Naaman The Syrian Leper
2 Kings 5:1-19a
1 Corinthians 11:20-34
- A very great man with a very great problem.
Great: Attributes – capabilities
High favor: Respectable and respected
Given victory: Blessed by God
Valor: Distinguished as brave and competent
Leper: Nonetheless, afflicted with an incurable and deadly disease
But his problem was worse than he knew.
In his world, he only had a medical problem.
Much the way the world looks at sin today.
But in the economy of God, he was more than merely sick, he was defiled, and could not approach God nor be with God’s people.
He was sick alright, but more than physically, he was sick spiritually.
- None of his virtues had any impact on his problem. He was “great”. High in the reputation of the King. A man of valor and great accomplishment. Respected. Even enabled by God to do some of what he had done, And wealthy.
But neither any of his virtues, nor any amount of money could buy his cure.
It is perhaps the single most common misconception by many that Christianity – like most religions – teaches that “good” people go to Heaven.
But the Gospel utterly repudiates that idea.
It is not good people who go to Heaven. It is people who own their sin and wickedness, and look to the substitutionary death of Jesus and His righteousness imputed to them by faith – who go to Heaven.
None of Naaman’s good qualities – and make no mistake, they WERE good – none of them could somehow mitigate his uncleanness.
- There was no magic in the water. He was told to go dip in the Jordan River 7 times.
But there was nothing special about Jordan’s water.
The answer to his dilemma wasn’t in the water, it was in hearing the Word of God, and receiving the gift of grace on God’s terms, not his own.
And we must be clear here: While obedience to God is only right, it buys us nothing, since it is only what is expected of us.
Luke 17: “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”
Note too: Vs. 10 – Elisha sent a messenger. He did not go himself.
How many who are in dreadful condition before God in their sin, nevertheless demand God show them a sign or somehow show them the respect they think they deserve.
I never cease to be amazed at those who want God, but only on their own terms.
But God is not to bargained with – He sets His own terms.
And if we will not hear the voice of His messengers as He sends His Word – the truth is we won’t believe no matter what He does.
Think back to the account Jesus gives us about the rich man and a man named Lazarus in Luke 16.
The rich man had a really great life, while this Lazarus was a poor, diseased beggar.
When both die, one goes to be in the presence of God – Lazarus, while his wealthy counterpart finds himself in Hell.
Tormented there, and desiring relief, the Rich man still tries to get things on his own terms: “Send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water to cool my tongue!”
But Abraham answers – sorry. Things don’t work like that in God’s economy. You’re privilege in the world of the living died when you did. You must live according to God’s terms now, and no one is allowed to pass from here to you.
But another pain afflicts this man.
If he can’t relieve his physical suffering he at least hopes that maybe he can relive his emotional suffering and pleads that this Lazarus might go and tell the rich man’s 5 brothers to avoid the same fate he is enduring.
Once again, he wants things on his own terms – even in Hell! This Lazarus, he says, I want him to leave the glories, joys and comforts of Heaven, to go and do my bidding so that I’ll feel better.
Abraham replies simply, they have Moses and the prophets – let them pay attention to the truth they already have! They have God’s Word. They need nothing else.
The Rich man pleads more – NO! If someone goes back from the dead they’ll listen then!
And Abraham replies: Luke 16:31 ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
You see, they can’t have salvation on their own terms either – but only on the terms which God has laid out before the World.
This is the same reasoning that so many espouse today, accusing Christianity of being narrow and saying salvation can only be had in Jesus Christ. But they forget that Jesus Himself set that narrowness in place when He told us plainly: John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- The need and thus the real cure, was internal.
The picture is really poignant. I’ve met the true and living God of Israel, and I’ve got to back to where I live – so let me take something with me that serves to anchor me in the service and worship of this God, even in that other environment.
He doesn’t leave His new-found God at the Jordan, but he takes what he can with him back into his regular life.
He brings his new relationship with God to bear on his everyday life. He does not keep them separate.
Secondly: 5:18 “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.”
In my regular life, I am going to have to participate in things that are not in keeping solely with God. And where duty calls me, and I must give attention to the matters of this life – let it be known I own this God and not the gods of this world. Not my Master’s god Rimmon. I no longer serve the gods of this world:
Success. Sex. Self-gratification. Fame, fortune or my own desires. I want to serve God in EVERY capacity of life.
And Elijah responds: “Go in peace.”
This is the mark of a changed heart.
I will serve the true and living God in every place and under every circumstance – and not myself.
Indeed this is the very essence of Christianity – Jesus as Lord of our lives. And seeing we are no longer our own, but His!
So it is for us today: Fame. Fortune. Accomplishment. Wealth. Desire. Self-government.
We bring nothing to this table.
We come here to these elements just as we did for salvation
No reputation with anyone else
No reliance on the fact God may have blessed us
No personal virtue
Nothing which can buy our salvation in any way – no matter how great
Only our need of cleansing by the blood of Christ – our incurable, fatal defilement.
And coming on God’s terms, to receive grace at His hand, for our real need. Coming to our Lord and King at His behest.
We come in remembrance of the person and work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, to make us acceptable to the Father through His atoning sacrifice.
And that is precisely the point – as we’ve noted all along –
We must come on His terms.
Like Naaman the Leper:
We must abandon our good opinions of ourselves.
We must forget about any reputation we might have in our own or other’s eyes.
We must set aside any value we put on our own virtues or accomplishments.
We must forget about any perceived status we have among any group in the world.
We must give up living life for ourselves, but as His redeemed people – for His plans and purposes.
And we must forever abandon any thought of thinking we can bring anything of enough value to buy the grace we seek in Christ. Even if it were the value of 600 hundred all bound together.
We come to Him humbly, and ready to obey His voice.
To receive, not to earn, purchase or accomplish – to receive by grace and grace alone the forgiveness and cleansing and restoration to right relationship with the God who created us for Himself, through the sole means of broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ as our substitute on the cross of Calvary – taking the wrath of God due to us, that we might have the blessing of God due to Jesus Christ.
All of this informs how we must come today.
There may be someone here even today in this very place. You want God to prove something to you before you will surrender to Him.
You’ve brought your own riches – your perceived righteousness. You’ve brought your good reputation and your excellent accomplishments.
You’ve brought the high esteem of those around you.
And you’ve even relied on the fact God may have blessed you in certain ways.
But you still want Christ on your terms and not His.
But God’s terms are this: Hear my word, and respond as obedient to the God who has spoken.
In this case, a very humble, and in and of itself, meaningless gesture, except it is God who has asked it. Just like “go bathe in Jordan”.
Go get washed in the only stream I have appointed.
Or in terms of salvation, come to Jesus for the cleansing by His blood.
For that and that alone is appointed by God for anyone to be cleansed of our sin and accepted in Him.
And this table is for those who are in this condition – to come and renew the wonder of His saving grace – purchased by His blood.
And that we are His.