Were There No Lepers in Israel?

2 Kings 5 [Teaching outline]

In the last chapter we see Elishaís ministry for the benefit of pious Israelites, a prophetís widow, a helpful woman, and the "sons of the prophets." Now we see mercy extended to one who actually invaded Israel and took captives. "Not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world."

  1. Naamanís Glory and weakness 5:1-5
    1. His Glory
      1. Great importance in the army as a captain
      2. His popularity with the king or prince of Aram [Syria]
      3. His well-earned respect as a successful and brave warrior
      4. The reasons for his stature and success is specifically attributed to the Lord [Godís providence extends to all things, all people, all events cf. Acts 17:18-25]
    2. His Weakness
      1. He is a leper Ė a devastating, insidious, destructive, disfiguring disease
      2. More devastating, he has no knowledge of the one true God. His only possible substantial contact with the source of both the disease and its healing is through a servant girl who was taken captive in a raid.
      3. The servant girl shows proper deference and compassion for her master as well as faith in the God of Israelís covenant. By Godís grace true faith may spring up in accordance with the truth that is present though it be shrouded in an overall context of misperception and error.
      4. He heeds her word of witness with great seriousness and made every provision to gain access to this prophet spoken of so transparently and confidently by his servant girl. Obviously he thinks that a great prophet must surely be greatly valued by the king of Israel 5
  2. A Misperception of True Greatness 6, 7
    1. The letter from the king of Aram, simply assumed that the king of Israel had full responsibility for the prophets residing in his land and that solicitude must first be made through him. A prophet is called of God and finds his authority from and his loyalty to the triune God uncomplicated by earthly powers. For similar dynamic see Matthew 2:1-3
    2. The king of Israel knows the impossibility of the request given the powers at his disposal. Again, as in the case of the wilderness wanderings in chapter 3, the king recognizes that those prophets of idolatrous loyalties have no power. Those that he can command are impotent. The very request strikes terror into him, for he perceives it as a mere pretense for war, something for which his is ill prepared without the benevolent intervention of Godís prophet. Cf. 6:8-14
  3. The Unflattering Remedy 8-14
    1. Elisha hears of the fear of the king and sends a message that contains both a reprimand and a reprieve by using the occasion as means to show Godís singular sovereignty in creation, providence, and mercy. This highlights the hardness of Jehoramís heart, the blinding stupidity of his sin, and yet, at the same time, his absolute dependence on the God he ignores for his sustenance. 8
    2. Naaman goes under the color of his splendor and authority, but initially without a recognition of the necessity of his submission to the prerogatives of the one to whom he was coming. His expectations related to two things: (1) The awe with which he was viewed by his peers and subservients in Syria, and (2) his preconceived notion as to how a cure should be effected. Naturally, he is offended when his expectations are not met.
    3. The requirement in Naamanís estimation is unworthy both of himself and of a prophet that holds such sway with the Lord his God. When the prophet doesnít even come to see him he takes offenseó"He will surely come out to me and stand." When the kind of incantation and action he views as appropriate is not followed, he finds faultó"Call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his had over the place and cure the leper." 11 We can clearly see how presumptuous and even officious Naaman appears to be who comes as a beggar and leper to see, to dictate the terms of his healing. We see less clearly, however, the justice and rationality in Godís way of salvation only through Christ and union with him by way of repentance and faith. Naaman desired the inclusivity of the rivers of Damascus as a way of healing in the way many theologians desire the inclusivity of other religions as ways of salvation. But Godís requirement of salvation only through Christ more cogently adheres to divine realities than does his specification of seven dips in Jordan as a means of healing leprosy. If we can not object to the latter as a matter of divine prerogative, much less can we object to the former as a matter of grace mediated through justice. See "F" below for further discussion of this issue.
    4. The requirement made by God through Elisha, is purely a positive command. Nothing curative by nature resided in the waters of Jordan, but the condition of healing lay entirely in the willingness to be humbled and follow fully the word of the true prophet.
    5. Again the great man finds mercy through the clear-headedness of a servant who argues from a greater to a lesser to convince him to follow the requirements. 13 How much more earnestly should we remonstrate with sinners concerning the grace set forth in the gospel as the sure way of reconciliation with a justly vengeful God.
    6. His following of the "word of the man of God" produces the very thing for which he sought divine intervention. Nothing less, and nothing more would suffice. This seems clearly to be a type of the "washing with water through the word." The washing may refer both the forgiveness of sins and the sanctifying the heart from its corruption. Cf. Eph. 5:26; 1 John 1:7 [Of course, this is not the only OT type of these truths, for clear parallels lie embedded throughout the sacrificial system and the ritual washings and shedding of blood connected with it]. Though these are two separate actions that related precisely to distinctive actions of God, the one through Christís death and the other through the work of the Spirit, both necessarily are included in the redemption issuing from Jesusí death. The following must be born in mind, however, as an important distinction between the cleansing of Naaman from leprosy and the cleansing of the elect from sin. While Naamanís conditions of cleansing were matters of positive establishment, thus unrelated naturally to the result except as it includes obedience, the forgiveness of a sinner is a matter of necessary and natural consequence from the historical work of Christ as the eternal Son of God who assumed human nature. In addition to those historical conditions intrinsically satisfying to Godís righteous nature and immutable holiness, the unified requirement of repentance and faith is not merely positive, but naturally fitting for the blessings of grace and the new relationship established thereby. Through repentance, the change of mind toward sin finds legitimate expression. This detestation of sin and of oneself for it conforms to reverence for Godís holiness. Faith expresses ones entire approval of the way of salvation through Christ alone. His death as the "just for the unjust" by which means alone we can be reconciled and his resurrected life and perfected righteousness by which alone we may be pronounced righteous abundantly satisfies all the Lawís demands. The sinner sees, approves, and embraces all of it as his only hope before God. Repentance and faith, therefore, as well as the obedience that results from the presence of those graces, fit with perfect unity to the entire scheme of salvation and are not circumstances of a merely arbitrary requirement.
  4. Sincere Faith in an Idolatrous context15-19
    1. The event became an impetus for the true embracing of the God of Israel. Naamanís great curse of leprosy becomes the occasion of his becoming an heir of eternal life. "There is not God in all the earth, but in Israel." The attempt at giving a gift must not be seen as an attempt to buy divine favor or power or blessing in the manner of Simon Magus, but as the reflex of genuine gratitude and praise. The prophet refused the gift, however, so as not to give any indication that he takes any credit for the miraculous cure and the accompanying hope of eternal life. 15, 16
    2. Notice the amazing intensity of Naamanís new identification with Israelís God. He asks for two mulesí load of earth that he might give visible, palpable representation that he now considers himself a spiritual Israelite. He no longer sees himself as "excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" Ephesians 2:12. Rather, as one who was far off, he has been brought near; and he wants that nearness to be present in the very soil of the land.
    3. In addition, he recognizes the foolishness of idol worship and seeking favor from them by sacrifices, but vows to worship the Lord.
    4. He realizes, however, that part of his duty to his king as he supports him when he goes into the House of Rimmon, the kingís God, will be to support him physically and bend with him so that the king may bend. He asks for understanding in this necessary civil function, for he will not be involved in the worship. Elisha says to go in peace. This situation for which he essentially receives permission from Godís prophet to carry out without fear of violating conscience gives rise to many discussions, some of an intricate and delicate nature, about what may employees do in the service of an employer without violating Godís sole ownership of their life and devotion. How may spouses of different faiths maintain conscience as concerns worship. Rearing of children, etc. Look at 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 in this context.
  5. Exchanging the Eternal for the Temporal 20-27
    1. Gehazi finds the allurement of worldly wealth too great to resist in this most advantageous situation. His deceit permeated the entire proceeding.
      1. He wants to profit from a situation completely unrelated to his personal labor. 20
      2. He involves Elisha by saying Elisha sent him
      3. He makes the fraud seem to be built on true piety by making the gift as requested for two young sons of the prophets [that is young men in training for the prophetic ministry] 22
      4. He gladly takes even more than he initially bargained for 23
      5. He makes sure, hopefully, that Elisha can see none of this transaction 24
      6. He lies to Elisha
    2. Elisha emphasizes how aggravated this offense is
      1. In that he not only lied but took advantage of the good-natured generosity of a new believer: "Is it a time to receive money?" He should have been filled by the amazing healing, and even more astounding, the conversion of this idolater. Even the king of Israel will not turn from his evil, and the life-long idolater has come to the God of Israel and has shown a sensitive conscience about the overwhelming oppression of his idolatrous environment. How could Gehazi think of personal profit at such a time?
      2. Even if the gifts were multiplied infinitely more than what he received, it would not be justified. "and olive groves, and vineyard, and sheep and oxen and male and female servants"
      3. If Gehazi covets the earthly comfort of Naaman, he will partake of the former earthly affliction of Naaman 27. Also his descendants will have a constant reminder of the piggish affections of their ancestor. Will they find in it a reason to turn to the Lord or to blame God for a supposed injustice?
  6. Lessons
    1. This is clearly a case of divine mercy in operation. According to Luke 4:27, God bypassed all the lepers of Israel to heal Naaman. Jesusí assertion of the sovereignty of mercy so angered his fellow townspeople that they tried to kill him. In addition, a pagan military leader at enmity with Israel receives Godís blessings while the king of Israel remains unmoved by his opportunity of knowledge through both Scripture and one of the most remarkably gifted prophets of the period of the divided kingdom. Conversion is not predictable from the external circumstances of oneís life.
    2. The confident witness of the unvaunted but undaunted may be the channel of divine grace.
    3. None of the gods of the age can compare with the God of Ages. Their power is nothing and the life produced by their worship gives no comfort either here or hereafter. Jehovah, the tri-une God, created all things, upholds all things, determines all events to work to his glory and to the good of his elect, and brings redemption to a fallen world.
    4. Obedience to the word of God must take precedence over our preconceptions. It must abolish our prejudices and send us humbly to seek wisdom from God. Though divine revelation does not appear wise to the world, it surpasses any human wisdom infinitely so and will be approved by those who have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. As the river Jordan appeared gross and unflattering to Naaman, so life by the death of Christ appears unconvincing to the carnal mind. The materiality and even brutality of the incarnation and death, burial, and resurrection offend religionists who are into a false spirituality, a sort of Platonic escape from divine action in the created world. At the same time that an infinitely satisfying moral transaction is the real issue of Christís whole mission offends the materialist. The Christian, that is biblical, view emphasizes the unity of reality in this mystery of redemption "which for ages past has been hidden in God who created all things." [Eph 3:9]
    5. We cannot lose our focus on that which is eternal and trade the lasting for the passing. The charm of present delight and its tendency to cast a shadow over that which we only see through a glass darkly chips away at our spiritual perceptions unless they are renewed daily by the goodness of the word as we read and contemplate its glories. See Colossians 3:15, 16 in its full context. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts; . . . Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you."

Were There no Lepers in Israel?

2 Kings 5 [class outline]

  1. Naamanís Glory and weakness 5:1-5
    1. His Glory
      1. Great importance in the army as a captain
      2. His popularity with the king or prince of Aram [Syria]
      3. His well-earned respect as a successful and brave warrior
      4. The reasons for his stature and success is specifically attributed to the Lord [Godís providence extends to all things, all people, all events cf. Acts 17:18-25]
    2. His Weakness
      1. He is a leper Ė a devastating, insidious, destructive, disfiguring disease
      2. More devastating, he has no knowledge of the one true God.
      3. The servant girl shows deference and compassion for her master as well as faith in God
      4. He heeds her word of witness with great seriousness and made every provision to gain access to this prophet spoken of so transparently and confidently by his servant girl. 5
  2. A Misperception of True Greatness 6, 7
    1. The letter from the king of Aram, simply assumed that the king of Israel had full responsibility for the prophets residing in his land. For similar dynamic see Matthew 2:1-3
    2. The king of Israel knows the impossibility of the request given the powers at his disposal.
  3. The Unflattering Remedy 8-14
    1. Elisha hears of the fear of the king and sends a message that contains both a reprimand and a reprieve by using the occasion as means to show Godís singular sovereignty 8
    2. Naaman goes under the color of his splendor and authority, with preconceived notions
    3. The requirement in Naamanís estimation is unworthy both of himself and of a prophet 11
    4. The requirement made by God through Elisha, is purely a positive command. Nothing curative
    5. Again the great man finds mercy through the clear-headedness of a servant 13
    6. His following of the "word of the man of God" produces the very thing for which he sought divine intervention. Nothing less, and nothing more would suffice. Cf. Eph. 5:26; 1 John 1:7
  4. Sincere Faith in an Idolatrous context15-19
    1. The event became an impetus for the true embracing of the God of Israel. Naamanís great curse of leprosy becomes the occasion of his becoming an heir of eternal life. 15, 16
    2. Notice the amazing intensity of Naamanís new identification with Israelís God. Ephesians 2:12.
    3. In addition, he recognizes the foolishness of idol worship and seeking favor from them by sacrifices, but vows to worship the Lord.
    4. his duty to his king involves physical support at worship. See 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 .
  5. Exchanging the Eternal for the Temporal 20-27
    1. Gehazi finds the allurement of worldly wealth too great to resist in this most advantageous situation. His deceit permeated the entire proceeding.He wants to profit from a situation completely unrelated to his personal labor. 20 He involves Elisha by saying Elisha sent him. He makes the fraud seem to be built on true piety 22; he gladly takes even more than he initially bargained for 23He makes sure, hopefully, that Elisha can see none of this transaction 24; He lies to Elisha
    2. Elisha emphasizes how aggravated this offense is
      1. not only lied but took advantage of a new believer: "Is it a time to receive money?"
      2. Even if the gifts were multiplied infinitely more than what he received, it would not be justified. "and olive groves, and vineyard, and sheep and oxen and male and female servants"
      3. If Gehazi covets the earthly comfort of Naaman, he will partake of the former earthly affliction of Naaman 27.
  6. Lessons
    1. This is clearly a case of divine mercy in operation. see Luke 4:27
    2. The confident witness of the unvaunted but undaunted may be the channel of divine grace.
    3. None of the gods of the age can compare with the God of Ages. Their power is nothing and the life produced by their worship gives no comfort either here or hereafter.
    4. Obedience to the word of God must take precedence over our preconceptions.
    5. We cannot lose our focus on that which is eternal and trade the lasting for the passing.