Naaman, Commander of the Syrian Army
2 Kings 5
1Now Naaman, (The name means, “Pleasantness”) commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. (Notice that the LORD helped Syria through Naaman.) He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. 2And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. 3Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” (Prov 3:27 NIV) Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. 4And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.”
5Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, (About 750 pounds or $15,000 at today’s prices) six thousand shekels of gold, (About 150 pounds or $2,400,000 at today’s prices) and ten changes of clothing. (A travelers check would have been nice) 6Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said,
Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.
7And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.” (Israel and Syria were getting along pretty well at the time)
8So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (Have you ever hoped that God would do something spectacular like this for you or someone you cared about?)
9Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” (Notice that Elisha never even came out to meet Naaman) 11But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘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 heal the leprosy.’ (So Naaman had expectations about how Elisha should handle the situation. Don’t we do the same sometimes?) 12Are not the Abanah and the 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. (Incredible as it may seem, Naaman traveled all the way to Elisha with silver and gold hoping to be cleansed of his leprosy and now he is ready to go back without even trying what Elisha told him. Makes me think of, (Prov 16:18 NIV) Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.) 13And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, (Could also be translated as “Chief” but certainly used in the sense of respect accorded a father) if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (Naaman may have been prideful and arrogant and overly demanding in his expectations but he also showed the marks of a good leader, the ability to listen and to take advice.) 14So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (God doesn’t do things in half measure. I’m sure Naaman would have been happy to simply have the leprosy gone.)
15And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” (I wish with all my heart that God would make Himself known like this on a much larger scale. Then again I suppose that would not serve His purposes very well.) … (We are not told here what kind of gift Naaman was offering, but I think it must have been substantial!)
16But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. (To God be the glory.)
17So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD. (Strange as it may seem to us, Naaman thought earth from Israel was necessary for him to worship the God of Israel in his own country.) 18Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing.” Rimmon was a pagan god of storms and war. The name means, “Thunderer.” Naaman was in a difficult place. He now knew there was actually no god except the God of Israel. But when he returned to Syria he would of necessity bow to a false god. Have you ever felt something akin to this?
19Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” Interestingly, Elisha after hearing from Naaman the admission that the only true god was the God of Israel, but that he would still bow down to Rimmon, Elisha simply told him to, “Go in peace.”
There’s a lot in this story. However, I want to pick out just a few points to take with us today.
1. The Lord has used people of all times and places to accomplish His purposes.
2. We owe our best to our friends as well as our enemies.
3. When we find a person with a problem, we should direct them to God.
4. We should not try to impose our expectations on God.
5. We need not extract payment for the work we do for God. God is our payment. We have received freely and we should give freely.
6. God is not just the God of Israel. He is simply, God!
7. Finally, Elisha, set us an example. Let the works of God in us speak for themselves. Let us wish all those we cultivate, “Go in peace.”