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August 25, 2019

Naaman's Baptism

Naaman’s Baptism

2 Kings 5:1

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria.  He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.

Leprosy is a terrible disease that destroys the nervous system.  At first, the nerves begin to fail causing the extremities to go numb.  You lose your sense of feeling.  Given enough time, the ends of your body literally waste away— eyes & noses, finger tips, entire hands sometimes, vocal cords & tongues.  There was no cure.  Leprosy is a death sentence. 

In Bible times, the word for leprosy referred to all skin diseases that shared these symptoms, some of which were extremely contagious.   So when a person showed these symptoms they had to be removed from the community.  To be afflicted with leprosy meant pain and loneliness. 

Leprosy blinds you from what you’ve become, and separates you from whom you love.  So in the Bible the disease is often used as a way of teaching about what sin does in us.  For just like leprosy we grow numb to sin over time.  At first we hate sin. But given enough time, we no longer even see it, or sense it in ourselves.  Until, it steals us from our loved ones, and robs us of our life.

This is why the Bible speaks so clearly about God healing leprosy.  God can wipe away our leprosy, or “cleanse” leprosy, just like he cleanses us of every sin.  With the touch of His hand, and the washing of the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ, God heals the leper and it teaches about God’s desire and plan to heal us from the destruction of sin in our lives today.

Here in 2 Kings 5 we read of the first time of God heals a person with leprosy.  And, oh my, does God choose a doozy of a patient!  

You probably think God should choose a really faithful person to heal first, right?  Only a “good” person is worthy of such a great miracle, right?  (wink, wink!)  

Actually, “there is no one good, no not one,” the Bible declares.  And today’s lesson will teach us that.   Jesus wants you to know, He really loves you.  And the way He proves that to us is by revealing radical love, grace and forgiveness upon the last person on Earth to deserve it.  

God show his love towards the worst person the Israelites could think of so they could all say, “Wow, if God loves him, He can love me too!”

May we all learn the same lesson.

2 Kings 5:2 And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel.  She waited on Naaman’s wife.

3  Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  For he would heal him of his leprosy.”

Think of how much the Israelites must have hated the general Naaman.  He had led his armies to slay hundreds perhaps thousands of the Israelites, even taking their daughters as personal slaves!  Yet, this is the best news: No one is so far that God cannot save.      

2 Kings 5:4 And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.”

5  Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”  So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.

6  Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, 

Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of leprosy.

Talk about pressure! Imagine the Israelites watching their worst enemy cross the border with a chariot full of riches ready to “purchase” a miracle.   

7  And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy?  Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks quarrel with me.”

Did you notice how these three people each have a different attitude towards the problems of life? 

A little slave girl, stolen from her family, shows utter grace and tells her master, “Go and ask God.”  

The Syrian king says “Go, and buy God” as he sends the soldier with money and impressive recommendations.  

But the king of Israel, throws his hands up in the air and declares “What can anyone do? Don’t go at all.” 

These is the same choice each of us makes every moment of our life.  When sin works havoc in your life you can cry, “What can anyone do?!” And do nothing.  Or, you can heap up gold and strength, buy and impress your way to healing.  Or, we like a child can merely go and ask God. 

8  So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes?  Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

9  Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house.

Imagine this scene: Elisha the prophet must have lived in a simple one room home like 99% of people at that time.  And in front of this humble home pulls up a chariot packed with gold and silver, soldiers and servants.  It would be like having the President of the United States pulling up in front of your house— bullet proof limousine, secret service agents on their walkie talkies, helicopter flying over head.

10  And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.”

Elisha doesn’t even answer the door!  And then he sends his servant to tell him to go dip himself seven times in the Jordan.  Now, if the the President comes to your door, asking for help would you tell one of your kids to answer the door?  Think for a moment why Elisha would do such a thing.

Think also about Elisha’s words: climb into the river, dip yourself in the waters seven times.  What would keep a man like Naaman from doing that? His suit, his reputation, and his self-respect for starters.   

God’s healing came with no admission fee.  Naaman would’ve paid it.  God’s healing required no interview to pass, no mountain to climb, no ritual to perform.  Naaman would’ve done any of those things.   But what God asked Naaman to do is what God requires for all of us.  Forget yourself.  Lay aside thoughts of how bad or good you are.  Focus instead on God and let yourself be washed by God.

For this great leader Naaman to open his hand and receive God’s grace he had to first empty his hand of everything that stood in the way of faith—his merit, efforts, success and even his failures.  

11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’

12  “Are not the Abana and the 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.

13  And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

Naaman was smart, strong, rich, self-controlled, and accomplished.  And it was keeping him from God.   

He wanted the prophet to do something impressive.  He thought, “Give me some ritual, some show!  Don’t you know who I am, and how far I have come?!”  

Or as Naaman’s servant pointed out he would have even been happy if he had to earn God’s salvation.  “Ask me to climb a mountain!  Nothing will stand in my way. But don’t ask me to dip myself in the water!  Anyone could do that.”  

Naaman, like so many of us, was ready to purchase, trade, or win God’s favor.  But to simply receive it was nearly too much to ask.  

1 Corinthians 1:26 puts it like this, “not many wise, … not many mighty, not many noble, are called.”

Jesus said in Luke 18:17, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Think about a little child: They are really good ‘getters.’  When you give a child a piece of chocolate they don’t confuse things by thinking about paying you back, or thinking “what did I do to earn this?” No, a small child just puts out his chubby little paws and stuffs as much of the chocolate as he can into his face.   A child doesn’t muddy the waters of grace with thoughts of himself.

A small child thinks it’s his job to get stuff.  

And… it’s dad’s job to give stuff.    

This is why the small child is so happy when the father comes home from work, whereas the father might by lucky if his teenager even acknowledges his presence!  

The small child doesn’t think he’s earned his gift, or he better keep up the good work, or that his father loves him because he is such a smart child.   The small child is blessed in that he believes he receives gifts from his father, because of His father.   So it frees him to simply enjoy the presence, and the presents, of the father.  

The small child is free from obsessing over himself, and it frees him to enjoy his father.

14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Naaman did what you and I need to do every day of our life.  He laid down his sense of earning, impressing, or striving for God’s grace.  And he just received it not because of himself, but because of God.  

And he was healed, not just physically, but was forgiven of all his sins and adopted into God’s family.  We know because watch how his desire begin to change.  He enters the water receiving God’s forgiveness just by faith, but he leaves the water with a changed heart.  Take a look…

15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” 

16  But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.”  And he urged him to take it, but he refused.

This new believer came with a chariot full of money to persuade God, or at least the prophet. So if Elisha had taken the money, this new believer might have misunderstood the truth about the Lord— that God forgave Naaman, not because of his money or strength, but because of God’s love.     

Elisha had a Biblical right to receive that financial gift.   Naaman had a Biblical right to give it.  But Elisha forsook his rights so as to protect the younger believer from stumbling in his faith.  And we all should be willing to give up our rights to help others grow in their faith.

17  So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD.

18  “Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon— when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing.”

19  Then he said to him, “Go in peace.”  So he departed from him a short distance.

Do you see how his heart has been softened towards the Lord?  What sensitivity he now has towards God!  He brings dirt from the Jordan river bed— he’s preparing for a new devotional life with the LORD.  His heart is concerned about even the slightest compromise— his master leaning on him in a pagan temple.    And Elisha seeing his newfound faith, no longer built on his own goodness but upon the love of the Father, says, “Go in peace.” 

So too with you and I, when we receive God’s grace, just because of God and not us, we finally have peace.

Oh, if I were to think God answered my prayer because I’ve been pretty good.  “I haven’t made any one cry in at least a week.”  

What happens to my heart?  There is no peace.   Because I realize there is no way I can keep this up! What happens when I fail?” 

There is no peace to the one who thinks he has earned God.

Only when I receive God’s grace freely can I finally rest.  It’s so freeing to not have to keep up the so-called Christian performance of playing like we’ve been really, really good and that’s why we are blessed.

Are you exhausted? Let yourself find rest. Come to Jesus, because of Jesus.

Have you ever had a little child run to greet you after a long day?  It’s one of the great moments of life.  To be loved not for doing anything but just for sharing life together— there really is nothing better.  

Do you ever wonder why God gave you life?  Do you ever wonder why you are still here?  Now you know.   God gave you life so that you might jump with joy just to see Him.  And you will when you let yourself trust that His love towards you is all because of Jesus.  You’ll love Him, just because He loves you.