Summary: In the story of General Namaan, the Lord teaches us about a few traits that are polar opposites of each other: Faith & Unbelief...Humility & Pride.

Epiphany 6

II Kings 5:1-14

Try doing this sometime. Take an empty 2-Liter bottle, and fill it up half way with just plain water, and the other half fill up with vegetable oil. Then try shaking that bottle up and mixing those two things together. What’s going to happen? Well, you can shake that bottle all day, but as soon as you stop shaking it, the oil and the water are going to separate from each other in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Why? Back in 11th Grade Chemistry Class you learned that oil and water are “polar opposites” of each other. These two substances have a totally different chemical make-up from each other, which makes it impossible for them to mix together. Polar opposites just don’t mix.

There are a lot of different things that we could study today in the story of the Healing of Naaman’s Leprosy. We could talk about the importance of witnessing your faith, as the young girl did to her master. We could talk about how even in the Old Testament, God proved that he was interested in the salvation of all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. We could talk about the awesome power of God, which is able to heal the worst of our diseases. And while we will briefly touch on all these points, what we’re going to focus on this morning are the polar opposites in this story. We are going to study the characters and see a number of things that just don’t mix very well inside a person: 1. Faith & Unbelief 2. Humility & Pride. Yes, these things are all polar opposites of each other.

Part I

This is not a story that is difficult to understand. It begins with a man named Naaman. And the original text of verse 1 reads, “Naaman: 1. commnder of the army of the king of Aram. 2. A great man with his master. 3. In high favor. 4. By him the Lord had given victory to Aram. 5. A mighty man of courage. 6. Leper.” The last word of the Hebrew text really jumps out at you, because there is nothing linking it to the rest of the sentence. Verse 1 simple states all the wonderful things Naaman had going for him, and that verse ends with the single word “leper.” Here was a man who had everything going for him. He was powerful. He was respected. He was victorious. He was no doubt fairly wealthy. He was about as successful as you can be in this world, except for the small fact that he happened to have leprosy. And how that changes everything! Leprosy was a living death. There were two common types of leprosy, one that would kill you in 20 years, and one that would take your life in 10. Naaman was in the early stages of his leprosy, and whichever type that he had, he knew the end result: he was going to die a slow death, gradually seeing his earthly achievements replaced by declining frailty. Power was going to give way to weakness. Honor was going to give way to shame. An awful way to die!

And if we look at the Cliff’s Notes of this story, we see that Naaman’s servant girl tells him about a prophet in Israel who can heal him. Naaman goes to this prophet Elisha, and is healed. That’s the story, but let’s dig a little deeper and look at both the faith and unbelief of several of the characters here.

Obviously this story has to start with the servant girl. I mean, we call it “The Story of the Healing of Naaman’s Leprosy,” but without this girl, there would be no story. Let’s find out as much as we can about this girl. Verse 2 says, “Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.” This tells us a bit what kind of warfare Naaman’s army was involved in. Yes, there were traditional battles such as the one in which Naaman’s army had killed wicked King Ahab on the battlefield. But there were also these raids in which Naaman’s army would go into defenseless towns in Israel and terrorize them. This little girl who was the slave of Naaman’s wife had been kidnapped on one of these raids. Most likely, her father had been killed by Naaman’s soldiers as he tried to defend his household. Possibly this girl’s mother was also dead, or perhaps she too was sold into slavery to another family, where she would never see her little girl again. Now put yourself in this little girl’s shoes: you’ve been captured and taken away to a foreign land, you probably watched your father being killed, you’re most likely never going to see your mother again. How would you feel about the power of your God? Wouldn’t it have been so easy for this little girl to feel that her God, the Lord, was really pretty powerless to help weak people like her? I’m sure Naaman’s family would have loved this girl to serve their gods. And that would have made sense. After all, it was Aram’s gods that were victorious, not Israel’s God.

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