A River of Mud

2 Kings 5:9-14 – So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 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?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

2014-03-22 - A River of Mud-- (IMG_1120)Facing a river of mud during a late winter hike on the trail from Furnas Shores to the Day Lodge at Caesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

If you are hiking and encounter a muddy section of trail the best option is usually walking right through the middle.  This assumes, of course that you are wearing waterproof boots, which, if you plan to hike during late winter and early spring here in Ohio, are a necessity.  Hiking sticks are also a big help to keep you from falling if you lose your footing.  Trying to avoid the mud frequently results in a slip as you hit the sloped edge of the trail, and if you try to go around, the trees, brush, and briar patches are often more of an obstacle than just sloshing straight through.

From the first eight verses of 2 Kings 5, we learn about a man called Naaman.  He was an important and powerful man, the commander of the king of Syria’s army. Despite his status, he suffered from leprosy.  And, through a young servant girl, taken captive on one of his raids into Israel, Naaman learned of a prophet in Israel who could cure his disease.  In today’s passage we read about Naaman’s encounter with that prophet, Elisha.

As the passage begins, we find that Naaman has made the long journey from Syria to Samaria and is standing at Elisha’s front door.  But, all Elisha does is send a messenger, giving Naaman instructions to wash seven times in the Jordan River.  Naaman is angered.  First of all, he is an important man and Elisha does not even take the time to speak with him personally.  And, second, the idea of washing in the Jordan, a notoriously muddy river, is something beneath a man of Naaman’s stature.  Eventually Naaman’s servants do convince him to follow Elisha’s instructions, and his leprosy is cured.

Now there was nothing magical or even medicinal about the Jordan River, nor in the process of bathing seven times in muddy water, of course it was God who healed Naaman.  Through these unusual means, though, God did reveal himself as the one true God and make it known that Elisha was his prophet.  “Then he [Naaman] returned to the man of God [Elisha], he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, ‘Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel’” (2 Kings 5:15a).

Many times in our lives we face difficulties, turmoil, and sorrow.  Those who know the Lord will go to him in prayer seeking comfort, wisdom and guidance on how to deal with these tough circumstances.  And, much like Naaman wanted the easy solution—just have Elisha say a prayer, wave his hands and make the leprosy disappear—we, too, would like God’s answers to be simple, clean, and painless.

That is often not the case, though.  By taking us right through the middle of the muddy path, or having us take the seven time plunge in the muddy river, God can draw us closer in our walk with Jesus or teach us a valuable lesson.  If the path was always easy, we might never learn the lessons we need to learn; we might become complacent in our lives and forget that we are dependent on God for all that we are and have and do.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

So, the next time you are faced with a river of mud on the path ahead of you, whether metaphorically in your daily walk with the Lord or literally on your next hiking adventure, remember that it is God who has charted your course and that the best route, his route, is often the one right through the middle of it all.  Fortunately for those who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior we are not walking this muddy path alone.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Yours in Christ,
Todd the Hiker

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

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Let Us Rejoice

Psalm 118:24 – This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

2014-02-22 - Let Us Rejoice (IMG_0936)Trailside view looking toward the lake, north of the Caesar Creek Lake Visitor CenterCaesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

Today we got our first glimpse of spring.  Though the trail was muddy and the forecast calls for a return to colder temperatures in the coming week, less than a week ago the ground was covered in nearly a foot of snow.

Any day in late February with sunny, blue skies and temperatures near 60 degrees Fahrenheit is special, but having that day fall on a Saturday is truly an occasion to rejoice.  And, I cannot imagine a better way to rejoice and be glad in this day that the Lord made than getting out on the trail and enjoying the beauty of God’s amazing creation!

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

For to the Snow He Says, ‘Fall on the Earth’

Job 37:5-7 – God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend.  For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.  He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it.

IMG_0887Snow and ice cover Flat Fork CreekCaesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

He Will Make Straight Your Paths

Proverbs 3:5-8 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

2014-02-11 - He Will Make Straight Your Paths (IMG_6828)Rough Trail descends a twisted path from the Second Story rock shelter. Red River Gorge Geological Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

If you plan to hike in a remote area like Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, you really should not just head out and rely on your own sense of direction to find your way; carry a good topographic map and a compass and learn how to use them.  Before you venture out on an unfamiliar trail spend time studying your maps so you have a good understanding of the route you plan to follow as well as key landmarks along the way.  Even though GPS technology is useful and quite amazing, anybody who carries one will know what I mean when I say that reception is very unreliable in places like the one in this photograph.  Finally, even if you are hiking on familiar trails, you should always let someone know where you are going, what trails you are hiking, and when you plan to be back.  If something happens and you do not return as expected, this information could save your life.

In our daily walk we too often rely on our own understanding, failing to pick up the map and compass God has given us to navigate on our Christian journey through life, the Bible.  Whether in good times or bad, we think we have all the answers and fail to seek the Lord through his inspired and infallible words found in the pages of Scripture.  Nor do we turn to him in prayer like we should, seeking him with all our heart and trusting in his perfect will for our lives.  Yet if we heeded the words of today’s passage from Proverbs 3, we would realize that it is God who “will make straight [our] paths,” instead of following the twisted paths of our own understanding.

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.