The diagnosis for sin is not good. It's terminal. But there is a cure. In this message, an Old Testament leper receives it once and for all. Will you?
“OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES”
(II Kings 5:1-14)
Children say the most incredible things. The Feb. issue of Facts of Life, published this month recorded the statements of children as it related to love.
They were asked several different questions about love and here’s how some of them responded. I thank, my good friend for e’mailing me these quotes a few days ago!
How Does Love Happen?
One little girl said, “No one knows for sure, but I think it has something to do with how you smell.”
A boy responded, “I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow, but the rest isn’t supposed to be as painful.”
What’s Love Like?
A little boy said, “It’s like an avalanche and you run for your life.”
Another boy said, “Next to baseball, it’s the most important thing in the world.”
What Does It Take To Be In Love
A little girl said, “One of you should know how to write a check, becuase even if you have tons of love, there are still going to be a lot of bills.”
Another girl said, “I’m not rushing into it - fourth grade is hard enough.”
How Do You Encourage Somebody To Love You?
Well,” this 6 year old boy said, “tell, the girl you own a candy store!”
Little boys must think girls hearts are won by food, because another boy said, “Take the girl out to eat, and make sure it’s something she likes. French fries work for me.”
Now here’s a deep response from a boy, “Don’t do things like wear smelly sneakers. You might get attention, but attention isn’t the same thing as love.”
Finally, “How Do You Make Love Last”
Well, a little boy said, “Be a good kisser, she’ll forget you never take out the trash!” Son, I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work!
Little Erin said (and I would love to know the background to this statement) You want to make love last, “Don’t forget your wife’s name - that always messes things up!” I can imagine it would!
One more, “How do you make love last” One boy said, “Spend most of your time loving your wife instead of going to work.” All in favor say aye . . . fellas, this is a good opportunity to make up for missing valentines day - all in favor say aye - “AYE!”
Now I suggest you lean over and give your wife a kiss - um sir you can stop anytime now!
The amazing ability of children to say incredible, funny, deep things is nothing new.
In fact, throughout the Bible, children show up at amazing times, with refreshing honesty and courage. Like David, confronting the faithless king of Israel and it’s army and then singlehandedly going against Goliath; or like little Samuel correcting Eli as God’s mouthpiece; a little boy who shared his simple lunch with the Lord became an example of selflessness and faith; or young Timothy who, from his childhood, proved that an understanding of scriptures can be had as a child - which then serves as a Biblical incentive for this church to teach the scriptures to children - as well as adults.
I almost missed someone in our story of Naaman - you may remember our last discussion of a leprous man and his bath in the Jordan river that washed his leprosy away.
Tucked away in that story is another story - the testimony of a little girl who said some profound things - and in so doing provided an incredible example of something that every one of us should be today.
So for our entire discussion this morning, I want to invite you to the testimony of a little Hebrew girl. It’s found in 2 Kings chapter five.
SETTING THE STAGE Let’s go back to verse one to refresh our memories of this story. 5:1. Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man 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.
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 would no longer be sought out by his army - his soldiers would avoid him at all costs - the whispers had already swept through the camp - and through that Syrian Kingdom.
Naaman was a leper.
This is the horror of a terminal disease which repulsed everyone and it is so horrible that it can overshadow the horror brought about in the life of a little girl.
Notice v. 2. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands, and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.
In the course of all the raids carried out by the Syrians against neighboring Hebrew villages, a young girl was taken captive.
That’s all the Bible records - yet there is a volumne of unspoken terror for her. Can you imagine your home being broken into by a raiding party of enemy soldiers - The Hebrew verb, translated “raiding party” is the verb that can be rendered, to cut - to penetrate. One greek translation of this passage rcalls these men, “one belted” - that is, these were soldiers dressed and outfitted lightly for guerilla tactics - they could quickly penetrate some unsuspecting village; killing, and pillaging, and then, just as swftly, dissapear into the night.
Suddenly, without warning - perhaps to the screams of her mother - perhaps watching her father die in some struggle - she finds herself in the clutches of a barbarian - the Hebrew text indicates in verse 2 that she was not among captives taken, but that, on this particular raid, she was the only captive taken.
One author wrote, “Few people suffered what she suffered; captured by enemy soldeirs, exiled to a foreign country, forever separated from her family, consigned to a lifetime of slavery.”
Imagine her in the capital square being auctioned off - we’re not told how it all happened, only that it did - and then, in one final twist of agony, she finds herself a slave in the household of the great warlord himself.
I say all of that to help you see how incredible it was that the words in verse 3 ever came from her lips. And 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 that little phrase - from the mouth of this little girl comes some profound, convicting challenges to every Christian in every generation.
Here is the testimony of an anonymous slave girl as she lived her days in a foreign land.
The first thing I am struck with is the quality of compassion - look again at the first part of verse 3. “And she said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria”
Why should she care? The Syrians were enemies of Israel. He was a pagan warlord - an idolater. Why would she want him to live.
I would pillow my head at night and thank almighty God that that miserable man was suffering with leprosy - “Lord let him die slowly.
Do you have somebody at work who hates you - who ridicules your faith - who makes life as miserable for you as possible - how motivated are you that they enjoy good health.
This is Jesus Christ weeping over Jerusalem - this is the Lord extending forgiveness to the dying thief while He was in agony - this is the gospel, “That while were sinners, Jesus Christ pitched his tent among us - and died for us.”
And wether we want to own up to it or not - that compassion in Christ is to be developed in us!
And don’t overlook the fact that Naaman has a disease that, according to Mosaic law, was the epitome of judgment and certain death. Lepers were to be avoided at all costs!
Josephus, recorded in his Antiquities, a first century history book, “The Israelite lepers were not allowed inside the city at all, nor were they allowed to live with anyone else, as if they were in effect dead.”
If anything, this little girl should have resented the fact that she was forced, not only to be a slave, but the slave of a leper, living under the same roof with a dead man.
Yet, this little girl cared - she had that quality of a witness that will always move hearts and homes - she had compassion!
She also possessed the quality of faith - Look at the last phrase again in verse 3. “Then he would cure him of his leprosy.”
“Go to the prophet in Samaria - don’t put more sacrifices out for Baal - don’t go to the prophets and priest s of Baal - that’s a dead religion without hope - go to Elisha - he can heal you Naaman!”
First of all, Ladies and Gentlemen, this little lamb had every reason to doubt the existence of Yahweh! The Israelites were losing! There was famine in the land. Baalism was the worship of the people. She had been ripped from her home - where was the protection of Yawheh - she, though innocent was forced to live in the home of a leper - enough is enough!
At a time when she should be doubting her God, she is affirming Him.
Let me show you the depth of her faith - hold your finger here and turn to a fascinating revelation in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4.
While your turning, I think you would agree that it wouldn’t be that great a stretch of faith to believe that a prophet of God could heal leprosy, right. Surely, the stories abounded of Elisha’s ability to heal lepers along with any other disease, right?
Well, look with me as Jesus is preaching in the synagogue - verse 25. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26. and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
Jesus Christ is preaching with something else in mind, but did you catch what he said about Elisha’s track record with lepers? How many had he healed? None. How many stories did this little girl hear? None.
Can you imagine going to a cardiologist for open heart surgery who had yet to be successful in the operating room? Listen Dr., I understand you’ve had 85 patients, and none of them survived - would you operate on me? That would take great faith in that surgeon!
Listen Naaman, Israel is filled with lepers and Elisha hasn’t healed any of them, but I believe he can heal you. That takes great faith in the prophet, and therefore, great faith in the prophets God.
Look back at 2 Kings and notice her specific words - v. 3. I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he (might cure him - Then maybe he’ll be able to help him. . .NO!) Then he would cure him of his leprosy!
You see, my friends, instead of doubting her faith - she is declaring her faith!
The qualities of compassion and faith - make for an incredible witness in any land, in any generation.
I want to suggest some principles to you that we can learn from this little girl about what it takes to becoming an effective witness.
First, I want to clear up some rather popular misconceptions about the subject.
Misconception #1 says, “Being an effective witness requires tremendous public exposure.”
That isn’t true. Being an effective witness involves obedience - and it is God who determines the amount of public exposure.
The truth was, this little girl was anonymous. We’re never given her name - we don’t know if Naaman invited her to give her testimony of faith to his soldiers or not - we do not read that she ever met the king or that Naaman let her go free.
And we can only be sure that she impacted just one home with her faith - no sweeping revival occurs in the land - in fact, in the next chapter of 2 Kings, the Syrian king plots to invade Israel and capture Elisha.
The New Testament analogy of a witness is clear - we are salt - salt is nearly invisible when it is sprinkled upon the food - it doesn’t argue with the hand of the master about where it is sprinkled - and when, and how much.
It simply falls into the place it is sprinkled and brings life to tastelessness, it provides preservation among decay, and to the one who is influenced by it’s presence it creates thirst.
The truth is, your sphere and scope of exposure has nothing to do with you and everything to do with where the Master sprinkles your life.
Misconception #2 “Being an effective witness requires years of study and experience”
I’m not even going to comment - just take another look at a little 9 year old girl who was simply overwhelmed with compassion and faith - someone who had a secret she was willing to share. Period.
Well, then what’s the truth about being a witness?
From the mouth of this little babe, we can learn at least two truths:
Truth #1 “Being an effective witness requires honest courage.”
She had the courage to sound the alarm. Perhaps everyone around her avoided the subject with Naaman - “Whatever you do, don’t try to notice the blotches on his face and hands - don’t let him catch you staring - compliment his clothes, talk about the weather, and whatever you do, don’t mention the word leprosy!”
Before anybody can be healed of leprosy or cancer or leukemia or pneumonia, some doctor has to look them in the eye and say - “You’re sick - but here’s the medicine!
Before our society of perishing people can be spiritually healed, someone has to look them in the eye and say, “You are sick with sin - but here’s the Messiah - I want to tell you about the living cure.”
Truth #2 “Being an effective witness require heartfelt compassion.”
This man was dying - she knew it - she cared.
The Aposle Paul has a message for you and for me. In 1 Cor. 1:18 he writes, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing. . .” In 2 Cor. 2:15 he says, “We are the fragrance of Christ to God among those who are perishing. . .” In 2 Cor. 4:3, “If our gospel is hidden, it is hidden to those who are perishing.”
Perishing - dying - all of mankind, infected with a terminal disease called death. And the statistics are impressive - none survive the disease.
Being an effective witness means living, as Paul did, as this little girl did, with compassion, recognizing that those around you are, like Naaman the leper, as good as dead.
That will make you view, altogether differently that professor, that student, that boss or coworker - they’re dying - you have the eternal cure - you possess the secret of eternal life - will you share it with.
I read a story recently about another little girl - she was 11 years old from the land of central Chile. The March 1980 edition of Mountain Movers carried her story. Maria had come to faith in Christ and now her missionary friends and her had been praying for months that her daddy would receive Christ’s gift of salvation as well. "Take the book, Dad, please take the book," pled 11-year-old Maria. "You can read it tonight during your break." "No, Maria, I don't have time. Where's my lunch?" "On the kitchen table, Daddy." As he disappeared into the kitchen, Maria slipped the little book into her dad's coat pocket. Lunch in hand, he picked up his coat, gave Maria a kiss and walked out the door. "Please, Lord Jesus," prayed Maria, "make Daddy read that book. I want him to come to know You." Two years earlier, Maria's mother had died. Alone, she took care of her dad, washing his clothes and cooking his meals. Nothing she could do seemed to interest him in spiritual things and her efforts to take him to church had been futile. When a missionary came by with some Christian books, Maria had a thought, “Maybe Daddy will read a book!” After she explained her need, the missionary recommended one of the books, saying, "I think he might read this one." All Maria could do now was pray and hope. Perhaps tonight her dad would find the book in his coat and read it. The explosion at 1:10 a.m. shook the mining town awake. Sirens started wailing. The villagers rushed to the mine entrance, fear clutching their hearts. Of course, Maria was among them. She watched apprehensively as a beehive of men desperately tore at the caved-in mine entrance, pushing out debris and shoveling out dirt to make a passageway for oxygen and hopefully for any survivors. After what seemed like hours, there was a shout of joy. Some had survived. With other girls and mothers, Maria huddled at the entrance to watch the men come out. Her father was not among them. The hours dragged by, on and on into the next day. With each passing hour, hope faded. The missing men had been caught deep in the mine, with the oxygen supply cut off from above. Late into the second night they found them. One of the searchers described the scene: "As we were digging deep in the mine well, the ground gave way suddenly. Once the dust had settled we saw the bodies -all eight of them. One of them had a small book in his hand and it was opened to the last page. With a piece of charcoal he had scratched out a message: 'My dearest little Maria, thank you for putting the little book in my coat pocket. I read it several times and all the other men listened. I did what the book says and accepted Jesus as my Savior. One day we'll be together in heaven. I love you very much, Daddy.
Education? No. Great exposure? No. Courage? Yes. Compassion? Yes.
From the mouths of babes - may we be like them!