Naaman the Leper | The Humbling Call of the Gospel

??????????I’d like to take a moment to share a beautiful story of the humbling call of the Gospel… from 2 Kings.

2 Kings 5:1-10 (ESV) 1 Naaman, 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. 2 Now 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. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And 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 clothing. 6 And 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.” 7 And 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.” 8 But 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.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And 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.”

Naaman is a man of status, stature, and accomplishment. He is wealthy and a favored of the king of Syria. But he has leprosy. He is told that there is a prophet in Samaria (capital of the northern kingdom of Israel), and asks permission from the king of Syria to go to Israel to find this prophet.

2 Kings 5:11-19a (ESV) 11 But 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. 12 Are 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. 13 But 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’?” 14 So 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. 15 Then 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.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18 In 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.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

Naaman was angry at the simplicity of Elisha’s command. He expected ceremony, he expected penance, he expected to have to do something only a person of his status and stature could do, to gain a favor from God specially designed of a man of his caliber. However, in his anger he was not beyond heeding the wise counsel of his servants, who rightly rejoiced in the simplicity of the task. Therefore, Naaman, a wealthy and prominent pagan, humbled himself before the Lord God of Israel, and was healed of his disease, and was made clean. He confesses the sovereignty of the one True God of Israel, and commits to serving the God of Israel for the rest of his days. Pride almost prevented Naaman from knowing the God of Israel. He is not alone in this. Let’s take a moment to visit a similar encounter in Matthew 19.

Matthew 19:16-23 (ESV) 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.

In this case, the rich you man was looking at Jesus face to face, an his pride was too much to overcome (in this moment, at least. I often wonder if he might have repented later to follow Christ). This rich ruler already thought himself to be worthy of eternal life. He went away sorrowful at hearing that he needed to become perfect. He simply couldn’t let go of all that he based his identity on (his wealth) to follow Jesus and secure eternal life. Much like Naaman walked away angry. The Gospel requires humility. Such a simple plan, devoid of anything that men might boast. Naaman humbled himself, and I can only hope that the rich young man also humbled himself and repented later. The Apostle Paul had much to say about boasting in the wrong things; let’s look at a couple of examples:

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (ESV) 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Now, I want to also to point out what happens to Gehazi, when he decides to take advantage of the newly saved Naaman for selfish gain.

2 Kings 5:19b-27 (ESV) 19b But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” 21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” 22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. 24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. 25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

Did not my heart go… Elisha was heartbroken by the foolishness and greed of Gehazi. Gehazi was a servant of the man of God, he had no need of anything. Naaman was made whole by God and had dedicated himself to service of the One True God. Elisha declared to Naaman “as the Lord lives” he would not accept payment from Naaman for that which God had done. Given Naaman’s problem of pride that almost made him miss out on his healing, perhaps there was a concern here that allowing Naaman to pay for his healing might leave a door open for the sin of pride to return? That is conjecture on my part, since we don’t have an explanation in this text. But what we do have, is Gehazi taking advantage of Naaman’s desire to return a blessing to Elisha so that he might become wealthy. In the end, he paid a horrible price, and the leprosy of Naaman came upon Gehazi and his descendants forever. This level of permanency we see echoed in 2 Peter 2, when the Apostle Peter is warning of false prophets and teachers:

2 Peter 2 (ESV) 1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep…

Is it no wonder, then that in every discussion of the qualification of Church leaders we see a reference to dishonest gain? Paul, in his letter to Titus puts together both the standard and the warning quite well:

Titus 1:6-11 (ESV) 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

The role of Overseer is not to be taken lightly. The temptation of taking advantage of the children of God for personal gain is ever-present and never happens “all at once”. This is also why a plurality of elders is essential, so that they can keep each other in check. The penalty for false teaching or becoming a stumbling block to those young in the faith are severe, and to be avoided at all cost.

The story of God healing Naaman is a wonderful story, especially for those of us who are not born children of Israel. As the Lord lives… He is the One True God, who loved us so much that He gave His Son, Jesus, as the final atoning sacrifice for the sin of man, so that through Him we might be called sons and daughters of the Most High God.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

May the Lord Bless you and keep you always,
In Him,

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