The text for this lesson is 2 Kings 5:1–14
- God pours out His healing love for me by cleansing me through water and the Word, giving me life and salvation.
- Law: When I suffer, my first inclination is to trust my strength, wealth, or reputation. This tempts me to doubt God’s unequivocal word of promise.
- Gospel: But, despite my doubts, God’s Word is powerful and always does what it says, pointing me to Jesus, the Word made flesh, who heals my diseases and cleanses me from the sickness of my sin.
- Elijah has been taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire, and Elisha has taken his place. Naaman is commander of the army of Syria. There were many military conflicts between Israel and surrounding nations, including Syria. In this account, a Gentile receives healing from the true God, demonstrating that the salvation God offers is truly for all.
- The first few verses set up the story beautifully. Naaman was a Syrian army commander to whom God had given many military victories. But despite his military skills and might, Naaman had fallen victim to leprosy, one of the most horrible diseases of the time. In its worst forms, leprosy caused serious disfigurement. The text of 2 Kings points out the contrast between Naaman’s initial condition with leprosy and his condition after he was healed, when his skin was like “the flesh of a little child” (5:14). This suggests that his leprosy was serious enough that his healing was immediately apparent.
We are also told that Naaman had a slave girl who served his wife. This girl had been captured in a raid on Israel. Her family had probably been killed in the raid. Despite all this, the Israelite girl showed mercy to Naaman. She told her mistress about the prophet Elisha, who could cure Naaman. Through
the caring concern of this Israelite servant girl, Naaman, a foreigner, is healed. This is a consistent Old Testament theme. Many outside of Israel receive God’s mercy. Rahab, Ruth, and the widow of Zarephath are three examples.
Naaman tells his king what the girl has said and asks permission to go see the prophet. His king sends him to the king of Israel to be healed. For payment, the king sends “ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing” (v. 5).
There are two obvious problems with this approach. First, one does not earn or pay for the gifts of God. When Naaman receives divine healing, it is due to the mercy of God, not the offering that Naaman brings. It was, however, an honest mistake. The false Syrian gods that Naaman and his king served
gave nothing away for free. Their religions were transactional; you scratch your god’s back, and he’ll scratch yours. The second problem was that the king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel’s King Jehoram (3:1), not to the prophet Elisha of whom the slave girl had spoken. This also may have been an honest mistake;
in the ancient world, kings often had a cultic role as well as a political one.
When Naaman arrives in Jehoram’s court, the king immediately suspects that his visit is a pretext for war. Jehoram had no ability to heal. He thought that when Naaman returned to Syria and still had leprosy, Syria would invade.
Elisha’s approach to this problem is instructive in several ways. First, Elisha spoke to Naaman through Elisha’s envoy. God often deals with us in the same way. He sends His envoys (pastors) who have been given the authority to deliver His gifts of life and salvation to His people. Second, the envoy told Naaman that his healing would be accomplished through a promise of God that was delivered through physical means. The promise was inextricably tied to the water in which Naaman would bathe seven times. The offense Naaman took at this is similar to the offense many Christians take at the idea that God could deliver forgiveness of sins through things as weak as human words, water, bread, or wine. Nevertheless, the word of promise does exactly what it says: Naaman is healed.
So also the Word of God combined with the water of Baptism heals us from our sin-sickness, granting us forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation for the sake of Jesus, who died and rose again for us.