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NAAMAN THE LEPER HEALED
The history continues in this chapter to focus attention, not on the kings, but on Elisha the man of God. When the kings had failed so badly the Lord used a prophet as the real connection between Himself and the people. This was pure grace, as the chapter concerning Naaman shows. Naaman was not an Israelite, but a Syrian army commander. He was indeed an apt candidate for the grace of God, for though he was a great man in the world's eyes, he was afflicted with the loathsome disease of leprosy (v.1), a figure for sin that afflicts all mankind.
The Syrians had captured a young girl of Israel who was made a slave of Naaman's wife (v.2). It would be natural that she should be bitter and resentful against Naaman since she was taken from he own home and family, but the knowledge of God had evidently taken possession of her heart, for she showed kind concern for Naaman in desire that he might be cured of his leprosy, telling her mistress that if only Naaman were with the prophet in Samaria (Elisha) he would be healed (v.3). This was remarkable faith, for there were none in Israel who had been healed of leprosy (Luke 4:27). Thus, her confidence was not in the healing, but in Elisha, just as we should have confidence in the Lord Jesus personally, rather than in the blessing He might bring.
In spite of the insignificance of the messenger (the girl), Naaman was impressed enough to tell the king of Syria what he had heard (v.4). The king of Syria, naturally thinking that if anyone in Israel could heal sickness, it must be the king of Israel, then sent with Naaman a letter to the king of Israel, together with silver and gold and clothing. The letter was clear in demanding that the king would cure Naaman of his leprosy.
The king of Israel was shocked when he read the letter, and thought that Syria was only seeking an occasion to engage in war with Israel (v.7). Was he God, to kill or make alive?
Elisha heard of the king of Israel's predicament and sent word to him to send Naaman to Elisha and he would know there was a prophet in Israel. Of course the king of Israel willingly did this, and Naaman with his horses and chariot came to Elisha's door (v.9).
Elisha did not even come out to see Naaman, but simply sent a message to him. "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean" (v.10). But Naaman considered this an insult and in furious anger went away. He is a picture of many unbelievers who do not believe in the simplicity of the gospel of the grace of God, and become angry when told they can only be cleansed from their sins (which leprosy pictures) by grace, accepting the Lord Jesus as the One who went into the waters of death for them. Did Elisha not realise that Naaman was a great man? Should he not have had the respect for Naaman that would lead him to come to Naaman himself instead of sending a messenger? Why did he not come out and put on a suitable display of at least waving his hands over the leprosy and heal it?
More than this, there were rivers in Samaria, his own city, that were better than this muddy little Jordan River (v.12). Why could he not at least choose his own river? There are many like Naaman who object to God's simple plain gospel because it humbles the pride of man. The Jordan River is the river of death, flowing as it does into the Dead Sea, from which there is no outlet. Naaman was virtually told to wash in the death of Christ, which is the only way of salvation. The seven times was a test of his submission. Seven is the number of completeness, and therefore Naaman was called upon to completely submit to the Lord in self-judgment.
However, Naaman had servants who were wise, and they greatly pled with him to change his mind, reasoning with him that if he had been told to do something great, would he not have done it? Why not then do the simple thing he had been told?
Notice the number of means the Lord used to humble the great man. First, a little slave girl's message, then being sent to a lowly prophet rather than the king, then also a messenger sent to tell him to wash seven times in Jordan; then his servants pleading with him to change his mind, and finally his dipping in Jordan seven times. Those things were all humbling, but led to Naaman's great blessing.
As he was told, he went down and dipped in the Jordan seven times. After each time he would look at his leprosy and find no change whatever until the seventh time. But then, what an amazing change! The leprosy was gone and his flesh restored like that of a little child (v.14). Beautiful picture of new birth! If Naaman had only known the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:3, how he would have delighted in the truth of them! - "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Not only was his flesh like that of a little child, but his attitude was changed to that of a little child. He returned to Elisha in true humility, giving every credit to the God of Israel, expressing his deep appreciation to the man of God (v.15).
Naaman was so deeply appreciative of his healing from leprosy that he wanted Elisha to receive a gift to express his appreciation. He had come with willingness to pay for his healing. Now he had gotten this freely, so he simply desired to show his appreciation by a large gift to Elisha.
Elisha answered, "As the Lord lives before whom I stand, I will receive nothing" (v.16). Even receiving a gift after such grace shown, would not rightly represent the God whom Elisha served. He wanted the Gentile to learn that the blessing of God is absolutely and only by grace. Though Naaman urged him to receive it, Elisha refused. What a lesson for every servant of God!
Then Naaman made the request that he might take two mules' loads of earth from Israel, which he would use to make an altar of earth to the Lord (Exodus 20:24), for he would in the future offer sacrifices only to the Lord, and no longer to idols. Already also, his conscience troubled him as regards his role in accompanying his master, the king of Syria, into the temple of Rimmon. He was required to go there, but would be an unwilling participant in this idolatrous worship, so he expressed the desire to Elisha that the Lord would pardon him for this (v.18).
Elisha however neither forbade him to go into the temple of Rimmon, nor encouraged him to do so. He would not put him under bondage, but gave him the encouragement of God, saying only, "Go in peace." This matter was left to Naaman's own faith and conscience. We don't know how the matter turned out. Naaman might have explained his conscientious concerns to the king of Syria, and by this be excused. But there is no doubt that Elisha desired him to have peace in heart and conscience.
THE FOLLY OF GEHAZI
Gehazi, though Elisha's servant, did not share the faith of Elisha. Instead of appreciating Elisha's unselfish example, he succumbed to the greed of his own heart when he saw the large gifts that Naaman would have given Elisha, and in coveting these things, he even dared to use the Lord's name, imitating Elisha's words, "As the Lord lives," to justify his pursuing Naaman to enrich himself dishonestly (v.20).
When Naaman saw Gehazi running after him, he got down from his chariot, asking, "Is all well?" (v.21). Gehazi, with cunning deceit, answered yes, but that Elisha had sent him to say that two young men of the sons of the prophets had come to him and needed both money and changes of clothing (v.22). Of course Naaman was glad to give him more than he asked, which required two of Naaman's servants to carry it. As they came near the house, Gehazi took the goods from the servants and hid them inside the house.
Brazenly he went in to Elisha's presence and when asked where he had gone, he coolly lied that he had gone nowhere (v.25). Just as Judas thought he could deceive the Lord Jesus when he kissed Him (Matthew 27:49), so Gehazi thought he could deceive the prophet of God. Judas had witnessed the Lord's discerning the thoughts of other people (Matthew 12:25; Luke 5:22), but he had no faith to apply such facts to his own conduct. So with Gehazi. He knew Elisha was a true prophet of God, yet thought he could get away with deceiving him. Such is the folly of unbelief. It was greed in both cases, but Judas never used the thirty pieces of silver for himself, and what could Gehazi do with his ill-gotten gains after Elisha had exposed his sin, telling him he knew of Naaman's turning back from his chariot to meet Gehazi? Was it a time to receive money, clothing or anything else? God's grace had been shown to Naaman. Was it a time for Gehazi to spoil the pure truth of God's grace by receiving anything? (v.26).
Then Elisha pronounced the awful judgment of God upon Gehazi, who immediately was inflicted with the leprosy of Naaman (v.27). What a picture this whole history is! A Gentile enemy of Israel was healed and manifestly brought in true faith to God, while a Jewish servant of the prophet suffered the solemn judgment of God. While Elisha's miracles were more of grace than of judgment, yet just as in the New Testament Ananias and Sapphira were immediately stricken dead for greed and falsehood (Acts 5:1-10) at a time when the grace of God in Christ Jesus was being beautifully proclaimed by the apostles, so the judgment of Gehazi was pronounced at a time when grace had been so beautifully shown to Naaman, a Gentile stranger. Gehazi was outwardly near to Elisha, just as the chief priests and elders of Israel were outwardly near to God, but in heart were so far away that the Lord Jesus told them, "tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you" (Matthew 21:3).
There are many who think of grace as being the expression of God's indulgence with evil. But how far is this from the truth! The grace of God is seen rather when men's hearts are broken down in true self-judgment because of their sins. When this is true, grace lifts them up and gives them blessing infinitely beyond all that they might have asked or thought. Grace teaches us to abhor sin and "to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age" (Titus 3:11). Naaman himself bears witness to this.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13