There are two lepers in 2 Kings 5 and both teach us something different about God. One teaches us that God is gracious and forgiving when we repent; the other teaches us just how serious God is about integrity. Let's join Stephen in this message as he introduces us to both men.
Certain words conjure up immediate emotional responses and conclusions. Whether we know all the details or not, just one word brings up mental pictures.
Let me throw a few words your way.
Honeymooners . . . the first thing that comes to your mind when I say that word is - Jackie Gleason, right?! Wrong! When I hear the words, “They’re on their honeymoon” I immediately think the words, “Do no disturb.”
Denver Broncos – victory
How about the word graduation . . . hangliding . . . nature . . . laughter . . . Krispy Kreme. . . sorry - a slip of the tongue.
Some words bring wonderful scenes and vivid colors with them into your mind, as soon as you hear them.
Then, there are words that immediately bring unspoken volumes of pain and darkness - words like, suicide . . . rape . . . slavery . . . abortion.
Here’s a word that, while we don’t hear it often, it carries with it a mixture of horror and revulsion and sadness - it is the word - LEPROSY.
Although we don’t know all the reasons why, we recoil at that word - it immediately conjures up thoughts to our mind, though somewhat foggy for lack of details. There is a foreboding mysterious despair to the words - “They have leprosy.”
Those words automatically warn - “Unclean” The words shout, “Stay away - don’t touch - keep clear.”
Philip Yancy, in one of his books describes his visits with Dr. Brand - a Doctor who spent most of his life working with lepers in the country of India.
He writes, “We have been conditions to view leprosy as one of the most cruel diseases imaginable. It is cruel, but not at all the way other diseases are. It primarily acts as an anesthetic, numbing the pain cells of hands, feet, nose, ears and eyes. Most diseases are feared because of their pain - what makes a painless disease so horrible? Well, for thousands of years people thought leprosy caused the ulcers on hands and feet and face which eventually led to rotting flesh and loss of limbs. Mainly through Dr. Brand’s research, it has been established that in 99 percent of the cases, the destruction follows solely because the warning system of pain is gone. How does the decay happen? In villages of Africa and Asai, a person with leprosy has been known to reach directly into a charcoal fire to retrieve a dropped potato. Nothing in his body tol him not to. Patients in India would work all day gripping a shovel with a protruding nail, or extinguish a burning wick with the bare hands, or walk on splintered glass. On one occasion, Dr. Brand tried to open the door of a little storeroom, but a rusty padlock would not yield. A patient - an undersized, malnourished ten year old said, “Let me try, sahib doctor,” he offered and reached for the key. With a quick jerk of his hand he turned the key in the lock. Brand was dumbfounded. How could this weak youngster out-exert him? Then his eyes caught the tell-tale clue - a drop of blood on the floor. Upon examining the boy’s fingers, Brand discovered the act of turning the key had gashed a finger open to the bone - yet the boy was completely unaware of it. To him, the sensation of cutting his finger to the bone was no different from picking up a stone or turning a coin in his pocket.
Leprosy is death by degrees - bodily injury, physical scarring, ignorant abuse, a thousand different disorders - all because the person cannot feel the sensation we call pain.
As you’ve studied the Old Testament, you’ve probably noticed that leprosy was the disease inflicted by God on a sinful, stubborn, rebellious person. While that isn’t the case in our dispensation - it is interesting to consider that, in the past ages, God may have sent leprosy as a signal - a statement that indicated, “Since you no longer feel pain in your heart and conscience by the act of sin - you will now be cursed with the inability to feel pain in your flesh.”
A brief biography of a leper is given to us in the Book of 2 Kings. A desperate man who’s path ultimately crosses the path of God’s prophet Elisha.
Let’s pick our study back up where we left off with chapter 5 and verse 1. Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great men with his master, and highly respected, becuase by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.
While the text doesn’t give us chronological clues, it’s clear that Naaman’s leprosy did not surface or activate in his body until his later years.
This brief description of Naaman shouts one clear message - apart from his current condition of leprosy, Naaman had it made. He was at the top of the heap in the kingdom - he was the respected, trusted confidant and friend of King; becuase of his victory over King Ahab, he was every soldiers idol.
Josephus believed that it was Naaman who shot the arrow into the air that found it’s mark in the disguised King of Israel. It was Naaman who killed Ahab - which immediately catapulted Naaman into legendary status.
The prophet Jeremiah is writing specifically to show, I believe, a contrast, a paradox between highest achievement and hopeless despair.
Let your eyes wander over this description once again - in verse 1 - “...a great man. . .highly respected. . .a valiant warrior. . .and then the shocking declaration - a leper.
A valiant soldier that would soon be unable to swing the sword - unable to grip the saddle with strong legs - unable to lead the charge up some wind swept hill.
He would no longer be sought out by his army - he would be avoided at all costs - the whispers would sweep through the camp - of all the great titles he had enjoyed, the title now used as people cast their saddened looks his direction was, “There goes Naaman, the leper.”
There wasn’t a soldier in his army who envied now - the most ordinary foot soldier would glance at Naaman, gaze at the medals and ribbons that adorned his uniform and conclude - as great as he is and as common as I am, I wouldn’t change places with him for one second!
Naaman was a leper.
Now in the course of his skirmishes, he happened to take a captive Israelite - a young girl - verse 2 tells us that she was the personal attendant of Naaman’s wife. In verse 3 she said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.”
In our next discussion I want to take a closer look at this young girl and contrast her with the servant of Elisha.
But for now, it is an amazing thing that she’s concerned at all for her abductor - the one who is responsible for ripping her from her country, her family, and her home.
It was so unusual that, to Naaman and his wife, she must be sincere - maybe there was a miracle worker in Israel - who can cure the incurable!
Notice v. 4. And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.” 5. Then the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” And he departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes.
At this point, Naaman becomes a perfect example of humanity - lost, diseased by incurable sin.
His plan for physical healing provides a perfect illustration of mankind's approach to spiritual healing - he displays two very typical, rational errors:
The first error is this - “Healing can be bought with good intentions and valuable gifts.”
There wasn’t anybody more sincere about healing that Naaman. He simply figured that since healing an incurable disease would require special power, that healing would cost a great deal of money.
Your Bibles recorded that his gift included ten talents of silver. That’s approximately 850 ounces of silver - so its worth in today's market around $40,000. A shekel of gold weighed .4 troy ounces therefore 6,000 shekels of gold weighed around 2400 ounces which would be worth, in todays market of about $500 dollars an ounce around 1.2 million dollars. Throw in the clothing for the king - and you’re looking at an immense amount of money.
Now this army captain probably didn’t have 1.2 million lying around. I personally believe this was everything Naaman could pull together, beg and borrow off his friends, family, his soldiers may have passed the hat, his good friend the king probably contributed a large portion of this money and as Naaman set off for Israel, everyone cried, “Naaman, we’re all rooting for you; surely you have enough to buy the magic cure . . . good luck.”
He’s about to discover, you can’t buy healing - physically or spiritually - they are both gifts from God.
The second mistake he made is in beleiving that healing can be provided by someone else
Notice verse 6.
Why would God be so limited to send spiritual healing to humanity through only one person. Why can’t there be many roads that lead to heaven?
There is terrific resistance to the Biblical truth that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, the life. Does that mean that if you believe in Buddha you are wrong - yes. Does that mean that if you follow the Dalai Lama you are wrong? Yes. Does that mean that if you follow a religion of your own comfort or a spirit guide of your own choosing or a superstition of your own making that you can be lost forever? Yes.
Even if you’re sincere - even if all your friends are rooting for you - even if you put everything you own on the line!
Peter as preaching in Acts 4:12 about Jesus Christ and declared to a people who had multiple gods and religious traditions and a myriads of superstitions - “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
That’s the truth - you either believe in Him or die a leper. An outcast forever from the splendor of heaven and the glory of God
Two typical responses: “Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.”
**“I think healing should come like I imagined it.”
Here’s a flyer I received about a seminar where music became the spiritual guide - ALIGNMENT THROUGH MUSIC WORKSHOP “Start your new year with the healing energies of music. Find out how to use sound and music for healing, emotional clearing and balancing, self-discovery, stress reduction, change of state, and spiritual awakening.”
I won’t argue that the right kind of music can have terrific affect on you, but it cannot bring spiritual awakening to a dead spirit.
“This is a participatory workshop, wear comfortable clothes. . .you may want to bring a pen, notebook and a pillow or two.” I forgot to attend.
Now notice v. 12.“Are not Abanah 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.
**“I think something from my past should be good enough!”
THE ECSTASY OF A HEALED LEPER
-His humility is exhibited.
-His healing is received.
-His homage is announced.
APPLICATION: Lesons Taught By A Leper
“It is much easier to work for our spiritual healing than it is to simply receive it.”
A little boy came to the Washington Monument and noticed a guard standing by it. The little boy looked up at the guard and said, "I want to buy it." The guard stooped down and says, "How much do you have?" The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out 25 cents. The guard said, "That's not enough." The boy replied, "I thought you would say that." So he pulled out nine cents more. The guard looked down at the boy and said, "You need to understand three things. First, 34 cents is not enough, 34 million dollars is not enough to buy the Washington Monument. Second, the Washington Monument is not for sale. And third, if you are an American citizen, the Washington Monument already belongs to you." We need to understand three things about forgiveness. First, we can not earn it. Second, it is not for sale. And third, if we accept Christ, we already have it. Submitted by Pastor Gary Tolbert
“It is difficult to accept a plan of salvation of which we were never consulted, nor fully understand.”
Surely, I know the way to find God - what am I, ignorant? Helpless? Yes!
“It is impossible to experience God’s forgiveness without following God’s plan, God’s method, God’s cure.
You are invited this morning, not to a river filled with muddy, Jordanian waters, but to a fountain, filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunge beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain.
The bloodshed of Christ represents the giving of his life in your place - to endure the wrath of God and pay the penalty for all your sins, past, present and future.
To those who have been washed, though their sins were as scarlet, now they are white as snow.
To you John writes in the final Book of God’s story - the Book of Revelation records, “I’m writing to you about Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born from among the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. The One who loves us, and has washed us from our sins by His blood. And Has made us to be a kingdom, priests to God and his Father, to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Congregational reading -
There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stain.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day,
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away;
Wash all my sins away . . .
E’er since by faith I saw the stream, thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die.
And shall be til I die. . .
This hymn was written by William Cooper - another man who had come to the end of his hopes and was faced with despair. A mental collapse and an attempted suicide landed him in the insnae asylum for 18 months. It was there at the end of his rope - at the pinnacle of his despair that that he read from the Book of Romans, “Jesus Christ is the substitutionary sacrifice for those who place their faith in His blood.
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue, lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler sweeter song, I’ll sing thy power to save.
I’ll sing thy power to save, I’ll sing thy power to save;
Then in a nobler sweeter song, I’ll sing thy power to save.