Naaman has come to Elisha for healing by bringing a letter from the king of Syria, 10 talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes. We noted in the last lesson that this amount could be estimated to be worth about 5.5 million dollars. Naaman, after getting past his anger, has humbled himself and dipped in the Jordan River seven times as he was instructed. By displaying this faith, he was healed from his leprosy. In 2 Kings 5:15 Naaman returns to Elisha, desiring to give him the gift that he has brought with him, which is an overwhelming amount of wealth. But look at what Elisha says in verse 16. He takes an oath that he will receive nothing that Naaman has brought. Even though Naaman urges him to take it, Elisha refuses. Naaman now sets himself to be a worshiper of the Lord God alone, in spite of the challenges he faces as a commander of the king’s army. We would expect this happy ending to conclude at verse 19.
After Naaman has traveled a distance back to Syria, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, thinks about something. Look at what he is thinking in verse 20. “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought.” So he takes an oath that he will run after Naaman and get something from him. Now it is important that we listen to the motivation that is being exposed in the heart of Gehazi. He does not like that Elisha has spared Naaman the Syrian. The NIV reads that Elisha was too easy on Naaman. The CSB says that Elisha let his Syrian off lightly. Naaman is a Syrian and commander of the army. He should pay for his sins. He should pay for what he has done. Now we are presented with an interesting contrast of servants. Remember that the captured servant girl was the one who wanted to help Naaman and told his wife about Elisha and how he could heal her master. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, has a different perspective. He wants to exploit Naaman. He thinks that Naaman has been let off easy for who he is and what he has done. Gehazi thinks that what Elisha has done was unfair. It was not just. He needs to pay something for what he has done.
So Gehazi hurries after Naaman and catches up to him (5:21). Naaman asks Gehazi if everything is all right. Gehazi says that all is fine but then he makes up a story about how two young men from the company of the prophets have come and they are in need of provisions. Gehazi asks for two talents of silver and two changes of clothing. This would approximate to around $57,000 in our day. Naaman is anxious to help and gives him the money and the clothing. Naaman sends two servants with Gehazi to help him carry the money back. Gehazi then takes the money from their hands and hides the money and clothing in his house (5:24).
Gehazi then comes before Elisha but Elisha wants to know where Elisha has been. This is Gehazi’s chances to explain himself and tell all that has happened. However, Gehazi lies and says, “Your servant went nowhere” (5:25). Gehazi should know better. You cannot hide anything from the man of God. So Elisha responds in verses 26-27. Elisha says that his heart was with Gehazi when he went and did what he did. Listen to what Elisha asks Gehazi. “Is this a time to accept silver and clothing, olive orchards and vineyards, flocks and herds, and male and female slaves?” (5:26 CSB) I want us to think about what Elisha asks. Was this the time to try to get what you could out of Naaman? Was this the time for retribution? Was this the time to try to get whatever we could out of him? Was this the moment to act like a typical worldly person? Was this not the time to show the grace of God to this Syrian? Therefore, the leprosy that was on Naaman will now cling to Gehazi and his descendants forever (5:27).
A Common Problem With God
What is revealed in Gehazi is a common problem that is revealed in our hearts throughout the scriptures. Gehazi is upset that this Syrian commander has not paid the price for what he has done against Israel. Not only this, this Syrian commander has been graciously healed without cost. How dare Elisha do this? But this feeling comes up over and over again in the scriptures.
What was Jonah’s problem? Listen to what he says to God about how God handled the Assyrians, who were a terrible and wicked people.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 3:10–4:3 ESV)
Notice that Jonah is upset about the merciful nature of God. This was the whole reason that Jonah avoided going to Tarshish. He did not want those terrible people to repent.
Jesus told two parables that made the same point. In the parable of lost things, Jesus talks about a lost son who wastes the father’s inheritance in frivolous, reckless living. When the lost son returns, the older brother was angry and refused to go into the party (Luke 15:28). The older brother then points out all the things that this younger brother did against the father. He devoured your property with prostitutes but you killed the fattened calf for him (Luke 15:30). Do you see his problem? How can you receive him back? Look at all that he did against you!
In the parable about the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells a story about laborers who kept coming into the vineyard to work for the master at various times of the day. Some started early in the morning and agreed to work for a day’s wage (denarius). Some began working at 9 in the morning and some began working at noon. Some began working in the afternoon and some in the evening. The master gave everyone the same amount of money for the work they did. This caused the ones who worked the longest to complain about what they received even though this is what they agreed to.
And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” So the last will be first, and the first last. (Matthew 20:11–16 ESV)
Notice how the master frames the problem. You are begrudging his generosity. You received what you were promised but you are upset that others are receiving the generosity of the Lord as well. This is the essence of Gehazi’s problem. Do you see what everyone has a problem with in each of these accounts? Everyone has a problem with the merciful nature of God. They have a problem with the generous nature of God. They hate the mercy of God.
So what is the issue? The issue is that the person is taking the place of God and saying that what that person has done is unforgivable. They are saying that the person does not deserve the mercy of God because what they have done is too severe. Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners and the Jewish leaders grumble about it. Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ house and the crowds grumble because he was a chief tax collector. Gehazi thinks that Naaman needs to pay up and pay up to him, of course, for his own personal benefit. Jonah thinks that the Assyrians need to pay up by being judged. They should not get what we have.
Like the older son, we can think that someone has done too much to be forgiven. It is not right for God to save that one. It is not right for God to bless or be generous toward that one. Now I am going to hope that we would never think this way. We all realize that we are all sinners. We all realize that none of us deserve the grace of God. None of us deserve God’s generosity. But who will you not forgive until you get your pound of flesh out of them? Who will not show kindness or mercy to because you think they have done too much against you? You see that Gehazi’s problem is that this Syrian Naaman should pay for what he has done. So he is going to make him pay. Even though God does not require payment, Gehazi was going to make him pay. Do we do this? Do we think that we need to make someone pay for what they have done? Do you make your spouse pay with your anger when they sin against you? Do you make your family members pay when they do something wrong? Do you make your co-workers pay when they do something against you? Do we think we need to not let people off the hook just like Gehazi thought?
Now think about what Elisha said to Gehazi. This was not a time for a selfish grab but time to show the glorious mercy of God. Friends, this is true for us. It is not time for us to make a selfish grab for power over another. It is a time for us to show mercy to another because God has been merciful to us. No, they do not deserve God’s mercy and neither do we. Yet we forget this and we think we have the right to do what we must because they have done wrong. We can only be the merciful people God has called us to be when we see how undeserved our mercy is. We are not better than anyone else. This is truly seen in 2 Kings 5. Naaman, the idolatrous Syrian commander receives mercy while Gehazi, the Israelite servant of Elisha receives judgment. This is the point Jesus made in Luke 4:27. There were many lepers in Israel but none of them were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.
So how do we look at sinners? How do we look at people who harm us and wrong us? How do we look at those who fail us? How do we look at those who have failed God? Do we expect them to be worthy of our forgiveness and kindness? Or are we at the forefront of mercy, reaching out to them with hope from God because we understand the mercy of God in our lives? We understand that God truly does not want any to perish but all to come to him through repentance.