2 Kings 5:1-15
(watch here: https://youtu.be/7zzzBJHTfQM)
1Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ 4So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’
He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’
8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
15Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’
I like this lectionary we’ve been using for over a year now because it exposes us to important characters in Scripture that we’d otherwise forget about. This encounter between the prophet, Elisha, and the leprous Army commander, Naaman, is a powerful revelation of God’s healing abilities. It doesn’t take much for Naaman to be healed; simply wash in the Jordan river seven times and he was cured. Perhaps God’s healing powers had less to do with what Naaman did and more to do with what Naaman believed. Naaman’s belief, or lack thereof, was what was holding him back from being healed. Yet God in his abounding grace and mercy healed him nevertheless. The encounter had less to do with what Naaman did but rather what God did!
But before we explore this a little further, it’s good to have a little laugh. Believe it or not, it’s hard to find anything funny to say about healing! The best I came up with this week was the one about a faith healer who ran into his old friend, Max and asked him how things were going. “Not so good,” was the pained reply. “My brother is very sick.” “Your brother isn’t sick,” contradicted the faith healer, “he only thinks he’s sick. Remember that, he only thinks he’s sick.” Two months later they met again and the faith healer asked Max, “How’s your brother now?” “Worse,” groaned Max, “he thinks he’s dead.”
I know, I know, kind of tongue-in-cheek humor at the expense of that faith healer. What Max failed to consider…what Naaman failed to consider…what WE all too often fail to consider are the powerful healing powers of faith. What we believe about our sicknesses and the power they have over our lives have an effect on how quickly we are healed of them. More importantly, what we believe about God’s ability to heal us has a profound effect on the healing process. God’s healing abilities are far greater than anything science and medicine have to offer. God can cure ALL sicknesses! God can cure the incurable! We have an amazing God! So why is it so hard for us to place our trust in this…in him?!
I’d say because we allow fear and doubt to take hold of our lives. It’s easy to live in fear and doubt. It’s easy to live in sin. Anyone can do it! And the thing about sin is that it is insidious and constant. Once it finds its way into your life, it has this way of growing and multiplying until it takes over your whole life. Sin feeds on itself and grows and grows and grows. Before long, small sins turn into large sins unless they’re kept in check. Sins are like weeds that grow and multiply and consume all the good nutrients so that life can no longer flourish. Yes, it is easy to live in sin at the start but eventually it’ll take over your life and make it harder and harder to live. Of course, it’s also hard to live without fear and doubt. Temptation is always around us, inviting us to welcome sin into our lives. It can be hard resisting such temptation. But unlike sinful living, righteous living allows for life to flourish. Righteous living allows for God to come into your life and transform it into joy and happiness. Righteous living has its rewards, some of which include purpose and direction and an ongoing relationship with God.
Naaman was afflicted with the disease of leprosy but scholars note that the disease was not what we consider it to be today. I like to compare leprosy to the “disease” of sinfulness. We are all afflicted with the “disease” of sinfulness. Some of us have let the disease get out of hand and run rampant in our bodies while others have kept it under control through prayer and righteous living.
Regardless, we all have the “disease” whether we’re showing symptoms or not. And nothing we do can cure us of this “disease.” We need God’s grace and forgiveness to help us cope with our “disease.” We need people like Elisha to come and share God’s grace and mercy in whatever form it takes. God WILL heal us of our affliction if we but ask. Don’t be surprised if God asks you to do something that doesn’t make sense, something like washing in the Jordan river seven times to receive healing. Be assured that God is able to cure all sicknesses and his methods may seem radical and unorthodox.
We hear similar words of healing from the prophet, Jeremiah, when he speaks to the people of Israel and Judah on behalf of God: “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion; no one cares for her!’ (30:17) A little later on he continues, “I am going to bring it recovery and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.”(33:6) Both Jeremiah and Elisha were channels for God’s healing and redemptive powers. Sickness is more often than not a sign of unhealthy living. We tend to get sick when we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Through our own stupidity and recklessness, we allow for the sickness to get ahold of our lives. God’s healing is all the more special knowing that the sickness could have been avoided all together. God’s grace is an amazing thing! We really don’t deserve it…such flagrant self-destructiveness we have! God is truly a good and gracious God.
In Proverbs, we hear relevant words of wisdom: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.” (3:7-8) I’ve long held the belief that pride is the greatest sin; not disbelief but pride. When we believe that we are greater than God, we get into the greatest trouble with each other and with God. We have learned how to heal a great many sicknesses but only through the grace of God who revealed such wisdom. Only God can cure all sickness and we’d be wise to respect his might and power. Our God is eager to heal those who bring their sickness before him. It may be an unexpected healing. It may be an unorthodox healing. But it’ll be a powerful healing nevertheless. Just ask Naaman! Let us rejoice in God’s powerful and redemptive healing. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.