2 Kings 5:1-19 August 3, 2014 “It’s Not How I Pictured It”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
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.
2 Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, 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!”
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.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 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.”
11 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. 12 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.
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “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’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
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.”
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.
17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.” 19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.”
“It’s not how I pictured it.” Think about the times you anticipated a family gathering and it didn’t turn out the way you had pictured it. Disappointing, right? Or the time you thought about how a vacation would be, only to find that it wasn’t how you pictured it, either. More importantly, what about the dreams and goals you had for your life, your marriage, your career, your retirement… and then reality hit, and it wasn’t at all the way you had pictured it. You hadn’t anticipated miscarriages, cancer, losing your job or losing your spouse. You hadn’t pictured such problems with your children, with your church, or your career… and so became fearful, angry (with God), perhaps withdrawn, not willing to trust God anymore, because he let you down.
Perhaps that’s how Naaman felt here in 2 Kings 5. He was very successful: “commander of the army… a great man… highly regarded, valiant, and victorious”
He’s the kind of guy who might on the one hand intimidate you with his competence and success, and yet on other hand you would want to follow and work for.
Now can you imagine trying to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with Naaman? Where do you begin? What need does he have?
But there’s one thing in Naaman’s life that is not the way he pictured it: he has leprosy. Leprosy was a disease that had no cure. It’s similar finding out you have cancer, only worse.
So what does Naaman do? He does what anyone would do. He is determined to use all his energy to find a cure; he will use his influence and his money to get a cure. That’s how he pictures it.
v. 5 “Naaman…took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing, as well as a letter from the king.” Naaman thinks: “If I throw enough money at this problem, I can buy a cure. And if there’s this prophet in Israel who can cure me, then I’ll make this huge donation to his favorite charity, and he’ll work his magic.”
Or if I need to do some great act- like go without food for weeks or climb the highest mountain with 100 lbs. on my back or endure the desert heat and cold for a month, then I’ll do it. I can conquer this thing! I have the resources! It’s not going to beat me.
But wouldn’t you know it: God’s cure for Naaman’s leprosy is not how he pictured it! To start with, Naaman hears about a possible cure through a lowly Israelite servant-girl (vv. 2-3). Imagine you have a rare form of cancer, and you are talking with oncology specialists in the hospital, and as you walk in hallways, one of the cleaning ladies who comes from Ethiopia overhears your conversation and says, “Oh there is a man in our village in Ethiopia who can heal that kind of cancer!”
Needless to say, that’s not how you pictured the cure, is it?
But that’s what is happening here: The mighty Naaman follows up on a tip for a cure from his wife, who heard it from a foreign servant girl!
By the way: how many of us first heard of the cure for our sinful heart condition through someone quite lowly or through some means that was totally unexpected?
So Naaman gathers everything he thinks that he will need to obtain a cure from this person in Israel. He has an official letter from the king; he’s got a purse full of silver and gold, and he’s bringing along 10 sets of the finest clothing. Why? Because Naaman pictures that it is going to cost him a lot to pay for this cure.
But it’s not how he pictured it!
So Naaman shows up at the house of Elisha, the prophet of the Lord, with his expectations….but Elisha’s goals and methods are not what Naaman pictured at all!
For Elisha wants Naaman (and all of us), to see three things:
First, that there is a prophet of the Lord in Israel (v. 8)
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.”
Is Elisha being boastful here? No. For compare this statement with what happened just a few chapters earlier in 2 Kings 1, vv. 3, 6, and 16, where the king of Israel is ill and wondering if he’s going to live, and so what does he do? He sends his messengers, not to Elijah the prophet, but to the pagan god Baal-Zebub, in the pagan city of Ekron! And so three times Elijah says, to the king of Israel, “It is because there is no God is Israel, that you are sending messengers to Baal-Zebub?”
So now Elisha is picking up on that same idea, and rebuking the current king of Israel that indeed, there is a God in Israel, and that God has a prophet in Israel, and the God of Israel can do great and mighty things through His prophet! That’s how the king of Israel should have pictured it!
How do you picture it, when you are in need, when life is out of control? Where do you turn to?
And what do you tell your neighbors and friends when they are in need? We should be telling them that there is a God in our lives who does wonders. We should be telling them that there is a prophetic Word preached in our church each Sunday that is able to penetrate the deepest need and bring healing and forgiveness! We should be telling them that there is a Savior named Jesus who has power to save to the uttermost! Amen?
Praise God that the Living and True God dwells among His people and nothing is too hard for Him!
Second, that there is a cure, but it is all of grace, and not of works
Here is the biggest stumbling block for Naaman: how God will bring about the cure of his leprosy. It will not be through his personal greatness (v. 1). It will not be through a contribution of riches (v. 5). It will not be through some mighty deed (v. 13) or through some act of penance.
Then how? The Lord’s cure will be found in the way of humility and brokenness, and through faith and obedience to God’s command. It must be done not according to human wisdom or strength or resources, but through a total dependence upon the Lord’s way.
v. 10 “wash yourself seven times in the Jordan.” Elisha wants Naaman to see that his healing would come not by his money or good works or mighty deeds, but only by the power of God, as he trusted what God promised, and he obeyed what God commanded. Trust and obey.
Naaman was to wash in the muddy waters of the Jordan River, but this was not how he pictured his cure! Yet notice once again how in v. 13 his lowly servants are the ones who persuade Naaman to do what Elisha said to do: “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “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’!”
God uses the humble entreaties and wise reasoning of these servants to calm Naaman down and persuade him to try this unexpected cure.
For what happens next, let’s read v. 14, only picture yourself as Naaman, a leper:
14 “So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”
Imagine his wonder and joy! Imagine him looking at his skin and knowing that he has been instantly and completely cured! For not only is his leprosy gone; his skin is restored as if he’s a young boy! It’s not how he pictured the cure… it’s even better!
But there’s another unexpected lesson for Naaman after he is cured of his leprosy. He goes back to Elisha and he wants to give him a gift, in return for this wonderful healing.
But Elisha steadfastly refuses to accept any gift for what God has done for Naaman.
Do you know why? Because Elisha wanted Naaman to know that God’s healing, God’s salvation, God’s amazing gifts, are all of grace. They are free and undeserved.
In the same way, we are saved by grace, through faith, and not of our own works, lest any man should boast. That’s not how we picture it, but that’s how God saves. It’s all of His grace.
Third, there is no God but the Lord; and Christ, His Son, is the Only Savior.
That’s not how people picture religion, is it? To declare that “there is no God but the Lord; and Christ, His Son, is the Only Savior” sounds so narrow-minded and intolerant.
But who said there is no God in the entire world except the LORD of Israel? It was Naaman, a gentile, a heathen, who declared that, in v.15 “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Naaman’s confession is even more dramatic against the backdrop of what happened in 1 Kings 18, when Elijah challenged the Israelites, who continued to waver in their opinion on whether Baal and the Lord (Yahweh) were both gods, or whether Yahweh alone was God. You would have expected that God’s people would have declared that there is no God but the Lord, but instead, it is Naaman who declared this truth!
Centuries later, Jesus would pick up on this in Luke 4:27, when he proclaimed to Israel: “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.”
Naaman is a sign to disobedient Israel that God’s blessing is found only in the path of trustful obedience; in the path of undeserved and unexpected grace. God’s salvation is found not in what we can do or what our heritage is, but only trusting in what Jesus did for us on the cross.
1 Cor. 1:27-31 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is not how we pictured it, is it?
And neither are many of the hard things that God brings into our lives… but He will use them for our good, for His glory, and so that people will know that He alone is God, and that Jesus Christ has power to heal and to save.