2 Kings 4-5: Naaman
June 15, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Elisha’s extraordinary ministry continues. A widow of one of the prophets is destitute, and by Elisha’s word she is able to provide and pay off her debts through a miraculous provision of oil (4:1-7). Elisha is especially looked after by a wealthy woman, a Shunammite, and in gratitude Elisha miraculously grants her a son (4:8-17). When the son suddenly falls ill and dies, Elisha miraculously raises the boy to life (4:18-37). A stew that is poisoned is miraculously purified, and a hundred men are miraculously fed (4:38-44). These are remarkable days, and it must have been a remarkable experience to watch Elisha at work.
But none is as amazing as the well-known story of Naaman the leper (5:1-14). He is commander of the army of the king of Syria (5:1), and therefore an enemy of Israel at the time. He has leprosy, some sort of skin disease that was incurable and untreatable (5:1). His wife’s maid, a young girl taken captive on a raid into Israel, suggests that Naaman should consult a prophet in Israel who could cure his leprosy (5:2-3). Assuming that asking the king was the right way to go about finding such a prophet, Naaman is sent, under the authority of the king of Syria, with a letter asking the king of Israel to heal Naaman (5:4-6).
The king of Israel assumes this is little more than a ruse, a way to establish a casus belli, a cause of war, and tears his clothes in public despair (5:7). Elisha hears about it and sends the king of Israel a message telling him to send Naaman on to him (5:8). There is a prophet in Israel.
Famously, Elisha through his messenger merely asks Naaman to wash in the Jordan (5:10). He does not even come to see the important commander. Incensed, Naaman turns to leave feeling slighted and treated poorly and disrespected (5:11-12). But his servants—how the servants in this story play key roles!—suggest that really he has been given a “great word” (5:13). He is being promised healing. Why not at least try it? He washes and he is healed (5:14)!
Naaman offers to give Elisha a reward, but Elisha refuses (5:15-16). He is not a miracle worker for fee; he is a prophet of the Most High. Gehazi, however, feels that his master has been naïve, and missed a way of providing for the future or making some money, and so he runs after Naaman (5:20-21). He concocts some excuse to make sense of Elisha now having changed his mind and wanting money after all (5:22). Naaman, of course, is more than happy to oblige (5:23-24). But when Gehazi returns—strangely thinking he could outwit this prophet who had shown himself time and again to have God-given miraculous powers—he is rebuked by Elisha and will suffer the fate of Naaman, his leprosy as a consequence (5:25-27).
Often the barrier to the solution we need is not the obvious one—time or money or resources—but the less obvious one. Pride. Naaman has to be humbled to receive salvation, and so do we. We must simply receive grace through faith. It is not a matter of money or paying for our salvation. It is without price, and yet it is priceless. God is the one who must do it. Ask him. Pray to him. Seek his face. Humble yourself under his mighty hand that in due course he might lift you up (1 Peter 5:6).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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