Our story from 2 Kings 5:1-14 is rather ground breaking. Especially when you consider when you consider the context of when it was written. It is a story about haves and have not’s. It deals with the highest rungs of power in society to the very lowest. It is full of startling revelations, hidden truths and false perceptions.
On the surface we might say that this is a story about a proud and stubborn man, surely not the first and certainly not the last, who cannot believe how he has been treated by those who were to heal him. Or perhaps we might say that our text is indication of God’s ability to heal. Finally, we might say that God is not inclusive which is why Naaman’s leprosy is healed even though Naaman is not an Israelite.
Of course all three of things about our text are true. Naaman is a commander of an army. A powerful man used to getting his way. When he learns he could be healed he simply asks his king for permission to go and it is granted. Of course you can imagine how the king of Israel felt about having Naaman and his army come into his territory. It sounds like the perfect way to launch an attack.
Unexpected Revelations – Audio Sermon
Now the king of Israel says a peculiar line when he reads that Naaman is coming seeking healing. He says, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy.” Am I God, to give death or life. I could probably spend the next 30 minutes talking about just this one line in our text. I’m not going to as I want to highlight a different issue. But I would be remiss if I did not mention the significance of what Jehoram, the king of Israel says, “Am I God, to give death or life.”
Think about those words within our own context: In relation to health care, in relation to war and conflict, in relation to equality and distribution of wealth.
Jehoram might not have realized it but he uttered a powerful truth. He is not God and neither are we. A powerful and subtle truth that we should keep in mind during our day to day dealings with others and when we engage in the political process. As God’s ambassadors here on Earth, how do we respond to such a statement.
Granted I’m not being fair to you leaving you on the hook with that thought. However, I want to look at an underlying theme from this reading. Let’s consider the actors in this drama.
Naaman, a powerful army commander who happens to have leprosy. Now in Israel this would make him a social outcast, but in Aram this isn’t a problem.
Next we have the slave girl of Naaman’s wife. This girl is the lowest of the low in society. To say she has no status within society is to say too much. On the social pecking order she doesn’t even rank. Simply opening her mouth and speaking as she does could get her killed without a second thought.
The king of Israel who we mentioned earlier is unaware of the full extent of God’s power. A sad statement really when Israel was supposed to represent God to all the nations.
We have Elisha a man of God. Elisha plays an interesting role in this drama. He offers the advice on how to cure Naaman’s leprosy and is therefore central in offering God’s healing power.
Finally, we have Naaman’s servants who offer wise counsel to follow Elisha’s command if Naaman is to seek healing.
When you consider these characters it is the ones who have all the power, all the material wealth, all the access to what society offers who are absolutely powerless and clueless. They really do not grasp what is going on. Their expectations of how things should be handled are not met.
The king of Israel thinks the whole thing is a ruse. The text makes it appear as though he doesn’t know who Elisha is and the king certainly is unaware of how God chooses to act in the world.
Naaman’s only credit is that he listens to the slave girl. But he is otherwise as bullheaded as they come. Refusing to bathe in the Jordan, thinking the rivers of his own country far superior. But this story was never about who had the nicest river. Rather it is a revelation of God’s power and providence.
What is shocking about this story is where the knowledge comes from. Initially, a slave girl. Someone with no social standing and no safety net. She could have said nothing, but instead she shares the knowledge of God with Naaman. How is that for evangelism? How is that for faith? Because if Naaman isn’t healed or happy, you know what is happening to this young slave girl. But she takes this risk, because she is secure in her faith, and she share’s about God’s ability to heal. She is aware of how God is working in the world.
Then there are the servants who talk Naaman down and convince him to bathe in the Jordan. They too have little power, but God is working through them to provide Naaman with advice that heals him.
And Elisha, a travelling prophet who sees and understands God’s plan and provides the recipe for how Naaman might be healed.
God is working through the have not’s in this story. The people who hold no power, no wealth and no social standing. Let’s be clear that if we were to translate the slave girl, servants and Elisha into our own context they would likely be the people that we want absolutely nothing to do with. These are the people who are different from us, they probably frighten us.
Theologian Haywood Spangler writes, “Whatever sociological context we are in, we may create and act on stereotypes about those who are different from ourselves. We all tend to turn one who differs from us into an ‘other’ who is somehow problematic and should therefore be ignored or dismissed. Every one of us is probably someone else’s ‘other’. The irony that wisdom and insight come from unexpected sources invites us all to strive to curb this tendency. This story encourages us to recognize that any person may have important insights and be an instrument of God’s saving work.
This story demonstrates God’s love for us. It also reminds us that the way that God decides to demonstrate that love may fall well outside of our understanding. This is seen with Naaman whose healing does not occur as he expects. When we think that God is exclusively on our side we become like Naaman, unable to see and appreciate God’s plan. We close ourselves off from God.
However, Naama also serves another purpose. He is a foreigner, part of an army that captured a piece of Israel’s territory. He represents an aggressive and unwanted outsider. However, Elisha offers him healing. In doing so Elisha does not require that Naaman repent of his sins, or a request that Naaman withdraw his army. Elisha offers healing and asks nothing in return.
How do we treat the ‘others’ in our life? What do we expect of them? How do we treat the unchurched when they ask questions about our faith, about what it means to accept Christ as a saviour? Do we pounce and tell them they must confess their sins? Do we sign them up for committee’s? Or do we greet them in love and offer the grace that Christ first offered us?
Friends, there is a lot for us here today in our story. Not just about God’s ability to heal, or a moral lesson on the sin of pride. Instead, we have God’s plan revealed to us from unexpected sources. It is an important reminder especially given where we sit today; in a church in south western Mississauga. If this story were rewritten today, who might we be? Are we the powerful or the powerless?
Are we willing to listen to God’s voice from unexpected sources? Do we have ears to hear and eyes to see?
When we consider Christ’s mission to the world do we understand how we fit in? Are we willing to listen to a voice that might challenge us or make us uncomfortable?
Can we extend the grace that Elisha offers, not only to friends but also to foes? This is the heart of the message found in the story of Naaman’s healing. Are we willing to hear God’s word to us from unexpected sources?
Text: 2 Kings 5:1-14