Dear Sir, Please Cure This Man's Leprosy Sermon by David A. Reed at Immanuel Baptist Church – June 4, 2017Back to ImmanuelBaptistNB.org
At Luke 4:27,
our Lord Jesus said,
"many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
Jesus was referring to 2nd Kings chapter 5,
where this morning's responsive reading came from.
Naaman, the man sick with leprosy,
was the commander of the armies of Israel's neighbor, Syria.
He was the highest-ranking military officer in Syria,
the top general, reporting directly to the king.
And, like the situation in the Middle East during our lifetime,
Israel and Syria were often at war.
Only, at the time of the events we just read about,
Syria was much, much stronger than Israel-
a real threat, with a much larger and superior army.
So, you can imagine the stir it must have caused
when the commander of Syria's army
came riding on his chariot into Israel's capital.
He had his aids with him,
and he would have been accompanied also
by a protective force
of cavalry and war chariots.
At this time in history
the people of Israel were not united as a single nation.
They were divided into two kingdoms.
The southern kingdom, called "Judah," included only the two tribes
of Judah and Benjamin,
and had Jerusalem as its capital.
Many priests and temple workers of the tribe of Levi
also lived in and around Jerusalem
to officiate at God's temple.
A separate nation -- the northern kingdom, called "Israel,"
where these events take place,
encompassed the remaining 10 tribes,
and had the city of Samaria as its capital.
And, for political reasons,
the kings of the northern Kingdom of Israel
didn't want their people going down to Jerusalem
to worship God in the Temple.
So, they had set up centers of false worship
within the borders of that Northern Kingdom.
The true God still sent His prophets
like Elijah and then Elisha
to reprove the northern kingdom and its kings.
But they either ignored them or persecuted them.
And that is where the leper Naaman showed up.
He came with a letter from the king of Syria,
to the king of Israel,
demanding to be cured of his leprosy-
which was then an incurable disease.
This skin disease was common in the Middle East at that time.
But God had given the people of Israel
a lot of protection against the disease.
The set of laws God had given to the Israelites through Moses,
in the book of Leviticus, [ OPEN Leviticus ]
gave them that protection.
I'm going to read from Leviticus chapter 13,
where God spelled out procedures for diagnosing the disease,
as well as procedures for quarantining
people who had become infected.
These laws helped prevent the spread of infection
among the people of Israel.
As I begin reading at Leviticus 13:1,
notice how the Law of Moses arranged for
both diagnosis and quarantine.
[ READ Leviticus 13:1-8 ]
So, the Jewish priests were trained to accurately diagnose
this contagious disease.
The rest of the chapter goes into
considerably more detail on how to do this.
And then if we go down to verses 45 and 46,
we'll see the measures that were taken
to keep the person with leprosy from infecting other people.
[ READ Leviticus 13:45-46 ]
The whole nation of Israel benefited
from these laws,
because they helped prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
And people today benefit when they follow God's laws.
Obeying God today
helps protect against syphilis, gonorrhea, AIDS and herpes.
Think how many people
have gotten those sexually transmitted venereal diseases
in the course of breaking God's laws.
Now, with this in mind,
let's look more closelyat 2nd Kings chapter 5 [ OPEN]where this morning's responsive reading was found.
We read only part of the story,
so, let's start at the beginning now with 2 Kings5:1
[ READ 2 Kings 5:1 ]
As you can see, lepers were not quarantined in Syria
the way they were in Israel.
Naaman was a leper, but was still in command of the army.
[ READ verses 2 - 5 ]
This young Israeli girl had been taken captive
during a raid on Israel by the Syrian army,
and she ended up a slave in the household of Naaman,
waiting on Naaman's wife.
The young girl could have harbored bitter resentment
toward Naaman and his wife - wishing them ill.
But, instead, she wished to see Naaman cured of his leprosy.
Naaman himself could have despised the word of a slave child.
In that culture, children were often ignored.
How much more would a slave child be ignored.
But Naaman's wife passed on the girl's message to her husband,
and he took the information to the king.
And the king of Syria, too, believed what he heard.
In fact, he "put his money where his mouth is"
and sent Naaman off to purchase this healing
with 750 LBS of silver,
150 LBS of gold,
and 10 Brooks Brothers suits-
"changes of clothing" that were evidently valuable.
That was around $178,000.00 worth of silver
and around $3-million worth of gold.
[ READ verse 6 ]
Have you ever played the game in a room full of people
where the first person whispers a message to the one next to him,
and that one whispers it to the next in line,
and so on, until it comes back to the first one?
Subtle changes occurred as the message was passed on
from one to the other,
and those changes add up
to a different message entirely.
Did you notice how that happened here?
Did you notice what important piece of the message got dropped
as it was passed on from one person to another?
The little Israeli slave girl spoke to Naaman's wife,
then Naaman's wife passed it on to Naaman himself,
then Naaman passed it on to the king of Syria,
and then that king passed it on to the king of Israel
in his letter.
What important word was missing from that letter?
Did you notice?
The little Israeli slave girl
said "the prophet" in Israel could cure Naaman's leprosy.
But the letter ended up
asking the King of Israel to cure him.
That's what threw the King of Israel into a panic.
Notice as we read verse 7.
[ READ 2 Kings 5:7 ]
Although the little Israeli slave girl in Naaman's household
believed God's prophet Elisha
could cure leprosy,
Israel's king didn't even think of the prophet
when this letter arrived.
He saw the letter as an impossible challenge,
and excuse to pick a fight leading to war with Syria.
[ READ verse 8 ]
So, now let's see what happened when Naaman went to see Elisha the prophet.
[ READ verses 9-12 ]
Naaman was a VIP - a Very Important Person.
And he expected to be treated like a VIP.
He expected the prophet to come out
and to perform some ceremony of healing.
Naaman was evidently accustomed to religious ceremonies
in the pagan temple of Rimmon, Syria's chief "god."
The priests of Rimmon no doubt performed ceremonies
in that temple,
and Naaman must have expected something similar-
accompanied by miraculous healing on the spot.
But our God is not big on religious ceremony,
or on giving special honor to high officials.
He sent His Son to be born in a stable,
and laid the baby Jesus in a feeding trough.
And the angelic announcement was made,
not to high officials,
but to poor shepherds
who were outdoors tending their flock at night.
So, when Elisha didn't come out of his house,
but instead sent a messenger,
Naaman must have felt insulted.
And when there was no formal healing ceremony,
but instead just a simple message from the prophet
to go bathe in the Jordan River,
that only "added insult to injury."
Naaman was furious.
He wheeled his chariot around,
and would have "burned rubber" speeding away from there,
if it were possible for a chariot to burn rubber.
But notice what happens next:
[ READ verses 13 and 14 ]
When his anger had cooled down,
Naaman listened to his servants -
which took some humility on his part.
And when he bathed in the Jordan river,
as the prophet Elisha had instructed him,
the leprosy left him,
and he was completely cured.
[ READ verses 15 and 16 ]
Naaman gratefully acknowledged
that the God of Israel is the only true God.
The miraculous healing
prompted him to change his religion
and disavow the false 'god' Rimmon
who was worshiped by the Syrians.
Naaman also tried to give the prophet
some or all of the silver, gold, and other precious items he had brought.
But Elisha swore by God
that he would not accept anything.
Even when Naaman urged him to please take something,
Then Naaman returned to the subject
of changing his religion
to worship only Israel's God.
[ READ verses 17 - 19 ]
As a new believer, Naaman still held to some of his pagan thinking.
He assumed there were territorial gods,
so he needed some dirt from Israel to worship Israel's God.
With a couple mule-loads of earth
he would have enough dirt from Israel to build an altar
to the God of Israel.
He didn't realize, of course,
that the Lord is the Creator, God of the universe.
Naaman also asked the prophet
for a special dispensation,
so that he would be excused
when the elderly king of Syria
would lean on Naaman's arm
while bowing to Syria's false 'god' Rimmon.
Elisha the prophet
evidently chose not to confront such a new believer
over such nonsense.
Instead, Elisha simply told Naaman, "Go in peace."
The story doesn't end there, though.
There is another twist to the plot.
The prophet's servant watched all this take place,
and his greedy heart lusted after the treasure --
the gift Naaman offered, but the prophet refused to accept.
[ READ verses 20 through 24 ]
So, Gehazi went directly against the wishes of his master.
The prophet had sworn he would not accept anything from Naaman,
but Gehazi despised his master for that,
and decided to take matters into his own hands.
Gehazi also lied to Naaman,
-- two lies actually -
first, by saying his master had sent him,
and second, with his false story
about needing the silver and garments for two young men.
Even though he worked for the prophet,
apparently Gehazi had no fear of God.
He didn't seem to believe that God saw whatever he did.
He was like Judas stealing from the money box.
And like Ananias and Saphira lying to the Apostles.
And Gehazi certainly didn't expect
what was about to happen to him.
[ READ verses 25 - 26 ]
Evidently God revealed to Elisha the prophet
not only what Gehazi had just done,
but also Gehazi's motive: .
that he planned to use the silver
to live in luxury,
purchasing olive groves and vineyards
and servants to tend them.
But Gehazi never dreamed what God would do to him,
for his greedy misconduct.
[ READ verse 27 ]
So, instead of getting to keep Naaman's treasure of silver,
Gehazi got to keep Naaman's disease, his leprosy.
All of this was recorded for us
in the inspired history of Israel's kings,
so that we can learn from it.
We learn that greed is toxic, like poison.
God provides for us everything we need.
The greedy desire to become rich
leads to lying and theft and all sorts of other sins.
Instead of bringing us satisfaction,
greed stabs us all over with all sorts of pains.
We learn that arrogance is foolish
but humility is the course of wisdom.
We learn that God's law given through Moses
gave the people of Israel protection from leprosy.
And today, when we obey God's laws
we are protected against syphilis, gonorrhea, AIDS and herpes.
We learn that nothing is impossible for our God.
The unbelieving and backslidden king of Israel panicked
when he received what looked like an impossible request:
"cure this man of his leprosy."
But our Lord Jesus cured leprosy,
cured all sorts of other diseases,
and even raised the dead.
And he gives us hope of eternal life
with no more sickness, pain or death.