Luke 4 - Steve Wiggins Daily Devotional
“He also said, ‘I assure you: No prophet is accepted in his hometown. But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them – but to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. And in the prophet Elijah’s time, there were many in Israel who had serious skin diseases, yet not one of them was healed – only Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged.” Luke 4:23-28
Many “Christians” believe it was Yeshua’s Messianic claim that enraged the members of His hometown synagogue. Although the people of Nazareth did reject Yeshua as Messiah, their rage was mostly in response to Yeshua’s reminder that, in days past, G_d blessed faithful Gentiles over unfaithful Israelites.
Yeshua cites two familiar instances from Israel’s prophetic heroes. The first was the story of the widow of Zarephath. 1 Kings, chapter 17. In response to Israel’s king Ahab, and his queen Jezebel’s idolatry, Elijah pronounced a 3 1/2 year drought. Since the drought brought famine to the entire nation of Israel, it signified that the vast majority of Israel’s citizens had followed Ahab & Jezebel into idolatry.
With famine comes death; with death, widows & orphans. Instead of hearing Israel’s pleas for mercy, G_d sent Elijah to a Gentile widow and her son. The L_rd provided miraculously for them, because their faith surpassed that of Israel. Meanwhile, Israel suffered in unbelief.
The story of “Naaman the Syrian” is found in 2 Kings, chapter 5. Naaman was the Syrian army commander. At the time, Syria was Israel’s most-dreaded enemy. Naaman was a powerful man of war, but he had leprosy. To an Israelite, the only thing worse than a Syrian, would have been a Syrian with leprosy!
Naaman’s Jewish slave girl told him that Adonai could heal him. This led Naaman to Elisha’s front door. Because of the Gentile’s faith, he was healed. Meanwhile, Israel’s king had responded in fear, doubting that G_d would heal Naaman…symbolic of Israel’s unbelief. While the Gentile was cured, no Israelite was healed.
Yeshua revealed the Jewish prejudice against the Gentiles. By invoking these images from Israel’s history, He was basically saying that Israel’s present Roman oppression was due to its own sin. Yeshua was also exhorting, that until the people repented from their personal sin, G_d would continue to overlook their unrepentant stance, in favor of Gentiles who, by faith, believe.
By His grace, G_d has chosen to save Gentiles who put their faith in Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). This is in order to provoke Israel to jealousy…that Israel, too, would, by faith, believe in Him and receive salvation. Romans 10:19.
~Steve Wiggins, Assistant Rabbi
Daily Devotional, Thursday, June 6, 2013