Naaman the Leper: II Kings 5:1-27
Setting: Damascus, the capital of Syria. There were few places in the ancient world that were more evil or more destitute of any real message of God. God choose this place to display his mercy and love. Deserts and mountains stood between Damascus and the Land of Promise but those barriers that sometimes limit us do not limit God. God was about to work. In a city filled with statues to false Gods God was going to establish a new place of worship.
Read verses of II Kings 5 as highlighted in the notes.
In II Kings 5:1 we meet Naaman. This may not be his actual name but an honorary title. It literally means was “well-informed” or “beautiful” and may have been the way he was known in a city. Verse 1 tells us a great deal about him but it does not say anything about his religious faith. He is not presented as righteous man or a religious man seeking truth so no one can say God presented Himself to him because of that. He was a man who had everything the world considers important but was missing the one thing most desperately needed by everyone, a right relationship with the creator God. We are told about him:
- He was a Captain/Commander: Commander in chief.
- He was a great man in the sight of his master, that is respected by the king.
- He was honorable/highly regarded. He found favor with the king because of all he had done for the nation.
- He had been used by God. Although he was not an Israelite the sovereign God used him in Syria.
- He was a valiant soldier, a brave man who had proven himself equal to any task given to him.
He was a man who had everything except!
- He had Leprosy, a dreaded disease that no man could cure. Leprosy was so ugly in ancient times that God used it to picture sin for His people. Healing was only available from God. That pictured the truth that only God could save from sin.
How many reasons can you come up with as to why God would choose to send help to Naaman? I know of no reason why God would come to him except to display His glory and because it was while we were all yet sinners that God loved us.
A Jewish Slave. Read II Kings 5:2-4. What reason did she have to help the man who was a slave master? What reason did she have to share her faith in a Jewish God with a Gentile? She had every human reason to hate her captive and even rejoice when he became a leper. The armies of Benhadad had taken her captive and carried her away into slavery. “Just by chance,” she ended up exactly where she could be used of God. Think about how insignificant her life must have seemed in this ancient city where sin abounded, and God’s witness was so small. We can too easily feel overwhelmed by the abounding sin and limited support for the things of God in our society, but God can work through the seemingly most insignificant of individuals because He is God.
II Kings 5:5-6 give us a picture of how Naaman understood the way in which God works. He assumed that God’s blessings were available for a price. That is how he was raised. Unfortunately, this is the assumption many today still hold. God’s blessing is available at a price. Sometimes it is expressed as “If I am really faithful doing something I don’t want to do God will reward me.” Sometimes it is expressed as “If God does this, I will do this for Him.” For Naaman the assumption was that the magicians of Israel would perform a miracle for the right price. It’s the way of the natural man. Grace is foreign to sinful thinking.
Think about the length Naaman was willing to go to in order to find what he needed. A trip from Syria to Israel was no small undertaking but he was desperate and was willing to try anything. It is amazing the things people try to find even a moment of peace, peace that God offers freely to all who believe in Him.
King Joram: Once Naaman arrived, he went to the one the world would assume could give access to God. The slave girl said a prophet could cure him, but Naaman chose to approach the king. Maybe he assumed the prophet was subject to the king.
II Kings 5:7 gives a pathetic picture of the king. The king of Israel was supposed to know God and be able to lead the nation in worship, but King Joram did not know God, so he was unable to help. He didn’t even know about Elisha. The king’s behavior should cause us to ask “Had Naaman come to me would I have been able to show him God or take him to a servant of God?”
God allowed Elisha to know of the events that had transpired and directed Elisha to send a message to the Naaman via the king.
II Kings 5:9 and 10 tell us that Naaman went to Elisha. But Elisha refused to come out to him, not as a sign of disrespect but to ensure God got all the glory. Elisha directed him to go and dip seven times in the Jordan River. God requires faith and faith alone. The Jordan was not the cure but a test of heart. Washing was a symbol of cleansing. Unless one is washed in the blood of Jesus there is no cleansing of sin. See I John 1:7, Revelation 1:5, 6
In II Kings 5:11-12 we learn that Naaman refused to follow the directions of Elisha. Pride always stands in the way of being cleansed. Naaman says, “I thought.” Sinners always have an idea of how to be right with God.
He let it be known that he was not treated with respect. To be saved from sin one must be willing to admit that he is a sinner with nothing to bring to God. To be right with God we have to acknowledge that even our best deeds and thoughts are still only filthy rags compared to the righteousness demanded by God.
The rivers back home were better. The world always has a fairer, more realistic approach or better way to God. But Jesus declared that He and He alone was the way and that no one, not Naaman or anyone else, could come any other way. It’s God way or no way regardless of how we feel about it.
A servant intervened. II Kings 5:13. We must never lose sight of the impact an encouraging word can be to one who is seeking God. It took courage for the servant to address his master that way but in the end, it led to cleansing. God is so patient. He continued striving to get one to follow His directions. See Hosea 11:4. God never gives up on the lost.
Naaman yielded to God and did it His way. He was cleansed exactly as God said he would be. Naaman had to do something. A sinner must respond by faith and ask God to save him. Repentance is required. When Naaman did what God asked him to do, that is to trust in God’s way, God did something. It all happened just as God said it would. God acted as soon as the faith was evident.
II Kings 5:15-19. The God once doubted is now worshipped. And it all began when a slave girl shared her faith in the true God who can do all things.
There are multiple lessons here. There is a lesson regarding the necessity of faith for salvation. If anyone has been trying to do church their way and not God’s way the story of Naaman is a challenge to make that personal commitment to Jesus. A personal commitment may at first seem contrary to today’s philosophy, maybe ridiculous or even unnecessary, but it is God’s way or no way as Naaman learned. God has only one way, the way of the Cross. And the only way to that Cross is by faith, not of works, lest any of us boast.
There is also a powerful message for all of us who have made that decision. Are we willing to be simply slaves or servants and tell others about Jesus? That may be the only way they will ever hear that there is a way of salvation or that they will make the commitment necessary. God want us to be faithful in our testimony because in ways we may never be able to imagine, He will use us for His glory and others will come to know that God and God alone is worthy of worship.
1) Leprosy: (From Arthur W. Pink)
- Has an insignificant beginning: Almost imperceptible
- Is inherited: A communicable disease and easily transmitted from parent to child
- Works insidiously and almost imperceptibly: Has little pain until the final stages
- Spreads with deadly rapidity: Slowly but surely the whole body is affected
- Highly infectious: Spread to others wherever he goes
- Peculiarly loathsome: Nothing more ugly to the eye than one infected with leprosy
- State of living death: Slowly spreads and destroys every function of the body
- Dealt with by banishment: Forced to dwell outside the congregation of Israel
- Makes its victim an object of shame: Places him outside of everyone and everything
- Incurable in O.T. times: It took a miracle to cure this disease