The chapter begins by describing Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army. Verse 1 reads,
“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.”
Naaman was a leper but he was still a great commander who was highly favored with the king. He did not let his leprosy stop him. He was also a good master to the slaves and servants of his household. They cared about him. This was the case with an Israeli girl who had been taken from her home and was now a slave for Naaman’s wife. Verses 2-5 read,
“Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.”
Everyone wanted to see Naaman healed. His leprosy had not deterred him from being a mighty man of valor but that didn’t mean he had to like it. His slave wanted him healed, his king wanted him healed, and he wanted himself healed. Whatever problems or difficulties we have in life to not have to stop us from being all God made us to be, but that does not mean we have to say we are okay with the illness, disability or weakness we have. Accepting God as our All in All does not have to mean that we do not seek healing or pass up opportunities for healing when they come our way. Yes, we suffer for Christ’s sake, but that does not mean we refuse relief when the time comes for it to end. God wants to use our suffering for our good, but He also wants to use our healing for our good (Romans 8:28).
So the letter was sent to the King of Israel. Verses 6-7 read,
“And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
As far as we know this is still Jerhoram, who did not worship idols per se but who refused to worship The Lord as The Lord had prescribed. He read the letter and his reaction was not, “My God can do anything.” His reaction was, “I can’t heal this guy!” Turning to the Lord, just didn’t occur to the prideful king. He assumed the Syrian king was looking for an excuse for war and went into a royal snit over it.
When God wants to do something, He will do it. It was God who put the little girl into Naaman’s household so she could tell him about Elisha. It was the Lord who moved the Syrian king’s heart to let Naaman go. So the Lord also made sure Elisha knew about Naaman. Verses 8-10 read,
“But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”
What do you suppose Naaman’s reaction was? What would your reaction be if you had suffered from a debilitating illness for years, you went to see a healer and his assistant came in and said, “The healer said, go take a shower in the hotel next door and you will be healed?” Would you be overjoyed at the simplicity? Would you go and obey? Would you doubt that such a simple act would cure you? Would you think, “I’ve come all this way to see the healer, he could at least look at me! He could at least pour the water on me himself! Am I so unimportant that he has to send his assistant to me? Heck, I could stay home and take a shower in my luxurious comfortable shower.” Well, Naaman was mad. Verses 11-12 describe it,
“But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.”
Naaman wanted Elisha to make a show of it, to wave his hands and cry out to the Lord. He wanted drama. Some healers today elevate themselves by acting as if it is they doing the healing rather than God. The people who go to them want the drama. They want to elevate themselves a bit too by seeing how much energy must be put forth for them.
But God is God. Nothing is too difficult for Him, nothing is impossible for Him. Didn’t Naaman even take note that God cared so much, Elisha already knew about, prayed about, and received the answer he sought or that God gave Him an answer at all? But Naaman’s servants calmed the commander down and reasoned with him. Verses 13-14 describe it.
“But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
God loved Naaman so much that he had given him a great word. Naaman was too prideful to recognize it, but his servants were not. They cared enough about their master to point out that profound truth to him. They could have been punished or even killed for it, but they loved him and wanted him to be whole again. They had to speak the truth to him. Do you love people enough to tell them about the Word that God sent for them because of His love for them? Do you care enough to want tell them that “by His stripes they are healed” and they can have eternal life?
Naaman listened and he obeyed. He was healed, his flesh was not just clean it was brand new! God’s healing like His salvation is not just wiping away the surface, taking away the problems or the curing an illness. It is complete. It makes us brand new, innocent and righteous. Naaman was no longer a leper, his skin didn’t even show scars from the disease or from the decades of his life. It was like a newborn’s skin which had never been affected by the sun, dirt, time, or leprosy. Jesus heals us from our sin the same way. He doesn’t just forgive our sins and take them away. He makes us new, He makes us righteous. He changes us from sinners to saints.
Naaman was so completely changed that he no longer wanted to follow any other God but The LORD. Verse 15 reads,
“Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.”
We will find out the rest of the story tomorrow. But for now let’s reflect on all that this part of the story taught us. God does use the difficulties we suffer. God used Naaman’s leprosy as the instrument to bring him into a relationship with Him. He used a kidnapped child slave to speak His word. He even used the power of the Syrian king to move Naaman to faith.
What are you suffering? What have you suffered? Maybe the reason is so that He can make you and the people around you more like Him. Maybe He wants to reveal Himself to people. That is most often the good He wants to bring out of the circumstances of our lives. Romans 8:28 is often quoted to comfort a suffering brother. To me, it is much more comforting put back into context. Romans 8:26-30 reads,
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
We are not alone in our struggles. The Holy Spirit is not only with us, He speaks to the Father for us not with words but with the groanings which encompass our pain and our needs. And God works it for our good according to His will. But that good is not so much earthly good as eternal. He uses it to conform us to Christ’s image so that He and we can be glorified. Christ is glorified on the earth since he is already glorified in Heaven. As we look more like Him on earth, we will be glorified perfectly in Heaven.
But our pride, our desire to exalt ourselves and be exalted by others often stands in the way of glorifying Jesus. Naaman’s pride nearly kept him from healing salvation. It was those who easily humbled themselves that could show Him that submitting to God’s word would give him what he needed. Pride stops us from too much. It obstructs us from receiving Christ. It hinders us from walking and maturing in Christ. It stops us from glorifying Him and bring people into the Kingdom. Pride says, “I am god, I do not need The Lord. I can do it.” God doesn’t heal people who refuse to admit they need healing. He doesn’t save people who refuse to admit they need saving. In Mark 2:15-17 Jesus said,
“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I encourage you today, not to let your struggles overcome you but to let God use them as He chooses to bring you and others to Him. I encourage you to let go of your pride and submit to God. Let Him heal you. Let Him make you completely new, like a newborn. Admit your need, ask for help, and receive the Word He gives you in response. He is God, we are not.