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Naaman’s Leprosy (2 Kings 5)

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There was a man named Naaman who was the commander of the Syrian army. Naaman was a mighty man of valor. He was highly esteemed because the Lord had given him success in his raids against Israel in their time of wickedness. As commander of the Syrian army, he probably had his choice of spoils from raids on other nations. In one of his recent raids he scooped up a little Israelite girl to work for his wife. How frightening for this little girl to be carried away from her family and into this foreigner’s home!

But this little girl felt compassion for her master. Why? Why have compassion on a man who had ripped her from her family and homeland? She felt compassion because there was something unique about Naaman. Naaman, this great commander, was a leper. Imagine living in this home. We don’t know how long Naaman had been a leper. There was no cure for this skin disease. Naaman would endure life-long pain as this skin disease consumed his entire body. This little Israelite girl said to Naaman’s wife, “If only my master could go to the prophet of Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” As Naaman considered his incurable disease, this was his only hope.

So the king of Syria sent Naaman to Jehoram the King of Israel with gold, silver, fine clothing, and a letter. “I have sent Naaman to you for you to cure him of his leprosy.” When King Jehoram read this he tore his clothes. “Am I God that I can heal a man of leprosy? Can’t you see how your king is trying to pick a fight with me?” Take note of how the little Israelite girl had more faith than the king of God’s nation. Faith can be found in unexpected places. But the prophet Elisha heard of Jehoram’s desperation. “Send Naaman to me so he may know there is a prophet in Israel.”

So Naaman went to Elisha. Just picture the scene. The commander of the Syrian army with his servants, horses, and chariots riding up to Elisha’s home. Mighty Naaman gets off of his chariot and approaches Elisha’s home with a cart load of riches. It does not matter the cost, Naaman will pay it. Naaman will be healed. But Elisha did not come out to meet Naaman. Elisha sent a messenger out to Naaman. “Go wash in the Jordan seven times. Your flesh will be restored and you will be clean.”

Naaman was furious. This was not what he expected. “Behold! I thought he would surely come out before me and call upon the name of the Lord and wave his hand over my leprosy and cure me! Besides that, the rivers of Damascus are far better than Israel’s rivers. Why can’t I wash and be clean in them?” So Naaman left Elisha’s home enraged. Naaman’s servants were troubled by his reaction. They went to Naaman and reasoned with him. “Master, if this prophet would have told you to do some great, difficult thing, would you not have done it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash and be clean?'” This seemed to snap Naaman back into reality. Why not accept this simple healing?

So this mighty Syrian commander stepped into the muddy Jordan waters. Picture his servants all watching him. Even Naaman is observing his own skin each time he dips and comes up from the water. Four times, five times, six times. When Naaman came up the seventh time his skin was like the skin of a child. What a rejoicing must have taken place as Naaman and his servants cried in disbelief at the miracle. The disease that threatened his life was gone. Naaman was a new man.

Naaman gathered his men and his chariots and rode back to Elisha. This time Elisha came out of his home. Naaman spoke to him with awe and humility. “Now I know there is no God in all the earth except for the Lord the God of Israel! Please, accept a present from your servant.” But no matter how much Naaman urged Elisha, he would not accept his gold, silver, or garments. “As the Lord lives I will receive nothing from your hand.” So Naaman made a request of Elisha. “Please give me two mule loads of dirt so I can make sacrifices to no other god but the Lord, the God of Israel.” Not only is Naaman passionate about serving the Lord alone, he admits a potential hinderance to this. He helps his master stand when worshipping his god Rimmon. He asks for the Lord’s pardon when he bows in Rimmon’s house for he only desires to worship the Lord. Elisha replied, “Go in peace.” And so Naaman left Elisha no longer a leper or a pagan but a worshipper of the Lord. This healing is unexpected in many ways. Let’s consider how our own obedience and healing is similar to Naaman’s.

God’s Healing Is Simple

First, obeying God and accepting his healing is simple. Naaman expected something theatrical and ornate. “Behold, I thought he would call on the name of the Lord and wave his hand over the leprous spot!” Naaman’s expectations were not met because he thought God’s cleansing was too mundane. “Or at least I could wash in the beautiful rivers of Damascus!” He was above such a lowly healing in the filthy waters of Israel. Naaman’s servants solve this foolishness. “You would have submitted to a great healing. Why not submit to his simple words, ‘Wash and be clean?'”

God must laugh as he considers how vain we can be at times. We want big productions with glorified baptisms, lofty prayers, angelic singings, bright lights, suits and ties, and ceremony. Is that what God is really looking for? Does submitting to God’s will need a big performance to mean something? Worshipping and obeying God is not about showmanship.

Think of how simple communicating with God is. Isn’t it great how prayer and worship are still powerful without bands and formal language and dressy attire? Loving our brother is simple too. We don’t have to travel across the ocean to teach a sinner. We don’t need a group with a hip name to help someone in need. Think of how simple our salvation is! We are simply called to put faith in Christ through immersion and to seek him with all our heart. No production or formalism or memorized prayers are needed. As Paul repeats throughout 1st & 2nd Corinthians, we need nothing more than the simple gospel. We do not need to add flair to the cross or any aspect of our obedience to make it more powerful. Obeying God is simple. There is only putting faith in God with humble obedience.

God’s Healing Is Free

Second, God’s healing is free. Naaman did not just expect a theatrical performance with his healing, he expected pay a great cost to receive healing. He brought 10 talents of silver, 10,000 shekels of gold, and 10 changes of clothing. The gold alone would be worth millions today. But notice how Elisha promptly refused his presents. Naaman had his head in paganism. Pagan gods only offer favors with their hands outstretched. “What will you give me?” This is not the nature of the Lord. He does not heal Naaman and hand him a card with his bank information.

How refreshing this is to consider. Sin clings to our bodies like a disease. We scratch and claw at it and we cannot remove it. Christ comes in as a loving physician and saves our life. We cannot repay him. His grace is free. A price cannot be attached to what he has done for us. Though Naaman has good intentions, isn’t his wealth of presents a pitiful stash when we consider what he has received? What are dollars when our lives have been saved? We insult the Lord’s generosity by trying to pay him back with our pocketbooks or lists of good works. It is foolishness to attempt to deserve what he has done for us. Appreciating his grace and mercy through heart and life change is the only fruit he desires. We cannot purchase God’s grace. God’s healing is free.

God’s Healing Stirs Devotion

Third, God’s healing stirs devotion in unexpected places. When the Israelite King has no faith in the Lord, do you expect a Syrian commander to exclaim, “There is no God in all the earth except for the Lord in Israel. I will offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to the Lord alone!” This man was so changed that he wanted to carry Israel’s dirt back to Syria so he could offer sacrifices to the Israel’s God alone. Simple and free cleansing has motivated Naaman to serve the Lord alone. Naaman is overwhelmed with thankfulness, praise, and devotion to the Lord alone as he considered how the had Lord saved him. Childlike faith and devotion were created by God’s cleansing in this Syrian.

When Christ was preaching to the stiff, faithless Jews of Nazareth he referred back to this event. Luke 4:27, “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Oh that we had the zeal of this Syrian! We must prevent our faith from growing so cold and dead. Think back to when you saw your sin for the first time. Think back to the weakness and vulnerability you felt apart from Christ’s blood. You were condemned. Remember your overflowing joy when you came out of the water alive? We need to revisit that scene more frequently. We need to see our sin meditate on how much hope Christ has given us more often. We need Naaman’s child-like faith and zeal. God’s healing drove him to cast aside his idols. This childlike faith and zeal because of God’s healing drives us into deeper devotion and life-change. Take advantage of these times that passion for the Lord fills your heart by identifying potential idols and weaknesses that have cropped up in your life. Let the Lord’s healing drive you to greater dedication.

Gehazi’s Hidden Sin

If only this story were finished. We could continue to exult in God’s simple, free, devotion stirring cleansing. But the Holy Spirit’s message is not finished. As Naaman left with his new skin and new God, Satan was working in the heart of one of Elisha’s servants, Gehazi. Gehazi could not believe that Elisha had just allowed this oppressive Syrian to walk in a leper and leave a clean man with his mule loads of gold and silver. Gehazi thought, “As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” So Gehazi caught up to Naaman. Naaman asked Gehazi, “Is all well?” Gehazi replied, “My master has sent me to request a talent of silver and two garments for two young prophets who have just come to us from Ephraim.” In Naaman’s zeal he responded by offering two talents of silver with the two changes of clothing. Naaman had two servants carry them for Gehazi. Gehazi stopped them when they got to Elisha’s hill and carried the riches to the house himself. He set them out of Elisha’s presence and returned to serve Elisha. Piece of cake. Nobody will know.

Then the chilling words came from Elisha’s mouth, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” Gehazi lied, “Your servant went nowhere.” But Elisha knew what had happened. “Did not my heart go with you when Naaman stopped his chariot and met you? Was this really the time to accept money and garments?” A prophet is the last person you want to lie to. I can just see the blood draining from Gehazi’s face as he trembled. Elisha continued, “Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” In an instant Gehazi’s flesh was as white as snow. Gehazi hid his sin and now he was the leper. What a sad finish to such a positive story!

Gehazi’s sin is such a contrast to Naaman’s healing. Naaman’s healing caused him to serve the Lord alone. He even admitted that he has to bow with his master before the god Rimmon. Naaman hides nothing! He bears his heart and soul before Elisha and God. But Gehazi hid his actions before Elisha and the Lord. What did hiding his sin accomplish?

Sin: Hiding Is Pointless.Christians, hiding our sin before God is pointless. Numbers 32:23 says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Hiding our sin is pointless. One day our sin will be completely uncovered and our secrets and the content of our character will be exposed. We think that admitting our sin will cause us pain now, but Naaman only found God’s grace when he humbled himself. Gehazi’s prideful lies and secrets only resulted in God’s wrath and unthinkable consequences.

Sin: Consequences Are Terrible.How valuable were Gehazi’s treasures once Naaman’s leprosy covered his body? How enjoyable and valuable are our sins and idols in the place of eternal punishment? Sin only has a spark of fleeting pleasure. We think we can hold onto pleasure, but the only thing we hold on to are sin’s damning consequences. Leprosy was pronounced not only on Gehazi, but his descendants as well. Imagine what Gehazi’s reaction would be if we asked him if the treasures were worth it. Was the silver worth the leprosy?Are our sins worth eternal shame and torment in Hell?

Conclusion

The big question stands for us to answer. What will you do with your sin? Will you hide it and deny it and suffer the horrible consequences? Or will you run to God in childlike faith and expose your sin for his cleansing? Will you make your sin known for your guilt to be washed away? Listen to what David teaches us in Psalm 32.

Psalm 32:1–11, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered… For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long… I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found… Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD…”

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