Posts Tagged ‘naaman’

2 Kings 5 would stand on its own as an encouragment to suffering people, but Jesus makes it even more magnificent:

And [Jesus] said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 

And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:24-30

This makes the slave girl’s proclamation even more amazing, and confirms why the King of Israel tore his clothes

Even more importantly, it confirms that God is free to bless anyone he chooses. He intentionally gave Naaman victory (vs. 1) and intentionally cleansed him (vs. 14) so that Naaman would understand there is no other god in all the earth than the God of Israel (vs. 15).  

Naaman had done nothing to earn this knowledge – it had been given to him as a gift for no other reason than God chose to give it to him, through being a successful commander and through his leprosy.  Both were necessary for Naaman to be given the freedom to visit Elisha: a bad commander would just be replaced by the King of Syria; without the leprosy, Naaman had no reason to seek out a cure from a  prophet in Israel.

Yet, we are quick to assume that success in his (or our) chosen vocation could be from God, but his leprosy (or our children with disabilities) just sort of happened without God bringing it about.  How sad.  God’s sovereignty over all things is very good news and I am glad to embrace it. 

We, also, have done nothing to earn any positive standing before God.  Yet, when he calls, he not only calls but gives us ears to hear at the same time.  And frequently it seems he chooses to call through suffering rather than through prosperity, or good health, or lack of conflict in our lives, or any other thing we would normally choose and certainly prefer, at least at first glance.

Yet, by acknowledging that God is this free to do as he pleases with his own creation for his own glory, to choose Naaman or to choose a specific widow rather than all people with leprosy or all widows, and especially because Naaman was an idol-worshipping foreigner, the people in the synagogue wanted to kill Jesus.

Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised when people don’t embrace Jesus as sovereign over everything, free and right to do as he pleases with his creation.  

Fortunately, God has given us a unique gift of credibility.  People assume rightly that raising a child with disabilities is difficult, and some even get close enough to our families to see how difficult it is.  If we live in faith and confidence and joy in this Jesus, who has done so much more than simply heal diseases – he has conquered sin and death! – it is pretty difficult to simply dismiss us.  The Holy Spirit frequently uses the weak, the poor, and the foolish to make much of God and confound the strong, rich, and ‘wise’ of our time.

So, while we have the opportunity, let us make much of this King who reigns over all creation, including those he intentionally created with disabilities. 

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As 2 Kings 5 closes, Gehazi lies and cheats Naaman and then lies to Elisha.  Elisha reveals that he knew all that Gehazi had done, and judgment is rendered:

“Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So (Gehazi) went out from his presence a leper, like snow. 2 Kings 5:27


I use 2 Kings 5 in a business class I teach at a local college because of all the extraordinary lessons on leadership embedded in this chapter, and it allows me to talk about God.  One student commented at this verse, “that’s really harsh!”  Too harsh, in his estimation, for the sin that had been committed.

But think about it.  Gehazi had been closely associated with many proclamations of the truth as he served Elisha.  He had observed God’s power.  He was not, like Naaman, new in his understanding of who God is.  Yet he desired something, money, more than he desired this God.  So he sought his satisfaction in that treasure.

He deserved hell.  He was given leprosy.

If 2 Kings 8:4 is any indication, Gehazi was actually restored to health as he serves the King of Israel, which may indicate (we are not told this) that he repented.

If he was given faith, as Naaman was given faith, then the leprosy in both cases was a grace!  Let us assume that Naaman continued in his newfound faith – and since his death has been enjoying communion with God in heaven ever since.  Do you think he now sees that season of leprosy as a curse, or the greatest blessing he ever had on earth?

God uses all things, including disability, to make much of himself.  He certainly did in my life with my son.  I see my son’s multiple disabiities as entirely a grace from God.

I have read too many books where theologians easily and wrongly conclude that God had nothing to do with disease or disability or storms or famine or wars or any number of things that God actually takes credit for doing in his word.  I certainly agree that these are hard to understand, but being hard to understand does not mean we should just disregard what is actually written.  And how sweet it is when something hard becomes more clear!

God alone can independently do such things we consider ‘bad’ and make it all work together for good and to glorify his name.  He is that powerful, and that good.

That is why 2 Kings 5 is not a story for children alone, and why it is particularly good news for those of us who are parents of children with disabilities.

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I thought I might finish 2 Kings 5 today, but it will take two posts to wrap up.

This is a longer passage, so I’ll bullet my observations here and you can read the whole thing below:
  • Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, watches in amazement as Naaman heads for home without Elisha accepting something from Naaman.  He decides if Elisha won’t take a gift from this wealthy, powerful man, then he will.
  • Gehazi even makes an oath, ‘as the Lord lives,’ before he runs off to get some of the wealth.
  • Gehazi lies to Naaman.  Naaman is very happy to provide a gift for the ‘sons of the prophets.’
  • Gehazi hides his treasure.
  • Elisha gives Gehazi a chance to tell him the truth.
  • Gehazi lies to Elisha.
  • Elisha tells Gehazi that he knows everything.
There’s one more very important bullet which I’ll save for next time.

What a strange, sad ending (almost) to 2 Kings 5.  Gehazi lets his greed and his pride run free.  He thinks he can cheat a great commander and lie to a prophet.

Contrast Gehazi’s response to his master with the everyone else’s response to Naaman.  The slave girl, Naaman’s wife, and the King of Syria all want what is best for Naaman.  Naaman’s servants even enter in Naaman’s rage (vs. 12-13) to bring a good word to him.  Naaman seems to inspire a certain kind of response which is noble and honorable.  His servants, in particular, were willing to risk a great deal for Naaman’s benefit.

Now consider Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the very man who commands kings (vs. eight) and speaks the word of the Lord.  Gehazi does not understand why Elisha refused the gifts and is determined to secure wealth for himself.  He has clearly heard what Elisha had to teach and proclaim to the people of Isreal, and he has now witnessed a miracle, with Elisha serving as a vehicle of the Lord’s power.  Yet, Gehazi sinned.

It is also clear that Elisha did not inspire the same kind of response in his servant as Naaman did in his.

There are many lessons here, but I take two in particular as a dad of a boy with multiple disablities:
  1. God is free to give gifts of skill and service to anyone.  The gift of strong, effective leadership was given to Naaman before God revealed himself to Naaman.  I’ve met many fine professionals in medicine, education, social work and the law who do not care one bit about God or Jesus, but are very good at their crafts and provide important services to my son and to my family.  That is a grace from God, even if these professionals cannot see it.  And I hope more of them are given the gift of faith.
  2. Being in presence of good teaching and seeing examples of God’s power is no guarantee that sin won’t rule the day in a person’s life.  I need to constantly pray for my children that God would reveal himself to them.  Taking them to church, reading the bible with them, singing hymns, explaining all that I see God doing in our lives, pointing out the blessing of their disabled brother and the goodness of God in their mom’s cancer – none of it guarantees a good outcome for them in terms of their faith.  Only God can do that.
Maybe tomorrow we’ll finish with 2 Kings 5 – and it is a hard, but ultimately good, ending.

2 Kings 5:19b-26

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?”And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 2 King 5:19b-26

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This passage from 2 Kings 5 ends with a great word for those of us dealing with disability.  It is both unexpected and very helpful in our situations, because many people I know have behaved kindly toward me when I did not deserve it.
Naaman is a great account to teach to young Christians (young in age and young in faith) because it is so full of God!  That is the best news for those of us parenting a child with a disability – God is sovereign over everything, including the diseases and healings of pagen foreign military leaders, the enslavement of little girls, the false hope of kings, and the behavior of prophets.
It is also helpful because Naaman is about to make the same mistake that many young Christians make when they first understand their sins are gone:

“So accept now a present from your servant.” 2 Kings 15b

Naaman wants to pay Elisha for the gift Naaman has received.  Naaman must do something!  The gift cannot actually be free – he must do or pay something for what he has been given.

Thankfully, Elisha is wise in understanding what is happening and how the next words out of his mouth could destroy everything that Naaman has just come to understand.

But he (Elisha) said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he (Naaman) urged him to take it, but he refused. (vs. 16)

Why would Elisha refuse?  As a prophet he could rightfully receive support from the people of God.  Elisha understood that something much greater was happening.  God alone had done this incredible thing for Naaman – to make much of himself and not to make much of Elisha.  Naaman is seeking to pay for what he has received, and that payment would have been making much of Elisha’s role.  No, the better thing, both for Elisha and for Naaman, was for Elisha to refuse any payment and keep the emphasis on God alone.

Naaman persists in his desire to do something:

Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mules’ load of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.” (vs. 17)

In this way, Naaman could make sacrifices on an alter from the very ground that God had given to the people of Israel.  But he knows he has a greater problem than just how to make appropriate sacrifices to God:

In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” (vs. 18)

That is a problem!  He has just confessed the God of Israel as the sole god of the earth, but in his official duties he will be required to go with his king into a place of idol worship.  Given that Naaman has just been released from his disease and been given faith, it would be reasonable to expect Elisha to come down very hard on Naaman.

But he doesn’t:

(Elisha) said to him, “Go in peace.” (vs. 19)

Huh?  Shouldn’t Naaman have been rebuked?  Or even had his leprosy returned?  Or at least been instructed in the commandments God had given Moses:  You shall not bow down to them (idols) or serve them (Deuteronomy 5:9)?

Matthew Henry’s commentary is very helpful here:

Though Naaman’s dissembling his religion cannot be approved, yet because his promise to offer no sacrifice to any god but the God of Israel only was a great point gained with a Syrian, and because, by asking pardon in this matter, he showed such a degree of conviction and ingenuousness as gave hopes of improvement, the prophet took fair leave of him, and bade him Go in peace, 2 Kings 5:19. Young converts must be tenderly dealt with.

I have been dealt with very tenderly by many people.  After my Paul was born, I abandoned my faith and any association with my church.  Dear people took all my fire and bitterness and foolish talk and only returned kindness.  And when my eyes were opened to the beauty of Jesus Christ, they became even more tender and helpful and encouraging.

Now, when meeting younger parents who are first experiencing disability in their child, I remember how I was treated, and Elisha’s wise comportment.  But most of all, I ask for the God of Elisha and Naaman to help me and to help them.

Tomorrow, the last section on 2 Kings 5: an unhappy ending for a servant of the Prophet.

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Finally, we arrive at the real point of this account in 2 Kings 5!

Usually when the story of Naaman is told, the emphasis is on his disease and the healing.  Those things are just a means to this extraordinary outcome that comes AFTER he is cleansed from his leprosy:

Then he (Naaman) returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 2 Kings 5:15

There is NO GOD IN ALL THE EARTH BUT IN ISRAEL is the point of 2 Kings 5.   A pagan-worshipping commander of a foreign, hostile army has just proclaimed the God of Isreal as the single god of the earth.  And he has declared this before his entire company!

God orchestrated everything – from the success Naaman experienced to the leprosy he had to the slave girl being placed in his house to the King of Israel’s robe-tearing response to the humble common sense of Naaman’s own servants to the cleansing in the river itself.  Why? So that Naaman could have this understanding of God which, like the healing of his leprosy, was impossible but for God’s granting it to him.

And, as parents, we also have strange sets of circumstances surrounding us because of our childrens’ disabilities, but with an assurance that Naaman did not have:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

You may be thinking, “that is all well and good for Naaman because he was cleansed of his disease.  Miracles tend to encourage people to make much of God. I would make much of God if that happened to me or my child.”

Not always:

And as he (Jesus) entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”  Luke 17-12-19

As in 2 Kings 5, a foreigner is given understanding.  The cleansing is certainly a gift.  But faith is the much greater gift.  If you have faith in God, you have already been given the better gift.

Two more sections to go on 2 Kings 5:  why Elisha refuses the gifts offered by Naaman, and how being in the presence of Godly men is not the same as embracing God personally.

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If you are just joining this series (posted while I’m on vacation – I’ll read comments when I return!), I would recommend reading the first six posts on this subject.

2 Kings 5 is part of the great revelation of God’s majesty, goodness, mercy and delight in himself and his sovereignty over everything.  And it contains some lessons that are applicable to everyone, but ones that I have found particularly helpful as a dad of a child with a disability.

Today deals with the actual cleansing of Naaman, which is what most people focus on as the point and focus of 2 Kings 5.  It is not the point.  That will come later.

2 Kings 5:13-14

But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

In Part 6 Naaman goes away from Elisha’s house in a rage because he has not been received with the honor and respect he thought he deserved.

Fortunately, he has brought people with him.  His relationship with them is such that, even though he is a powerful man in authority over them, they feel like they can bring some common sense to him: will you not do this thing that could bring you what you desire most?  To his credit, he listens to them!  He follows their advice and the instructions he has been given – and God performs a miracle for this pagan Naaman that God is not doing for the people of Israel, at least not as a normal practice.

We need such people in our lives, who will enter into our rage or bitterness or hurt and speak a good work of truth and common sense.  God was good to provide such people for Naaman and I know he has been good to provide such people for me.  Listening to their advice is not always easy, and as parents we must keep the responsibility of discerning what is best for our children. But a good word at the right moment has more than once kept me from doing a foolish thing.

Parents, part of God’s good provision to us are the people in our lives.  Pray that he would provide the right ones to you.

In Part 8, if the cleansing of his leprosy wasn’t the point of 2 Kings 5, what is?

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Part 1 – In verse one we see God’s sovereignty in Naaman’s life, just as God is sovereign and intentional in our lives.

Part 2 – In verses two and three we see God orchestrating really unusual things so that a powerless foreign slave girl can deliver good news to the powerful man, just as we are called in our situations to bring good news.

Part 3 – We are reminded that a wealthy, powerful man desperately wants to be healed of his disease, and nobody thus far has been able to help him, just as our children will always live with their disabilities.

Part 4 – The king of Israel knows he doesn’t have the power to heal and assumes the king of Syria is looking for a reason to invade, just as we assume people involved with our children are not always telling us the entire story.

Part 5 – Elisha corrects one in authority over him, just as we must at times correct people who are supposed to serve our children.

Part 6 – 2 Kings 5:9-12
So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and 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.

We are given a clear sign that Naaman has not travelled alone to Israel, and that he intentionally wanted to demonstrate he is a man of power.  Horses and chariots throughout the bible and history are evidences of power and wealth. And, he has probably been received as just such a man as he has travelled to the king of Israel. That all changes when he comes to visit Elisha.

Elisha’s response is very interesting – let the boy go give him the news.  Again, Elisha doesn’t appear to have much respect for authority.  But he is making sure that the message gets delivered.  The point is, after all, that Naaman be cleansed of his serious skin disease. Which should Naaman prefer:  good social skills or the solution to his problem?

Unfortunately, I’ve been tempted to respond like Naaman when doctors, social workers, or educators haven’t treated me like I thought I should be treated – regardless of how they might be able to serve my son.  For some reason, medical specialists in particular seem to have few (or no) social skills.  And they also frequently happen to be the people with the greatest opportunity to help my son.

The lesson here for us parents: your goal is to have a good outcome for your child, not to be treated with respect.  I greatly appreciate when I am treated well as his dad, but that also shouldn’t cloud my judgment about getting a good outcome.  Very kind, respectful people may be incompetent.

And only God knows what’s really going on.  We should never fully trust experts, but should always fully trust God.

For Part 7: why we should not try to do this alone.

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This account of God’s work in 2 Kings 5 has been a huge encouragement for me as a dad with a boy with multiple disabilities and a wife with cancer.  I pray it will be for you as well.

As I wrote yesterday, I want to tell the story of Naaman as it really is laid out in the Bible.  So, while I’m on vacation (and not able to read or respond to comments) we’ll walk through this account verse by verse.

2 Kings 5:1

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

Here’s what I see in this first verse:

  • The disease comes last.  It does not define who he is; it is a physical characteristic which is important to Naaman’s story.  But it is not all that he is, unlike how American culture wants to define our kids as being exclusively their disabilities.
  • He is powerful.  His disease has not discounted his other gifts of leadership.
  • He is in positive relationships with others.  The king himself considered him a ‘great man.’
  • He is a mighty man of valor.  His disease is a descriptor of his physical state that did not diminish or define his character – which is marked by valor.
  • God takes credit for giving an enemy of Israel success!

That last point is breathtaking!  God himself takes credit, not for ‘allowing’ Naaman to have victory, but for GIVING victory to Syria by Naaman.  God is not a passive actor in this account, right from the first verse.

Combine this with Exodus 4:11:

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”

The result: we have a God who intentionally makes people with disabilities and who purposefully gives enemies victory.  Without shame, and without feeling the need to explain himself.  He gave Naaman victory, and he gave Naaman leprosy.

And that is very good news for us as parents.  If you don’t feel it yet, there’s much more to 2 Kings 5.  More tomorrow.

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