Glencairn Methodist Church
"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."
The story of Naaman is told in the 5th Chapter of the 2nd Book of the Kings. If you want to read it, I have reproduced it below from BibleGateway.com. It is probably placed between 850 and 840 BC. The actions and attitudes of the principal characters give us some insights into human nature which are relevant to us in our Christian life.
The principal character is Naaman himself and the interaction between him and the prophet Elisha is very telling. Naaman was a five star general, commander in chief of the Aramean army. He was highly regarded by the king of Aram (Hazael) and no doubt by his officers and soldiers - after all he had just lead the army to a great victory. But the story tells us that he also had a high regard for himself. We shall come to this presently.
The Jewish slave girl is the next significant character to come in. She had been captured by the army and she served Naaman's wife. She must have been well treated as she seems to be truly concerned about Naaman's illness. She speaks up and suggests that Naaman should go to see "the prophet" (Elisha) in Samaria. Her significance is that her intervention eventually lead to Naaman being healed and converted to be a follower of Yahweh, the God of Israel. Naaman seeks his king's advice and permission, and off he goes with a letter from Hazael to the King Joram of Israel. The letter was short and to the point. It said, ‘With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ When he received this Joram was scared witless! "Am I God", he says, "Can I kill and bring back to life? This fellow is trying to pick a quarrel with me." He didn't know where to turn. But when Elisha heard about it, he said to King Joram, "Make the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel."
So Naaman rolls up in a great procession to Elisha's house. And what does Elisha do? He sends a messenger to tell Naaman to go and wash seven times in the River Jordan and he will be healed. Naaman was furious. He is a great man. He deserves more respect that this. He expected Elisha to come and wave his hand over the leprosy and to call on the name of Yahweh. "Why should I wash in the Jordan? Surely the rivers of Aram are better that the Jordan? Harrumph!" Luckily his servants had more sense and they persuaded their master to do as Elisha requested. And Naaman was healed.
Was Elisha right to treat Naaman as he did? Yes he was. Naaman was full of self importance. He felt he should be healed because of who he was. He felt that Elisha should have played a ceremonial role in the healing. So he had to realise that he was healed by Yahweh and not Elisha, and he was healed because Yahweh loved him.
When we turn to Christ for forgiveness and healing we must do so knowing that we are unworthy to receive any of this, but that we are forgiven and healed by the grace of God. Our own good works or our status in human society count for nothing. Brennan Manning puts it like this, “Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your opinions about yourself. ” (The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God's Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives)
And don't forget the slave girl! Never miss an opportunity to point out to others the way to Christ.
[If you read on to the end of the chapter, past verse 14, we see that Naaman became a worshipper of Yahweh in the only way he knew how - by taking a lorry load of the soil of Israel back home with him. At that time it was believed that the gods of the nations were all territorial gods and could only be worshipped on their own territory. And Elisha's servant Gehazi makes another appearance in the story, but only to show that he was a selfish and greed man and that he paid a heavy price for his greed.]
2 July 2013
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm
2 Kings 5
New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
Naaman healed of leprosy
5 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 of raiders 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? Make 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 all 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. So please accept 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 Lordforgive 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 have to 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.
After Naaman had travelled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, ‘My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.’
21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running towards him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. ‘Is everything all right?’ he asked.
22 ‘Everything is all right,’ Gehazi answered. ‘My master sent me to say, “Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.”’
23 ‘By all means, take two talents,’ said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. 24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.
25 When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, ‘Where have you been, Gehazi?’
‘Your servant didn’t go anywhere,’ Gehazi answered.
26 But Elisha said to him, ‘Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes – or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? 27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants for ever.’ Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous – it had become as white as snow.
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