The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 14

Posted: Sat. Sep, 2 2017

The Prophet Series: Elisha part 14

2KI 5:1-7 Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. 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. 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." And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, "Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel." 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. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, "And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy." And it came about when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me."

“It is only after we have all that we want, and when there is no rational outward wish which cannot be gratified, that we see how very little money can really effect, and how small an element it forms in securing happiness.” [Edersheim] However, since very few of us ever attain such an amount, so many of us still harbor the idea that more wealth will affect the fulfillment we seek. There is a cause to happiness, but it is certainly not the happenings of our daily lives, or the amount of material we can claim as our own. The circumstance to happiness is divine providence. It is the only happiness available to us. All other things or ways or schemes that claim happiness have no claim upon it at all. Only Yavah possesses happiness and only He can give it.

Blessed are - Greek makarios = “happinesses”

MAT 5:3-12 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

1 degree of separation

There is a theory called the six degrees of separation. It is the idea that every living thing and all things in the world are only six or fewer steps away from each other. There is a fun Kevin Bacon version of this. Who would have thought that Naaman the Syrian leper and a kidnapped little Jewish girl were only one degree away from each other within God’s grand scheme. Naaman was the chief of staff for the armies of Damascus, who had not long ago dealt Israel a bitter defeat.

Everybody's got a but.

Naaman is described as a great man, highly respected, and a valiant warrior in 2KI 5:1. His name even means "handsome." By the world's standard he has everything that should be sufficient for happiness: rank, glory, wealth, influence. And then comes the "but", the fly in the ointment, the drop of poison in the well - he was a leper. Leprosy was an incurable disease which slowly and terribly killed a person over a period of decades. Naaman likely has it in the stage where it becomes quite noticeable. The skin takes on yellowish lesions; the hair begins to turn white, wooly, and eventually falls out. Scabs develop along with running sores. The nails swell, curl up, and fall off. The gums constantly bleed. There is a constant flow of saliva, and the body begins to undergo extreme weight loss and becomes very weak. This is quite the "but." No matter how exceptional Naaman performed on the battlefield or how revered he was in Syria, in his own heart he could only see himself as a leper.

Leprosy is rare, but the "but" is common to all men. As fallen creatures there is something wrong with all of us. When any woman is told she is beautiful she likely thinks immediately of the flaws in her appearance, and when a man is told he is great he turns his mind immediately to the failures that he alone knows. All of us have physical and environmental handicaps that we carry around like leprosy. It is the "buts" in life that make independence from God unbearable. Men try to convince themselves that they are just fine in their forgetfulness of the Most High, but it isn't long until their "leprosy" is reflected in the mirror as an ever increasing shadow over their lives. But … the Lord has delivered us from this. He has made us new, not in appearance, but where it counts, within, and eternally. He has given us victory over death and pain and disease, and though we will each eventually fall prey to them, we have our hope fixed upon Him.

REV 22:3-5 And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.

The strange and tangled road

God's eye has been upon Naaman. He is about to lead Naaman to Himself in a very strange and tangled way. Every believer should know that God's eye is continually upon him. Nothing is hidden from God, and this is easily believed if the omniscience and omnipresence of God is believed. However, our eyes are often clouded and though He sees us we fail to see Him. We frequently focus all of our attention on our own brand of "leprosy" and it fills our entire periphery. But this is not a completely bad thing, because herein lies the good fight of faith. No matter how clouded our own eyes become, we are continually in the range of God's Providence. The battle within is continuous and skirmishes break out practically every day. On one side are our thoughts of our own sinfulness, and on the other are our thoughts concerning God's grace. These fight all the time and they must. They can never become one or at peace. On day one of creation, God created the light and saw that it was good and He separated it from the darkness. There is day and night and there is no in between. Hence, we are commanded to be of the day, sober.

1TH 5:4-8 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.

As children of light we have already been given victory. Our faith overcomes all things. God makes sure of that. He has already led us to victory through the gospel, and all of us can look back upon the twisted and strange road that led us to it. After salvation, the road that is set before us is still “interesting.” God is always teaching us the truth in the full knowledge of Christ, and He is increasing our faith. He alone knows how to do this for each of us. No two paths are the same, but what is common about them all is that they often seem to be quite strange and tangled. Know that He is God and know that the Creator of the heavens and the earth can accomplish the work in you.

The Lord has need of it.

Jesus sent His disciples to get a colt of a donkey and untie it and bring it to Him. If anyone where to ask them why they were taking it, they were to say that the Lord had need of it. That statement alone would quiet any protest. Will it quiet the protest within us?

It's easy to look at the miraculous in this narrative and forget about some important people who are not mentioned - the little girl’s parents. This little girl had been taken when a Syrian raiding party came into Israel. Her parents must have searched and searched for her for days and as the reality of her kidnapping crept into their hearts they were surely heartbroken. We might gather that they were loving parents since the little girl knows about the "man of God," Elisha the prophet. Her parents were not idolaters, but God fearing people who loved their daughter, and then one day she was taken from them. As a father currently with a one month old daughter, my own heart breaks for them. But, the Lord had need of her.

Such a loss is as uncommon as leprosy, but what is common amongst us all is the fact of loss. We have all lost something that we cared for and that wasn't sinful. We ask why God took it away and we receive no answers, just as the little girl's parents will not know what happened to her until they get to heaven. We can only conclude that for some reason, unknown to us, the Lord had need of it. The salvation of the great, leprous general, is unknown to the parents, but it is happening none the less. When a loss is great, it is difficult to believe - to shut our eyes against all present appearances, and look straight to our God, the Lord Jesus, and utter the words, "I trust You with all things."

It is clear that the Syrians trafficked in slavery and the parents would have known this. Knowing that their daughter was taken into slavery was worse than finding her lifeless body. Who would be her master? Would she be treated cruelly? The prayers of the parents would have ascended to heaven day and night, and our faithful Lord would have heard them. He placed the little girl in an environment where she would be protected and where she would serve Him. His sovereign choices are always perfect.

She didn't forget

Years spent in an idolatrous kingdom did not force the little girl to forget her parent’s words and their reverence for God's prophet. She was raised up in the way she should go, and when she was older she did not depart from it (PRO 22:6). How all Christian parents pray this for their children. To all of our children, the Lord Jesus must be taught. They must learn who He really is, how loving, how mighty to forgive, to help, to save. From then on, as they grow to adults, they will only know Him as the One who is able to do these things, for no one else can. No one can imitate the Savior. When the child who is taught about Jesus is grown and finds himself in an adverse situation, he will remember that the Lord Jesus is the only deliverer who does so without cost. He may still reject the Lord and choose another way, but it is guaranteed that such a wonderful thought will come to mind.

DEU 6:6-9 And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The tenderness of a believing child.

It seems that the little girl became a favorite of Naaman's wife, whom she would have served. The faith within her small heart gave her a compassion for her pagan master, the leprous general. She longed for him to be cured, and in childlike faith, of the kind all of us should have, she has no doubt that the prophet of Israel can cure him.

The fearlessness of a believing child.

Such a declaration to a pagan family, prominent in a kingdom that was the sworn enemy of Israel, could have brought the direst consequences. She could have easily been beaten for her words and cast from the comfy life of the general’s home to the most inhuman labor. Yet, such faith she has in the truth of her words. The Bible tells us that truth brings love into our hearts, and love drives out all fear (1JO 2:5; 1JO 4:18).

The theology of a child.

Her words lack any complexity or explanation. Her words are a simple declaration in what God can do. That is good theology. Jesus often spoke with the greatest simplicity, and He was by far the smartest man who ever lived. When His enemies devised clever schemes to trip Him up, He would respond with the simplest thing, like, "Whose picture is on that coin?" Theology is the study of God's revelation, and just like the first sentence in that revelation (GEN 1:1), God simply states His existence and what He can do. "In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth." Sure enough, the rabbis, desirous to claim superior theology to other rabbis, took these words and argued over whether the heavens or the earth was created first. Seriously, that's a true story.

As a final note, we see in this history that children are more than a nuisance. Their little hearts are made for belief and imagination, and when they have some grasp of the person of Christ, they can contribute much to the family unit. Though a slave, this girl acts more like a daughter, and perhaps Naaman's wife saw her as that. Also, their resilience is remarkable. We see how a child, far from home, friends, and religious influences, surrounded by idolaters, remained a consistent religious professor. She preached successfully the faith that her master despised. She was a true child of Israel. She would have made her parents proud.

The Lord bless you and keep you,
Pastor Joseph Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries