Reverend Kyle McClellan, Pastor, Grace Church
Key question: Can God be trusted?
The Big Idea: God’s covenant faithfulness is demonstrated in the remarkable interplay between Elisha, Naaman and an unnamed servant girl.
Point One: A remarkable misprint? (v. 1).
How is the main character in this story not Israel but an enemy of Israel, namely Syria? We would have expected to read in verse 1 that God gave victory to Israel over Syria not God helping Syria to victory.
Consistent theme in both 1-2 Kings is if you break the covenant of God, God will cause enemies to be against you and God will be against you. Obedience from the people is part of the covenant God made. Israel disobeys God.
The good news is that the Servant of God prophecied in Isaiah and elsewhere will perfectly keep the covenant conditions of obedience. God keeps his covenant promises even when it causes him great pain, the pain we see when he sent his own son Jesus to keep this covenant on our behalf because we could not.
Point Two: A remarkable testimony (vv. 2-5).
Naaman is a great and powerful man BUT he was a leper. Underline all the times BUT is used in this passage to trace it’s themes. Leprosy is something that drives you away from society to die alone. It was seen as God’s judgment upon a person. Nothing of Naaman’s power can fix this.
Don’t miss the contrast between Naaman as a mighty man of power and the 10 year old-ish Jewish girl who is an unnamed slave of Naaman’s wife. She was carried off by raiders which probably means she saw her whole family killed before her eyes. Now she has to wait upon the man’s wife who ordered / is responsible for the raid. If we were her, we would want Naaman to die slowly, painfully and alone as leprosy brings. But this is not what she says in verse 3. Matthew 5 is where Jesus says to bless those who curse you. This is a practical outplaying of what that looks like.
Point Three: An (un)remarkable welcome (vv. 6-12).
Naaman rolls into town with lots of money equivalents to buy his health and goes to see the king. The king says only God can heal you, Naaman, I can’t. Elisha says to the king to have Naaman come to him because, the inference is, Elisha knows this God who heals and Israel’s king does not.
Elisha sends his butler equivalent to greet Naaman and tells him to goo to the muddy river to wash. Vs11: Naaman wants magic! But Elisha makes the point that God is the one who heals – not a ceremony, not a prophet, and no rabbit out of his hat.
This is in contrast to Jesus walking down the road and seeing 10 lepers and haeling them. He does not tell them to go and wash but simply to be healed. Therefore, who must Jesus be? Jesus is God, the only one who can heal leprosy.
Point Four: A remarkable confession (vv. 13-19).
An unnamed servant, again, says to Naaman to listen to Elisha. Circle the word CLEAN. Naaman is converted and uses the covenant name of God three times in 17-18; he says that God is THE GOD and now Naaman considers himself to be in covenant relationship with God.
In Luke 4, Jesus uses this story of Naaman to show what true faith is and what true faith is not. The religious leaders are furious because this story is used against them. It is God who takes and pursues his enemies and brings them into covenant to him. There were other lepers but only Naaman was healed. Jesus is saying that you religious leaders are out of the kingdom because you don’t have Naaman type faith – you are the other lepers that were not healed.
Genesis 12 says that God will bless all the world through Abraham. Israel as a whole failed this mission because of their disobedience. Jesus has given this mission of blessing the world through Jesus to the new Israel of God, the church, who has this real, Naaman-like faith.
Like the young servant girl, Jesus Christ became weak for us in order to cure us of the leprosy of our souls which are full of sin. We like Naaman have no strength in us that can heal us of this soul-leprosy. Through this same Naaman-like humble faith, we can be washed in the disgrace of Jesus’s brutal death for our sin and be made right with God.
So can God be trusted? Yes, he can, even when it pains him to keep his own covenant, namely through the painful death of his own son.
The Passage of the Words from God: 2 Kings 5:1-19
1Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels£ of gold, and ten changes of clothes. 6And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “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.”
8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12Are not Abana£ and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
15Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mules’ load of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19He said to him, “Go in peace.