And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath ~ Luke 4:27-28
I started this blog post 2 weeks ago but a death in my immediate family forced me to put my study on hold. Now that life has resumed back to normal, I’m excited to start blogging once again. We had been talking about Jesus’ teaching of Isaiah 61:1-2 in the past two blogs (see Jesus is our Jubilee and The widow of Sidon) and the people of Nazareth’s response to His teaching. He was revealing to them that He had come to be a light and a blessing… to show forth His salvation… to the Gentiles (unbelievers) as well as the Jews. He was reminding them of their covenant responsibility to co-labor with Him in being a blessing to ALL the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3)…. He had blessed them to be a blessing… to release that blessing to ALL we come in contact with.
This example must’ve struck a nerve with them and just pushed them over the edge…. this example that He gave was unthinkable to their natural reasonings! The widow represented Gentile sinners but Naaman represents much more than that… he was the captain of the Syrian army… the Syrians oppressed Israel. They were enemies of Israel. Much in the same way that the Romans were the oppressors of the group sitting and listening to Jesus. Surely being a light and a blessing didn’t mean extending it to their oppressive enemies did it?
Remember, God’s heartbeat is for the nations. He was so intent on showing the Israelites His love and compassion for ALL people, and that ALL people can have faith in God, that He chose one of the most hated men in Israel at that time to prove it. God in His mercy pursued Naaman…. there were MANY lepers in Israel but none of them were healed except Namaan the Syrian (Luke 4:27)
The Syrians were always terrorizing and attacking Israel and then taking prisoners back to Syria… on one of these raids, Namaan carried off a little girl from Israel and made her his wife’s servant (2 Kings 5:2). Chapter 5 opens with the Lord allowing Syria to win a battle, although we don’t know who the other side is. The Bible also tells us that Naaman was mighty, honorable to his King (King Aram) and strong in battle. But his military strength and glory were marred by an incurable disease of leprosy.
This little girl that he kidnapped tells Namaan’s wife about the prophet Elisha and that Namaan could be healed if only he were with him. I love the little girl in this story… she is definitely a co-laborer with God…a minister of reconciliation. She is being a blessing to even the one who took her captive. She has complete faith that if Namaan were to see Elisha he would be healed! She had faith in her God that He is not only able to heal but is willing to heal…. even an enemy of Israel!
While this story in Luke 4 is a rebuke to the people that they are neglecting their covenant role of being blessed to be blessing to ALL the people of the earth… thankfully however God doesn’t just rebuke us and leave in our neglectful condition. It is also an invitation to be His ambassadors of unconditional love… God’s love that He poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5) … to even our enemies… those who oppose us… oppress us… or even enslave us (as Namaan did to this girl).
Namaan goes to see Elisha. An enemy of God, one who has attacked, killed, plundered Israel, one who has leprosy… an outcast of outcasts is standing at the door of the man of God hoping to be healed. He comes carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing and with his horse and chariot and wealth. What a sight Namaan was… power, prestige, a commanding presence. He had yet to acknowledge with the psalmist that “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7).
But rather than respond to such pomp and circumstance as Namaan was undoubtably used to people doing…. rather than come personally, Elisha sends a messenger to him telling him to go and wash 7 times in the Jordan river and he will be made clean. God alone would get the glory for healing Namaan… not Elisha… because Namaan was expecting Elisha, the prophet of God, to heal him… he didn’t even know the God of Israel yet. His trust was in a man whom he assumed had “magical” powers. Naaman comes from a pagan country, where his “prophets” made quite a spectacle when they healed the sick. According to the Bible Commentaries, they raised their hands in the air, and shouted for the sick to be healed. But God was after Namaan’s heart not just in healing his physical body… He was pursuing Namaan.
However, Naaman almost misses his miracle healing because of pride and self importance. The first words out of his mouth were “Behold, 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. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. In fact he went away more than just mad… the word used means wrath, rage, full of poison and venom.
He thought! He had a preconceived idea of how he thought his healing would come about. How many times have we missed or almost missed our miracle because we thought God would do something the way we preconceived it? We had it all figured out in our minds! Thank God He is not bound to the limitations of our preconceived ideas or the boundaries of our thinking!! Let’s let go of our limited expectations and have faith in the God of Israel and His limitless way of manifesting miracles in our life.
Naaman thought the resources he trusted in were better than what God was providing. He said the rivers in Damascus are better than Israel…. they are tov. Tov is good… to be in proper working order, the way it was meant to… the way God created it to work. Naaman’s pagan ways were far from tov! He lived in a culture that didn’t function the way God created us to live. We were created to love Him… not to serve false gods.
He was asked to do nothing less than to betray the faith of his fathers. He was being asked to be willing to acknowledge that there was a possibility that Israel’s God could do something the Syrian god was unable to do. Naaman would have to let go of everything he trusted in and trust God for his healing. The Jordan means to descend… Namaan would have to humble himself… to descend… to lower himself in order to be made clean. And this was exactly what Jesus was saying to the people in the synagogue listening to Him that day… if they wanted salvation, they were going to have to let go of everything they trusted in… their adherence to the law…their good works…. and admit they were the poor, the blind, the oppressed, unclean.. that they were no different from Namaan.. or for that matter their Roman oppressors…in need of a Savior. Instead of responding to the rebuke and the invitation to release His goodness and His presence… His salvation…. to the Gentiles (the unbelievers), they responded with offense.
So, after being encouraged by his servant to do what was asked of him, he steps out in faith and humbles himself by dipping in the dirty Jordan 7 times. Naaman experienced the overwhelming power, presence, and mercy of Israel’s God and his whole attitude changed. Naaman had a whole-hearted transformation: “Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.’” When Naaman goes back to Elisha’s house – he’s a changed man! There is no mention of horses and chariots this time as he returns to Elisha. And he doesn’t just declare the goodness of God but that God is the only God in the entire world. This is a radical statement for a man of his time, living in a polytheistic society.
Naaman’s God is now the God of Israel and he declares he will only make sacrifices and offerings to God. Before he didn’t want to wash in the Jordan River, because the waters of Damascus, were better than any of the waters of Israel, and now he wants to take dirt from Israel (v 17). The Bible Commentaries say: he wants to take dirt because God’s presence was in Israel. His solution to worshiping in Syria was to take Israeli dirt with him. He asks God to forgive him, when he has to bow to other “gods” because of his obligation to the king. This gentile, knows it’s a sin to bow down to any other “god” that isn’t the God of Israel. Elisha blesses him and tells him to go in peace. Luke 4:27 Jesus says 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.” God’s heart is for the Nations…. Naaman was a changed man… a spiritually cleansed man all because of one little Jewish girl who had compassion on him… her oppressor.