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NAAMAN, THE SYRIAN LEPER
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 5:1. Naaman was a great man with his master—גִּבּוֹר חַיִל does not refer to mere physical force, but to the high esteem in which he was held at Court. Lord had given deliverances unto Syria—Not victories only, but national prestige, advantages, and prosperity.
2 Kings 5:2. By companies—Maranding bands. These went out on predatory incursions.
2 Kings 5:3. Would God—אַחֲלַי should be (as in Psalms 119:5), “O! that,” an optative particle from חָלָה, which, in Piel, means to caress, to beseech.
2 Kings 5:4. And one went in—i.e., he, Naaman, went in.
2 Kings 5:5. Ten talents of silver, &c.—The silver would value £3,421; the gold is not definite, but doubtless very considerable. Changes of raiment—These Oriental “holiday garments”—חֲלִיפוֹת בְּגָדִים—are costly state dresses, worn on festal occasions.
2 Kings 5:7. King of Israel rent his clothes—Not from horror at the impiety of the thought; the unbelieving Jehoram was not likely to be so much troubled by the religious side of the case, as by the fear of a misunderstanding which might eventuate in war. And after the closing events of previous chapter, deserted as he then was, he had a barren outlook if war should arise.
2 Kings 5:11. Strike his hand over the place—הֵנִיף יָד—to wave the hand, or to stroke with it.
2 Kings 5:12. Abana and Pharpar—The former, Amana, coming from the hill Amana, and now called Barady; the latter, also a small stream flowing from the Antilibanus, probably now called Fyjeh.
2 Kings 5:13. My father—An address full of respect and regard. How much rather—as in 2 Samuel 4:11.
2 Kings 5:15. Take a blessing of thy servant—i.e., a gift—בְּרָכָה—as in Genesis 33:10-11.
2 Kings 5:17. Shall there not then—Should read literally, “And Oh!” or, “And if not.” Two mules’ burden of earth—For an altar (see Exodus 20:24), under the idea that Jehovah would prefer the soil of His own land, on which sacrifices should be offered to Him by Naaman in Syria.
2 Kings 5:18. House of Rimmon—רִמּוֹן, either from רסם, to be high; or רִמּוֹן, the pomegranate, the Oriental symbol of fruitfulness.
2 Kings 5:19. A little way—i.e., a length of country, as in Genesis 35:16
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 5:1-19
NAAMAN A PICTURE OF THE HEATHEN IN SEARCH OF SAVING TRUTH
The story of Naaman is full of bewitching interest, and is one on which volumes have already been written. It is so suggestive of spiritual analogies that it reads like a page of New Testament doctrine inserted in the midst of Old Testament history. Though dealing with simple facts of history that occurred nearly three thousand years ago, we cannot resist the temptation to interpret it in the light of the Christian ideas of the nineteenth century. It is a testimony to the liberal and impartial spirit of Judaism that does not refuse help to a foreigner, a heathen, and he belonging to a people who were the enemies of Israel. It recognised the religious needs of humanity; it was the bigotry and unfaithfulness of its adherents that made Judaism exclusive and intolerant. There were many Israelitish lepers in Elisha’s time, but they were not cleansed, because they sought it not from the God of Elisha (Luke 4:27). Naaman, the heathen, manifests a faith not to be found in Israel, and is cleansed of his leprosy. He thus prefigured the gentiles of a later age, who earnestly sought and found the salvation of God from which many Jews were cut off because of their unbelief. The whole narrative is the scheme of salvation epitomised. It may be viewed as a picture of the heathen in search of saving truth.
I. Like Naaman, the heathen enjoys many worldly advantages (2 Kings 5:1).—By his strength and bravery Naaman had won the esteem of his king; he was loaded with honours, and surrounded with affluence and luxury. So the heathen lives among the fairest scenes of earth,
Whose every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile.
He is often raised to the highest dignities of earth, has unlimited command of wealth, and has the resources of commerce, science, art, and refinement ministering to his pleasure. Heathen is not always synonymous with barbarian. Some of the achievements of heathen genius have excelled the best productions of Western civilization. To be a heathen is not to be bereft of honour, of greatness, or of power.
II. Like Naaman, the heathen is suffering from a deadly disease.—“But he was a leper” (2 Kings 5:1).—“Every man has some but or other in his character, something that blemishes and diminishes him, some alloy to his grandeur, some damp to his joy. He may be very happy, very good, yet in something or other not so good as he should be, nor so happy as he would be. Naaman was as great as the world could make him, and yet, as Bishop Hall quaintly remarks, the basest slave in Syria would not change skins with him.” The heathen is smitten with the leprosy of sin. This tarnishes every worldly honour, blights the loveliest scene, dims the brightest prospects, moderates every joy, poisons every cup.
III. Like Naaman. the heathen hears, often through insignificant agencies, of the possibility of cure (2 Kings 5:2-4).—A little captive maid, strong in her simple faith in the God of Israel, was the means of directing the proud but afflicted Naaman to the Divine source of healing. “When she was borne away from her home and native land, it seemed very unlikely she would be instrumental in bringing the light of a higher truth to illumine the darkness of a heathen court. It has often happened in the history of nations that an obscure prisoner has been the means of acquainting his captors with the knowledge of the only true God; the vanquished has been crowned with a brighter glory than that of the conqueror. Numerous and extensive as are the various agencies of the Christian church in heathen lands, they are but feeble and limited compared with the greatness of the work to be done. “But God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). The simple words of a solitary missionary, the artless conduct of a child, the stray teaching of a voiceless tract, the impression caused by a passing incident, may be Divinely blessed in leading a soul to light and truth and rest.
IV. Like Naaman, the heathen is intensely in earnest in seeking the means of deliverance (2 Kings 5:5-9). The interest of Naaman is roused, a ray of hope enters his breast, his prejudice is conquered, and, laden with rich presents and attended by an imposing retinue, he journies into the land of Israel, and stands at the door of the prophet. He is conscious of his malady, is distressed with its unsightly ravages, and, sustained with the prospect of recovery, he counts no toil too great, no sacrifice too costly, if he may but gain relief. So the heathen, when convinced of his deplorable condition, and catching a glimpse of the promised remedy, seeks, with all the greedy avidity of need and all the cheering buoyancy of hope, the help that brings deliverance. The cry of awakened and struggling heathendom enters the ear of a merciful and all-powerful Saviour.
V. Like Naaman, the heathen is offended at the method prescribed for obtaining the needed cure (2 Kings 5:10-12). Naaman expected that Elisha would come out to him, and make certain mysterious passes and signs, after the manner of a professional thaumaturge, and that the leprosy would vanish. It was a severe blow to his pride to be asked to bathe his stately though leprous limbs in the turbid waters of the Jordan, rather than in the clear limpid rivers of his native Damascus. The offence of the cross has not yet ceased. Heathens and Christians alike are offended at the simple terms of salvation. If it were necessary to do some exploit that would afford opportunity for the display of personal prowess and skill, thousands more would be eager candidates for salvation. But to repent—to confess sin—to submit to self-humilation—to trust in the power and virtue of another, and the unseen and impalpable—this is too much for vain human nature, and stirs up a spirit of rebellion.
VI. Like Naaman, the heathen, when complying with the prescribed conditions, is cured of his deadly malady (2 Kings 5:13-14). The rage of Naaman passed away, but his leprosy remained. In his cooler moments he began to reflect. The gentle persuasions of those around him prevailed. He obeyed the prophet’s directions, perhaps doubtfully, almost sullenly, but he did it. He dipped himself seven times in Jordan, and was healed. So when the heathen is persuaded to submit to the Divine terms, he obtains spiritual healing and renewal. Obedience is the pathway to clearer light, to the highest truths, and to the holiest experiences.
VII. Like Naaman, the heathen gratefully acknowledges and adores the power and goodness of God (2 Kings 5:15-19). Who can describe the wonder and gladness of Naaman as he witnessed and felt the marvellous renovation! He hastens to the man of God to express his gratitude, to acknowledge the supremacy of Jehovah, and his determination henceforth to worship Him, to offer gifts, and to seek still further instruction. His ideas of Jehovah are still restricted. He is convinced of His superiority over all the gods of the Syrians, but he has not yet grasped the grand thought of the Divine presence being everywhere. “Now I know there is no god in all the earth but in Israel.” So the heathen, after witnessing the saving power of God, sees the vanity of the idols in which he had trusted, and renders homage to the only true God. With further instruction his idea of Jehovah are expanded, and his worship is the more fervent and reverent.
1. Man everywhere is tainted with the moral leprosy of sin.
2. The remedy for human sin is universally available.
3. The eagerness of the heathen in search of saving truth is a significant rebuke to the apathy of multitudes in so-called Christian nations.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 5:1-19. The Divine method of healing sin-smitten souls. I. Is not restricted in its operation to any one nation under heaven. II. Is often revealed by humble instrumentalities. III. Is offensive to human pride and consequence. IV. Is effectual only with the humble and obedient. V. Is an inexhaustible theme for universal gratitude and praise.
1. Man would fain heal himself, but cannot.
2. Man’s only hope of recovery is in believing submission.
3. All the power and glory of human salvation belong alone to God.
2 Kings 5:1-14. Naaman the leper.
1. The captive maid. A prisoner in a strange land. Torn from home and friends. Carried with her both pity and piety. Had compassionate regard for the master who detained her in bondage, and a pious regard for the prophet of Israel. Did not harbour feelings of revenge.
The fairest action of our human life
Is scorning to revenge an injury;
For who forgives without a further strife,
His adversary’s heart to him doth tie.
And ‘tis a firmer conquest, truly said,
To win the heart than overthrow the head.
Lady E. Carew.
II. The proud general. A commander of armies, himself the slave of a foul disease, and, worse still, of a proud heart. Must receive instruction of a slave. His visit to Elisha. Ostentatious arrival. His expectation. God’s plans and human thoughts.
Humble we must be, if to heaven we go;
High is the roof there, but the gate is low:
Whene’er thou speakest, look with lowly eye—
Grace is increased by humility.
III. The magnanimous prophet. Willing to be the servant of man. Elisha is also a servant of God, can therefore serve man only in God’s way. Is willing to bless Naaman, though an enemy of Israel. Though he knows the restored health of Naaman may be employed against his countrymen. Cures Naaman, but will receive nothing for the cure. Might have exacted conditions—promises of peace. The character and conduct of Elisha an illustration of the mercy of God in a wicked age and amongst rebels. The mercy so luminous in the Old Testament shines in New also. One God of the whole Bible. Would not have any, even rebels perish.
1. To forgive injuries.
2. To pity the unfortunate, even if your enemies.
3. To guard against pride.
4. Our cure is offered without money or price.—The Class and Desk.
2 Kings 5:1. The lights and shadows of life. I. There is always something to modify the pleasures of human life—something to mar the most brilliant success—the fly in the ointment—the skeleton in the closet. II. Shows the universal prevalence of sin. III. Teaches the necessity for moderation and humility at all times. IV. May lead to the attainment of the highest good.
—Honour with degradation. I. Naaman’s honours were as varied as they well could be, of war and peace, in the camp and in the palace. He had the admiration of the soldiery and the approval of the king; was the trusted leader in battle and the favoured attendant in the house of Rimmon. Earthly honours may imply real dishonour before God, while real worthiness may involve a present degradation. According to the measure of our self-denial will ultimately be the measure of our honour. According to the excellence of our motives of self-denial will its worthiness be determined at the last; and the value of those motives depends always on and everywhere on the desire to serve and honour Jesus. Great and mainfold as were Naaman’s honours, he seems to have deserved them.
1. He was a mighty man in valour. Strong and brave the man seems to have been; and bodily strength, and even animal bravery, are not to be despised or lightly esteemed. To speak to young men and women of might and valour, of health and bravery, is a Christian duty; for ominous signs of the lack of both abound. Many ways of living and spending time nowadays are keeping back the young from the might and valour, from the strength of body and fortitude of spirit, that come from God.
2. As a mighty and valorous man Naaman had been God’s instrument in Syria’s rise and prominonce. In the front rank of honourable emotions is the love of country and of kin, honour to our race, and the sense of duty to our fatherland. The spirit of righteous patriotism is continually appealed to in the word of God, and sacrifice for the land of one’s birth has been crowned by poet’s praise and exalted by admiration. We may here notice the candour of the writer of this book and the breadth of his conception of the ways of the Lord, in that he ascribes Syria’s military success to God; and that, too, at a time when Syria and Israel were continually at war. Every true deliverance of a soul or of a nation is of God.
3. Out of these things came Naaman’s honours with his king and master. Peace as well as war brought him greatness, for he had the approval of him whom he served. Let us try to bring honour and give honour in all service, in the house or the warehouse, and be more than parts of a machine that works out its daily round and no more. There is room for honour everywhere, if one will give place to it; and, though lowlier than Naaman, we can each have his share of the honour that God gives to the valorous, the patriotic, and the faithful. II. But to this strong, valorous, honoured man’s life there was another side—of degradation and disappointment. “He was a leper;” and though this in Syria had not the same terrible social consequences as in Israel, yet it was a blight and a curse.
1. Most lives have some qualifying, if not vitiating, of earthly joy and human credit. It must be horribly troubling to stand in God’s beautiful world infirm and blemished when we would be strong, humiliated when we might have been exalted, and degraded with bodily weakness in a world where selfasserting strength succeeds.
2. Sometimes these “buts,” these humiliations of life, are self-made, coming out of the hotbed of our pride and love of consequence and attention. Morbid self-seeking will blight and embitter a life that might be happy and honourable.
3. But of more value is it to notice the sterling worth and bravery of Naaman, in that with the horrid degradation and disadvantage of leprosy he attained to glory and high esteem. To the young his name ought to stand as a bright light of encouragement, he being the man who, with a leper’s hand, plucked honour from the red grasp of war, and made it no shame for a king to lean on a leper’s shoulder. Think, in your humiliation, of Him who was “despised and rejected of men.” And if we see shame on man’s face, blemish on the body of his humiliation, and the degradation of death on his honour, can we not look up from disease and deformity and death, and see the most suffering and dishonoured—even Jesus—crowned with glory and honour?—Condensed from Christian World Pulpit.
—“But he was a leper.” Not from his birth, nor yet to his death. Hence a learned writer compares the whole Church of Christ in all ages to this Naaman the leper. He was first pure and sound, and did many honourable acts, and thereby represented the Primitive Church, pure and clean, without spot or disease appearing; howbeit, there might be some secret seeds of diseases unperceived, which in continuance of time grew to a visible leprosy. In his middle time Naaman became leprous, diseased, and deformed, foully infected in himself, and infecting others; and thereby represented the latter Church of Rome. Afterwards, by the prophet’s direction, he was washed and cleansed from his leprosy, and his flesh restored to become pure and perfect, like the flesh of a young child; and thereby represented the Reformed Churches. And as Naaman in all these three estates was the same person, and not a new, diverse, or several man, so our Church is not a new Church, but the old Church reformed from errors and corruptions, and restored to her ancient purity and soundness.—Trapp.
—Everywhere where there is, or seems to be, something great and fortunate, there is also a slight discordant but, which, like a false note in a melody, mars the perfectness of the good-fortune. A worm gnaws at everything pertaining to this world; and everything here below carries the germs of death in itself. We ought to consider all human suffering and misery worthy of consideration, whereever we find it. It is found everywhere; it dwells in the palace and in the hovel; it is interwoven with the life of prince and beggar, and it is inseparable from all worldly happiness. The poor and lowly have no reason to envy the rich and great. That which makes us happy in truth and for eternity does not depend upon rank or upon wealth.—Menken.
2 Kings 5:2-4.—The power of a child.
1. Unspeakably beneficent when religiously trained.
2. May excite a whole court with religious interest.
3. May be the means of great and lasting good. Naaman cured. God of Israel exalted. Undying interest of mankind in the incident. How much would the world have lost had the story of Naaman been unknown! “A small chink may serve to let in much light.”
—The ministry of little voices. I. The little maid’s pity. It seems as though the shame and grief of Naaman found opportunity of expression at home. So acutely did the sense of his dishonour show itself in his house, that the little slave maid one day exclaimed, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria, for he would recover him of his leprosy!” Her “young-eyed” wonder saw what the strong and valorous soldier hid from all outside his home. Many a man’s children see a look on his face and signs of agony that the associates of daily life never think could belong to the strong and vigorous man, who, in their sight, fights the battle of life more manfully then they. There are known those who, honoured in public, in private wish themselves dead. As the joys that we can share with a child are the simplest and the purest, so those are the most blessed griefs that can touch the sympathy of a little maid. Let us try to bring our nature, our experience, our life, nearer the children. It may help us in sad days, if nothing else, just as this pity of the Hebrew girl led to the cure of Naaman’s leprosy, and the liberation of his soul. The soul that is in sympathy with children will live a truer life because of it; and the man whose grief is pitied by a strange child in his household has some gentleness in him. God teaches us by “little voices” oftener than we think, and ministers to us by little hands that we seldom associate with the almightiness of God. All our little children are His messengers, and out of their mouths He wishes to ordain strength. “Little voices” call us home, as well as “God’s all-animating voice,” or rather God calls us by them. Just as the man whose child was lost in a mist that came suddenly down on one of the American rivers heard the little one calling, “This way, Father!” was led at last to hear the dead child’s call as from heaven, whither, in that night of mist and sorrow, she had gone; so God leads many home by these angels in the clouds, these little ones, dead for awhile to us, but who are ever living unto God. II. Over against the little maid’s pity we have now to set what looks like her mistress’s neglect. The wife of Naaman let the word of the Hebrew girl go unheeded. Had the child more pity than the woman? Was the Hebrew slave more tender than the Syrian wife? Perhaps the child, from her Jewish training, had a pecular horror of leprosy and its shame, that the Syrian woman would not have. May we not, ought we not, to call one another’s hearts to attend to the misery of sin? When God has linked hearts in home life, shall we slightly regard impenitence and uncleanness? Shall the parent cease to hope and pray for the prodigal child, and the goodly child be careless over a father or mother unsaved? If we wonder at the seeming apathy of Naaman’s wife, what shall we say of many of ourselves, for neglecting the eternal welfare of each other’s souls? While we wonder at this woman we condemn ourselves. III. The wise listener. Naaman was doubly fortunate in having, not only a pitiful slave girl, but another servant who listened wisely to what the girl said. He was certain of this, that, true or not, it was worth telling. So he “went in and told his lord.” Our vitiated nature inclines us to speak of others only too readily when there is evil to be reported, too slowly when there is anything good. But here we have one ready to tell helpful news. Naaman must have been more fortunate in his servants and slaves than in his wife. IV. Now we come to the last link in the chain of influence and of persons that ultimately led to Naaman’s recovery, and this is the king of Syria, the wisely acting king, who, when he heard only the report of a captive girl, said at once, “Go,” and give a letter to the king of Israel. First there was the child, then the prudently listening servant, and then the wise king. Each was an agent of God in this matter; each was needed, and who shall say which was most necessary? Little hands have brought about great things, and feeble voices have often given its character to history. The boy dreamer Joseph telling his dreams is the occasion of four hundred years of lsraelitish history. The little hand of the child Samuel was lifted by God, and his little voice was charged by God to show to Eli the coming of an awful doom. We know not how delicate is the balance of human affairs; but we know that God in His purposes unites the strong and the weak, and that when He touches the faithful, though they may be feeble, they become mightier than the strong.—C. W. P.
2 Kings 5:2-3. The children’s service. The little lady’s maid.—Syria was a kingdom near to Canaan. For some time a little girl lived in Syria. She may not have been more than eight or ten years old. We wish to say seven things about her.
1. This little girl was a Jewess. Abraham was the first Jew. To him and his descendants God was exceedingly kind. How He spake to them, and what He gave them. This young person, as the text shows, was one of them. She belonged to the best land and the best people. What advantages she had. In this respect you are equal, yea, superior to her; Canaan and the Israelites then compared with England and the English now. A complete Bible and a Saviour who has come. To whomsoever much is given, of them much shall be required.
2. This little girl was a slave. The Syrians were the enemies of the Jews. Accustomed to go by companies to Canaan. Took away grain, cattle, and human beings. This girl was kidnapped on one occasion. Think on her sad condition, forced away from her land, home, friends, and parents.
Many children have been in the same circumstances. Rome, Greece, America, some even in the present day—Madagascar and Africa. “Slaves cannot breathe in England.” Why? Education, government, above all, the gospel. Should you not believe it and love it?
3. This little girl worked as a slave in the house of Naaman. Naaman was the general of the Syrian army, and a great favourite with the king. He had plenty of money, and lived in a splendid house. He may have bought the little maid, or she may have been his share of the spoils of the war. At any rate, she was in his house, and waited on his wife. A lady’s maid. From this we learn that, though young, she was clever, and did all her work well. Imitate her in these things; never be careless about what you do. Try to read, write, and spell, &c., in the best way, so in after-life you will do these things easily and well. This will be a great comfort to yourselves and others.
4. This little girl was very kind. Naaman, her master, had an awful disease—leprosy. It was painful, loathsome, and incurable by man. But Naaman had captured the little girl, and made her a slave. Had she been like some people, she would have been glad because her master was a leper. Instead of that, she thought about his disease. It was to her a source of sorrow, and she was anxious that he should be delivered from it. Here was kindness to one who had not been kind to her. This was the spirit of Jesus. Hear Him and see Him on the cross. It should be your spirit. You cannot have it without a new heart, any more than there can be a stream without a fountain. Because the little maid had the one, she had also the other. He who gave her a new heart will give you one. Ask Him for it.
5. This little girl was exceedingly intelligent. She spoke with wisdom to her mistress about her master and the prophet in the land of Israel. The prophet had never cured a leper (Luke 4:27). How, then, did she believe that he would cure her master? Here we see her intelligence. She had heard of other wonderful things which the prophet had done. See the preceding chapter. This is how she reasoned:—Elisha, who, by the power of God, could raise a dead body to life, could also, if it pleased God, restore a diseased body to health. Wonderful reasoning for a little girl. Learn to put things together in your minds. Do this with your school lessons; when you are reading books, looking at persons, watching the birds flying and the ships sailing. You will then be not dull, but clever, and so be able to push your way through the world.
6. This little girl did a great amount of good. She moved her mistress, the wife her husband, the husband the Syrian king, the Syrian king the king of Israel, the king of Israel the prophet. Naaman was delivered from his leprosy, and likewise from his heathenism. Besides, the whole narrative has been used by thousands to illustrate the Gospel, by which multitudes have been saved from sin to holiness. Similar results have been produced by a single book, tract, action, or word. You can all do good; do it every day.
7. This little girl was highly honoured. By the attention she received from so many in Syria; by obtaining a place in the Bible; by having thousands speaking well of her, as we have been trying to do. Her case illustrates the text, “Them that honour Me, I will honour.” Go ye and do likewise. Speak for God like her. Speak for others, and especially the suffering like her.
A. McAuslane, D. D.
2 Kings 5:5-14. Danger in the simplicity of God’s ways.
1. A prophet in Israel. A kindly God in the earth, a healer of men abroad in all the lands, a loving presence with us in dark and troublesome days, a light lighting every man from his infant obscurity and slow ascent to the true vision of life, to the swift descent into the valley of the shadow of death. How few know and believe this! and how few of those who profess that they do can direct weary lives to it as they ought! And yet, if we cannot say more than this king, if we cannot enter into Elisha’s confidence both for diseased bodies and dead or leprous souls, how sad are we! If for our bodies, and all the more if for our souls, we know no other help than man, and can turn only to one another in our necessities, we are little better than the king who rent his clothes over Naaman’s leprosy, and knew not what to do. But there is a Divine healer in the earth now as then—a prophet and more than a prophet, who speaks to all human disease, and care, and helplessness.
2. The prophet’s confidence. Elisha had the conviction that through himself Naaman might be healed. What a dignifying confidence in God this is for God’s workers to have! for Elisha to know that God would cleanse by him, would save at his faithful word! We should have a confidence like Elisha’s, at least the spirit of it. For every calamity that befalls men Jesus has a word of love and hope and deliverance.
3. The leper’s expectation. It was just what we might look for from his success and honours and riches and power, and his ignorance. He evidently thought that Elisha would make much of him, since he had and could give so much. It was not so blameworthy in a Syrian heathen as it is now with many who seem to think that God, and the people of God, must make much of them if they come to God. We must not come with prejudices or fancies of our own knowledge and consequence to God and His word and people, for life and purity and health. God will not minister to any soul’s self-consequence and self-deceiving pride.
4. The process of cure was different from what Naaman expected. It was so absolutely simple, and because it was so simple it was so authoritative. “Go and wash in Jordan seven times.” A child could understand it, a child could do it. So simple was it that only a proud, and therefore a foolish, man would resent it. God never makes His way hard, difficult, obscure, or involved. His simplicity is our salvation.
5. The leper’s pride. There is much danger made by ourselves in the simplicity of God’s ways, and many, like Naaman, stagger at the promise of God through unbelief, their unbelief rising because the way is so light and plain. In this we are exposed to a two-fold danger: that of the love of pleasure in religion, by which anything will pass for religiousness that excites or soothes our emotions enjoyably, and that of mingling our prejudices with our search for purity, and so clouding and hurting our sight of Jesus. These were practically Naaman’s self-made dangers in the way of his leprosy being cleansed, and they are the old but ever new miseries of seeking after signs and wisdom, when all that God wants is the acceptance of His way and the use of His means of saving grace in our blessed Lord.
6. But Naaman was saved from utter folly by the servant’s good sense and his own true-heartedness. The servant’s word showed Naaman that the pride of a soldier was at the bottom of his refusal and rage. “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? That gives the explanation of his passion; there was too much of God in the plan of cure, and too little of self to make it attractive; there was too great a call on unobjecting obedience, and too little of self-pleasing to make it alluring. The same thing holds good of most of us. Do not let the simplicity of God’s way become a hurt to your soul. By loving obedience end the uncleanness of sin for ever.
7. Following upon his trusting obedience came Naaman’s cure. He was fresh and pure; with new life and new strength, pure life and pure strength. That was the end of his faith, as it will be of ours. Childlike and pure for ever is to be the soul’s everlasting portion.—(C. W. P.)
2 Kings 5:5-7. The ignorance and imbecility of man.
1. Man is slow to apprehend the nature and cause of human suffering (2 Kings 5:5).
2. Believes that money and diplomacy can accomplish anything (2 Kings 5:5-6).
3. Compelled to acknowledge his own powerlessness in dealing with human misery (2 Kings 5:7).
4. Sees more his own danger than the divine teaching in the significant events of life (2 Kings 5:7).
2 Kings 5:8. The counsel of a good man.—
1. Valuable to king and court in times of difficulty.
2. Based on a profound faith in the power and goodness of God.
3. Prompted by gracious intentions towards the suffering and needy.
4. Tends to augment the reputation of true piety.
2 Kings 5:9-14. The haughty suppliant. God made the prophet, not the king, the medium of His blessings to Naaman. God selects His own workmen, and His selections sometimes chasten our pride. “His ways are not as our ways; neither are His thoughts as our thoughts.” “It is neither by might nor by power.” “He chooses the weak things to confound the wise.”
Up to this point Elisha lived unappreciated, subsisting upon the hospitality of the Shunammite. And how often do God’s nobility live and die unrecognized? They are men of whom the world is not worthy. They are unknown. And it is the obscure good which is the world’s foundation, the salt of the earth. But by force of circumstances they become recognised. There are crises when we call for the good we have despised. God has many uncrowned kings—heirs of immortality in flesh. He cometh to make up His jewels, and they shall come from many an obscure place. “They shall come from the East and the West.” “The last shall be first, and the first last.” Many a Lazarus shall find his home in God’s bosom, while the pampered beast shall become worm-food and fire-fuel.
There is much modern application in these Old Testament circumstances. There is so much humaneness in the Bible, which makes it always a new book. Principles know nothing of years. Truth is not hampered by time. The Scriptures are as old as eternity, and yet as new as every morning. The Gospel in the narrative may thus be developed.
1. The gospel appeals to the man, not his accidents. The prophet’s message was to the leper, not to the courtier. Naaman came with his horses and with his pageantry. He came in a lordly air, but the prophet did not even meet him. The true man is never moved by glitter. Some of us would have bowed as sycophants; it would have been the reddest-letter day of our lives, if the premier of Syria had stood at our doors. Even if a trinket, or a book, be given to us by a royal hand, we transmit it as an heirloom. When will all this mammon-worship and man-homage, fawning, and cringing end? When will men remember that there is a higher kingliness—that instead of virtue cringing to vice, she should stand in her God-like form erect? There is a nobility of office, but there is a higher nobility of character. There is a kingliness of name, but there is also a kingliness of nature. We should not judge by appearance, but judge by righteous judgment. The prophet saw through all the haughtiness of Naaman, a leprous man. God sees through all life’s accidents—all our intelligence, parade, wealth, and respectability—a heart of corruption and sorrow. He sees that the “imagination of the thoughts of man are evil continually.” The message is to man, not to his circumstances. It speaks to us as sinners. It speaks, not to contingencies, but to the human nature that is in us all. It was man that fell, and to man the message is sent. “He came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
2. The gospel message and conditions are always simple. It speaks in a language all can understand. It speaks to the heart, and the heart has but one language the wide world over. The tongue speaks many a vernacular, and the lips chatter many dialects, but the heart’s voice never varies. The great universal heart beats in us all. The gospel sees us fallen, and it sends forth the common message and a universal welcome, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” The message is one, but its emphasis is varied according to our deafness, and its strokes to our hardness. The stone is hard, and the sculptor’s mallet must be heavy and his chisels sharp. The wound is deep, and the corrosive must burn, and the instrument probe deeply. The jewel is encased in adamant, and the lapidary must select his instruments accordingly. Our prejudices are great, our hearts are haughty, and the conditions are adapted. Christianity is to us what we are. Loving in disposition, it speaks in a still small voice. Impenitent in heart, it speaks in thunder tones. Some are so deaf that they can only hear thunder, others are so divinely sensitive they can hear angels’ whispers and God’s steps on the wind. According to our heart-life, God is either a father, or a consuming fire. A revengeful God is the creation of a wicked life. The Gospel speaks to the heart, and of necessity must temper its voice to its disposition and difficulties. It is a message so simple that a child can understand it, and yet its inexhaustibleness challenges the highest minds. So plain, that the wayfaring man need not stumble, and yet its sublimity creates a sensation new in angel bosom. Its simplicity reveals its wonders, as its stoop manifests its height.
3. The gospel conditions are repulsive to human prejudices. We might swear that it is night when the sun shines, but the light would only prove our insanity. We may curse the book, but its truth is inviolable. We may blaspheme the Gospel, but the loudness of our voice may only reveal the perfectness of our idiocy. How presumptuous is man!
“Man, proud man, dressed in a little brief authority,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
As make the angels weep.”
1. How we presume on God’s ways! “I thought he would surely come out to me,” &c.
2. How we presume on God’s means! “Are not Abana and Pharpar … better than all the waters of Israel?”
3. How we presume on God’s patience! “And he turned away in a rage.”
4. How we presume on self-sufficiency! “Some great thing, would thou not have done it?” The conditions of the Gospel may arouse our resentment, but to resist is to be blind to our best interests. The prophet said: “Wash and be clean,” and Naaman turned away in a rage. Christ says, “Sell all thou hast and give to the poor;” and the young man went away sorrowing. The Gospel says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;” and we are disgusted with the conditions. The answer to all our prejudices is—that it is God’s appointed way. There is no royal road. The conditions are, believe and live; and the authority is, “he that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Our prejudices may recoil, and we may turn away in wrath; but we turn our face from the sun only to see our shadow.—W. MINCHER in the Study and Pulpit.
2 Kings 5:9-12. Pride.
1. Fond of splendid ostentation.
2. Indulges lofty expectations of notice and deference.
3. Is keenly sensitive to the sting of insult, whether intended or not.
4. Blinds the soul to its best interests.
5. Must be humbled before the soul can be blessed.
2 Kings 5:9-10. The cure of Naaman. I. Illustrative of the influence of humble instrumentality. II. Of the obstructive power of pride. III. Of the value of faithful counsel. IV. Of the blessedness of obedience.
1. Naaman’s obedience led to his obtaining a perfect cure.
2. Naaman’s cure wrought in him true humility.
3. Naaman’s cure led him to God.
4. Naaman’s cure filled his heart with gratitude.—E. Workman.
2 Kings 5:10-12. Naaman, an example of barriers to religious decision. I. The barrier was his own disposition. II. His choosing the means. III. His wanting to do something. IV. His not applying the remedy.—H. Bone.
2 Kings 5:11-12. We, knowing much better than Naaman did, the character and claims of Elisha, are apt to be amazed at the petulance and pride of Faaman. Yet, in fact, there are few of us—are there any?—who have not manifested many times in the course of our career, as much or more resistance to the demands upon our faith, and to the exigencies appointed by God for the humiliation of the proud mind of the flesh, than ever Naaman did, and often with far less reason. Let us rather admit that the demand upon the faith of Naaman, and the extent to which he was required to bend down his natural reason, formed somewhat of a severe exertion from one so raw and inexperienced in the things of God. Yet it is the common course of the Lord’s dealings with those whom He brings under the operation of His healing grace. The course is paternal. As a father deals with his children, so He deals with us. He demands obedience, exacts submission. He requires faith; and then, the mind being brought into the right state, He teaches, He leads, He heals.—Kitto.
2 Kings 5:12. Is there not another way? I. Sinners dislike the plan of the Gospel.
2. Salvation by faith. II. They dislike its object.
1. Salvation from sin.
2. The renewal of the heart. III. They dislike the means to be used.
2 Kings 5:13-14. The soul’s desire and submission.—I. A desire is frequently shown to do some great thing to obtain salvation. Illustrate from heathen pilgrims, Fakirs; devotees who used to cast themselves under wheels of Jaggernaut, also Roman Catholic austerities, self-flagellations, crusades, &c. Both
(1) condemn and
(2) approve. The form in which such zeal shows itself superstitious. The motive wrong. But earnest self-sacrificing spirit prompted by love to Christ very admirable. What is not permissible is seeking to do something as procuring cause of salvation. First receive as a free gift, and then give and do as much as the heart will prompt. II. The simplicity of what has to be done, and consequently urgent reason we should do it. (a) Because no act of ours could be allowed to atone for sin—(b) the work of Christ complete, needs no addition—(c) a free salvation comes within reach of all. Who could say, if otherwise, but that even in our great things, there might be some coming short, and multitudes would be excluded from hope? All the more, then, rejoice that the command is “Believe and live,” yet, remember, there is wide scope afterwards, especially a daily life of patient piety and godliness, often more difficult than a single act of self-devotion. In this fulfil the desire and glorify God. III. The wisdom and blessedness of obedience. Picture the scene. So when humbled, anxious, submissive, a sinner adopts the means of mercy, there is
(1) a Divine,
(2) an instantaneous,
(3) a lasting effect. From darkness to, light unregeneracy to renewal. How wise the obedience! The only chance of recovery. How blessed! It must have been sweet to feel the past cancelled, heart set right. Men have fabled there is a fountain of youth. Plunge in its waters and the wrinkles fade out of the brow. But it is true we may be made young and happy again in spirit—children of God.—Hom. Quarterly.
2 Kings 5:13. The art of persuasion.—I. Knows when to select the right moment to speak. II. Knows how to subdue the most violent temper. III. Appeals to the strongest motive in man. IV. Should be used in turning men from sin to virtue.
2 Kings 5:14. It was not the water either of Jordan or of Abana which could heal, it was the obedience of this haughty general to a mandate which seemed to him frivolous and absurd. In the Gospels faith is the first requisite in similar cases of healing, and so it was here also—faith and obedience. Naaman came with his mind all made up as to how he was to be healed, and he turned away in anger and disgust from the course which the prophet prescribed. Yet, when he turned back even with a lame and half-doubting faith and a half-unwilling obedience, he was healed. This is the permanent truth which is involved in the story. Naaman was a type of the rationalist whose philosophy provides him with a priori dogmas by which he measures everything which is proposed to his faith. He turns away in contempt where faith would heal him. That is the truth which the story serves to enforce.—Editor of Lange.
Not the unjust fury and tetchiness of the patient shall cross the cure; lest while God is severe the prophet should be discredited. Long enough might Naaman have washed there in vain, if Elisha had not sent him. Many a leper hath bathed in that stream, and hath come forth no less impure. It is the word, the ordinance of the Almighty, which puts efficacy into those means which of themselves are both impotent and improbable. What can our font do to the washing away of sin? If God’s institution shall put virtue into our Jordan, it shall scour off the spiritual leprosies of our hearts, and shall more cure the soul than cleanse the face.—Bp. Hall.
God’s plan of salvation. We take the narrative as illustrative of the great truth, the necessity of conforming with God’s plan to secure salvation. I. That God’s plan is contrary to the expectations of man. So it was here that Naaman had been thinking within himself how the prophet would act. He merely sent a messenger commanding him to wash in the Jordan. How simple, and so he thought, how foolish! The very simplicity bewildered him and kindled his wrath. But if his own plan would have been sufficient, he might have cured himself without going to the prophet at all. So the salvation which is in Christ Jesus has always been a stumbling block to men on account of its simplicity, and many have dogged the simple Gospel with innumerable ceremonies of men’s devising, painting the pure lily, and bringing their own faint rush-light to increase the splendour of the noonday sun. Men would cross ocean and wander in far-off lands in search of wisdom; they would survey the heavens, and descend to the lowermost parts of the earth; but God’s word of life is nigh unto us, in our mouth and in our heart.
“O, how unlike the complex works of man
Heaven’s easy, artless, unencumbered plan!
From ostentation as from weakness free,
It stands like the cerulean arch we see,
Majestic in its own simplicity;
Legible only by the light they give
Stand the soul-quickening words, believe and live.
II. That God’s plan tends to humble the pride of man. Naaman thought there was some royal cure for a royal patient, and an honourable way to deal with such an honourable man. How indignant he felt when the prophet only sent a messenger to him, and the remedy prescribed being so humiliating too. He could not understand going to wash himself in the river Jordan, the river of despised Israel; whilst if it was necessary to apply the waters of any river, could he not have washed himself in the proverbial crystal streams of Damascus? “So he turned and went away in a rage.” So God’s plan of salvation is mortifying to the pride of the sinful heart. The Pharisees were offended at the Saviour for making no distinction between them and the sinners. They were entangled in the snares and pride of life. Their plan was to glorify self and humble others; but to enter the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the first step required is for a man to deny himself. Faith consists in leaving our own frail vessel and taking our passage on board the ark of God, to deem ourselves nothing and God all in all. We find Peter, having received the consent of the Master, walking on the sea; but the moment he began to trust himself, and feel safe in the power of his own strength, the boisterous winds and the treacherous waves frightened him, and, conscious of his weakness, he with gladness entered the ship and was “safe in the arms of Jesus.” The gate is strait and the road is narrow, but he who is humble and obedient is led at last to safety and bliss.
3. That he who truly feels his need will accept God’s plan. Though Naaman was at first most seriously disappointed, and turned away in a rage, yet on the counsel of his servants, strengthened by his own need and his inward conviction, he complied with the directions given by the prophet. A sense of need is a propelling power that will work wonders, and, in conjunction with faith, will send the mountain to the sea, and chain the lion that is on the way. This feeling impelled that poor woman to force her way through the crowd and touch the hem of the Saviour’s garment; and, urged by the same motive, the blind man willingly went to the lake of Siloam. When the sinner really feels sin a burden, and believes that the meek and lowly Jesus is powerful to remove it, he will not quarrel with the method of salvation, but will come at once and cast his burden down; and when he truly feels his guilt he will come to the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. When a man is bent upon becoming rich, or learned, or great in the estimation of the world, he is willing to comply with the world’s terms, be they ever so hard. Is it wonderful that the sinner, with his broken heart and contrite spirit, closes in with the overtures of the gospel, and accepts the salvation which is in Christ? IV. That conformity to God’s plan will secure a man’s salvation. Naaman obeyed, and he was accordingly cured.
1. Some means are generally used. The miracles of the Old and New Testaments are similar in this, that means were used in bringing about such wonderful deeds. It would have been all the same to God to cure Naaman with a word, but Naaman himself would have lost the valuable lessons he received, and the necessary training he went through.
2. The means were not sufficient in themselves apart from the blessing of God to cure his leprosy, but as it was God’s plan it effected its purpose. The ark was rendered safe from the waters of the Deluge, as it was constructed according to the directions given by God. The waters of Marah lost their bitterness by a tree being thrown into them, because that was the means appointed by the Lord. To encompass the walls of Jericho with rams’ horns might have seemed very foolish and useless to some, but it was of Divine appointment, and so it succeeded. Men are thus taught to do their duty, and then to wait for the Divine blessing. Naaman could wash himself in the Jordan, though he could not cure himself. We arc to come to the Saviour to be healed, we are to look upon Him, to stretch out our hands, withered as they are, to Him.
3. Naaman’s cure was instantaneous. What a happy moment for him when he discovered that the cause of his anxiety, trouble, and humiliation was removed! So the man who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, and flees to Him for refuge, is from that moment free from condemnation.
4. His cure was complete. His flesh was made like the flesh of a little child. He possessed a thoroughly renovated. body. No taint of the malady to east its dark shadow over the future. So he who accepts God’s plan is wholly renewed, created anew in Christ Jesus. True, he retains the marks of the leprosy of sin whilst in this world. As Mr. Joseph Cook remarks, although the particles of the body have been changed many times, still the sears made when the fingers were too young to be trusted with edged tools continue through the years, and are absolutely unchangeable in the changing flesh, so the scars of sin continue after years of reformation; but, thanks be to God, day by day the nature becomes sanctified, and at last the ransomed soul will take its flight to the realms of purity and bliss. The Church will be at last a “glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; holy, and without blemish.”—Hom. Quarterly.
2 Kings 5:15-19. Gratitude to God and earthly policy. Naaman, instead of going straight away to Syria, turned back to Samaria, not this time to the king, but with the same retinue and wealth of gifts he came back to Elisha’s door. In this act he takes his place with that one Samaritan leper of the New Testament who turned back to Jesus and blessed Him for His mercy in freeing him from the same horrible curse, while nine others went away healed, but ungrateful. I. Naaman’s journey back was a grateful return to Elisha and an honourable but only dutiful acknowledgment of God. It was an owning of the God of Israel because of Elisha’s work. This deduction of spiritual truths from bodily blessings shows health of soul and soundness of mind. Naaman recognized God by His mercies, and acknowledged the God of Elisha in the work that Elisha had done. Mercy is the great mark of our God; it is that by which He may be most easily recognized; and works of mercy are the signs of the true and most eminent servants of His pleasure. God is ready to let His claim on our loving recognition be determined by what every heart can easily discover of His merciful kindness. His message and work among us are still the same; His servants and workers now are all, if they are true to Him, workers of mercy, messengers of love and peace and healing. II. Elisha’s refusal of health. In this, like Abraham with the King of Sodom, and like Paul with the Corinthians, Elisha kept the mercy of God as God intended it to be, “without money and without price.” The true gift in return for God’s mercy is the offering of ourselves in Christ, and when that is made the silver and the gold will find their proper place. It was noble in Naaman to make the offer; and it would have been wrong in Elisha to have taken the gift. The greatest blessings cost, at first, the least. No one can be paid, no one can pay, for the mercy of God, or for the conferring of spiritual blessings. God gives us His mercy, and He wants ourselves as His right and due. III. Ignorant devotion to the true God. Only a little while ago, in rage and pride, Naaman had sneered at the waters of Israel; but now the soil of the land of the Lord was sacred to him, and he wanted an altar of it in his Syrian home. Nor for this is he to be condemned, as we should be justified in condemning the like spirit when it is foisted upon the purity of Christianity or associated with the faith once committed to the saints. Christianity knows nothing of exclusively holy places and days and services and classes; for now all places and times may be sacramental and holy to the Lord. IV. There was, however, in Naaman’s case a worse thing than his excusable superstition, and that was—an attempt to mingle the claims of God with the advantages of earthly policy. It is not for us or any to press heavily on the conscience of a man in such a position. The only thing that gives us a right to judge the case at all, for our own caution and guidance, is the evidence that Naaman himself felt that bowing down with his master in the house of Rimmon might be inconsistent with his proposed devotion to the God of Israel. From Naaman’s easily understood mistake let us learn to hate laxity of principle in ourselves, and to judge gently the weakness and fall of others. V. From Elisha’s tenderness to a weak convert, learn the more to trust the greater tenderness that Jesus has for our frailties and dangers. Do not think that Jesus does not see the wretchedness of your temptations and the hazard of your position when all things seem to beckon you to sin, and sin hides its vile image under a mask of attractiveness and interest and prosperity.
Then learn to scorn the praise of men,
And learn to lose with God;
For Jesus won the world through shame,
And beckons thee His road,
C. W. P.
I. Gratitude. The mighty Naaman, who had doubtless often bathed without benefit in the waters of Damascus, tried the river Jordan, and was immediately cleansed. He returns to Elisha to thank him. How different now is Naaman, old things passed away! He acknowledges the supreme God as the only God. Does this publicly in the presence of all his company. Would make an acknowledgment to Elisha, not as a recompense, but as a gift of gratitude.
II. Generosity. Elisha by no means a man of great wealth. Dependent on the bounty of Providence. Followed no regular calling. Lived in an age when the servants of God, as such, were ill-rewarded. Yet would not receive a gift at the hands of Naaman. His desire to lay Naaman and the king of Syria his master under an obligation to Israel. This is to preserve peace. Especially he desired to impress them with the greatness and goodness of God; to remind them of those higher blessings which God would freely give. Hence, for the sake of God’s honour, and his country’s welfare, he would take no reward.
III. Superstition. Although thus grateful, and making his confession of the true God, Naaman is not fully enlightened. Still regards God as a local deity. The mightiest God in the world, but limited to Israelitish soil. He would therefore like to carry back with him some of that soil. He thought to worship in any spot on that soil would secure the favour of God. Elisha makes no reply to this request. Certainly cannot approve this course. Sends Noaman back with his blessing. Naaman felt that to worship Rimmon was wrong, but hoped to be forgiven by him on whose consecaated soil he stood. LEARN:—
1. To cultivate gratitude.
2. To do good without the hope of any return.
3. Guard against all forms of superstition. The Class and Desk.
2 Kings 5:16. The unselfishness of goodness. I. Cannot be bribed into showing kindness. II. Refuses legitimate offerings when the cause of religion would suffer by accepting them. III. Falls back upon God for all needful supplies.
2 Kings 5:17-18. Imperfect religious ideas. I. Not uncommon at the early stage of religious life. II. Leads to imperfect religious practice III. Attaches too much importance to the externals of worship. IV. Hinders a thorough reformation and forsaking of the old life.
2 Kings 5:17. As Naaman was the type of the converted heathen world, and he carried the soil of Palestine to Aram, so did the heathen carry over into their own lands, together with Christianity, the doctrine, life, disposition, and spirit, which had flourished in the Holy Land, and thereby they established themselves a new home. When we hear, here and there in Christian lands, the names Bethany, Bethlehem, Zion, what are they but holy places transferred, in their spirit, from their original location, into our life, and thought, and feeling? In their religious observances, the main point is not the correctness and truth of thy knowledge, or of the doctrine which thou professest, but the truth and purity of thine own character. What one may do under his circumstances without violating his conscience, the conscience of another, under other circumstances, will forbid him to do. We have no right to judge him: to the Lord each one stands or falls (Romans 14:1-7).—Cassel.
—Well did this Syrian find that the man of God had given a supernatural virtue to the water of Israel, and therefore supposed he might give the like to his earth. Doubtless it was devotion that moved this suit. The Syrian saw God had a propriety in Israel, and imagines He will be best pleased with his own. On the sudden was Naaman half a proselyte; still here was a weak knowledge with strong intentions.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 5:18. The compromises of life. The significant but in the social position of Naaman is to find its counterpart in his religious character. A great man, but a leper; a believer pleading for an inconsistency. Conversion and compromise. When he has found God beyond the sign of water, and come back to the prophet with the confession of his new faith, you expect a complete change in his exterior life, that he will go among his heathen countrymen a full-orbed religious man; but he counts the cost, or perhaps is in some mental perplexity. At least he will put the difficulty to the prophet, and be guided by his decision. We are startled to hear the answer “Go in peace.” Here was an opportunity to rebuke cowardice, to chastise the poor selfishness that, having received so much from God, asks, “And how little need I pay back?” An opportunity to discuss an interesting question of casuistry and to decide upon the comparative forces of conscience and necessity. But Elisha accepts his convert, with this exception, whether in the passive non-aggressiveness of that old Hebrew religion, or in the conviction that the man would do his best under the circumstances, we cannot tell. Set Naaman in the light flung back by the cross, and we can soon pronounce judgment. We know our Lord deals with these human “buts.” “Let the dead bury their dead,” &c. “If a man love father and mother more than me, he is not worthy of me.” But the judgment would be unjust. Men are always more or less in subjection to the ideas that govern the age in which they live. It is only the few who draw themselves apart, and press forward to a grand isolation. The Church has ten thousand Naamans where it has one Paul. The very uncertainty in which, spite of Elisha’s benediction, the incident is left, suggests some remarks on the compromises of life.
I. Religious decision, as it is affected by earthly relationships. This man was a servant, and the conditions of his servitude were not simple, but complex. He was in command of the army, and while this conferred on him a large authority, it imposed a large trust. These had opened to him wide opportunities for loyalty, bravery, and patriotism. It was part of his service to go with his master into the house of Rimmon. Refusal would take on it an ugly air of ingratitude. The king had made him the man he was, and a feeling of indebtedness and obligation may enter very acutely into questions of conscience and right. This to a noble mind would be a far greater difficulty than the loss of position and the imminent death that might result from the wrath of an absolute monarch, unaccustomed and unable to enter into nice questions of religious casuistry; indeed, the line of duty between the obligations imposed by earthly relationships, and our services to God, is not always so distinct as men think. Many at least who, with loud protestations, scorn all compromise, have never found that line. Clear is the right, at all sacrifice, if king or master exact the positive crime; ask me to disown Christ, to give up prayer, to outrage any distinct conscientious conviction, but along this line is a very borderland of mist in which the traveller is often brought to a stand, asking after the right way. It is enough to instance questions of polygamy, of slavery, with which the early Church had to deal. Of course it may be said, if a heathen, having two or more wives, became a convert, he must put away all but one. Which one? What if each were the mother of children? The Christian master must manumit his slaves. Cornelius, says the Peace Advocate, should forsake the Roman service, and take no longer the heathen’s pay. But these, and a multitude of similar questions, are not decided by inspired authority at all, or are decided in their special instances against the ruling principle. The New Testament has faith in time, in the thousand years of God’s working, in the antagonism of the spirit of the Gospel to every form of injustice and wrong. It cares less to estimate and adjudge the differing shades of darkness in the night of error, so much as to bring in that daybreak before which all the shadows shall flee away. Christianity has entered as a sword into many a worldly home, happy in its own way; it has resulted in wide divisions between parent and child, master and servant, monarch and subject. The records of the Church glow with bright instances of heroic sacrifice, of daring disobedience to man in obeying God. And yet how much has to be borne, how much ought to be borne, before the daughter forsakes her mother, or the son breaks asunder the bond of the household! There is much in Naaman’s knowledge of the inconsistency. He who sins against that inner light will be scarcely free from sin against God.
II. By society. Naaman does not refer to the difficulty of maintaining a monotheistic faith in a pagan land, to the power of many against the one; but society is full of suggested compromises resulting from these conditions. There is a compulsion in the pressure both of social forces and of civil laws; and many a man discovers that the house of Rimmon is co-extensive with the state in which he lives. He pays the tribute money to Cæsar, or the temple tax, withholding faith in the lawful government in the one, and really teaching that the other must pass away. He takes up his share of the country’s expenditure, though part of it may go toward objects from which he conscientiously dissents. His plea is the necessity of his position; but his neighbour takes that plea to a far wider field, and justifies many a compromise on the same ground. It is convenient to charge our personal responsibility on an intangible irresponsible something called society. But what society is to supply our code of ethics? Syria or Israel? England or Fiji? Every man shall bear his own burden. The law of truth is in and from the changeless God. Customs, fashions, luxurious living, appearances, amusements, friendships, business, all tempt to compromise and have prophets God never sent, who say to the conformist, “Go in peace.”
III. By the necessities of life. The plea, we must do this to live. Refer to common practices in trade, the pressure of competition. The world’s practices contrary to the great principle. A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth.
IV. By the personal temperament. One man’s supreme difficulty is another man’s agreeable work. The cost of sacrifice differs with different men. To one it is easier to die on the battlefield than to confess his faith—to give largely, even to Gehazi, with generous or grateful subscriptions, than to break with former friendships. There is no open confession of Christ’s name by secret disciples, to whom One greater than all prophets may say, “Go in peace.” Let character only be of so pure a transparency that the light of a holy conscience may shine through.
1. God does not take back from men of partial failure the good he has bestowed. The leprosy does not return to the cleansed leper, if one leprous spot be on the soul. The impotent man healed, goes straightway to our Lord’s enemies to tell them that it was Jesus who made him whole, and the strength ungratefully used remains. We have all need to say, somewhere, “The Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.”
2. Is the silence of Scripture as to any useful future in Naaman’s history to be regarded as evidence of a good life hindered by the appearance of evil?
3. We shall destroy no house of Rimmon by worshipping in it on any pretence whatsoever.
4. In the Gospel, this, at least, is clear—he that putteth his hand to the plough, and looketh back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.—Hom. Quarterly.
—Far, therefore, is Naaman from being a pattern, save of weakness; since he is yet more than half a Syrian; since he willingly accuses himself, and, instead of defending, deprecates his offence. As nature, so grace, rises by many degrees to perfection. It is not for us to expect a full stature in the cradle of conversion. Leprosy was in Naaman cured at once, not corruption.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 5:19. One does not know what to admire most in Elisha’s mild and simple answer, the clear and correct insight into a genuine heart experience, which, whatever may surround and obscure the main point, still seizes this quickly and clearly; or the holy moderation which, even in the case where it is its prerogative to urge, limit, bind, loose, or burden, still restrains itself; or the pure humanity of disposition which can so thoroughly sympathize, so completely put itself in the position and at the standpoint of the other. The knowledge of the living God, and the experience of His saving grace, is the fountain of all peace, with which alone a man can go gladly on his way.—Menken.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 5:21. He lighted down from the chariot—Not merely dismounted, but quickly did so sprang out of the chariot, נָפל, to cast oneself, to throw oneself, to rush. It indicates Naaman’s anxiety.
2 Kings 5:24. Came to the tower—הֲעֹפֶל—the hill, i.e., a hill well understood in the locality of Elisha’s house.
2 Kings 5:26. Went not mine heart—In contrast with Gehazi’s words, “Thy servant went no whither.” “My heart”—לִּבִּי—i.e., in spirit, discerning the entire transaction. Is it a time to receive money, &c.—i.e., in any other case rather than this thou mightest have gratified thine avarice, but now, with so many hypocritical prophets abroad, this is no time for bringing the true prophetic office into disrepute by an act which seems to imply that the servant of the High God is only intent on selfish aggrandisement in his sacred and supernatural work.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 5:20-27
THE CURSE OF AVARICE
I. That a spirit of avarice loses no opportunity to gratify its greed. Gehazi was the Judas Iscariot of the Old Testament. Covetousness was his besetment. He was doubtless in many ways valuable to Elisha, and perhaps was at first a sincere enquirer after truth. But the spirit of avarice gained the mastery over what was good in him, and ultimately wrought his ruin. The wealth of Naaman was too great a temptation to him, and he could not forego the prospect of benefiting by the lavish generosity of the grateful Syrian. “As the Lord liveth, I will run after him and take somewhat of him” (2 Kings 5:20). Gehazi acts under the guise of religion while disregarding its teaching of disinterestedness, which it was particularly needful to make evident in those days of worldliness and time-serving among the national priesthood—the sycophantic Baalites. He showed contempt for the judgment of his master in the matter of receiving gifts, end cared not how far he disparaged the prophet in the eyes of his new convert. He mainly misrepresented Elisha by making him ask for what Naaman had just heard him most positively refuse. Avarice knows no scruples; is reckless of results; it sees only what is to be gained, and cannot relinquish the slightest hope of securing it.
II. That a spirit of avarice hesitates not to employ falsehood in attaining its purpose. Covetousness and lyiug go together; they are twin-vices. The burning desire for gain suggested to Gehazi the fabrication of a plausible story which would easily deceive the unsuspecting and generous Naaman (2 Kings 5:21-23). “What a round tale hath the craft of Gehazi devised of the number, the place, the quality, the age, of his master’s guests, that he might set a fair colour upon that pretended request, so proportioning the value of his demand as might both enrich himself, and yet well stand with the moderation of his master! Love of money can never keep good quarter with honesty, with innocence. Covetousness never lodged in the heart alone; if it find not, it will breed wickedness. What a mint of fraud there is in a worldly breast! How readily can it coin subtle falsehood for an advantage!” To find out the covetous, go round with a subscription book. It is perfectly appalling what lies you will hear told to evade giving.
III. That a spirit of avarice finds its pleasure in secretly storing its gains (2 Kings 5:24). Gehazi carefully stowed away the goods with which the liberality of Naaman had supplied him, and began already to indulge in dreams of increased possessions and of the pleasures his wealth might purchase. The miser wastes his best powers in the fond idolatry of his money, and gloats in secret over the piles of treasure which he counts with trembling joy. Avarice, says Channing, is a passion full of paradox, a madness full of method; for although the miser is the most mercenary of all beings, yet he serves the worst master more faithfully than some Christians do the best, and will take nothing for it. He falls down and worships the God of this world, but will have neither its pomps, vanities, nor its pleasures for his trouble He begins to accumulate treasure as a means to happiness, and by a common but morbid association he continues to accumulate it as an end. He lives poor to die rich, and is the mere jailer of his house and the turnkey of his wealth. Impoverished by his gold, he slaves harder to imprison it in his chest, than his brother slave to liberate it from the mine. The avarice of the miser may be termed the grand sepulchre of all his other passions, as they successively decay. But, unlike other tombs, it is enlarged by repletion and strengthened by age.
IV. That a spirit of avarice is unexpectedly exposed and faithfully warned (2 Kings 5:25-26). Little did Gehazi think that the whole transaction which had been carried out with such consummate craft and privacy was already known to his Master. He seeks still further to hide his duplicity by further lying. “He who tells a lie,” says Pope, “is not sensible how great a task he undertakes; for he must be forced to invent twenty more to maintain one.” The wickedness of his servant was discovered by the prophetic insight of Elisha, and, to the utter confusion of the culprit, he is addressed in words of severe and faithful remonstrance—“Is it a time to receive money, &c?” Miserable Gehazi! how didst thou stand pale and trembling before the dreadful tribunal of thy severe master, looking for the woful sentence of some grievous judgment for so heinous an offence!” It is well when the money-loving worldling has a faithful monitor at hand to warn him of his danger and reprove him for his sin: it is better still when warning and reproof lead to reformation.
V. That a spirit of avarice is cursed with a terrible doom (2 Kings 5:27). Swift upon the heels of the transgression came the punishment, and that a punishment most loathsome and abhorrent: it was like a living death!—“He went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.” O heavy talents of Gehazi! O the horror of this one unchangeable suit which shall never be but loathsomely white, noisomely unclean! How much better had been a light purse and a homely coat with a sound body, a clear soul! Too late doth that wretched man now find that he hath loaded himself with a curse, that he hath clad himself with shame. His sin shall be read ever in his face, in his seed. All passengers, all posterities, shall now say—Behold the characters of Gehazi’s covetousness, fraud, sacrilege!—Bp. Hall. Perhaps the punishment cured the sin, and led to repentance. Gehazi the leper had more hope of salvation than Gehazi the miser. Gain got by a lie will burn your fingers, burn in your purses, rot your estates, and root out your posterity.
1. The love of money is the root of all evil.
2. The avaricious spirit is ever ready to take advantage of the generous.
3. Covet earnestly the best gifts.
DEFILEMENT OF GOD’S WORK BY COVETOUS MEN (2 Kings 5:20-24)
It is saddening to know that some of the best works, nd some of God’s most eminent workers, have been defamed and lowered, if their influence has not been actually counteracted and nullified, by inferior workers and by unworthy men. This defiling of God’s work has generally come from one source, and is the result of one vile lust or passion—covetousness. As illustrating this, read the repulsive histories of Balaam, of Achan, of David’s impious numbering of Israel, the story of Gehazi now before us, and the dark atrocity of the life and death of Judas Iscariot.
I. The action and duplicity of Gehazi are of singular unworthiness. Like so many other histories, they show that intercourse with good men and association with God-like work may become only the occasion of more vileness in a man. To the influence of his noble-minded master, to the refining and elevating power of such a character as Elisha, to the special needs of his fatherland and day, Gehazi seems to have been insensible, or, if not insensible, yet, which is worse, inclined to undervalue them, and to use the privileges and opportunities of his position for the gain of money. Nor is Gehazi lonely in this. On every side evidence of the like iniquity accumulates when we look into Scripture or other history. Few followers of great men have any of their real greatness, though they may share their honour. Few imitators of great teachers catch sight of anything but their own false exaggeration of their master’s position, and the opportunities thereby given of personal advance. The followers of Luther were seldom worthy of him. The followers of Calvin have not been true to their master. The adherents of the hallowed Wesleys did not take their sacred work only. The converts of Paul almost broke his heart. And the followers and servants of Jesus—where is there one of us who is worthy of his master? Do not many of us come to Christ with selfish feelings and serve our God for hire? We may find it helpful against this danger ever to remember that God’s gift of salvation was both undeserved and unsolicited. Being with the good and great will not necessarily make us similar; otherwise Gehazi would have been a better man, and it would not have been Christ’s sorrowful experience that “he who had eaten bread with Him lifted up his heel against Him.”
II. Gehazi’s covetousness was of a gross material kind—the love of money; and the miserable influence of it upon him is seen in this—that it produced inability to appreciate Elisha’s spiritual motives. Ali that Gehazi let himself see was that with the departing Naaman so much money went away too. As with Gehazi, so generally the covetous and unprincipled man lowers himself to a level on which he is unable, in daily life and business, to appreciate other motives than those of getting gain, or measure anything in life’s movements and enterprises by any other gauge than that of the money that can be gained or must be lost. Gehazi could not feel the power of Elisha’s spiritual motives in sparing Naaman and letting him go free of payment. Elisha’s noble determination that the mercy of his God should, in Naaman’s case, be had literally for the asking; his resolve that the goodness of God should be then, as we say now, of grace, and not of buying or selling—this, to such a soul as Gehazi’s, was useless, fanciful, intangible. He was, evidently, a practical vigorous man, who had not much room for fancies, whether religious or any other. Covetous men in the world, and Gehazis in the Church, are too many and too influential. Too many of us have this coarse grain in us, and when there is ever any beauty or tenderness of feeling in us, we get into the habit of hiding it from what we think would be the rude looks and unappreciating touch of others.
III. In several other ways Gehazi’s covetousness involved him in sin, and further defiled the good work that had been wrought by Elisha. These are no lonely, single sins. Sin needs sin to help it along, to buttress it, to back it, and give it success. One deception leads to another, and needs it, and each becomes a pledge of worse. Gehazi had to lie to Naaman; and it speaks of the power of greed and covetousness, to see this man telling the lie so plainly and confidently, misrepresenting his master, and dishonoring God’s work as done by his master. All the food and fame of this grand world are not worth one little lie. Let us he careful not to want anything beyond the reach of honesty, nor to go where we need lies and double-dealing for advancement. To be simple-minded, with Christ, is better than all the successes of duplicity. Gezahi’s lie deceived a trusting man, and made the liar take still greater and more ungenerous advantage of Naaman’s goodness, in doubling the amount of silver. The covetous liar has no room for generosity.
IV. The success of the lie. The falsehood has thriven; to deceive has been found to be the short road to wealth; to insult God, to defame his work, to misrepresent Elisha, and to plunder Naaman. These things have “paid,” as men say. It is this kind of thing that is enough to shake a feeble faith, to see the wicked in great power. Gehazi had gotten his wealth, but what could he do with it? He hid it, hoarded it up for a few hours, and then the judgment came. He got his money like Achan, he hid it like Achan, and God troubled him as he troubled Achan. This is the life of those who are greedy of gain. It is like sowing the barren sea. We can only hoard earth’s gain, or hide it away, or spend it on the world that passes away, for a few hours, and then God must come, and judgment must begin.—C. W. P.
ONE MAN’S BLESSING ANOTHER MAN’S CURSE (2 Kings 5:25-27)
Gehazi has to face that from which a liar never escaped, and a false tongue never was delivered—even detection, exposure, shame, and everlasting contempt. The whole transaction had been decided on so quickly, and carried out so easily, that the probabilities were all in his favour, and warranted his hope that having gained his wealth by a bold stroke he would be able to keep it by effrontery. I. Lying and false ways of earthly prosperity always leave out God. Liars and deceivers ignore God’s interest in their life, God’s knowledge of their plans and schemes, and the execution of them. And in their apparently untroubled doing without God these men and their actions become most hurtful stumbling-blocks to many tender souls. Oh, guard in your daily actions against this perilous thought, this most hurtful habit of ignoring God, and his knowledge of your ways! Let us take the word of God as a “wholesome” blame to ourselves, and as a wise correction of many shameful things in our daily life. Let us really and solemnly believe in God’s omnisicence, not as a theological article only, but as a matter for daily life and care; and let us try to cultivate the ever-present sense that God knows all our ways, and understands our hearts with their pitiful vileness. Yea, let not this beget terror and horror, like that of the prisoner in his cell, who, having been condemned to have some one day and night watching him through a hole in the prison door, became haunted and horrified by the eye that was ever looking at him; but, rather, let us gladly believe that “the Lord has searched us, and known us;” that He “understands our thoughts afar off;” and let us bare and open ourselves to the Infinite Searcher of hearts. II. They who will not do this, will have to prove the experience of Gehazi, that one sin, one lie, makes others easier and worse. Gehazi presumed that Elisha was ignorant of his doings, and when he went in and was asked, “Whence comest thou?” he had his answer ready, “Thy servant went nowhither.” The lie came from him easily and readily, for he had prepared himself beforehand; and the lie he had told to Naaman trained him to insult, by deceiving, his master. The way to perdition is downhill, on a slippery way, with a descent that is ever quickening. The first step down gives us impetus, and every after step is easier to the soul that is going down away from the light. One act of lying or deceiving needs another, and begets its own kind until the liar deceives himself, imagining himself to be secure, when he is on, the edge of perdition, and thinking his schemes are all doing well, when “He that sitteth in the heavens laughs at them, and the Lord has them in derision.” In thus leading to a vile, false security of self-deception, lying becomes its own enemy and judgment. Though others may be hoodwinked, and conscience may be blindfolded, so that right and wrong are not clearly discernible, yet deception must end somewhere. Somewhere, and with some one, a lie must be of no use, be wasted breath and ruinous sin. It is of no use with God; it stops at the throne of God; there it must stand revealed; and we have yet to see whether the boldness of earth’s deceptions will be continued there. Who shall be bold in the day of God? Certainly not the false man. III. Gehazi’s exposure and shame come now before us. How soon the scheme came to an end, and such an end! How soon the bubble burst! Gehazi had deceived Naaman and had gotten his money, but he had misled himself much more. For Elisha’s spirit had been with him, and it is notable that Elisha says, that from the moment in which Gehazi began to deceive Naaman, he knew the whole. It is not a light thing to God when we allow ourselves to glide into an iniquity, but it must be and is before God a much viler thing when, in addition to wronging our own souls, we hurt and sin against others. Sin has been vile enough when, in cases that have come before our law courts, men have lied, and forged, and perjured themselves; the outrage on truth has been bad, but when widows and orphans and others have been ruined by trusting their money to such men, has there not risen a cry to God, a cry clamorous as that of Abel’s unexpiated blood? Samuel Rutherford spoke tenderly yet terribly when he said, “I find it would be no art, as I see now, to make hypocrisy a goodly web, and to go through the market as a saint among men, and yet steal quietly to hell without observation, so easy it is to deceive men. Men see but as men, but to be approved of God (may I add in business?) is no ordinary mercy.” Gehazi got Naaman’s money; would that we all in our trading and toil had the spirit that would lay all gains before God, saying, Lord, whose money have I? IV. Elisha’s patriotism cried out against Gehazi’s sin. “Is it a time to receive money and garments and oliveyards, and vineyards and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?” This protest is based not only on Elisha’s desire that Naaman’s cure should be from beginning to end the evident work of the free grace and mercy of the God of Israel, but rises also from the condition of Israel as a nation at that time. It was a time of strife and care, of war and rumour of war, in which everyone ought to have been ready for the call of self-sacrifice, and for the encouragement of self-denying motives for the sake of the time and the fatherland. During all the period of war and siege and famine of which you may read in the next chapter, Elisha was the leader of the patriotic and no-surrender party in Samaria. He it was who encouraged the people to resist even to the uttermost; and even when the city was so reduced that women ate their own children, and the king sent a man to strike off Elisha’s head as the leader of the resisting party, Elisha still kept the gates of the city shut against a surrender. Knowing the vigorous patriotism of this man of God, his readiness for self-devotion, we may well and easily understand Elisha’s detestation of Gehazi’s conduct when all that he seemed to wish for was the increase of his money and the accumulation of hoarded wealth. It was not a time to receive money, and pander by false ways to the lust for gain, though there are men who, in any crisis of a nation or society or religion, will put the claims of self-interest in the foreground, and judge only under the impulse of insatiable appetite for wealth. The patriot as well as the prophet speaks to us here, and his word declares that a man is required by the condition of his country and the state of the times in which he lives to forbid himself any gain, to deny himself any advance, that may involve him in meanness and sinfulness. With broader meaning also, out of which all other special applications come, we must learn from this that the Christian man is required to govern all his life by such a feeling as this of Elisha, that time on earth is to be passed in the actual subordination of earthly gains of money, or rich dress, or property, or social status. The present time is a time for honest toil and labour in the fear of God and the love of Jesus; but not for aiming at the miscalled “goods” of this world. V. Now, coming to the last of this history, we see Gehazi pierced through with many sorrows. He had sought his good here, but with Naaman’s money he got his leprosy too. The blessing of the Syrian became the curse of the servant of the man of God. Let us get this matter close to ourselves. The day of God, we may fear, will show many who have blighted themselves, marked themselves with a curse by their part in connection with God’s word; many who have helped to do good, but therein doomed themselves by the spirit that they have allowed to grow on the work. It is not a light thing to assume leadership in the Lord, or eldership in His work, for if we are hurtful in these things, who shall heal the hurt?
“For what shall heal, when holy service banes?
Or who may guide
O’er desert plains
Thy lov’d, yet sinful people wandering wide,
If Aaron’s hand, unshrinking, mould
An idol form of earthly gold?”
What shall save when being an instrument of good is made its own curse by any soul? This doom of Gehazi is prophetic of all uncleansed sin and its miserable end. Any unrepented wrong against man or God must come back to the wrongdoer. Sin that we will not let Christ wash away must “find us out,” for it is our sin, our own ghastly belonging for ever and ever. We are its author, owner, and home for ever. We raise a demon that we cannot lay but by taking it home to ourselves. Unpardoned—that is, unrepented—sin is as the unclean spirit of which the Lord spake: it has no end till it returns whence it set out. We began with honour and degradation in Naaman; and it all ends in this dishonour and degradation in Gehazi. “He went out a leper”—the curse of God had fallen on him by the word of the gentle master whose work he had defiled. Elisha’s kindliness gave place to the word of vengeance. Oh, remember that there is such a thing as “the wrath of the Lamb,” and that when the gentleness of God, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, gives way to judgment, there shall be found no place for the liar, the covetous, or any impenitent. In the free grace and love by which Naaman was washed and purified we have our hope; and in the outraged love by which Gehazi was blighted we have our warning. Take both the hope and the warning.—C. W. P.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 5:20-24. A sordid spirit. I. Remains unchanged, though in daily intercourse with the most unselfish nobleness. II. Cannot appreciate the motive that relinquishes a single opportunity of getting gain. III. Deludes itself in assuming a religious guise for its basest acts (2 Kings 5:20). IV. Displays unseemly haste in getting possession of coveted treasure (2 Kings 5:21). V. Is facile in manufacturing falsehood (2 Kings 5:22). VI. Does not scruple to take every advantage of the generosity of others (2 Kings 5:23). VII. Is careful to conceal the extent of its hoardings (2 Kings 5:24).
2 Kings 5:20. How mighty are the evil inborn lusts of the human heart! Even in the case of those who have for years enjoyed the society of the noblest and most pious men, who have heard and read the Word of God daily, and who have had the example of holy conduct daily before their eyes, lusts arise, take possession of them, and carry them captive (James 1:13-15).
2 Kings 5:23. He who himself thinketh no evil, and is sincere, does not suspect cunning and deceit in others. Good-hearted, noble men, to whom it is moro lessed to give than to receive, are easily deceived, and they follow the inclination of their hearts instead of examining carefully to whom they are giving their benefactions.
2 Kings 5:24. That which we must conceal brings no blessing.
2 Kings 5:25-27. The audacity of a liar. I. Stands unabashed in the holiest presence. II. Under the necessity of adding lie to lie. III. Unexpectedly exposed. IV. Does not escape signal punishment.
2 Kings 5:25 compared with 2 Kings 5:27. “But he went in and stood before his master. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.” A never-to-be forgotten interview. I. He went in guilty, yet little dreaming of detection; he came out baffled, exposed, humbled. II. He went in hardened, impenitent, and prepared with excuses; he came out smitten with a punishment as little expected as it was terrible. III. A single interview may wither the happiness of a lifetime; judgment, though unanticipated, is swift and sure. IV. The way in which we shall come out of the last judgment will depend upon the character with which we go in.
2 Kings 5:26. It is folly to presume upon sin in hopes of secrecy. When thou goest aside into any bye-path, does not thy own conscience go with thee? Does not the eye of God go with thee?
—Giving is kind, and taking is courteous, and both may at times and in some cases be done without sin. There is much use of godly discretion, doubtless, in directing us when to open, when to shut our hands.—Trapp.
2 Kings 5:27. It is a woful exchange that Gehazi hath made with Naaman; Naaman came a leper, returned a disciple. Gehazi came a disciple, returned a leper. Naaman left behind both his disease and his money; Gehazi takes up both his money and his disease. Now shall Gehazi neverlook upon himself but he shall think of Naaman, whose skin is transferred upon him with those talents, and shall wear out the rest of his days in shame, in pain, and sorrow. His tears may wash off the guilt of his sin, but shall not, like another Jordan, wash off his leprosy; that shall ever remain as a hereditary monument of Divine severity. Happy was it for him if, while his skin was snow white with leprosy, his humbled soul was washed white as snow with the water of true repentance.—Bp. Hall.
—The leprosy of riches. Gold is tainted. Strength required to use it aright. A curse cleaves to it when it is ill-gotten or ill-used. This curse crops out most frequently in the children. A father absorbed in the pursuit of wealth, and mother absorbed in fashion, will bring up corrupt and neglected children. Parents who love gold, fashion, and display, train their children to hold these the chief things in life.
—As Naaman was a living monument of the saving might and grace of Jehovah, so Gehazi was a monument of the retributive justice of the Holy One in Israel; a living warning and threat for the entire people. By his conversion Naaman was taken up into God’s community of redemption in Israel; by his unfaithfulness and denial of this God, Gehazi brings down upon himself the punishment which excludes him from the society of the prophet-disciples and of the entire covenant people. As Naaman’s cure and conversion was a physical prophecy that God will have pity upon the heathen also, and will receive him into His covenant of grace, so Gehazi’s leprosy prophesied the rejection of the people of Israel who should abandon the covenant of grace and persevere in apostasy (Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 21:43).—Lange.
—Let not the punishment of Gehazi be thought too severe. Important principles were involved in his conduct, for it was a time when the representatives of the sacred office needed to observe the greatest caution against the spirit of worldliness. Gehazi’s acts on this occasion were a complication of wickedness. He showed contempt for the judgment of his master in the matter of receiving gifts; he meanly misrepresented the prophet by making him ask for what Naaman had just heard him most positively refuse; he invented a false story to blind the eyes of Naaman; and, finally, told a miserable lie in the hope of escaping detection from Elisha. Add to all this the foul spirit of covetousness that actuated him through all this evil course, and his curse will not appear too great. The extending of his curse to his children after him is but another exhibition of the terrible consequences of human sinfulness. Gehazi’s posterity, innocent of their father’s sins, but, like many others, they were compelled to bear the consequences of ancestral crimes. That thousands of innocents are subjected to suffering because of the sins of others is a fact which none can deny. Why this is permitted under the government of an all-wise God is a question which He has not seen fit fully to answer.—Whedon.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12