Preached at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission October 29, 2017
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. – 2 Kings 5
Hey we are really glad to be with you, Milwaukee Rescue Mission on this Sunday evening.
We know that when people gather to meet with God and when God’s word is preached, that God himself is made available to his people.
Tonight we are going to talk about happened to this man Naaman. I believe that God can use this to instruct us and to encourage us to seek Him and to live our lives unto Him as we come to realize who He is, what he has done for us and what he requires of us.
I read to you just the very first part of the story in the Bible of Naaman. Naaman was the commander of the Aramian army. He was a 5-star general. He was a powerful man. He was a military man. He was used to barking out order, and to making demands on other people, including his enemies.
And it also tells us he was highly regarded by his master, the king of Aram. His boss, the king, though a lot of him. I’m sure that he felt like Naaman was the guy who could get things done.
It also says he was a valiant soldier. Not only could he command at the top, but he had courage, and carried himself well it all that he did. This statmeent about his valor is a comment made by the writer of Scripture and it bears the very stamp of the Spirit of God who has breathed out these words to us.
Naaman had a lot to recommend about himself. But there was something else that he at this time was perhaps not even aware of. It says that through Naaman the Lord had given victory to Aram. This is significant. God was already at work in his life. Way before leprosy came into the picture God had his hand on Naaman’s life.
He was commander, he was the trusted commander of the king, he had valor and he even had God’s hand on his life. But in verse 3 it says “but he had leprosy.” He had leprosy.
And I can tell you for a fact, all of those other things didn’t amount to much in Naaman’s eyes once leprosy came into the picture. All of the prestige, all of the rewards, all of it wasn’t worth very much any more.
Leprosy was the very sentence of death. In our world, in 2017, we have figured out how to contain lerosy, how to cure leprosy and leprosy is no longer a great leprosy. But in Naaman’s world leprosy was a big, bad bully that wore people down. Leprosy meant that you were through. There was no hope, only the prospect of decline. And while you were dying, while your body began rotting away right before your eyes, there was the pain, the discomfort and oh, the social stigma. You were now an outcast from normal society. You had to be quarantined away from healthy people. You could now longer live in the best parts of town, you had to go to a leper colony and watch all of their suffering too.
But we find out next the following:
Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents[b] of silver, six thousand shekels[c] of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
And so there turned out to be a servant girl, a girl in Naaman’s own household, captured from Israel. And this sweet young thing told Naaman’s wife that the prophet in Israel could cure Naaman. What incredible faith this young girl had! She believed that a leper could be cured, but more than that, that Naaman would be cured if he went to the prophet in Israel.
At this point the politicians got involved and Naaman’s boss, the king of Aram sent Naaman to see the king of Israel. Of course, this was all wrong, the king of Israel, the powerful king of Israel could do nothing for Naaman’s leprosy. The king of Israel, to his credit, was smart enough to see that. He said,
Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
I will give credit to this king of Israel for two things: one, he knew that this thing of curing leprosy was way beyond his job description and his pay grade and secondly, that this was fitting work for God, he ascribes to God works such as these. “Am I God?” To kill and bring back to life?
So, the one hand you have this humble servant girl who knows exactly what needs to be done, who could do it, and where to go. Then, you have the fumbling career politicians, one who is deluded into thinking that policatil power can help cure leprosy and the other at least clear-headed enough to see that it can’t.
So Naaman goes to prophet and the prophet tells him this to be cured Naaman needed to dip seven times in the Jordan River.
And what did Naaman do. He said “Get out of the way. I’m going to the Jordan Rivery and you better not be in my way getting there!”
Is that what happened? No, here’s what actually happened:
But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
The prophet has given him clear instructions on how to be healed. The prophet tells him how to defeat leprosy! This is astounding. This is amazing. We all though leprosy was sovereign. They all thought leprosy was in charge but the prophet says, “no leprosy is not charge, God is in charge, and here let me tell you how God will defeat leprosy. He will do it when you go dip in the Jordan River 7 times.”
But Naaman gets angry. Ha, apparently there is something worse than having leprosy. We all thought that leprosy was the worst thing that could happen to you but now Naaman is acting like there is something worse than leprosy. If leprosy was the worst thing on the planet than you would run away from leprosy as fast as you can. But apparently there is something worse. The thing that is worse than leprosy is whatever prevented Naaman from heeding the counsel of the prophet.
What was it? Pride, loss of face, loss of pride, human pride. The worst thing is not leprosy, it is having to dip in a dirty river seven times. The worst thing is having to do something like look stupid to everybody. The worst thing is to be made a fool of. The worst thing, apparently, is to lose control, and let someone else, in this case God though the agency of his prophet. That is the worst thing apparently.
Naaman was a proud man. He was valiant, oh yes he was, but he was proud too. And it will pride that was keeping him dirty. Way more than leprosy. At that point it wasn’t leprosy that was making him dirty, it was pride.
That pride made him give vent to his emotions. And his main criticisms were directed at the prophet.
I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.
Naaman wants to dictate to God and God’s prophet the terms of his healing. Can you imagine if I did that or if you did that? I have occasional issues with my blood pressure. What if I dictated to my doctor the way I wanted to solve my blood pressure problem?
He should just wave his hand, Naaman said. That ought to be the cure. It never occurred to Naaman that God really was in the instructions the prophet gave, that God would work through what he was asking Naaman to do. God already had been involved in his life when he gave him victory in battle and God was already at work in the instructions he gave the prophets.
But Naaman was unable to hear the voice of God in the words of the prophet.
It took God at work in the voice of his friends to finally get through to him. They said to him:
Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”
And somehow now those word’s got through to him. Those words revealed Naaman’s pride. If you had been asked to climb mountain to be healed you would have done it. If someone had asked you to run a marathon to be healed you would have done it. If you had been asked to not eat for 40 days you would have attempted it.
But this was not how God had decided he would work in this situation. And Naaman’s friends revealed that Naaman’s pride was getting in the way.
And then, Naaman made a turn, he took a different direction. He went in a direction that he would never regret. It says:
So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
He was healed. He was made. He had the flesh of a young boy. Now this story carrys on and I suppose there is a lot we could talk about in this story but I don’t really want to do this because we need to process what has happened here.
Jesus Christ lived 2000 years after the day of Naaman, but Jesus actually talked about Naaman. Jesus said:
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
We are then told that the people were so furious at him that they wanted to stone him. What he was saying was blasphemy to them, that God would heal somebody not from Israel. But, as Jesus pointed out there were many lepers in Israel but God only healed a Syrian.
This is not normal what happens to this man Naaman. This is something that ought to slow us down and cause us to think and to reflect on what has happened here.
Why does God work this way? Why did he heal a leper? Why did he heal a proud leper? Why a foreign, proud leper? Why in the dirty Jordan River? Why didn’t he look for somebody else, somebody more already tuned into him, someone more already dialed into his channel?
I hope this prompt you to see that God isn’t really interested in to the categories that men and women make. God has His own sense of propriety and purpose and what is needed and what is right?
And let me just narrow this down a little by talking about two things: a proud sinner and a dirty river that can make you clean.
Naaman was a proud sinner. That’s what he was. Sure he are a 5-star general. Sure he was a valiant man. But he a was a leper and he was a sinner too. His pride showed that. When God came calling, Naaman went into hiding. Naaman was a proud man but his pride was the mask that he hid his sin behind.
What is sin? Some people will tell you that sin is smoking, drinking chewing or going with girls that do. Sin is all the bad stuff I do. It’s the cheating and the drinking and the loose living and swearing and all of that stuff. And I will agree with you, that is sin. And you need to stop doing all those things.
But why do you do all those things? Why do I do all the things that I shouldn’t be doing?
Sin is the fallen condition, the diseased condition of the human heart that wants to go into hiding when God comes calling. Sin is not comfortable with rejecting the gracious offer of a gracious God. God through his prophet made a very gracious offer to Naaman that day. God said to Naaman “I can and I will heal you but you have to come under my will and submit to me.
But because we are the proud sinners that we are we push God away. We have our excuses. We find fault with God or the situation, just like Naaman did. That’s not what sin feels like, but that is what sin is. Sin feels like this or that excuse that springs up so readily in our hearts, anyhing that puts distance between us and reliance on Almighty God.
And so Naaman was a proud sinner. But he was also a leper. And God used Naaman’s leprosy to call out to Naaman, to get Naaman’s attention, because God had his eye on Naaman. God worked though Naaman’s leprosy. God used leprosy to show Naaman that he was just a walking dead man. That’s what you are if you are a leper: you are a walking dead man.
But you see we are all walking dead men. Are you going to die some day? You better believe you will. And sin is the legacy as human beings because all of us are born as human beings and we all start out with the same family disease. It is a kind of genetics I suppose you could say. It is in our genes. But we can’t blame our genes because our wills, our choices, all of the stuff we do is not doing what we do because somebody is holding a gun to our heads but because it pleases us to be sinners. We find pleasure in it. We find delight in it.
Because you see the man are in our great grandaddy Adam is not the answer. As Romans 5 tells us:
… sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned. …
But Adam, Romans tells us was “ a pattern of the one to come.” It is the one to come who we need. Romans goes on to say:
For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
And we are all lepers in our spirits. We are all unclean, we are all dirty.
But now let me talk to you about a dirty river that makes men alive. God gave Naaman one choice, one pathway to healling, It was to come through dirty river. Naaman had to get down low, we had to go where we didn’t want to go. He had to put to death his own pride.
This is how men are made alive. Need I remind you that God is in the business of raising men to life out of the dirt?
In Genesis 3:4 it tells us:
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth[a] and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
This is how God raised man to life the first time. He brought man to physical life out of the dirt. But the man he brought out the dirt physically was only the model, only the template, only the prototype for what was to come.
Where does the dirty river come in? Let me tell you where it came in for Naaman. At some point alll of the old patterns of pride just didn’t make sense any more. What good is pride to a dying man? What good is pride to a leper?
But let bring this to the doorstep of the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. What good is pride to sinner? What good is it to continue to follow in the footsteps of our great granddaddy Adam?
Our trip to the Cross of Jesus Christ is like Naaman’s trip to the Jordan river. From a human standpoint, the cross of Jesus doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t sense from a human standpoint to follow a God whose greatest strength was to die in a human body on a cross in an obsccure farm field in Israel.