Dear Sir, Please Cure This Man's Leprosy    Sermon by David A. Reed at Immanuel Baptist Church – June 4, 2017

Back 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,

Elisha refused.

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.