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The interesting ministry of Elisha is continued throughout this chapter. The prophet healeth Naaman, the Syrian, of his leprosy. He refuseth the gifts and rewards of the Syrian. Gehazi, his servant, taking them, is in judgment smitten with the leprosy.
2 Kings 5:1
How beautiful is the account given by the sacred historian of this Naaman, by way of raising our notions of him. He was a great man; and an honourable man, and though an heathen, and an idolator, yet the Lord had given him success in arms; but in the midst of all these things, the dreadful, loathsome disease of the leprosy, made him a matter of terror to everyone that came near him, lest they should be infected by him. As a commentator once said, in reading this account of Naaman, "there was not a slave in Syria which would have exchanged his skin with him." Reader! such is sin! Wherever it is, and in whomsoever it reigns, it throws down all other endowments!
Was there not an overruling providence in the captivity of this Israelitish damsel? Reader! look at the subject as it really is. The Lord had a mercy in store for Naaman. He causes, therefore, this daughter of his people to be taken into captivity. She tells of Israel's prophet, and the wonders he had wrought. And at length, for the better accomplishment of God's purpose, she is taken into Naaman's family. How often doth the Lord do this in spreading the savor of his grace, and making his salvation known. The early knowledge this little maid had of Elisha and his miracles, may serve to give parents a profitable lesson by the way, how very speedily they ought to bring them acquainted with Jesus and his great salvation. Parents know not how soon their children may be sent out into life, or they themselves taken from them. Oh! that fathers and mothers, whose bowels yearn over their little ones, would seriously lay this to heart, and very early bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord! Ephesians 6:4 .
I cannot but request the Reader's attention with me, to the story of this case of Naaman altogether, because I conceive that it is intended, in a spiritual sense, to set forth both the grace, and the freeness of that grace, as a type of Jesus's cleansing poor leprous sinners. And I think it the more remarkable, because we only meet with the instance of this Gentile in the Old Testament to this point; and the instance of another Gentile in the New, the woman of Canaan; though her child's disease was not of the leprosy, yet Jesus can be alone the healer of both. Matthew 15:22 etc.
Reader! observe the different conduct induced by nature and grace in the minds of men. When the king of Israel received this letter, nature, untaught of God, made an alarming interpretation. When Hezekiah received a letter from an idolatrous, prince, grace prompted him to spread it before the Lord. Isaiah 37:14 .
Reader! do not fail to observe how Naaman came. His gifts were in his hand, and he himself, no doubt, gorgeously dressed, to cover his leprous body. And could he hope that an enemy to Israel, the God of Israel would regard him? Behold in this man, an emblem of the coming of every unawakened sinner! He comes to purchase his salvation. He comes in his best robes, his best chariot, his gifts to hide his sinful soul. Alas! all these most be put off, and the sinner come down from all high flights of fancied goodness, before a cure can be obtained for the leprosy of the soul.
And says not the prophet, in this instance, like the gospel? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, is the sweet language it proclaims. Go, wash in the blood of the Lamb, not seven times indeed, for he that is once washed, needs no more sacrifice for sin. Hebrews 10:18 ., And, as Jesus himself graciously said, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit. John 13:10 .
Reader! observe in the conduct of Naaman, what a deadly foe the pride of man is to the reception and enjoyment of our chiefest felicities. And observe further, though this Syrian had cause enough, in such a filthy, loathsome disease, to have made him meek of heart, yet it had not subdued his pride. Alas! how many are there under the most humbling situations, that are never truly humbled in soul. Is not the conduct of Naaman, in preferring the great rivers of Damascus to the sacred streams of Jordan, not dissimilar to those who are unconscious of the difference between the outward means of grace, and the inward power. And wherein! doth Naaman differ from modern unbelievers, who, ignorant of God's righteousness, go about to establish their own righteousness, and take up with their own washings in the Abenas and Pharpars of unrenewed nature rather than the precious blood of Jesus?
Father has the same sense and meaning here, as master. Every master of a family may be said to be the father of it, in this point of view. But what I principally desire of the Reader in this verse is, to trace the hand of the Lord in the work. It was the Lord that caused this little maid of Israel to be tarried captive into Syria: and perhaps among other causes, very principally with a view to lay a foundation for the cure of this leper. Our Lord himself expressly tells us, that while many lepers were in Israel at this very time when Naaman was healed, Elisha had commission to cleanse none but him. Luke 4:27 It was therefore the Lord which caused this little maid to be taken captive. It was from the same overruling providence of the Lord, that she was brought into Naaman's house. It was the Lord which brought to this young Israelite's mind, while in Damascus, the recollection of Elisha the prophet, in Israel. And it was the Lord which prompted her to recommend Israel's prophet to Naaman's wife. And was it not the same Almighty Lord which operated upon Naaman's other servants to cool down their master's rage, and induce him to listen to reason. And above all, who but the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, could have influenced this haughty Syrian to go down into Jordan, after all the hatred and rage he had manifested against it. Pause, Reader! in the review of the many means adopted to the accomplishment of this one purpose, and learn with me to admire and adore the providences of God, thus wonderfully carrying on the sacred purposes of his will. And do not stop here. From the world of nature press on and contemplate the same Almighty hand unremittingly engaged in the world of grace. Who was it, my soul, that first gave me to see, amidst all my fancied greatness and importance, that I was but a poor leper! Who was it first told thee of Jesus Christ? Who inclined me to seek from this Almighty Prophet in Israel, the cure of my leprosy? And when, like another Naaman, I came to him in all my best things, hoping to purchase his favor by presenting him his own gifts; and the mortifying message from his holy word was sent me, to wash in his blood and be clean, my proud self-righteous heart was lifted up to reject, in rage, such a doctrine; who was it that rooted out that pride, that softened that rage, and made me willing to be saved in God's own way, and by the Lord's own power? Oh! precious, precious Jesus? never, never let me lose sight of thy Person, grace and mercy, but delight to give thee, what is so justly thy due, all the glory!
Observe what a vast work the Lord had wrought upon the heart of this Syrian! The leprosy of his skin was not only washed away, but the leprosy and unbelief of his soul, he is at once convinced that the God of Israel must be the true God, and that there can be no other. Observe, moreover, how his heart was affected in wishing now for Elisha to take this blessing, as he called it, not any longer as the price of his cure, but as the token of his love. And observe how precious the very earth of Israel was to his view, who before this had despised her sacred river. Such, Reader will ever be the blessed effects of a change of heart, and the real conversion of the soul to God. Poor man! he feared indeed, that he should be obliged to dissemble his religion when the king, his master, on his return to Syria, made him attend him to his idol worship. And here he strikingly represents the case of many a young convert in the first opening of his renewed life. Timid and apprehensive lest carnal friends should mock or ill treat them, many there are, like this Syrian, or like Nicodemus, who in their first awakenings, visit Jesus by night. John 3:1-2 .
I cannot pass over the review of these verses, without desiring the Reader to stop and remark with me, one or two circumstances which deserve our observation. What an awful character was this Gehazi! Though he had been so long with his master, had seen his miracles, heard his discourses, and was fully convinced that Elisha's God could and would supply all their need; yet he covets the pitiful things of silver and gold Naaman had brought with him! And, Reader! do not fail to observe, for it is a point of the greatest importance; that being in the prophet's service, seeing his miracles, and hearing his sermons, conveyed no grace to the heart of Gehazi. Naaman's servants, though idolators, were faithful. Elisha's, though worshipping the true God, was base and unworthy. Oh! what lessons do such things teach us! And note, in this lying conduct of Gehazi, how daringly he called upon the Lord's name in the deed: As the Lord liveth, was his expression. If I mistake not, the Holy Ghost hath marked the self-existence, sovereignty, and supremacy of the Lord Jehovah, under this phrase in scripture, in many parts where we meet with it. But then it is always spoken either by the Lord himself, or in the most reverential manner by his servants, in reference to him. And it implies that, strictly and properly speaking, none but God himself can be said to live. All other existence is derived from him. If this be the real state of the case, I pray the Reader to remark with me, what an awful profanation that must be of this distinguishing perfection of Jehovah, when light minds, and which is very common in the world, in their trifling conversation, by way of confirming what they say, assume this language, and cry out; as I live; Isaiah 49:18 ; Jeremiah 22:24 ; Ezekiel 14:16 ; 1 Kings 18:15 , etc.
It should seem from what Elisha said to Gehazi, concerning oliveyards, and vineyards, and the like, that the prophet not only knew by divine teaching the sin of Gehazi, but the design he had in seeking Naaman's wealth. He was probably planning a scheme to dispose of the money, in the purchase of those things for himself and family. Observe, if so, what an awful purchase he had made, instead of the one he intended. He and his seed shall be marked with a loathsome disease and with infamy forever. Oh! ye unhappy, deluded, and wretchedly mistaken parents! do ye not, when determining to be rich, pierce yourselves through with many sorrows. Oh! Sirs! what of real happiness do you entail upon your offspring, though you entail upon them the largest estates! And if for the purchase of this world's treasure for your children, you sacrifice your own everlasting good; think in a dying hour, with what reflections in yourself, or what real thankfulness and affection from them, your mind will be comforted. Oh! for that solemn sentence of our adorable Lord, to be written on the walls of every worldly man's house, and sounded in his ears every day; What is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26 .
READER! though I have already detained you, as we have passed through this chapter, with several suitable reflections, as they appeared to my view, and arose in my mind, yet I would call upon you before we close the book, to gather up a few more of a spiritual nature, which I pray the Lord to make profitable.
If we have been reading the history of Naaman's leprosy, as a matter remote from ourselves, and simply no other than a transaction which occurred in the annals of Israel, many years since; we have lost all the gracious designs which the Holy Ghost had in view, in causing such a memorable event to be recorded. Reader! you and I, and every child of Adam, bring with us into the world the leprosy of sin. Behold! (says David) I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Are you, Reader, sensible of this? Do you know it? Do you believe it? Oh! then, I say as the captive maid in Syria; Would to God you were with the Prophet that is in Samaria, even the Lord God of the prophets, the Lord Jesus Christ, for he would recover you of your leprosy!
And, Reader! do not come, as the Syrian did, with chariots and horses; do not seek with gifts and rewards to purchase redemption. Our Jesus is too rich to need our gold; too gracious to accept anything from his creatures. He hath a fulness, a suitableness, an all-sufficiency in himself; and his precious blood cleanseth from all sins. Dearest Jesus! behold I come to thee. No Naaman, no leper at the foot of the mountain; no Ethiopian can need cleansing more than I the cry of my soul is, Lord! if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean! Oh! then put forth thy gracious hand; put forth thy sovereign grace in my soul, and pronounce the healing word, I will; be thou clean; and immediately my soul shall be healed. And healed by thee, like Naaman, my soul will he fully convinced that there is no God in all the earth, no other name under heaven given among men, whereby sinners may be saved! Oh! for grace to know with Paul, now that we are washed, that we are sanctified, that we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. And shortly we shall then come to sing that song with all the congregation in heaven, who were once leprous as ourselves, but have been cleansed in the same laver of redemption; thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/