With an eye on preaching Old Testament narrative, John Woodhouse examines the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. A prominent man suffering leprosy, Namaan visited God’s prophet in Israel, Elisha, laden with treasure to purchase healing—and was instead humbled when Elisha instructed him simply to wash in the Jordan. God’s word, Woodhouse reminds us, always seems unreasonable to the proud: “Wash and be healed. Believe and be saved. Repent and be forgiven.” Yet those who do not receive what is promised can only blame themselves for the blessings they forgo.
1Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.1 2Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. 3She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels2 of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house. 10And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12Are not Abana3 and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
15Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18In 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.” 19He said to him, “Go in peace.”
But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance,
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.