Some words instantly produce strong emotional responses in us. Words like wedding or vacation or springtime give us happy thoughts and feelings; words like war and hurricane and disease do the opposite.
One of the most disturbing words a person could ever hear in biblical times was leprosy. As we journeyed through the book of Leviticus, we learned that leprosy can refer to a variety of skin diseases, but all of them were considered incurable. Leprosy was a dreaded disease, not only because of the physical danger, but also because of the isolation and ostracism that went along with it.
Now we are here in 2 Kings chapter 5 in our study through the Bible, and we’re about to watch the prophet Elisha miraculously heal a leper who lived outside the nation of Israel.
The first verse sets the stage by introducing us to a very important man:
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.
Israel and Syria had been engaged in conflict off and on for years, but at this point there seems to be some degree of peaceful coexistence. Evidently, Naaman was successful in the past when these two nations fought, because we are told here in verse 2 that his wife has a young Israelite girl serving as a housemaid. This girl had been carried away after one of Naaman’s victories.
Now you might have noticed the resume of Naaman here: he’s called “a great man,” in “high favor,” and a “mighty man of valor.” But then you have this shocking statement: “but he was a leper.” Listen, he has had all these accolades and great titles over the years, but now he is simply known as Naaman the leper.
And among all the people who are concerned about him is this young Israelite girl. She is evidently not holding any grudges for her life of servitude to this commander. In fact, we read here in verse 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.’” Now this tells us that she has faith in God’s power and in the ministry of the Lord’s prophet—Elisha.
Naaman knows he has no other hope of being healed, so he goes to the Syrian king and asks for permission to go find Elisha. Here in verse 5, the king not only grants permission but also gives him a letter to deliver to Israel’s king. And with that, Naaman takes off, carrying with him as payment “ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothing.”
He’s going to pay Elisha for healing him—and this would equal several million dollars today. That’s almost as much as your copay when you visit your doctor.
Naaman goes to Samaria and presents the letter to King Jehoram of Israel, which basically reads, “See that my servant Naaman is healed of his leprosy.” Of course, Jehoram knows this is impossible, so he assumes the king of Syria is looking for a reason to start another war. He says, “See how he is seeking a quarrel with me” (verse 7).
Well, Elisha hears about this and sends word to the king in verse 8, saying, “Let him [Naaman] come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So, Naaman and his entourage drive over to Elisha’s house, but Elisha will not even come to the door. Instead, he sends a messenger to him with some simple instructions, here in verse 10: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”
Naaman is offended by such treatment. Here is his response:
“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. Are not . . . 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. (verses 11-12)
Elisha is bringing this man to a point of humility and obedience to the word of God. But it doesn’t look like Naaman is interested in humbling himself. He gets ready to ride away, but then one of his servants effectively tells him to be willing to eat humble pie and do this simple procedure. After all, what does he have to lose?
So, Naaman humbles himself and goes to the Jordan River and dips himself in it seven times, and verse 14 says, “His flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child.” This was no medical procedure; this was no major surgery; this was a miracle of God.
Naaman returns to Elisha and says, “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel” (verse 15). He urges Elisha to accept the money and clothing he has brought along, but Elisha tells him there is no copay needed for the grace of God.
Now I wish this encounter ended at this point, but it doesn’t. Look at verse 20:
Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
Gehazi runs after Naaman and spins a lie about two prophets who need some money and clothing. Naaman is only happy to comply.
Gehazi thinks he has gotten away with his deception, but upon his return, Elisha asks him where he has been. Gehazi says he’s been nowhere. This sounds like when you see your child with cookie crumbs around his mouth and you ask him, “What were you doing in the kitchen?” and he says, “Nothing.” Well, you know that nothing was a lot of something.
Elisha sees through this lie. He tells this unrepentant man here in verse 27, “The leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants.” And the chapter closes with these words: “He went out from his presence a leper.”
The healing of Naaman teaches us something about the grace of God. Grace is not limited to those born into the right family. Grace is available to everyone. And it isn’t something you have to purchase with gold or good deeds. By the way, that is what made Gehazi’s sin so serious; his actions robbed Naaman of a clear understanding that God’s grace is completely free of charge. (PQ@ end) You just have to leave your accolades and your titles and your impressive resume at the door and by faith humbly receive God’s grace.
Have you accepted the free gift of God’s grace that brings salvation? The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Ask Him for this gift, and humbly receive it by faith in Christ alone. If you have not done that, you can pray right now, “Lord Jesus, thank You for doing all the work for my salvation, for dying on that cross for my sin. I ask for the gift of salvation right now and believe in you as my Lord and Savior. In Your name I pray. Amen.”
Would you call us or write us, and let us know that you received this gift of forgiveness today?