Like it or not, believe it or not, we all have certain expectations about life. All of us grow up with a perspective about the way our lives will go. We also all have a set of expectations about God. You are not alone in having such expectations. The fifth chapter of 2 Kings is all about expectations and what different people expected God to do.
We are introduced to a commander of the Syrian army whose name is Naaman. Naaman was a great man and a valiant warrior. But I want you to see the reason why he was highly regarded. Verse 1 tells us that the Lord had given him victory over Israel. God is against Israel at this point in Israel’s history because of their rebellion. So the Lord is blessing a Syrian commander who has been attacking and fighting against Israel. God is not blessing Israel but blessing Syria. God is not giving Israel victory but is giving Syria victory. Naaman is the perfect military hero for Syria, except he has a problem. Naaman’s problem is that he has leprosy.
Verse 2 describes what the Syrians are doing. As they attack Israel, they are capturing various people. On one of those raids, they carried off a young girl from Israel who was then put into service to work for Naaman’s wife. But she has a key piece of information. She tells Naaman’s wife that if Naaman could be with the prophet in Samaria, he could be cured. The servant girl is referring to Elisha. Not only does this young girl know about what Elisha can do, but she tells this Gentile, this Syrian, this invader of their land, this captor about this prophet who could heal Naaman. Naaman then goes to the king of Syria asking for permission to go find this prophet who can heal him. So Naaman sets out to find the prophet. He is bringing with him 10 talents of silver, 6000 shekels of gold, and 10 sets of clothing. This is about 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold. In terms of our money, this would be worth about 5.5 million dollars. It is an extremely excessive amount. The point is that Naaman is going to pay off this prophet so that he can be healed of his leprosy.
He also takes a letter with him from the king of Syria to give to the king of Israel. The letter said that the king of Syria has sent Naaman so that you will cure him of his leprosy. When Naaman arrives to the king of Israel with this letter, the king of Israel tears his robes over the impossibility of what is being asked. Listen to what he says in verse 7. “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” The king’s point is that only God can do what is being asked. Therefore, the king of Syria must be picking a fight with me because no one can do what he asks.
Elisha hears that the king of Israel is outraged and sends a message to the king. Why are you upset? Send him to me so that he will know that there is a true prophet in Israel! Elisha seems to say that you had no reason to freak out. You know that I am here. So Naaman goes to Elisha’s house. Please notice how Naaman goes to Elisha’s house: with his horses and chariots. He is coming to Elisha showing how important he is with his horses and chariots. So he comes up to Elisha’s door with all his horses and chariots. But Elisha sends a messenger to Naaman instead of going outside himself. He sends a messenger with a simple message. Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River and your flesh will be restored and you will be clean.
This is good news. All Naaman needs to do to be healed and cleansed is to wash in the Jordan River seven times. But look at Naaman’s reaction in verse 11. Naaman went away angry. Why is Naaman angry? Is this not the answer to his prayers? No, he is angry. Look at what he says. He thought that Elisha would come out to meet him and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the leprosy, and then he would be cured. But that is not what he expected. Elisha did not meet his expectations.
Expectations Rob Joy
I want us to consider this moment. Naaman was told that he could be healed. All that he had to do was wash in the Jordan River seven times. Why was he so mad that he refused to do what the messenger said? Why is he upset about this good news? The reason why is because his expectations robbed him of the joy before him. Naaman had in his mind the way he thought his cleansing and healing should go. Because the news did not match his expectation, he does not have joy at the news but is enraged.
Now I want us to think about this event. Could Elisha have come out to greet Naaman? Sure, he could have done that. Could Elisha have waved his hand over the leprosy and made Naaman well? Of course he could have done that. So why did he not do any of these things? Why did Elisha not match Naaman’s expectations? Why did this go the way it did? One thing that we see throughout the scriptures is that God acts in such a way to defy our expectations so that we will not rely on our own wisdom but truly depend on God. Elisha does not match Naaman’s expectations. He does not take his money. He does not even meet him. The point is simple: will you trust the words that are told to you, even when they go against your expectations?
What God is doing by defying our expectations is challenging us to humble ourselves before him. You see that Naaman must humble himself if he is going to accept what Elisha has told him to do through the messenger. Remember that Naaman is an important man in Syria and a valiant man who the Lord has been using to give victory against Israel. He has come with millions of dollars to buy this healing. This is the moment where Naaman is being challenged to humble himself and accept what he is being told to do for cleansing. You can see that Naaman wrestles with this. Why can I just wash in the rivers of Damascus? They are certainly much better than all the rivers in Israel. His servants also challenge him in regards to this as well. They tell him in verse 13 that if a great word had been told to you, you would have done it. But since you were told to do a simple thing, you reject it? What sense does that make? Just go wash in the Jordan River seven times!
It is interesting how we have limited the power of God because we do not see God working through some great thing. If God heals through medicine, we think it is the medicine rather than God. If God transform our lives or changes our condition, we will neglect to consider that God did it but that it was us or a series of fortunate events. Yet God is telling us that he works through the mundane. He does not have to do a big show. In fact, he does not do a big show to see if you will trust him.
God does not feel compelled to meet our expectations of him. God goes out of his way to challenge our expectations. Saving the world by having Jesus killed challenges our expectations. The apostle Paul described this as the foolishness of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18). God acts to destroy the wisdom of the wise (1 Corinthians 1:19). So we begin by realizing we need to reject our expectations of God. God has no reason to meet our expectations. God does not do things our way. His ways are higher and greater than ours. This is what we should expect of God. We should expect him to do things differently than us because he is not human. He is the Lord Almighty.
But once Naaman got past his expectations, then he could be healed. He goes and dips in the Jordan River seven times. When he does as the man of God told him, his flesh was restored and he was clean. Now I think it is important to ask this question. If Naaman decided to dip himself in the waters in Syria, would he have been healed? If Naaman decided to dip himself in a different river in Israel, would he have been healed? Could Naaman have said that he believed in Elisha’s word but then not do what he said and really have believed? If Naaman had dipped himself in the Jordan River three times, would he have been healed? Why not? What does it really matter if Naaman does exactly what Elisha said? It matters because it is the only way to show his faith in God’s declaration. It matters because it is the only way to show that are willing to humble yourself and do what God says. You might say that it does not matter where he dipped or how many times. Water is water, right? It is all just a symbol anyway. But it matters that we do things the way God says because God wants us to reject our expectations and our logic and simply follow what we are told to do.
Friends, we cannot come to the word of God and reject what he says and think we are going to be cleansed before him. We cannot skip repentance and think that we are going to be clean before God. We cannot skip confession Jesus with our hearts and our lips and still be saved. We cannot skip baptism for the forgiveness of our sins and think that we are going to be healed. The water did not merely symbolize cleansing for Naaman. The water was the means for cleansing as he did as the man of God had said to do. In the same way, the waters of baptism do not simply symbolize our cleansing but are the means by which we will be cleansed because we are showing our submission to the word of the Lord. Baptism is as insulting to our logic and reason as dipping in the Jordan River seven times was insulting to Naaman’s logic and reason. But that was the means of showing faith and humility. We are showing that we reject our expectations and logic and are willing to follow exactly what the Lord has told us to do.
But let us go further with this. We cannot bring our expectations to the laws of God. We cannot come to the Lord’s teaching about sexual purity, the Lord’s condemnation of sexual immorality, adultery, and divorce and think that we are standing clean before God. We cannot bring our expectations about how we treat other people, doing what we want to do and think that we are standing clean before God. God told us that we have to love our neighbors as ourselves. God told us that if we love him we will keep his commands. We cannot bring our expectations of how we want to live life, defy what God has said to do, and think that we are standing clean before God. God is challenging our expectations. Holding on to your expectations on what you think life should be like or doing what you want to do or what you think God should be like will cause you to miss the joy of cleansing and healing in Jesus.
Look at verses 17-18. Naaman understood that this cleansing meant that he was now devoted to the Lord and to no other gods. He declares that he will only offer sacrifices to the Lord and not to the other gods. Even when the king of Syria compels him to enter the house of Rimmon with him, he asks for pardon as he enters while the king worships this false god. Naaman understood that this cleansing was the transforming moment for his life. He must give himself to the Lord because he has been healed and made whole. The apostle Paul says the same thing in Romans 6:1-4 that you are now walking a new life once God has cleansed you through baptism. You have a new life. You are a new creation. You are now clean. You have a new direction. You have been moved from death to life. Honor the Lord who has saved you. Humble yourself before the Lord, believe his word, and do as he tells you to do. Reject your expectations of God and simply follow what he says. Why reject God’s gracious offer for healing in your life?