Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.( 2 Kings 5:1-3)
Israel had an inveterate national enemy, Syria. When she was with God, He kept Syria at bay, and in the days of David and Solomon, Israel even had Damascus as a garrisoned holding (2 Sam 8:3-12). But when Israel went astray in the years following Solomon’s reign , God used Syria to chastise her through frequent wars.
In the days of Elisha, Naaman was one of Syria’s celebrated and victorious generals, highly trusted by his master the King, and made victorious over Israel, ( and those victories are attributed to the God of Israel, in the text).
This man had everything going for him; he was a war hero, influential with the King and considered a man of valor and honor.
There was just one problem… He saw a steadily growing ‘rising’ in his skin which was turning white, In short, he was becoming a leper, and he knew it. He knew he was going to die, and that nothing else he had accomplished would matter, for he was doomed to die a horrible death.
Not only did he know it, but his household did as well. Naaman’s wife had a little maid, (we don’t know her name), who had been captured in a raid upon Israel by the Syrians and ended up in Naaman’s household. This little maid grew to love her captors, and shared in the families concern and sorrow over Naaman’s state.
One day she expressed that concern, by openly wishing that Naaman was with the Prophet (Elisha) who is in Israel, for he would surely recover Him of his leprosy.
This little wish, openly expressed to Naaman’s wife, (her mistress), made it’s way up to the very court of the King of Syria, Israel’s bitter enemy and conquerer. The King of Syria heard the little girls statement, and acted on it.
And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.( 2 Kings 5:4-6)
The King of Syria, being a pagan, believed the report of the un named slave girl. (Think about that!) Being a Pagan he had made certain assumptions, one being that the King of Israel was in charge of this prophet, for in paganism, the King is the head of the religion and can command at will of his prophets any magical service possible.
Therefore the Syrian King would command Israel’s King (being his vassal) to recover his servant of his leprosy. Another Pagan assumption he made was that he could buy the healing with silver and gold.
When the King of Israel received the message, he made certain pagan assumptions as well. He assumed that the King of Syria was using Naaman’s illness as a means of provocation, he wanted to pick another fight, and wipe out Israel. He (Possibly Joram) knew that only God could kill or make alive, and that Leprosy was like a death, but Joram had put God aside long before, (if he ever believed in Him, being the Son of Ahab and Jezebel). Therefore he trembled and balked in craven fear.
And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. ( 2 Kings 5:7)
But Israel did have a true Prophet, in spite of the sinfulness of her Kings and most of the people. Elisha made it known that Joram should send Naaman to him, and proclaimed confidently that God would reveal himself to all in this incident.
And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.( 2 Kings 5:8)
Naaman did just that. He loaded up his chariot, and (no doubt) his armed accompaniment, and trekked south to the defeated nation of Israel, with the requisite gifts of gold, silver and raiment, to pay for the services of the Prophet in Israel.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.( 2 Kings 5:9-10)
We can imagine the proud conqueror arriving at the humble house of the Prophet, with all of his armor and the train of gifts and accompanying soldiers there, standing upright in his chariot, in the land that He and his armies had defeated in war.
But the Prophet wouldn’t so much as go out to meet him! He sent out his servant, Gehazi, with a very simple instruction, which seemed calculated to deflate the proud spectacle of the mighty conqueror who had come to receive his healing.
There was no greeting, nor did the prophet make much ado of the mighty foreign visitor. There was no mystical ritual, or chanting, or waving of the hands, seeking of portents and omens, which were the standard fare of ‘holy men’ in those days, among the heathen.
Naaman was told simply to “go wash…in the Jordan…seven times…” in order to be cleansed of his leprosy.
This put Naaman into a rage, He was utterly livid!
Where was his fanfare? Where the acknowledgment of his greatness and the superiority of his King and people? How dare this nobody refuse to come out and greet him! Who did He think He is? Did he not know who was standing before him? And to think I am to wash in the muddy, gritty Jordan? I can show you real rivers, mighty rushing Syrian rivers, as opposed to this creek!
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.( 2 Kings 5:11-12)
The proud man very nearly rode away in his pride and rage, and that would have not only sealed his physical fate, but his spiritual one, for all of eternity.
Even in our day, many have come to desire Church to be something grandiose, and fitting to our own perceived dignity, it must be something exciting, entertaining, great and exploding with power. Everything must be ‘first class’, and tailored to meet our felt needs. So men have learned how to build such ‘Churches’, and to despise the tiny, remnant churches which refuse to cater to the spirit of the age.
Once again, some un-named , lowly people enter into the testimony and make all of the difference. Their gentle answer turned back his wrath, and saved his life…
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?( 2 Kings 5:13)
The scripture says, ‘then He went down…”. Do we realize what it took for that proud Syrian to go down? He had to unbuckle his armor; his breastplate, his grieves, to unstrap his sword, and remove his battle helmet. Someone no doubt helped him unstrap his boots, and then he had to begin to remove his clothing. In public he exposed his leprous skin, there would be no hiding it.
Then the mighty man had to gingerly step down from his chariot, (he was barefoot now), and make his way out into the Jordan river, feeling along for a deep enough spot in the Jordan, to immerse himself.
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.( 2 Kings 5:14)
When He simply obeyed the Word of the LORD, he was cleansed. There is nothing magic about the Jordan River, nor is there any ‘holy water’ anywhere, it is in simple faith and reaction to the Word of the LORD that we are saved and healed.
“He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:20)