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Naaman Sermon

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In my devotions this week, I began reading the 5th chapter of 2nd Kings. I’ve read this passage before. You’ve read this passage before.

Turn there, 2 Kings 5:1

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Normally I would have continued reading, but I couldn’t. Something had snagged my attention. It was that three letter word “but”.

I began to wonder how many times that word appears in scripture? It took some digging.

“But” appears 3994 times in the Bible. There are a lot of words in the 66 books of the Bible. 3994 might not be such a high number. So I dug some more.

The word

Ø    Money appears 140 times

Ø    Faith appears 247 times

Ø    Love appears 310 times

Ø    Peace appears 429 times

Ø    Jesus appears 983 times

3994 times is a lot!

In English “but” can be used as a conjunction connecting two thoughts, or as an adverb giving us more description.

The Greek and Hebrew words for “but” are also translated as,

§       except for,

§       had it not been for,

Ø    I would like to come to church in time for Sunday School, but I went out last night and am too tired to get out of bed.

Ø    I would like to tithe, but I have too many bills.

Ø    I’d like to come to prayer on Wednesday night, but I’m to shy to pray out loud.

To me ‘but” is a limiting word. It’s the point where I decide I can’t or won’t do something.

If I had to title today’s lesson, I would call it

“Get your but out of the way”.

Back to 2 Kings 5 

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Naaman was an important man.

1) he was the supreme commander of the army of Syria. How do I know that? The term “commander,” is only used for an army’s highest ranking officer – we would make him a 5-star general.

2) the verse says, he was “a great man,” a man of high social standing and prominence;

3) He found favor with his boss. Who was his boss? The king of Syria. Either Ben Hadad the 1st or 2nd

Why did he have favor? He won military battles against Israel!

Who gave him the Victory over Israel? The God of Israel. At this point in History Syria & Israel are enjoying a truce. It won’t last.

4) In the king James Version, instead of “Valient soldier” it reads, “mighty man of valor”. This term is used in the OT for both a man of great wealth and a courageous warrior

 

BUT he had leprosy.

We would think, because of our studies of scripture that because he had leprosy, he would have been excluded from society. After all, he was unclean. The Torah prevented him from interacting with society – but that didn’t matter much to the King of Syria or his social status.

Naaman had talent, and the favor of God. Even leprosy couldn’t prevent him from being a great man.

2 Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl [under 12 years old] from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.

God uses children. It is interesting that Naaman believed this young slave girl seemingly without question. Perhaps she was like Daniel, and her righteous life in the midst of these foreigners had caused them to respect her and, more importantly, her God.

3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman is from Syria, Elisha lives in Samaria – these are just hints that God’s people go beyond the borders of Israel & Judah.

4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing.

That’s about 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold. Or  about $20,000 in silver, $60,000 in gold.



6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes

What does it mean when a Jew tears his clothes? It is sign of profound distress and grief.

he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

King Jehoram thought that Ben-Hadad expected him to cure Naaman’s leprosy. He knew he couldn’t cure Naaman and was already anticipating going back to war and most probably being defeated by the Syrians.

Jehoran wanted peace with Syria to continue, BUT he couldn’t honor the King’s request. Just how out of touch was Jehoram that he didn’t know about Elisha, and yet a child, living near the Syrian border did?

8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

So who will know? Ben-Hadad, Naaman, or King Jehoram? I don’t know, but I suspect they all needed reminding that God was in charge.



9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11 BUT Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me

Remember he was a man of great power and influence in Syria. He had come with gifts of great wealth. AND he had a letter from the king ordering his healing.

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.

Naaman had this idea in his head of how this healing business was supposed to happen. Aren’t we like that? Don’t we all want God to do things our way? We can’t do that. If we do, we are cutting ourselves off from God’s grace.

There was and still is a superstition in the East that if the king, or person of great importance touched, or waved a hand over a sore, it would be healed.

12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?”

Both rivers were famous for their sparking clear water. Orchards were planted along their banks. BUT the Jordan river on the other hand is muddy. I can’t do that, I’m an important man. Did it actually matter which river? Certainly not, God honors obedience.

So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father,

Do you call your boss “my father”? This reference shows us the fondness Naaman’s servants felt for him. It also show us what a kind master Naaman was, that his servants were free to talk to him about anything.

“My father,  If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Medical fact: ancient forms of leprosy affected the skin. Modern leprosy affects the nervous system.

15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.

Don’t miss the significance of this. At this time Israel is worshipping both Yaweh and the baals. Syria was not a Jewish state, and yet here was a foreigner affirming the God of Israel to be the one true God.

Please accept now a gift from your servant.” 16 The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.

He did this to show that he was not driven by the motives of the pagan priests and prophets who charged for their services.

 17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.

That sounds weird, asking for a load of dirt. In the ancient near east, they believed that a God was bound to a place. If Naaman could take some of Israel’s dirt back to Damascus with him, God could go with him. Talk about a heart change, one minute he wouldn’t step foot in the muddy Jordan, and now he was worshipping in the dirt!

18 BUT may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”

Small rabbit trail: Rimmon is the storm god in Syria. Ben-Hadad’s name means “the thunderer”. One of Naaman’s duties was to accompany the king to worship services in the temple of Rimmon. Naaman wanted Elisha to know that he was committed to Yahweh and was asking the Lord’s forgiveness before he went into the temple. Elisha did not give him permission to do this, nor did he prevent him from doing this. He simply said,

19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.

Turn to Luke 4

This event takes place after the temptation in the Wilderness. Jesus had gone home to Nazareth and went into the temple on Sabbath, took the scroll and read,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

They were amazed by they way he spoke and yet they knew who he was, he was Joseph’s kid.  Verse 23 even tells us they wanted him to prove his authority with a miracle similar to the ones he was rumored to do in Capernum.

Jump down to verse 24.

24 “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

Both the widow and Naaman were Gentiles. Both lived during times of widespread unbelief in Israel. Jesus’ point was that God bypassed all the widows and lepers in Israel, yet showed grace to two Gentiles. Keep reading.



28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.

30 BUT he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

We see this pattern throughout the rest of Jesus’ ministry: Jesus went to the Jews; they rejected Him; when He told Jews that the Gentiles would have a part in the kingdom; some Jews wanted to kill Him. BUT, and this is the biggest but He was not killed until the proper time, when He chose to die.

So what is the bottom line?

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