Summary: How do we respond to people who come to us for help? Do we ignore them? Do we listen to them and then send them on their way instead of helping them? Do we just throw money at the problem by making a donation or do we lower ourselves like Naaman did?
A missionary lady was sitting by her window as she opened her mail. In one letter she found a crisp, new, ten-dollar bill. She was pleasantly surprised, but then she noticed a poorly dressed stranger leaning on a post by her window. She couldn't get him off her mind. Thinking that he might be in greater need than her, she slipped the bill into an envelope and wrote "Don't despair". She handed the envelope through the window to the man. He read the note, smiled, tipped his hat and walked away.
The next day she heard a knock at the door. There the same man handed her a roll of bills. When she asked what they were, he said, "That's your sixty bucks, lady! 'Don't despair" paid five to one!"
The Old Testament reading from 2 Kings 5:1-14 is a classic example of the conflict between man's way of doing things and God's way of doing things. Naaman wanted to be healed, but in his own way. He wanted Elisha to come out and perform some sort of healing ritual. He wanted to wash in rivers of his own choosing. When he didn't get his way, he reacted like a small child does when it doesn't get its own way-he had a temper tantrum. It took the words of someone insignificant to convince Naaman to humble himself and submit to God's plan. All of us are lepers who need God's healing touch, but sometimes we can't see beyond our successes and shortcomings and realize that we need to be healed.
Leprosy was significant in the Bible for several reasons:
1. The leper was considered to be unclean and had to be isolated form the rest of society. Whenever he went out, he had to cry "unclean", and he had to wear black with a hood covering his face. He also had to live outside the city walls.
2. Leprosy was incurable in Bible times just as sin is incurable by man.
3. When Jesus healed a leper he always pronounced the person cleansed, not healed.
4. The rite of purification in the Old Testament only recognized the fact that a leper was clean. It did not cure the leper.
5. Leprosy begins on the outside and then erupts on the skin. Sin also begins with what we are and then erupts on the surface.
6. The priest was to examine the leper and pronounce the person clean or unclean depending on his observation of the facts. Since Christ has provided cleansing from sin, every believer as a believer priest is to detect sin in their own life and pronounce it as sin when it first appears.
7. The pain of leprosy was not severe because it also killed the nerves in the affected area. Portions of the body became numb, muscles wasted away and fingers and toes developed ulcers. Sin is like that. We are dead spiritually, so we do not feel the pain of our sin.
8. The leper was often considered to be dead, and people without Christ are nothing more than spiritual zombies.
9. Leprosy and sin occur regardless of one's position, power, honour, possessions or wealth.
10. The restoration of the leper is a metaphor for the restoration of us to God when we accept him in faith.
11. Leprosy destroys the body, and sin destroys our relationship with Christ. (Pause)
God does not work according to our ideas or plans. In fact, there is an old joke that goes, "How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans". When we let God tell us what to do, we will be cleansed from our sins. When we follow God's plan for our lives instead of our own plans, we will be cleansed from our sins.
Believe it or not, God gave Naaman his victories. It was part of the greater purpose to reveal God's power and mercy to Naaman the foreigner. It shows that God is for everyone- both Jews and Gentiles. It foreshadows the opening of the Gospel to the Gentiles in the Book of Acts.
God often speaks through humble people. He used the Israeli slave girl to lead Naaman to Elisha-the first step in his healing. He used the soldier to convince Naaman to obey Elisha's orders-the second step in his healing. Elisha was also humble. He didn't use any of his powers to heal Naaman-God did. Elisha didn't even leave his house to meet Naaman in person. Humble people are used by God at any time and in any place he chooses and in any way he chooses.
God also acts through simple acts of obedience that don't seem to be related to the problem. For example, washing seven times in the Jordan River might not seem to be related to Naaman's leprosy. The solution called for faith. The faith began with the little servant girl when she innocently assumed God's power. Because of the girl's faith, Naaman's wife told her husband, and he told the king. Naaman had his doubts, but he went. His servants had more faith, because they convinced Naaman to try Elisha's remedy.