God often uses the personal failures, sicknesses, and problems to bring us to the end of ourselves and to the knowledge of the Lord and His salvation. (Ps. 119:67, 71). God uses problems in life to force us to face our deeper problem, the problem of sin, and the need of God’s forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. This chapter illustrates this. Naaman went from his problem to God’s solution which was more than simply the healing of his leprosy. As we will see, Naaman came to know the true God. God worked in various ways, through the disease and through people to bring Naaman to the Lord. In these verses we have portraits of how God saves.
In the last post we are introduced to Naaman the decorated Syrian general, the faith filled, helpful and hopeful slave girl who suggested he go Elisha in Israel and the king of Syria who sends traveling documents so Naaman can go to Israel.
In verse 7 we see the response of the king of Israel. Though he had power, position and wealth, yet unlike the little slave girl, he had no faith. Instead of seeing that God was at work in this situation, he was paralyzed with fear and paranoid. He thought that the king of Aram was seeking some cause to create an incident and reason to attack. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to demonstrate the power of the Lord, he thought only of himself. What a contrast to the little slave girl.
Like the king of Israel, how quick we are to read things into situations and expect the worst rather than take life’s situations as opportunities to serve the Lord and to see Him work.
But from Naaman’s standpoint, what did this do for him? It shattered part of his trust in his human resources. That which he thought would buy his cure was worthless. He was literally left holding the bag, the bag of money in his leprous hand. He needed to learn, as all of us do, that we must never trust in the uncertainty of riches, or power, or position, but instead, to trust only in God’s grace and work in His Son. Compare Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5
Money, power and good works cannot save us or make us spiritual. Only God’s grace and his gifts and blessings in Jesus Christ can do that.
The Invitation of Elisha (5:8)
8 And it happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
Does this not illustrate God’s loving concern for people. Again, God has his messengers. Though some will fail in their responsibility and ministry, the Lord watches over the seeking soul and at just the right moment, he sends one of his own with whatever is necessary to take the seeking person another step toward the Lord and salvation.
Naaman represents the seeking soul, one in need of the Lord. Remember, God was using his leprosy as a means to bring him to a knowledge of the Lord. Elisha on the other hand represents the Lord. And Elisha, as God’s representative, said “let him come to me,” words which the Lord wants to speak to every unsaved person. For Naaman to come “to know that there was a prophet in Israel” was to come to know that the God of Israel was the only true God, and the only real hope in life.
Naaman Goes To Elisha (Vs. 9)
This must have been an imposing picture. Naaman in his chariot with his fine horses, with his gold and silver and fine clothes standing in front of the prophet’s house which was probably very unimposing by Naaman’s standards. Naaman was a proud man. He was proud of his accomplishments, talents, power, position, and wealth. He rode up arrogantly and thought, “surely this lowly prophet of Israel will come out to me, Naaman the great warrior; and he will wave his hand over the area of my leprosy and I will be cured.” We see his pride expressing itself in verses 9-12, but especially in his anger at being told to go and wash seven times in the Jordan.
What does the Scripture teach about pride?
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Prov. 16:18).
Naaman had to be brought low; he had to be knocked off his high horse! God cannot and will not bless us as long as we are full of pride.
The Actions and Commands Of Elisha (Vs. 10)
In a time where hospitality was a big deal, what prophet does seems unthinkable and outright rude. But what Elisha did was really an act of love. It was a means of showing Naaman his pride so he could receive God’s grace.
Sure Naaman reacted and snorted off and Elisha didn’t run after him; it appears he simply turned it over to the sovereignty of God who then worked through the lives of others to bring Naaman to his senses. As long as Naaman was proud, he would never obey the Lord in humble belief or faith.
Naaman had contempt for God’s solution and plan. To him it was foolish. He was thinking, why should I go wash in the muddy Jordan River in Israel when I have clear streams of water in Damascus?
It reminds me of Paul’s comments about man’s wisdom and solutions versus God’s wisdom and plan of salvation in the cross of Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:20-31. The world’s standards and ideas of salvation seem so much more logical in comparison to God’s which seems foolish and so simplistic. “Go wash in the Jordan seven times . . . and you shall be clean.” A very simple thing to do, surely, but Naaman objected. And so the Bible teaches, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). But simple faith is not so simple; men object. Ironically, Naaman “was willing to pay any price, willing to do any great deed of prowess, to make any fatiguing pilgrimage, but he was unwilling to obey a simple command ‘wash and be clean.’”
However, God was at work in the hearts of both Naaman and his servants, and the commander was still to be healed and converted (2 Kings 5:13-14). As soon as Naaman’s servants felt it was safe to approach the commander, they began encouraging him to calm down and to get control of his emotions. Then they began to suggest that he would have paid any price and undertaken any difficult task demanded by the prophet. Why, then, would he not do the simple thing suggested?
Finally being convinced by his servants, the prideful and self-centered commander reluctantly obeyed the instructions of Elisha, the man of God (2 Kings 5:14). He went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, exactly as Elisha had instructed. Immediately after the seventh dip, he was healed. Surprisingly, his flesh became as healthy and as youthful looking as that of a child.
Excited and filled with a heart of thanksgiving, Naaman quickly returned to Elisha and made a strong confession of faith in the Lord (2 Kings 5:15-18). He now knew there is only one true and living God, that there is no God other than the Lord God worshipped in Israel. He and He alone is the true and living Lord.
What are some of the key lessons we can glean from this story?
- God is constantly at work to lead people to Himself, no matter how dark their condition.
- God uses any committed believer, no matter how ordinary or insignificant he may be. How? Because of the mighty God who indwells us. This makes us significant as His instruments.
- The grace of God cannot be bought with silver and gold or power or position. We must come to God in faith and believe His revelation in the Scripture.
- Power and position, silver and gold, can be a hindrance and an impediment to coming to Christ, as well as to effective service.
- Two of the greatest hindrances to experiencing God’s blessing for believers and unbelievers alike are: our pride–Naaman almost lost out because of his pride, and our opinions–Naaman almost lost out because his thinking was contrary to Scripture.
Sometimes people react to God’s offer of forgiveness in the same way. Just to believe in Jesus Christ somehow doesn’t seem significant enough to bring eternal life. What Naaman had to do to have his leprosy washed away is similar to what we must do to have our sin washed away—humbly accept God’s mercy. Don’t let our reaction to the way of faith keep us from the cure we need the most.
The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – 2 Kings, (Chattanooga: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “B. The Syrian Army Commander Naaman Miraculously Healed: God’s Power to Convert and Heal a Person, 5:1-27”.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – History, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 520-524.
Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 575-576.