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The history of Elisha is characterized by actions much more than by many words. But those actions – which are pictures with a meaning; they express something – speak a clear language. This is also the case in this history. In 2 Kings 4 we see the prophet among the people of God. The lessons there are for believers for their spiritual growth.
In 2 Kings 5 the prophet goes to work beyond the sphere of the people of God, for he is the prophet of grace, and grace is not limited to Israel (Lk 4:27). There are many lepers in Israel at that time, as the Lord Jesus says. That is a shocking picture of the uncleanness and corruption of the people. Not one of the people is cleansed of his leprosy, because no one appeals to God’s grace. Without any claim, the pagan Naaman is cleansed and healed. Only God can do that. His grace extends to those who don’t belong to His people.
The Great Naaman
Naaman is a great man in the world. Moreover, the LORD has been involved previously with him. He has achieved victories which the LORD has given him. God is already busy with this man. However, he has a big problem. In all his distinction, prestige and riches, he is leprous. No matter how great a person is in other people’s eyes, in the eyes of God he is leprous, sinful.
We see here that God governs the whole world. He is not only the God of Israel. He has a special connection with Israel, but that does not mean that He has nothing to do with other nations. Although since the flood He has let the nations go on their own way (Acts 14:16) and has no direct involvement with them. He is the One Who has the course of all world events in His hand and directs them. He leads everything to His goal.
A Little Girl
2Kgs 5:2 forms a great contrast with 2Kgs 5:1. In 2Kgs 5:1 we see the great world. In 2Kgs 5:2 the circumstances of the life of a little girl. Naaman is “highly respected”, the girl is “a little girl”. The whole story of this chapter is ‘made’ by this little girl, whose name we don’t even know. But God has a plan with the life of this girl. He wants to use her for Naaman’s healing. He uses everything for His purpose, even the wrong deeds of people, like robbing this girl.
The great man depends on a little girl for his curing. She does not seek revenge, but wants to do good. She does something very simple. She does not give a sermon, but refers to the man of God. This way we can take people to meetings where God’s Word is brought, or to people who bring God’s Word. She has not experienced that Elisha has cured a leper, but she has faith and she knows that there is a man of God. How many times has a child’s finger pointed an adult the right direction!
The girl must have experienced a lot. It may happen to you to be taken as booty by hostile men. Maybe she has seen her parents killed. She was taken away, without a chance to ever return home. Everything that is of value to a child is only a memory for her. Such a memory can be a torment in a situation like hers. All her dreams about a bright future have been shattered. She is a slave of the wife of the general of a hostile country. All she has experienced could embitter her.
She could have watched the leper Naaman with gloating; with intense satisfaction she could observe this evildoer, the destroyer of her life, die a slow death. However, this is not the case with her. She seems to come from a God-fearing family, a ‘remnant’ family. She knows the prophet Elisha and knows that God’s power works through the prophet. Instead of seeking revenge, she is seeking the welfare of her master and, through his wife, she points out to him the man of God in Israel.
Here we see the special guidance of God. Often, people are brought into God’s kingdom by the laborious efforts of others, by what others have to suffer. We know that from countries where the believers are being persecuted. How many suffering believers have already been an eternal blessing to those who persecuted them. In this history, without this girl, there would have been no healing of Naaman’s body nor salvation of his soul.
We also see here, how in God’s government, the greatness of international politics and the smallness of personal circumstances unite. We see that today. God rules through consultation in parliaments and ministries, where the strategy to be pursued is discussed. God also rules by everyday inconspicuous encounters, a phone call, a visit. God is above all and orders everything to work together to fulfill His purpose.
Help Question to the King of Israel
Naaman’s wife believes what the girl says. This means that this girl has always done her job faithfully and has proven to be reliable in everything. She hasn't been sloppy in her work. She must have been an exemplary slave. Without having to be exhorted to do so, she has complied with the Scripture: “[Urge} bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Tit 2:9-10). Maybe she has spoken about her home situation. Anyway, Naaman’s wife tells her husband that there is someone in Israel who can cure him.
Naaman also believes what the girl said. But he does not act upon it. He goes to his own king. He needs his influence, he thinks. It was also difficult for him to go to a hostile people on his own as a general. He also needs the king’s consent.
His lord wants to help his army commander to be cured. He does so in his own way, without there being any faith. Diplomatically, the king of Aram, or Syria, writes to the king of Israel asking him to cure his general. Perhaps he assumes that the man about whom he hears such good news, must be at the court of the king, in his service as his private healer.
He also gives his general a huge gift to take with him. In Elisha he sees no more than a healer from whom you can buy healing. It will appear that this is not the case. Many people think that you can do something for the forgiveness of sins. The heinous indulgence that the roman-catholic church, inspired by the devil, has come up with, is an example of this. In this way, the king of Syria seems to want to give the king of Israel the honor of healing.
This type of diplomacy, however, does not achieve anything and is even counterproductive. The king of Israel feels attacked. Theoretically he knows God. He is horrified that he is considered to be as God to be able to cure the leper, for indeed only God can cure leprosy (cf. Gen 30:2). In practice, however, he does not take God into account at all. He only thinks about his own position. He can only think on a political level. He, who like no other as leader of God’s people, must show that there is a God who can cure, sees only horizontally. He and his people bear the Name of God, but do not acknowledge Him. Is this not the case in most of today’s Christianity, i.e. the professing church?
The king does not think of Elisha, although the prophet lives close to him. Many spiritual leaders today also do not point to the Lord Jesus, because they only think about their own position. They too have no answer to the questions of life.
Elisha Lets Naaman Come to Him
While the king may be walking back and forth in his room and discussing how to deal with this crisis with his ministers, there is a message from Elisha. Elisha has heard of the king’s reaction and is indignant. He commands the king to send Naaman to him, so that at least Naaman will know that there is a prophet who reveals the words of God.
It will have been a remarkable display. The whole distinguished company, the whole impressive parade, leaves the king’s palace and parks in front of the prophet’s humble home. Then a messenger from Elisha comes out to bring Naaman the good news of how he can be cured.
Elisha himself does not come out, not even to greet Naaman. He doesn’t want to meet Naaman’s splendor with an eye to eye view and remains unmoved by the brilliance of the world. Naaman’s greatness means nothing to him, but Naaman’s leprosy much. Nor does Elisha want to put himself in the foreground. Only his word is important and that can be conveyed by a messenger.
Naaman is very upset about this treatment. How does Elisha dare to treat him like this! As a great man, he wants to be treated with respect, even when it comes to his healing, which he cannot achieve himself. He also wants to pay for it. He is doubly offended: he is not treated in the way he wants, as well as being expected to do something that he considers to be below his dignity.
The words “behold, I thought” indicate that Naaman has his own ideas about his healing; Elisha had to come out and perform a fitting ritual to heal him. But Elisha treats him like a leper and Naaman doesn’t want that. Naaman has written the script for his healing and thinks that the prophet would want to do it that way. That’s all. He expects a spectacle, a dazzling show from this miracle worker.
How often do we already have an idea of how God should solve our problem? And if it does not go according to our expectations, are we not disappointed in God? We not only want God’s blessings, but we also want to indicate how He should give them to us. Thus we want to make the sovereign God our ‘messenger boy’. Or we see God as a dispenser: throw in a prayer and you can take out your desired article.
Naaman has two problems: his leprosy and his pride. He must first be freed from his pride and then be cleansed of his leprosy. Naaman has his arguments for not simply doing what the prophet has said. Why the Jordan? Why that way? Why not in another river? He knows rivers that are bigger and cleaner.
But he does not know the difference between these rivers and the Jordan. What makes the Jordan different from any other river is that the Jordan speaks of death, the death undergone by the Lord Jesus. Only there you can find salvation. In other rivers, which also speak of death, the result is destruction without healing. Those rivers do not help.
Naaman gets angry because he has not surrendered to grace. He has yet to learn that. Naaman must learn to see himself as a corrupt Syrian (cf. Deu 26:5). The Israelite must also learn this. Religious flesh wants to be caressed, but it must be judged.
What Naaman, in the picture, must learn is that salvation can only be found in the foolishness of the cross. Paul preached this foolishness in Corinth (1Cor 1:22-25), where the believers also thought so highly of themselves. Many people – and sometimes also believers! – do not like that the gospel demands humility. They do not like the simplicity of the gospel, nor the narrow way of the gospel. It may seem foolishness to put your trust in Someone Who died on a shameful cross, the ultimate example of weakness and misery, but it is the only way to be saved. He is salvation; or else you will be lost forever.
Naaman Becomes Clean
A number of people on his way show Naaman the way to salvation. First there is his wife’s maid. She points him to the prophet through his wife. The second person is the messenger of Elisha. He brings him the Word of the prophet. The third time it is his servants. It is now a personal contact, servants who talk to him to do what has been said to him. It is about using the means proposed to him. It is the aftercare, the watering of the message.
The servants have a good relationship with Naaman. There appears to be confidentiality between them. They persuade him with simple arguments and remind him of the simplicity of what is required of him, which appears to be the big obstacle at this time. The servants help him get over it.
At the insistence of his servants, Naaman relinquishes all dignity. He humbles himself before the eyes of his subordinates. The great man becomes a little boy. By becoming a little child he gets a new life resembling that of a little boy. Not only humility is required, but also faith is needed. He must not dip himself in the Jordan five or six times, but seven times (cf. Jos 6:2-4). All his money and his king’s intercession are of no avail. It comes down to obedience of faith.
Naaman Wants to Reward Elisha
Without pomp and ceremony, Naaman returns to Elisha and stands in front of him. Naaman has changed completely. This can be seen in his attitude. No fewer than five times in 2Kgs 5:15-18 he speaks to Elisha about himself as “your servant”. That is a huge change compared to the arrogant attitude he had at first. He has also changed in his confession. He confesses the God of Israel as the only God on earth. How much would Elisha have liked all the people of God to have confessed this from the heart! In any case, it did not occur to king Ahaziah to confess that (2Kgs 1:3; 6; 16).
Naaman would like to thank Elisha. He wants to give a gift to show his gratitude and to no longer buy his healing. This is due to a lack of knowledge. Elisha refuses that gift. He wants to avoid Naaman making a payment for his healing. Elisha has sometimes accepted gifts. A servant must learn to accept gifts, but he must also learn to refuse them. When preaching the gospel, it must be avoided.
Naaman Returns Home
Then Naaman asks for a favor. He wants to take some earth from God’s land to his own country to offer the LORD sacrifices. By this he will also remember that he is one with the people of God, and in spirit together with them, worship the only God Who deserves worship.
We should not criticize Naaman’s actions. Elisha doesn’t do that either. We can see Naaman as a newly converted person, someone who has yet to grow in his faith. Much patience is needed at this time. He is not yet a mature believer. In addition, he also has obligations that he cannot shirk.
The fact that Naaman says all this in this way, testifies of a sensitive conscience. He experiences the tension between exclusive adherence to the God of Israel and what is expected of him in connection with his work. And that worries him. It was to be hoped that the conscience of Bethel visiting and Baal kissing Israelites would speak to them as it does to this heathen.
The LORD has not only cured Naaman from his leprosy, but also made him a faithful and God-fearing worshipper. He has literally “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1Thes 1:9). Not only has he lost his leprosy in the Jordan, he has also lost his paganism there. This is evident from the change in his attitude and his confession.
Elisha’s reaction to what Naaman says, is not to give a sermon but let him go in peace, convinced that Naaman will do well. The LORD will lead him on. Thus the eunuch also goes his way in peace and joy after Philip has preached the gospel to him and has baptized him (Acts 8:39).
The Greed of Gehazi
Gehazi is a picture of the state of Israel, as opposed to the heathen who received grace. The hatred that the Lord Jesus receives when He refers to the healing of Naaman, is not so much the fact of Naaman’s healing, as the fact that Naaman is healed apart from Israel (Lk 4:27-29). Grace shown to unreligious people evokes the hatred of religious people who claim grace as a right.
There is a big difference between the converted pagan Naaman and the depraved Israelite Gehazi. Naaman has learned from Elisha that God is a God of grace. That is why Elisha refused his gifts. Elisha wanted Naaman to be impressed by the LORD, the God of Israel, as a God of grace. God cannot be bribed or manipulated with anything a person can give or do.
What Gehazi does must be seen in this light. By his behavior he makes the generous God, a questioning or even a demanding God. He is guided in his behavior by greed. Despite having experienced so much with the man of God, his heart has not changed. Under all the wonders of grace, his heart has remained cold. It is with him as with Judas. He is trapped by money.
When he sees that Elisha does not accept anything from Naaman, he is shocked. What a missed opportunity to become rich in what he considers to be a legal way! It cannot be true that Naaman departs with all his treasures, without leaving some of them. After all, Naaman has offered it. He devises a trick to get some of Naaman’s wealth.
In the way he speaks about Naaman (“this Naaman the Aramean”), there is something of contempt. Lust for money is a terrible thing among the people of God. Whoever is caught in greed, is blind to the value of a person. In his boldness Gehazi even dares to link the name of the LORD to his greed. Using the words “the LORD lives” he takes the decision to run after Naaman.
As well as using the name of the LORD vainly (Exo 20:7), he also uses deceit. When he reaches Naaman, he makes up the story that the prophet has changed his mind. Elisha has been visited. In a single sentence, Gehazi destroys everything Elisha wanted to teach Naaman in 2Kgs 5:16. With what he says, Gehazi slanders Elisha, the man of God, as though he were still claiming a reward. The lie he uses also corrupts God’s grace. He has a price tag on the grace of God. He presents God as a ‘claimant’, a God Who takes and is therefore no different from all the idols of the nations. This explains why his punishment is so severe.
Gehazi gets what he asks for and even more. Naaman gives him the enormous amount of two talent silver and also two changes of clothes. Cunningly, Gehazi has his wealth brought to a place where he can hide it himself. However, he does not take into account that he is dealing with Someone for Whom all things are naked and opened and Who has a prophet to whom He can communicate what He sees.
We can apply Gehazi’s actions to much of what is happening in Christianity, i.e. the professing church, today. Paul speaks about this in his letter to the Galatians. There are people who claim that the death of the Lord Jesus is not enough to be saved. In their opinion, there is another thing that needs to be added, namely the keeping of certain requirements of the law, such as circumcision. The ‘Jesus-Plus Movement’ has found its entrance with the Galatians. But everything that is ‘plus’ obscures grace. This applies to the law, baptism, the tenets of the church. All we add to Christ as a condition of being a Christian and being accepted as such, is an obscuration of grace.
Gehazi Is Discovered and Becomes Leprous
When Gehazi is back with Elisha, he pretends that nothing has happened. He takes up his place again, ready to serve his lord. With his question, Elisha gives Gehazi the opportunity to confess his wickedness himself. He does not take this opportunity, but persists in the lie.
The man of God then says how he followed Gehazi in his heart, and saw in the spirit what happened when Gehazi reached Naaman. He has seen that Naaman welcomed Gehazi and gave him everything he asked for. Elisha does not speak about the literal gifts Naaman had given, but about what Gehazi intended to buy with them all. He knew the unbridled greed of his servant.
This is how the Lord Jesus knew Judas’ greed for money. Yet He has endured Judas, just as Elisha has endured Gehazi. He did not prevent Gehazi’s actions, just as the Lord Jesus did not prevent Judas actions. God leaves man in his full responsibility.
Elisha asks if it was the right time to take all this stuff from Naaman. It was not the right time and because it was not the right time for it, Gehazi had stolen it. We must learn to look at the clock of God. Taking advantage of God’s time is, for example, that we may want to have political influence or even government power, while we are not given that. Reigning with Christ is still coming (1Cor 4:8; 1Cor 6:2-3).
We do not read that Elisha instructs Gehazi to return the money and goods to Naaman. He has taken the money from Naaman and he can keep it. But he also gets Naaman’s leprosy.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Kings 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14