Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1).
The text introduces us to a man called Naaman. The Bible describes him with such lofty and elegant words. As like the sound of a crescendo, the description takes flight from one low point till it peaks: he was a commander; he commanded the Kings army. He was a great man. To be great is to be exceptional—above one’s peers or colleagues. And Naaman fits the bill. Not only was he great, but he was in high favour with his Master. This was no mean man. He was held in high esteem by his Master a king. On top of all that he has won many battles. He was a mighty man of valour. It is to be noted that this phrase is used to describe a courageous or wealthy person. And Naaman indeed was both.
Now human beings indeed have the capacity to do and achieve great things. When we study human history, we are faced with great feats achieved by humanity in general and individuals in particular. In every generation and epoch of history, we have great men and women who stand out as great leaders: scientists, politicians, professionals, theologians and pastors, authors, inventors and the list goes on.
The world has never lacked great leaders. But no matter how great people can become, we are just mere mortals. And we shall see that shortly as we proceed through 2Kings 5. There are indeed many places in Scripture, that the nothingness of human beings so to speak, is spoken of.
The apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:24 compares our lives to flowers:
“for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls (1 Peter 1:24).
I have a flower in my garden at home. Every morning it blossoms with these beautiful white petals. But by evening it all falls off—gone. That is how our life is like.
Moses praying in the Psalms describes our lives as a dream and grass of the field.
You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as c a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
David, when he surveyed the wonderful creation of God, bursts out in doxology
When I look at your heavens, the work of your w fingers, the moon and the stars, x which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
What is man? Another translation says “Who is Man?” These Scriptures point us to our frailty. Today we are, tomorrow we are gone. Now these Scriptures doesn’t call to question the value of humanity. For indeed we are created in the image of God. But any dignity we have as humans isn’t independent of God. And the text points us to this beautifully
Naaman Wasn’t Self-Made
All the victory of Naaman and every lofty description of him is not a result of his might. The text is clear who made Naaman who he was—The Lord: “because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria.” Naaman was not a self-made man. In fact, there are no self-made men on this earth. Now, here I am not even speaking about the fact that we have been created in the image of God. I am speaking of our disposition towards success and successful people. Everything we are is a result of the grace and mercies of God.
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this , that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Naaman Was A Leper
“But he was a Leper” We started with a great man. A commander of the King of Syria. A mighty man of Valour. But despite all these lofty accolades given Naaman, he was a leper. Scripture just appears to bursts our bubble about this great man. Suddenly, Scripture brings him down: “but he was a leper” This one thing we are told about him, negates all that has been said of him. Now imagine wearing an all-white attire and a spot of stain or palm oil is splashed on that your all-white attire. It messes you up. It takes all the shine from the attire. That is what Scripture has just done. Taken away all the shine from Naaman: “but he was a leper”
Leprosy in biblical times were various skin diseases that render people unclean (Leviticus 13—14). And this uncleanliness demanded the people are separated and quarantined to avoid spreading the disease. In the text, we see clearly this uncleanliness mentioned (vv 10; 12;13;14).
What Has His Leprosy Got To Do With Me?
Perhaps you may ask, what has his leprosy got to do with us? As has already been mentioned, Leprosy in biblical times depicted uncleanliness. To be a Leper is to be an outcast: separated from people and separated from God. Naaman’s Leprosy here paints a picture of sin. Remember we have described him as an unclean person. This one problem Naaman has is in a spiritual sense, a problem everyone of us carries around. By virtue of been born into this world, Scripture condemns all of us as sinners. This in theology is called Original Sin or Total Depravity. It teaches that our human nature is corrupted by sin as a result of the fall of Adam. And scriptures like Psalm 51:5, Isaiah 53:6, Jeremiah 17:9 and Romans 3:10-23 all teach this.
To dispute this, all I will tell you is to look at your own life in the last 24hours or last hour or right now while you listen to me. Have you done everything right? Has your thought patterns been all perfect? Don’t we say to err is human? Doesn’t that indeed affirm something about the human race that is true with our nature? We are all sinners. And our sin makes us unclean. Not only that, our sins demands to be judged and punished. Our sins have separated us from God. Alienated and enemies of God. A people without hope.
Only God Can Save
There is one remarkable truth in this narrative. The hand of God at work in Naaman’s life. Look at vv.2-3 (READ). A little girl from Israel was taken captive during one of Naaman’s military conquest and she was taken to Naaman’s house to serve. That little girl could have been sent to any other house and not to Naaman’s house. But because of God’s providence and his electing grace at work, that girl was sent to Naaman’s house where she was needed.
Again, in Naaman’s house, this little girl could have remained silent. But she spoke. God uses various means to bring people to himself. Consider this little girl as a preacher who brings you the word of God. Consider this little girl as one who points you to Christ. Consider her telling you there is a Saviour, Christ Jesus who can save you from your leprosy. Will you hear her? Or you will spun her message.
Look also at v.7. Naaman communicated the girls’s message to the King of Syria and he was given a letter sent to the King of Israel. The response of the King is instructive here:
And when the king of Israel read the letter, q he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive , that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only s consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” That little phrase: “Am I God, to kill and to make alive” speaks of something that God does. He makes alive. Sin is spiritual death and it is only God who can make you alive: “Except a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of god”
Sinners Can Be Cleansed Only By God’s Way
There is something common with humans. We are proud when it comes to God. We don’t like the simplicity of the gospel—God’s way of salvation provided in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Somehow, we want to work for our salvation. We want to do something to merit salvation. But salvation will always be only by faith in the finished work of Christ on Calvary. Sinners resist God’s offer of salvation always. Believe in Christ. Sinners say no. We want to do good works to earn salvation. We always have our own ideas of what salvation is rejecting the biblical pattern.
We see this clearly in the narrative. When Naaman went to Elisha, he was given very simple instructions. However, he came with his own ideas of what should happen for his cleansing to happen:
And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.(vv.10-13)
Do you see that? He has his own ideas of what salvation must be. He expects the spectacular. Elisha will show up, call on the name of God, wave his hands at the place and be healed. He was raged. Many of us are like that. We don’t want the simplicity of the gospel. We want something spectacular. We want to see a miracle. But no, no. The only provision God has made for our salvation is in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe in him and you will be saved.
Finally, Naaman believed—he obeyed and was made clean. Christ calls sinners come to me. Will you come or shun the message?