Based On: 2 Kings 5:1-14
Naaman was a great and powerful man. He was a leader in the army of Aram (also known as Syria) and he worked closely with King Ben-Hadad – the king of Aram. It is difficult to determine exact dates, but he lived more than 2800 years ago – somewhere between 900 and 800 B.C. Because of his position he was one of the most powerful and influential men in one of the most powerful and influential countries of the time.
But Naaman had a problem. He had leprosy. The word leprosy was sometimes used for other skin diseases, but most often we think about the disease that eats away at the body and eventually brings death. Today we have a treatment for this type of leprosy and so to understand what Naaman was going through it might help to think of a terminal form of cancer. Except that instead of destroying the body from the inside out, the leprosy was destroying Naaman from the outside in. As far as Naaman know, he would one day die from this disease. And yet, this leprosy was a gift from God.
As part of his job Naaman would lead military exploits into neighboring countries. Of course, right next door to Aram was Israel and Israel was a long time rival to Aram. When you are fighting another country you want to weaken them so they are less of a threat to you. You can do this by taking away their resources. One very important resource is people. And if you are going to take people away from one country why not put them to work in your own country? Why not make your own life more comfortable, right? Perhaps it was one of the campaigns Naaman led or perhaps it was someone else, but one little Israelite girl was captured and brought into Naaman’s household to serve Naaman’s wife. This too was a gift from God.
That little girl did something no one else could do. She shared her faith! Of course, other people can and do share their faith, but this little girl was the only one who could direct Naaman to God’s prophet in Israel. The king of Israel couldn’t do it. Elisha couldn’t do it. No, God brought this little girl to this place at this time so that Naaman would hear her simple Words of childlike faith, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
God already knows all the places you will ever go and all the people you will meet. He will certainly bring you into contact with people who need to hear that Jesus Christ took the punishment for their sins. It has probably already happened many times. You may one day come across a soul filled with pain and hurt because of sin and you will be the one whom God brings to that one place at that one time to tell that person with childlike faith a very simple message, “I know someone who will help you” and then you point them to the cross.
When the king of Israel finally directed Naaman to Elisha, Naaman came with all his horses, chariots, and all the people who came with him and stopped outside the door of Elisha’s house. You can imagine the anticipation Naaman felt as he expected the prophet to come out with great ceremony and with a great show heal Naaman’s leprosy. He didn’t. Elisha sent a messenger to tell Naaman, “A little East of here there is a river called the Jordan. Go wash in it seven times.” Naaman was angry.
Can you understand his anger? We might think it would be nice if God came to us in his majesty and said “hocus pocus” and took care of all of life’s little problems. But he doesn’t. What does he do? He sends me, his messenger, to speak in his place – not nearly as exciting, I must admit. His message is simple: “Open your eyes to read my word, open your ears to hear others speak in my place and there you will find that you have been washed clean in the blood of my Son.” Even though the message is simple and the delivery plain, it is still from God.
Naaman’s servants had more sense at this point. They told him that washing in the Jordan river really doesn’t take much time or effort. Certainly if Elisha would have asked this great military leader to carry out some quest requiring great courage and strength, he would have done it. Then why not do this simple thing – wash yourself in the Jordan river. The point is this, “You would have believed the prophet if he had told you to do something difficult so why not believe him when he tells you to do something simple?” Washing in the Jordan took no special skill or strength or money. Naaman simply acted upon faith in the word of God spoken through the prophet, Elisha. Naaman was healed.
Earlier I had said that Naaman’s leprosy was a gift from God. Do you understand why I said that? Do you see what God did with that leprosy? Through that horrible disease God gave a little girl an opportunity to share her faith and he brought Naaman to faith in him. After Naaman was healed he went back to Elisha and told Elisha, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. . . . your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.” Perhaps we cannot know with certainty, but I think we will see Naaman in heaven. It seems that Naaman the Aramean was now a part of spiritual Israel through faith.
Can you imagine what he would have said to his wife when he got home, “Honey, you just won’t believe what happened . . . but believe it because it is true.” Or to that Isrealite girl, “I want you to tell me everything you can about the Lord.” How many other people in Aram would have heard about the Lord because of Naaman? Do you see how God worked in his own way to make Naaman clean – not just from leprosy but from sin.
You know, we have a lot in common with Naaman. If we would just take an honest look at ourselves and compare ourselves to what God demands of us then we would see just how leprous we are – not just our bodies, but right down to our soul. Our sin has caused death to rule in us and one day death will claim victory over us unless someone makes us clean and removes our sin.
Do you see how God brought people into your life so that you would be washed clean in the blood of Christ and your sin removed? For most of you, your parents were lay men and women who trusted God when God says that the waters of Baptism save you and so they acted upon that faith and they brought you to the baptismal font where you became a child of God. Perhaps others of you heard about Christ from a friend or relative or neighbor.
God didn’t come to you directly in some special way for all to see, but he came to you through others who shared their faith with you. Now he makes you a part of that process by which others are told about the cleansing blood of Christ.