Our Post-Miracle Praise
We’re concluding our series tonight, a series I’ve entitled Paths of Praise. Over these three weeks we’ve been looking at three stories from the Bible of people who praise God in trying times.
We defined praise by saying that praise is drawing attention to something good that someone does, and in relation to God, praise is drawing attention to the good that God has done, has promised to do, or indeed simply is.
In the first week we saw how Paul and Silas praised God while they were in jail. They didn’t know what was going to happen, whether life was about to get much, much better or much, much worse; but they committed to praising God for who He had proven Himself to be regardless of their present circumstances. And then we saw how God responded to their praise by delivering them from their trouble.
Last week we saw that Jehoshaphat was facing the end of his kingdom, his people, and his own life. But after receiving God’s promise of deliverance, he stood on God’s word and praised God even though he had not yet seen the fulfilment of that promise. And again, we’re going to see some of that in the story tonight.
I’ve heard some positive report backs from people that are saying they’re enjoying this series – some really kind words sometimes – but I wonder if you’ve been changed as we journey along the path of praise? I wonder if you’ve committed in your heart yet to praise God in all circumstances?
We can learn to be people who praise. We can learn to have a praise mechanism.
As people we have a survival mechanism. When things get difficult, and our comfort or even life is threatened, we instantly go into survival mode. But there are some people who have a praise mechanism: that when things get difficult, and their comfort and even life is threatened, they instantly go into praise mode.
And that doesn’t come from nowhere. No, praise must become so much a part of our identity that we can’t help but praise God in all circumstances.
I find that it’s not only difficult to praise God in the tough times, indeed if we aren’t careful, we won’t praise God even in the easy times.
So maybe you’ve not been going through the seven levels of trouble that I’ve been describing these last two weeks. Maybe you’ve been experiencing a season of relative ease and joy. Well, has your praise life been active and vibrant?
Because I find that praise is a good indicator of our spiritual maturity and vitality. Your conversations at one time were self-focussed and self-glorifying. But as your spiritual eyes are opened through the study of the word of God and the experiences of the Spirit of God, your conversations ought to change. No longer self-focussed and self-glorifying, but in all circumstances and at all times God-focussed and God-glorifying.
Tonight we’re going to be looking at a group of men who experienced a deliverance from bondage through the work of Jesus, and how they responded to it. So please turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 17.
Let’s read there together. “On the way to Jerusalem [Jesus] was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well’.”
WHO WERE THEY?
The story tells us about Jesus as He was on His way to Jerusalem. He comes to this borderland village where, as He’s making His way in, He is interrupted by a small group of men. The Bible tells us that there were ten of them, and they had leprosy.
I’m sure you know all about leprosy if you’ve been in Church long enough. It’s one of the more common diseases mentioned in the Bible, and is often a feature in Bible stories. In fact, growing up in the Church I’ve known about leprosy all my life. I remember as a small child struggling to sleep at night because I was afraid – what if I got it??? I don’t think that’s a fear for a child raised outside of the Church, but it was for me. I knew that leprosy was a terrible disease.
There’s a couple of different kinds of leprosy, but a common one was one that begins with little nodules that begin to ulcerate. The ulcers develop a foul discharge; the eyebrows fall out; the eyes become staring; the vocal chords become ulcerated, and the voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of that kind of leprosy is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma and ultimately death. Leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body; the nerve trunks are affected; the muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands are like claws. There follows ulceration of the hands and feet. Then comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes, until in the end a whole hand or a whole foot may drop off. The duration of that kind of leprosy is anything from twenty to thirty years. It is a kind of terrible progressive death in which a man dies by inches.
Because leprosy was such a terrible disease, God commanded in the Old Testament that those who had it had to be sent outside the camp (Numbers 5:2-3). They were to have no physical contact with healthy people, which is why these came to Jesus while he was just about to enter the village.
Because of this, they weren’t able to perform many of the rituals that would make them spiritually clean.
And so on all levels, they were in a world of pain and isolation. Physically, they were dying by inches. Emotionally, they were removed from their friends, families, jobs. They couldn’t receive a kiss from their wives, a hug or a handshake, or a rub on the shoulder, they couldn’t receive a touch again for the rest of their lives. And spiritually, they were separated from the congregation.
They were complete outcasts, walking dead, with the judgment of God visibly on them.
In fact, leprosy was often seen as the ultimate judgment of God on a person that had sinned. God gave Miriam leprosy when she rose up against Him; God gave Uzziah leprosy when he rose up against Him.
So again, they were complete outcasts, walking dead, with the judgment of God visibly on them.
And so these men come to Jesus with a great sense of need in their hearts.
When you looked at these men it was easy to identify their need. You could see it when you saw them in the streets. No doubt, you could smell it coming. It was easy to identify their need. And they had to identify their need that they were bringing to Jesus.
What is it that you need tonight? For some of you it’ll be easy to identify – as clear to you as the leprosy was to these men.
For some of you, your need is less easy to identify, in fact – it might be hidden. Let me assure you, you still have a need, even if it’s buried very deep in your heart.
That’s why we learnt as a young adult group this past week the words of David in Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
Search me, God. Reveal my fears, uncover my hidden sins. There is still sin in me – I recognise that. I have yet to be perfected, and there’s more of me that must be conformed to the perfect image of Christ, so please show me what my need is so I can bring it to You for healing.
In their need, they SOUGHT Him.
WHO IS HE?
I love how these men come to Jesus. They come to him, and they cry out in their raspy, diseased voices, “Jesus, Master…”
These men recognised the authority that Jesus had, and called Him Master. In the whole book Jesus is called Master many times but this is the only time that He’s called Master by someone other than His disciples.
And these men come to Him and call Him Master.
There are many people in the world today that come to God for a miracle, but are not ready or willing to call Him Master.
I wonder if that’s where you are today? You know what your situation is, I don’t know. But are you wanting the miracle of Jesus, but not so much to make Jesus your Master?
This was a hard lesson I had to learn when I was struggling with porn addiction as a teenager and early young adult. I was so full of shame, and self-hate, and regret, and fear that someone would find out. I was desperate for a miracle. I cried out to God time and time again for a miracle – “Deliver me from this!!!”
But I had to learn that God was more interested in being my Master than He was in delivering me from an addiction.
He could snap His finger and remove your chains – He could snap His finger and heal you – He could speak a word and your circumstances would change for the better – God can perform any miracle to make your life easy but RIGHT NOW God is more interested in your submission to Him than your comfort.
Are you ready to make Him your Master – whether He changes your circumstances or not?
Are you ready to make Him your Master – whether He fixes your marriage or not?
Are you ready to make Him your Master – whether you get a job or not?
Are you ready to make Him your Master – whether He heals your loved one or not?
And then what does Jesus do? He heals them. But not the way that they would have liked.
Jesus turns to them, and says to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
I wonder what the moments following this command were like. These ten men, covered in rags and sores and smelling like rotten flesh would have looked at Jesus, then down at themselves, then at each other, and their faces might have dropped.
“What…why? Look at us, we’re sick.”
They had just called Jesus ‘Master’, and Jesus immediately puts a test of their claim that He is their Master. “You say that I’m your Master – then obey what I tell you to do. Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
In biblical times, amongst God’s people, those who were suspected of leprosy had to be examined by the priests, and the priests would determine, according to God’s given rules, whether the person was to be separated from the congregation for a time or not.
That time away was to see whether it really was leprosy.
But if it appeared that the leprosy wasn’t actually leprosy, and was just a random rash, then the afflicted person could go back to the priest and ask for a re-examination, and if the priest saw that the person didn’t actually have leprosy, he would pronounce the person clean. The afflicted person would then have to perform some rituals, and then he would be allowed back into the community. Not before, only after he was declared clean by a priest.
So Jesus tells these ten lepers to go and show themselves to the priests, and the idea is that they would be declared clean by the priests – and they could have their lives back. They would be able, once again, to hug their wives and kiss their kids. They would be able, once again, to have jobs and provide for their families. They would be able, once again, to have a braai with their neighbours.
But here they stand, with the command and the disease. What now?
This story reminds me so much of another story of a leper in the Bible – Naaman, in 2 Kings 5.
Naaman was a powerful man, a commander of the army of the king of Syria during the years of Elisha the prophet. But despite his great strength, his great fame, his great wealth, none of that protected him from contracting the dreaded disease of leprosy.
Through God’s providence, he heard about the prophet Elisha in Israel, and went to him for help.
When he got to Elisha’s house, with all kinds of expectations of great things – angels appearing and waters parting and earth convulsing – and Elisha doesn’t even come to him but sends his servant to say “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and you shall be clean.”
“What…why? Look at me, I’m still sick. And that’s the instruction you have for me?”
Maybe you’ve claimed Jesus as your Master. I can tell you tonight that there are times when that will be tested – when HE will test that.
Are you willing to obey God’s instructions, even when you don’t understand them?
What if you don’t like them?
You’ve done what you needed – you’ve recognised your need; you’ve accepted Jesus as Master; you’ve heard His instruction – now will you obey Him?
What if God says, “Go and sell all you have, and come and follow me”?
What if God says, “Go, tell someone in the Church what you’re really going through”?
What if God says, “Go, apologise to your son”?
What if God says, “Stop what you’re doing, fix cars instead”?
What if God gives you an instruction that doesn’t immediately make sense, doesn’t glorify you – will you still obey Him? How desperate are you for His mercy, His healing, His miracle?
And so these ten men trust Jesus and decide to obey the instruction. They turn towards the village of the priests, and notice what it says: “as they went they were cleansed.”
In response to their faith God brought the miracle.
I want to fast-forward a little bit here. I don’t want to take it lightly that Jesus rescued these men from a terrible disease, but that’s not the focus of the story here.
It’s important to note here that in this story, it’s not the MIRACLE that was so important to Jesus as much as the RESPONSE TO THE MIRACLE.
The ten men are on their way to the priests and as they go they suddenly feel strength in their calves, and as they pull away the rags they notice that their leg looks healthy! Johnny turns to Zeddy and says, “Hey, your nose has grown back!” Zeddy looks at Joshy and says, “Hey, you’ve got hair growing on your head again!” Joshy turns to Matty and says, “Hey, your hand has grown back!” And Johnny, Zeddy, Joshy, Matty and five others rush off home to hug their wives, kiss their kids and braai with their neighbours – all the things they’ve been dreaming of doing for the past 10 years of bondage.
But one man, a Samaritan, turns around and rushes back to Jesus. As he runs on new feet, he’s praising God with his new voice. Remember that the leprosy would have damaged his voice but now he can speak loud and clear and he uses that voice to glorify God!
We said that praise is meant to be a celebration, it’s meant to be a boasting of God – and when we boast we do it in an exuberant, unrestrained manner and that’s exactly what this man was doing. With everything inside of him he praised God!
He runs to Jesus – before he stood at a distance but now he gets right to Jesus and falls right on his feet, giving him thanks.
And in the following dialogue we see that Jesus greatly blesses this man for coming back. In fact, I want you to take note of what Jesus says to him: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
I don’t know why they translate it like that, because that word well in the Greek is sozo – to save. Some translations have it this way: “Rise and go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Jesus greatly blesses this man for coming back, and many commentators believe that while the rest of the men had their physical bodies healed, here Jesus went a step further and because of the man’s faith and praise healed the man’s spirit too.
I want you to know tonight that IT IS NO GREAT THING FOR GOD TO PERFORM A MIRACLE IN YOUR LIFE. It wouldn’t take great effort for God to aid you in your trouble. God wouldn’t run out of money in the bank to pay for petrol in your car; God wouldn’t be exhausted to lift you up out of depression; God wouldn’t even get tired to pick up the mountain in your path and toss it into the sea. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.”
It is no great thing for God to perform a miracle in your life. But what really matters is HOW WILL YOU RESPOND TO GOD’S WORK IN YOUR LIFE?
In your life, today, are you praising God for the many miracles He’s performed for you even up to this point?
“Oh, but God hasn’t done this yet for me, pastor.”
But have you praised Him for all the things He has done for you?
“But I’ve already thanked Him for that.”
Don’t stop! Never stop! You can thank God again and again for the things He gives you because you’re still enjoying the benefits of it!
“But I still have this need, and that need.”
Give that to Him, but don’t stop praising!
Philippians 4:6 says: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
What lessons can we learn from tonight’s passage:
First, identify your need. It might be obvious, but whether it is or not, ask God to reveal your need to you – if you listen, He certainly will.
Secondly, prepare yourself by taking Jesus as your Master. Maybe you’ve never done that before tonight. Maybe you need to do it afresh tonight.
Thirdly, obey what He’s telling you to do. Maybe even tonight you’ve felt God prompting you to do something, to change something, to stop something. Don’t hesitate, don’t talk yourself out of it – obey immediately, obey completely.
Fourthly, praise God. Praise God now. Praise God before you see the deliverance. Praise God after He delivers you. Praise God with a loud voice. Praise God with great enthusiasm. Find out more about what God has done for you and praise Him. Draw attention in your own heart to what He has done. Draw attention to your family to what He has done. Draw attention to your work colleagues about what He has done – they don’t have to agree that God did it – but you, praise God to them.
And as you do, may the peace of God, the salvation of God, and the joy of God come to you in fullness. Amen.