January 1st 2023: John Scanlon

2 kings 5:1-19

This was a great event in the life of Elisha, which is described in detail. The amount of detail shows that God wants us to pay particular attention.  “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). Presumably, the intention of the Holy Spirit for us is to give particular attention to reading this passage of scripture. It tells us of how Naaman was healed from leprosy.

The man who was the subject of this miracle was commander-in-chief of the Syrian army, the commander of an army of a very powerful nation. Very often Middle Eastern kings were afraid of their generals because of the position of power they were in. But this is not how it was with Naaman; he was esteemed by his master. Their relationship was good. The writer tells us this man was honourable. But he was also a leper. He was a man of considerable success. By him, God had won great victories for Syria.

“Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honourable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valour, but a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1-2).

This is interesting. This man was a pagan, an idolater. He was wicked and self-centered. But all victories were given by God because God rules this world. He makes use of the wicked as well as the righteous. Naaman was a mighty man of valour. He was a very imposing man. He was brave, daring, fearless – yet he was a leper. He was becoming a pitiful, repulsive object.

Whenever we come across the word ‘leper’ we come across ‘Selah.’ We should stop and pause, consider what we are reading. Leprosy is chosen in God’s word as a symbol and representation of sin. Of all the diseases mentioned in the Old Testament, it was only with leprosy there had to be a ritual of a special cleansing. The leper was thrust out of the congregation of God’s people and had to stay outside the camp until he was healed. It was lonely the leper that, when he was clean, he needed to be certified by the priest that healing had taken place.

Three whole chapters of Leviticus are devoted to leprosy. Like many diseases, it can start as an insignificant event. Many forms of leprosy are inherited. Sin is also inherited. Leprosy begins in a person and has no pain; you can have it for months before it becomes obvious.

It is only in the later stages it becomes obvious what it is and it becomes contagious. Some leprosy spreads rapidly, even affecting the bones. Leprosy is a living death, and in all cases, it leads to banishment. It affects every part of the person. Like sin, it spreads rapidly and banishes someone from God. It is the curing of such a leper we come to today, and we also learn something of the cleansing of sin.

The contributor to the miracle.

Naaman was quite unable to cure himself of this burden. There was no cure for this wasting disease, but God’s providence is already at work. One day, as head of the army, Naaman would have travelled into Israel. A little girl was snatched from her parents – all in the providence of God. Look at the contrast between Naaman and the little girl. Naaman was a Gentile, she was Jewish. Naaman was a great man, second only to the king. The little girl was a maid in his household. We don’t even know her name. After this passage, she is not mentioned again. Naaman was a commander, the girl was the lowest of all the slaves of the nation. Naaman was a leper. She knows the cure.

God has a reason for every earth-shattering event. We don’t see it at the time. We may see it sometime later. This little girl wasn’t resentful of her treatment. There was no bitterness in her heart. She shows concern for her master. She made the most of her opportunities. She speaks of how leprosy could be healed. God is in charge and decreed the leper would be cured. The maid’s words were received and acted on. God works in the hearer.

Mistaken views about a miracle that is to come to pass.

When it comes to the Word of God, people think they know better. Naaman is now mis-directed and sent to the wrong place – the King of Israel, “Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” (2 Kings 5:5). People are troubled by their sins and go to the wrong place. When Naaman went off to his cure, he took with him immense riches, an enormous sum of money, “So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.” (2 Kings 5:5b). He thought he could contribute to his own healing. He took more wealth than a whole community would need.

The King of Israel’s response to the letter was poor; he didn’t give it to God. He didn’t even remember there was a prophet in Israel. That little servant knew better than the King.  Elisha sends a message to the King. He gives clear instructions what needs to be done.

Naaman goes to the prophet, with all his might, “Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house.” (2 Kings 5:9). It is an impressive sight, but he is still a leper. Verse 10 shows what is required for this miracle to take place, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” (2 Kings 5:10b). Naaman felt he was a great man who deserved special treatment. But he needed cleansing in the same way as everyone. There is only one door. Elisha didn’t even come to the door. He didn’t need to see the man’s self-importance. As far as Elisha is concerned, there’s just a leper, not a commander. He would do nothing to show deference to this man’s rank.

The Word of God is to show he is nothing in the eyes of God but a sinner. There is no help until he recognises it. Naaman needs to come down from his high horse and plunge himself where God’s spokesman tells him to plunge. He has nothing to pay, nothing to contribute. All he needs to do is obey and trust in the power of God.  No man can give the pardon we cry out for. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanses us from all sin.

The prophet treated this man as if he were a nobody. If men, like the commander of the army of Syria, get treated as nobodies, they get cross. Naaman did! His pride was wounded, so he turned away angrily. He had just been told to humble himself. Whenever we tell that to unsaved people and point out that there is nothing they can do for themselves, we get the answer we hear from Naaman, “Behold, I thought.” That was his problem. Every sinner has his own idea of how he should be cleansed. This man, in his arrogance, thought he knew better. Naaman wanted things done on his own terms. He was concerned for his own honour. Humbling himself was not part of his plan.

Naaman had received what no king had been able to give him – full directions in how to be cleansed. But he had his own ideas for healing. No-one could touch him until a priest declared him clean. He needed to know the power of healing comes from God, not man.

Naaman thought of the rivers of his homeland. Eventually, Naaman tries what the prophet says and went into the River Jordan in obedience. Six times he dipped himself in the river and nothing happened. But on the seventh time there is a public testimony that God’s word is true. His body was cured, “So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.“ (2 Kings 5:14). Now Naaman seeks Elisha out and calls himself Elisha’s servant. He is transformed.

When we read this story, we see our own experience. The only way to be healed is to come to God in humble obedience, in humble repentance, and be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. To be cleansed from our spiritual leprosy we need to humble ourselves. The only way is God’s way. Let us walk in that way.

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