2 Kings 5
(New International Version, ©2010)
Naaman Healed of Leprosy
1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram.
According to Jewish tradition, Naaman had shot the arrow that killed King Ahab.
He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
Ancient leprosy began as small, red spots on the skin. Before too long the spots get bigger, and start to turn white, with sort of a shiny, or scaly appearance. Pretty soon the spots spread over the whole body and hair begins to fall out — first from the head, then even from the eyebrows. As things get worse, finger nails and toenails become loose; they start to rot and eventually fall off. Then the joints of fingers and toes begin to rot and fall off piece by piece. Gums begin to shrink and they can’t hold the teeth anymore, so each of them is lost. Leprosy keeps eating away at the face until literally the nose, the palate, and even the eyes rot — and the victim wastes away until death.
2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
I love this little nameless girl, who cared for her new master enough to suggest some help and who believed that Elisha could bring healing to him. But even more, I love this little girl’s parents, who had taught her, at a young age, about the God of Israel and his love and power! Little did they know that the faith they instilled in her would be inspiring us thousands of years later!
Perhaps this little girl’s mother and father taught her this song! “This Little Light of Mine” — and Claude-Marie Landre’s rendition is particularly fitting.
4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
Naaman had a script in mind and Elisha did not follow it, so Naaman became angry. Ah, how our pride will crop up and blind us to simple truth!
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”
This simple question has spoken to me many times in my life when I have felt slighted. If the Lord had asked me to do something difficult, like train to climb Everest, for example — I would willingly practice climbing mountains and building endurance and lifting weights and other physically demanding things. But all He has asked me is — to continue loving that difficult child in my class, or to forgive my friend who said such an unnecessary and unkind thing about me, or to not be envious when someone else gets what I have wanted, etc. Can I not do this small thing for the One who died on the cross for me?
Yes, I can.
So I dip myself seven times in the Jordan, asking for God’s grace to help me do what is right and for God’s power to make me clean. “Lord, I believe — help Thou my unbelief.”
14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
16 The prophet answered, “As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
God’s grace cannot be purchased; it is always a gift.
17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.”
19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.
After Naaman had traveled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.
22 “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.’”
23 “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. 24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.
25 When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.
26 But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? 27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.
1 Timothy 6:10 (English Standard Version)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
from Peculiar Treasures,
by Frederick Buechner
Naaman was a five-star general in the Syrian army and also a leper. His wife had working for her a little Jewish slave-girl who mentioned one day that there was a prophet named Elisha back home who could cure leprosy as easily as a toad cures warts. So Naaman took off for Israel with a letter of introduction from the king and a suitcase full of cash and asked Elisha to do his stuff.
Elisha told him to go dunk in the Jordan seven times, and after some initial comments to the effect that there were rivers back in Syria that made the Jordan look like a cow track, Naaman went and did what he was told. When he came out, he could have passed for an ad for Palmolive soap. Naaman was so grateful that he converted on the spot and reached into his suitcase for an inch of fifties, but Elisha said he was a prophet of Yahweh, not a dermatologist, and refused to take a cent.
Elisha had a servant named Gehazi, however, who had different ideas. He hot-footed it after Naaman and told him that Elisha had changed his mind. He said that if Naaman would like to make a small contribution to charity, he, Gehazi, would make sure it got into the right hands. Naaman was only too pleased to hand over the inch of fifties, and Gehazi went home and deposited it in his personal checking account.
When Elisha got wind of it, he told Gehazi that the healing power of God was not for sale to the highest bidder and to press his point home transferred Naaman’s leprosy to him. For the sake of Naaman’s new-found faith in Yahweh as above all a God of love and mercy, it would be nice to believe that news of Elisha’s overreaction never reached him in Syria.