God for His people in all ages and in all places. God knew they needed to hear this and He knows we need to hear it. This book is written so that God’s people will know the Lord Most High rules in the heavens and the earth and that on earth He rules the kingdoms of men and it is the Lord Most High who decides who rules and for how long. People foolishly say that the God of the OT is not a God of grace and love, but a God of justice and wrath. It is not true and the book of Daniel is further proof. All God’s warnings and admonitions and rebukes and corrections are grace; and those vessels He uses to deliver them are grace, are gifts, are cause for thanksgiving and worship. This dream and Daniel’s ability to interpret it are God’s grace to Nebuchadnezzar. Without them he would be left completely in his sin and utterly without hope. Consider the gift Nathan was to King David, and Abigail before that. The rooster that crowed and brought Peter to his senses and caused him to break down and weep in repentance was grace. So was Paul’s rebuke of Peter. Never despise God’s warnings and humbling, they are grace. The book of Daniel and the man Daniel are the compassion and kindness of God.