Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Healing of Naaman

The Healing of Naaman
Read 2 Kings 5:1-19
Naaman was an important man in Aram, who had been struck with a terrible disease. Not only was leprosy terrible, and gross, but it caused one to be isolated from others. You were unclean, and could not associate publicly. As you know, in the Bible people were sometimes cast out of the city entirely to live in a leper’s colony. There was no cure for leprosy at this time. It was hopeless.
So when a servant girl in the house of Naaman, who had been captured from Israel, offered hope in the prophet from Samaria, word spread in the house until it reached the ears of Naaman. At this point, he must have felt like he had nothing to lose. He told the king of it, and the king advised him to go. The king wrote him a letter of introduction. So Naaman set out, laden down heavy with gifts to offer, a letter, and his leprosy.
When he reached the king, the king tore his clothes, thinking this was some kind of back-handed attack. He knew he was not able to cure leprosy! But when Elisha the prophet caught wind of this, he sent a letter to the king saying “send him to me.”
Naaman’s Arrival:
So Naaman, an important man, arrived at the door of this meager prophet. He had horses and chariots and servants with him. No doubt he expected a red carpet reception from Elisha. But that’s not exactly what he got…Elisha did not even come out of the house, but instead, sent his servant out for him with a simple message. ‘Go to the Jordan River, and wash your body in it seven times. Then you will be healed and your skin will be as good as new.’
How did Naaman react? Did he say “Great! Which way to the Jordan? Point me in the right direction!” No. It says he became angry and stalked away. (Sounds a bit childish to me.) He doesn’t even comment right away about the instructions given him! What does he say first? “I thought he would surely come out to meet me!” He was mad because Elisha did not give him a proper welcome. He had come all this way, and remember, he’s an important man…so why was he not given his due respect?
What sin is most often the outer layer of our troubles? It’s the root of so many of our stubborn sins? That’s right, pride. He was about to encounter the One, Living God, through the prophet Elisha, and instead of coming bowed low, he rides in on his chariot, and throws a fit that he has been disrespected.
What was Naaman’s expectation of how this would go down? He says “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!” He came to God with an expectation of how He would work. Don’t we do the same? We expect God to move in one way. The way that seems logical to us…or even most gratifying or spectacular. Or possibly in Naaman’s case, convenient. He really wanted Elisha to wave his wand, SHAZAM, and he could be on his way. Whatever the expectation, it’s the way that suits US best. We EXPECT GOD to meet OUR expectation!!! What’s that sin again? Oh yeah. Pride. Instead of rolling with it when things don’t go the way he wants, he continues with his tantrum.
“Aren’t the Abana River and Pharpar River of Damascus better than all the rivers of Israel put together? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” Naaman is confused. He has misplaced his trust. He thinks the power is in the waters. He says, ‘The Jordan River! Ha! We have better rivers than this one! I passed a couple of them on the way here! This Is ridiculous! My leprosy is too good for this river.’ (This is the Jennifer speculative paraphrase, of course.) It says he turned and went away in a rage. Doesn’t he sound a bit proud for a leper? He sounds like a big baby actually. But we don’t have pride because we are actually deserving of our inflated notions of ourselves. We are all a bit like the leper throwing a hissy fit, I fear.
So his servants, who are either genuinely caring for him, or are just really tired of hanging out with a leper all the time, convince him to come back. They say “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply to go and wash and be cured!” Finally. Someone is speaking reasonably. Why not give it a shot? What good is his pride doing him? It’s not making him any less leprous! No, pride will always serve to blind us to reason. It is the whisper of the Enemy saying ‘You are too good for this. No one appreciates you for who you really are!’ Naaman was actually choosing his injured pride over a chance to be healed of the grossest disease possible.
What is our pride keeping us from? There have definitely been times in my life where the only thing standing between me and obedience, me and a blessing, me and God’s best, was pride. Do we really think we know better than God? When you get “too big for your britches” as my grandmother would say, God will remind you of this. Isaiah 45:11-12 says “Do you question what I do? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the millions of stars are at my command.” When we forget for a fraction of a second who God is, and who we are, we need only to look at Creation. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. (1 Cor. 10:26) We were created by his hands, just as everything and everyone else was. Looking at nature and science, and the mysteries of life, we must know that we see only a miniscule piece of the picture, and God sees it all in full color on the big I-MAX screen…times a million…in 3-D of course. Seriously, who do we think we are? When he tells us to do something, we don’t have to understand why, or what purpose it serves. Just as my children don’t always know why I tell them to do something. At ages 2, 4, and 5, they couldn’t possibly understand the reasoning behind all of the rules we make. If they are all playing in our backyard, and I see a copperhead slither near them, (this is my worst fear, by the way) I am not going to stop and take the time to explain why they should come in, and how some snakes are poisonous…no! I’m going to call them in immediately without explanation. Knowing my children, if I told them a snake was nearby, they would try to run TOWARD it to get a closer look. (They’re in love with every creature that God made. There are some I could do without.) So we make and enforce the rules not to keep them in the dark, but for their good; to keep them safe and happy. That’s what we do explain to them. And we also explain to our kids that in the same way, we obey God so that we can be safe and happy.
When pride gets in the way, and we get caught up in what we think we deserve, or in how it makes us look, or anything else that completely begins and ends with “ME”, we will miss out on the good things that God has in store. Naaman would have missed out on a miraculous cure of his leprosy. Tomorrow we will look at the healing.

Define the difference between pride and self-worth.

Read Romans 11:33-35. Re-write it in your own words.

Read James 4:6-7 and Proverbs 16:5. How does God feel about our pride?

Read Proverbs 11:2. What is the result of pride? Give an example from your own life.

Yesterday we studied how Naaman’s pride nearly kept him from following Elisha’s instructions to be healed by the Lord of his leprosy. But after listening to a bit of reasoning from his servants, and in the end allowing desperation to win out, he goes to the Jordan River in verse 14 (2 Kings 5).
The account is very simple. The prophet Elisha sent word to Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan seven times and his flesh would become like new, and that’s exactly what happened. There was no fainting, no screaming, no bright lights, or any such spectacular fanfare (although God has done many spectacular things.) He simply followed the instructions from the Lord exactly, and God did what he said he would do. And not only did God heal him, but he made his skin as new as a young child’s, it says. Have you felt the skin of a baby, or even a little one lately? It’s awesome. I don’t know at what age they lose that softness to their skin, but I could kiss my kids’ cheeks all day long. There is nothing sweeter. Sadly, our skin never returns that way naturally. Just a fact of life. But Naaman’s did. Because when God shows up, he exceeds our expectations. Did he heal Naaman in the way he initially expected? No. He will do it his way, and in his time. But when God does a work in your life, it will be beyond what you could have imagined! Ephesians 3:20 says “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (NIV) The NLT says “he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we could ever dare to ask or hope.” Remember how we said yesterday that we only see a tiny part, and God sees it all? Because of this, we can’t even dream big enough. It’s true! I look back on the awesome works God has done in my life, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t imagine anything that measured up! Why doesn’t God do it our way? Because we don’t even know what’s best for us! When I dreamed of what my husband would be like, I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined Rusty! He far exceeds anything I could have hoped for. This past year, when we prayed for almost a year for God to heal my mother’s completely deteriorated knee, we never dreamed that God would instantly give her a new knee, and she would literally throw her cane away and walk like she hasn’t walked since she was a little girl. When I prayed for my husband four years ago, who was lying in ICU being prepared for brain surgery because of an anneurism in his brain, we never imagined that they would release him from the hospital the next day saying he was completely fine. We prayed, in each of these instances, fervently, but God out-did our imagination every time!
Can you imagine how Naaman felt looking back on the fact that he almost let his pride get in the way of this miraculous healing? I am sure he felt pretty stupid…and grateful. (Which is how I feel much of the time; stupid and grateful.) How will it change your faith when you encounter God in the way that Naaman did? You know, beyond any doubt, that God is who he says he is. You get a tiny glimpse of his power, his infinite goodness, and you marvel that it was bestowed on you. In verse 15, Naaman and his party went directly back to find Elisha and said “I know at last that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”
Pay close attention to how God used Elisha. Did you find it a little odd that Elisha didn’t come out to meet him initially? Elisha was very, very careful to draw attention only to the Lord God himself. It is very easy for someone who is used by a powerful God to become people’s focus. Elisha wanted to get out of the way so that this man would come to faith in God alone. When Naaman returned, healed, he offered the many gifts that he brought to Elisha. Elisha refused every one of them. Why? This was considered to be rude in this time. And I’m sure he could have used them. He was a prophet, so I’m sure he lived very meagerly. But Elisha again, wanted to make very sure, that everyone knew that he did not perform a miracle that day. God did. When you see “healers” on TV, or in churches, who draw constant attention to themselves through their ministries, run away. Have nothing to do with it. In fact any ministry that exalts one person is a recipe for disaster. You know, the churches where people “worship” the pastor, and come to hear what he has to say? Watch out, because in time, that man is going to fall, and fall hard. And people’s faith will be crushed. Why? Because they put their faith in a man, who is fallible and sinful, like every one of us. Thank God for the messengers, and those used by God, but they can never become an idol in your life. When the focus is on any man, and not on God, it is blasphemy. Our lives, as Christians, should always be pointing people to God. We are to bring HIM glory in all the we do, and all that we are, not ourselves. When glory comes to us, we need to quickly point back to him.
A true work from God in your life, when we get rid of our pride and obey him, will not only exceed your every dream, but will usher you into a sweeter, more intimate relationship with him than you’ve ever had before. Don’t forget the good things he’s done for you! We forget and move on far too easily! Remember who God is, and what he’s done in your life.

Recount some spiritual markers in your life when God did a work, and you were changed, or healed. Make a point to remember and thank God.

Read Exodus 14:15-31. What do you think Moses was thinking as they were heading out of the city, going the wrong direction, chased by the Pharaoh and his army? What would you have been thinking? Do you think he imagined what God was about to do?

Read Exodus 16:1-3. Had the Israelites already forgotten the way God had provided for them? Have you forgotten the way God has provided for you in the past, and even exceeded your wildest dream?

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