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2015 2 Kings Lesson 3

2 Kings 5:1-5:19
Key Verse: 5:10

2015 2 Kings Lesson 3

ELISHA, A SHEPHERD OF A GENTLE NAAMAN

2 Kings 5:1-19a

Key Verse: 5:10

“Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’”

In the last passage we learned how Elisha was a shepherd for kings and people in Israel. Elisha helped each person based on their need. When someone was in agony, he shared their agony and struggled together. When someone was hungry, he gave what he had, and God worked a miracle through him. In this passage, Elisha shepherds a Gentile general, Naaman. Naaman was not easy to help; he was proud, and an idol worshiper. Elisha helped Naaman to overcome his pride, learn obedience, and experience the power of God. In this way he became a shepherd for the Gentile general. We learn from Elisha how to shepherd the people of our times, who are like Naaman.

First, Naaman was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy (1-7).

Look at verse 1. “Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” According to history, Aram led an allied battle for independence against the Assyrians in 853 B.C. The Aramean alliance was successful in liberating the entire region, which included Israel. Thus, Israel was greatly indebted to Aram. According to history, Naaman had distinguished himself in this battle. That is why he was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded. Naaman became an important general, but he had leprosy. Naaman fought courageously against enemy soldiers, but he could not fight against his leprosy. At that time leprosy was regarded as an incurable disease like cancer.

Look at verses 2-3. “Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Bands of raiders from Aram invaded Israelite towns and took captives. One of them was a young girl from Israel. She became a servant of Naaman's wife. It seemed to be misfortune. But there was God's providence to send the young girl to Naaman's house. She could have complained to God and been bitter toward her captors. Instead, she had a compassionate heart toward her master. She said to his wife, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." It was the good news to Naaman. Naaman was humble enough to listen to a servant girl's words. If he had ignored her, he would have forfeited the chance to experience God's power. But in his desperate situation, he listened to a slave girl's words. Then he found a possibility for healing. So he brought this matter to the king. The king sent him to the king of Israel, together with a letter, ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of clothing. The letter read: "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may heal him of his leprosy."

How did the king of Israel respond? He tore his robes and said, "Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!" (7) Leprosy was incurable, like bringing the dead to life; only God could do that. The king of Israel should have remembered God's deliverance from enemies through Elisha. With no sense of God's history, he interpreted the letter as provocation to attack.

Second, Naaman was healed when he obeyed the man of God (8-14).

Look at verse 8. “When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: ‘Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.’” Elisha wanted to reveal the God of Israel to the anguished king and the Gentile general. He wanted to fulfill Israel's priestly duty. If Naaman met the God of Israel, it would have a great impact on his nation. So Elisha invited Naaman to come to him. Elisha was sure that God could heal him.

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots to meet Elisha. It was a large entourage. They stopped at the door of Elisha's house. Elisha did not come out to greet him. He only sent a messenger to say to him. Look at verse 10 “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’” Why did Elisha not come out, and only send a message to Naaman? Elisha knew very well who Naaman was. Elisha wanted to help him curb his pride. Otherwise, it would be impossible for Naaman to be healed. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Ja 4:6). Out of a shepherd's heart, Elisha helped Naaman humble himself before God. Elisha asked Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman needed to obey perfectly.

How did Naaman respond? Look at verses 11-12. “But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage.” Here we see why Naaman could not obey. He had his own idea about how to be healed, rooted in his pride. When it did not happen according to his expectation, he was offended. Furthermore, he thought the God of Israel was just one of many gods. Also he had a strong national pride as an Aramean. In brief, he could not accept the direction of God's servant because he was proud. So he became angry and went away. The proud and angry cannot experience God's grace. God's grace is given to the humble. (Mk 7:29) Naaman was disqualified due to his pride and anger. Naaman's servants were sorry to see their master making such a mistake. So they decided to help him. They advised Naaman, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

Very often, we come to God in the same way. We have our plan and we expect God to say “yes” to it. “Lord, give me a cure. Wave your hand and let the problem disappear. And I will be on my way.” We want God to save us, to fix our problem and we want it a quick fix. Why did God make it so difficult for us? God’s concern is not just physical healing. He wants to see our faith. He wants to see our obedience. He wants to see our humility. He wants us to receive the Giver, not just the gift. Obeying God was not what Naaman was expecting. He thought he could bring some gifts and buy some help. But God wanted to save his soul; faith in him and obedience to his words. This is more important than mere physical healing.

When Naaman heard his servant's advice, he came back to his senses. He realized that he was going in a wrong direction due to his pride. So he immediately turned around. Instead of going to Aram, he went to the Jordan. He denied his own thoughts and obeyed God's direction. Then what happened? When he dipped himself in the Jordan River seven times, his rotten flesh was restored and became clean, like that of a young boy. Wow! He became young and very handsome. He became a new man. He experienced the power of the living God.

Here we learn important lessons about gospel truth. First, Naaman admitted that he had leprosy. Likewise, we must admit that we are sinners. If we deny that we are sinners, we will not receive God's grace. But if we confess our sins, Jesus promises to cleanse and purify us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9) Second, Naaman believed the good news that he could be healed. We must also believe the good news that Jesus heals us from sinsickness. Third, Naaman denied his own idea and obeyed simply. So we must deny our own idea and obey. However, it is not easy for us to give up our own ideas. Some people think that just believing in Jesus is too easy, and that we must do something great to be saved. But we must give up this idea and accept God's idea. God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours. (Isa 55:9).

Third, Naaman's decision to serve God only (15-19a).

What did Naaman learn about the Lord through this event? Look at verse 15. “Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.’” Naaman realized that the God of Israel was the only true God. In the past he thought that the God of Israel was just one of many gods. He thought that the god he was serving, Rimmon, was greater than all the other gods. When he contracted leprosy, he might have prayed to Rimmon to heal him. But there was no answer; nothing happened. Isaiah 44:18 says about idols, “They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.” Though Naaman did everything to be healed, there was no help from his god. But when he obeyed the prophet of the God of Israel, he was completely healed. So he realized that the God of Israel was the only true God. All other gods are nothing but man-made idols. Only the God of Israel, the living God, can solve our practical problems. How can we know this God? When we obey God's word we can experience the power of God and know God very personally. When Naaman obeyed God he gained much more than the healing of his leprosy; he came to know the living God personally.

Once Jesus was with his people in his hometown in Nazareth, and He has this to say about Naaman: Luke 4:27 “And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed - only Naaman the Syrian." Jesus said this because people in his home were not willing to trust him; their hearts were full of unbelief. Are you facing a crisis in your life, like Naaman? - physical problems, mental problems, a crisis in your finance, a hopeless situation at school? God wants you to pray and submit to his way. Through the problems God wants us to confess “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

Naaman came back to Elisha to confess his faith and to thank God by giving an offering. However, Elisha refused to accept the offering. Look at verse 16. “The prophet answered, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.’ And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.” At this moment, Elisha thought it was better not to accept a gift from Naaman in order to teach him the value of God's grace. His healing came only by God's grace through his obedience. It was impossible to repay this grace with money or a gift. This signifies Naaman's decision to worship the God of Israel; he would not serve Rimmon anymore.

God used a maid to save a dying general. God used a group of servant to encourage Naaman to do the right thing. They were privileged to be close to their commander, close enough to see his real problem and then give the right advice. Today we are these servants. When God puts us close to someone, colleagues, classmates, neighbours, he gives us the privilege to know some things about the person, his pain, hurts, and illness. God does it so that we can speak a word that would give them hope, a word that can sustain the weary (Isa 50: 4).

Money can do a lot, but it can never buy for a person the healing of their soul or the peace of his mind. The so-called gods of this age cannot save us and give us eternal life. Only Jesus can heal us from this spiritual sickness called sin. I pray that we may acknowledge of our need of Jesus, accept Jesus as our Saviour and invite him into our life.

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