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2 Kings 5 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:54 mins 55 secs

God's Grace to the Gentiles. 2 Kings 5

 

This is one of those great chapters in the Old Testament that teaches us about the grace of God. Of all the doctrines that people can get confused about in the Scriptures grace is one of the highest in the list, one of the most comm.

on areas of confusion. God's grace is given freely to everyone in the human race, it has always been that way throughout both the New Testament and the New Testament; and even though the focus of the Old Testament is upon Israel and God's plan and purposes for Israel we know that throughout the Old Testament there is also an emphasis on God's grace to the Gentiles. We can think of God's grace to numerous Gentiles from Adam to the call of Abraham—Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Even after God's calling of Abraham and narrowing His plans and purposes in human history to the descendants of Abraham, He still extended His grace to Gentiles. There are two great examples of God's missionary work among the Gentiles in the Old Testament: Jonah being sent to the Assyrians about 100 years or so after the time of Elisha, and the episode covered in 2 Kings chapter 5, the healing of Naaman's leprosy. Naaman is a Syrian, a Gentile, not a Jew. We see an example here of how the Abrahamic covenant is being fulfilled in terms of his salvation in the Old Testament, that the descendants of Abraham are being a blessing to others. Israel were to be a blessing to all peoples on the earth because they were the source of the gospel in the Old Testament.

 

2 Kings chapter 5 fits the theme that we have seen in the last few chapters that is a major element in the ministry of Elisha, and that is the grace of God. God is the one who gives life where there is death; God is the one who restores that which has been taken away; God is the one whose grace is sufficient; He is the one who provides when there is nothing there. The historical contexts of the episodes here are during the time of tremendous apostasy in the northern kingdom and there are certain parallels and applications that we can take from these incidents that apply to us because we are living in a time when western civilization as a whole is in great apostasy, tremendous paganism. Yet there are tremendous things that are going on in the midst of all of the negatives that we hear about. God is still working, He is still on His throne, people are being saved, the gospel is going out, there are a large number of missionaries still throughout the whole world, and the USA is still a nation that supports Israel. For all of these reasons God is still providing for us because He has a long term plan that doesn't have anything to do with who we are as a nation; it has to do with God's plan.

 

The same thing was true in the northern kingdom. It had a minority of believers during a time of great apostasy when the leaders were following after the fertility cults of the Baals and the Asherah. It was a time of tremendous slavery, political tyranny and oppression, and spiritual tyranny and oppression. That is why the writer of Kings spends so much time on this. The more they sought prosperity and wealth and comfort through the worship of these false gods and goddesses the more God punished them through famines and droughts; yet, they persisted. That is the nature of spiritual rebellion against God: persistence in disobedience. In the midst of this time the northern kingdom is basically following a death cult, and people are worshipping death and following death. Moses: "Choose today life or death." In that context we have seen the various miracles of Elisha where he is showing that God is the one who gives life where there is death; God is the one who supplies all that we need for life, even when there may be nothing.

 

Now God has another lesson for them and for us because He is going to go out of Israel to use a Gentile enemy general. 2 Kin 5:1, 2 NASB "Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, {but he was} a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman's wife." Naaman is the commander of the Syrian army and as such he has led numerous raids against Israel. Syria is the arch enemy of Israel at this time and there had been decades of intermittent war with Israel. Naaman is not somebody who is going to be looked upon with much favor by either the northern or the southern kingdom, but he is a man of integrity. He is not a believer at this point but he is a man with a certain level of human integrity, "great and honorable." His accomplishments were such that he held the respect and admiration of Ben-hadad the king of Syria. The sovereignty of God has seen to it that He has given Naaman victory, and that is because God is using him to bring divine discipline against the northern kingdom. God has blessed this man but that does not indicate that he is a believer at this point in any way. He was on of the chief warriors in the Syrian military but he had one major problem, that is, he was a leper.

 

Notice as we go through this chapter all the things that emphasize the greatness of Naaman in terms of his basic human ability. He has so much—wealth, success, position, power—and he can't rely on any of that to solve the problem of his leprosy. Modern leprosy is not what is referred to in the Bible as "leprosy." For one thing as a bacteria modern leprosy would not affect houses and walls, which make up a large part of what the Levitical laws say about dealing with leprosy. What we read in the Scripture would more likely fit some sort of mildew or fungus, at least as it applies to walls and fabrics. Unfortunately there is really a lack of detail in the Scripture as to what this leprosy (tsaraath) described and so we can't be sure just exactly what it was. The central chapters in the Old Testament that deal with leprosy are in Leviticus chapters 13 & 14. Just as we talk about leaven or yeast as representing sin and sinfulness when we talk about bread and unleavened bread and the Lord's table, so this concept of leprosy or tsaraath in the Old Testament really depicts some sort of contagion that is easily spread and somehow defiles that which it touches. The word may be so general that it really isn't describing one singular disease or problem but may cover a range of diseases or problems, and so as such leprosy like leaven is a picture of sin and the contagion of sin and the spread of sin.  

Leviticus 13:3 NASB "The priest shall look at the mark on the skin of the body, and if the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is an infection of leprosy; when the priest has looked at him, he shall pronounce him unclean. [4] But if the bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and it does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair on it has not turned white, then the priest shall isolate {him who has} the infection for seven days." Hansen's disease does not turn hair white. It has to do with the nervous system and it eats away the flesh but the hair does not turn white, so there is one area of distinction. As we go through Leviticus the words "clean" and "unclean" are always used to describe a spiritual condition in relationship to a person being able to come and worship at the temple. Being pronounced unclean means that a person who has this kind of a defect is not allowed to come into the temple to worship God, and so as such t is used as a picture of sin that keeps us from coming into the presence of God. Another way this disease might appear is as a bright spot, white on the skin of the body and does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair has not turned white. The priests were to isolate the one who has the sore seven days. Again and again what we will see is a reference to a seven-day period or a reference to something else that is done over seven days or seven sacrifices. The number seven comes up frequently because that is a picture of the completed work of God.

The solution is given under the Mosaic law in Leviticus chapter fourteen. What we need to be impressed with in this chapter is how complex the solution is to the Jew who needs to come into the temple in order to worship God; it is not something that is simple. We see that there is a huge contrast between what God required of the person who had a leprous sore under the Mosaic law versus what is required of Naaman the Gentile who is not going to be coming into the temple at all in order to worship God.   

Leviticus 14:2 NASB "This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest." Cleansing always relates to the individual being ritually purified or cleansed so that they can come into the temple, so this is going to be a picture of salvation or a picture of experiential sanctification in order to come into God's presence. [3] "and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper." The individual is separated, indicating that we should be separated from sin. [4] "then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed. [5] The priest shall also give orders to slay the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water." Notice how detailed this is. [6] "{As for} the live bird, he shall take it together with the cedar wood and the scarlet string and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slain over the running water. [7] He shall then sprinkle seven times [indicating the fullness of God's work] the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird go free over the open field." The dead bird pictures the fact that there has to be a death for sin and the living bird represents that life comes after cleansing takes place. [8] "The one to be cleansed shall then wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe in water and be clean. Now afterward, he may enter the camp, but he shall stay outside his tent for seven days. [9] It will be on the seventh day that he shall shave off all his hair: he shall shave his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair. He shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in water and be clean. [10] Now on the eighth day he is to take two male lambs without defect, and a yearling ewe lamb without defect, and three-tenths {of an} {ephah} of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and one log of oil; [11] and the priest who pronounces him clean shall present the man to be cleansed and the aforesaid before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. [12] Then the priest shall take the one male lamb and bring it for a guilt offering, with the log of oil, and present them as a wave offering before the LORD." Then is verse 13 is mention of a sin offering and a burnt offering. All the offerings are involved. This is a massive approach to ritual cleansing that has to take place. This is because the leprosy pictures the total defilement that comes because of sin. All of these different sacrifices all represent different aspects of the work of Christ on the cross and the totality of that work has to be applied to the individual in order for them to be cleansed and come into the presence of God.

The leprosy in 2 Kings 5 was not the same as modern leprosy. A second difference is that the symptoms of Hansen's disease progressed very slowly over a period of several years; the descriptions that we have in Leviticus 13 are of something that takes place rather quickly. Hansen's is curable only through drug therapy, but a person who has the leprosy spoken of in Leviticus can recover from it without any necessary drug treatment. A fourth difference is that Hansen's is a disease that causes the destruction of flesh, but that is not characteristic of what the Bible refers to as leprosy.

There is a solution to Naaman's problem. This comes from a young Jewish girl who has been brought back as a slave, taken captive in a military campaign. Once again we see that Israel is the source of blessing to the world. God is mediating blessing through Israel. 2 Kings 5:3 NASB "She said to her mistress, 'I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.'" Somehow she knows of Elisha and that Elisha could heal him. [4] "Naaman went in and told his master, saying, 'Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.' [5] Then the king of Aram said, 'Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.' He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand {shekels} of gold and ten changes of clothes." This is quite an amount. He is taking a caravan with him because just the gold would equate to about 150 pounds of gold and the silver would be about 750 pounds in weight. He is going to impress people with how much he can pay in order to be healed (Approximately $2-million, plus the finest clothing available). He is operating on a works system. At the heart of any payment process in religion is always arrogance—man's thinking that he can do something to impress God.

2 Kings 5:6 NASB "He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, 'And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.' [7] When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, 'Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending {word} to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.'" Notice that he is learning something from what Elisha has been teaching through these various miracles. Then Elisha hears of this. [8] "It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent {word} to the king, saying, 'Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel [and thus a true God].'"

2 Kings 5:9 NASB "So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha." Again this is reinforcing his wealth, his power, his position, his prestige; all that he has, and all which should impress Elisha. Who ever heard of this prophet living in some clay hovel down in the northern kingdom of Israel when he had all of the power and might of the Syrian army and the privilege that Naaman has. Elisha won't even come out to talk to him, he sends a servant out to talk to him. Elisha is not going to be at all impressed with Naaman. [10] "Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, 'Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and {you will} be clean.'"

Naaman really gets angry. He wants to do something, to somehow impress God with who he is so that he can be healed; so he reacts in anger. He is angry at the fact that Elisha doesn't even come out to talk to him but just sends his servant out, and he is angry because he has to go wash in that muddy little Jewish stream, the Jordan. 2 Kings 5:11 NASB "But Naaman was furious and went away and said, 'Behold, I thought, '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 cure the leper.'" God didn't do it the way Naaman thought it should be done. [12] 'Are not Abanah 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." 

2 Kings 5:13 NASB "Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, 'My father, had the prophet told you {to do some} great thing, would you not have done {it?} How much more {then,} when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" The servants understand humility. If you don't understand humility you can never accept grace. If it had been something hard, difficult, then Naaman would have been glad to do that, but he just asked him to do something simple that anybody can do. He was insulted because Elisha didn't require something of him that was of Naaman's station and position. All that Elisha said was to go down and wash and be clean. Notice the emphasis there: wash and be clean.

2 Kings 5:14 NASB "So he went down and dipped {himself} seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean." This shows that Naaman has humility. He listened; he was teachable. He gets past his anger, he humbles himself and listens to the advice of his servants and he does what Elisha told him to do. "Clean" is a term that relates to man's relationship to God. [15] "When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, 'Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now.'" This shows that he understands God. This is when Naaman is converted and he recognizes and is expressing his devotion to the one true God of Israel. He wants to express his appreciation. Normally that is a good thing, but Elisha understands that there is a higher issue here: that if he takes a gift it is going to appear as if somehow there was a barter made, and exchange made, that somehow he paid for the healing. Elisha wants to make sure it is abundantly clear and that there is no money going to be exchanged, the healing was totally free. So his response: [16] "…As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.' And he urged him to take {it,} but he refused."

2 Kings 5:17 NASB "Naaman said, "If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules' load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD." What is he going to do with the earth? It is the promised land, he is going to take that back to Syria, put it on the ground and have an altar to God on soil that came from Israel. But he knows that he is going to have a problem. He knows that he is living ion the midst of a pagan culture and he is the second highest person in the land, and the king is going to require him to do some things that he knows are wrong. So he addresses this to Elisha. [18] "In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter." He is going to confess his sin ahead of time. That doesn't normally work. This is an exceptional situation. He is asking that he will be forgiven because he knows that in his position he will be required to go into the idolatrous temple of Rimmon to worship there with the king, to bow down there before the idol, and he knows that will displease God. So he asks for pardon ahead of time and Elisha grants it.

This shows something about the grace of God. This is not a license to sin  but God recognizes that there are times, perhaps, when we are in circumstances where we might have to do certain things required in a certain position that we know basically is not what God would want us to do if we were on our own. He is a Gentile, he is not under the Mosaic law. He is not required to follow all of those strict commands related to idolatry as a Jew would be, and so there is an extension of grace here because of that circumstance. Naaman learns about grace.

But that is not the end of the story because we have an epilogue here with Gehazi, the servant. Gehazi hasn't learned that lesson yet and he has his eye on all that gold and silver. He thinks there ought to be a little something there for him. What is described is the episode where he goes after Naaman and makes up a story. 2 Kings 5:22 NASB "He said, 'All is well. My master has sent me, saying, 'Behold, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.'" Naaman is extremely gracious and appreciative of what God has done. Gehazi goes back and hides what he has taken from Naaman and then goes to see Elisha who begins to interrogate him. [25] "But he went in and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, 'Where have you been, Gehazi?' And he said, 'Your servant went nowhere.' [26] Then he said to him, 'Did not my heart go {with you,} when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? [27] Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.' So he went out from his presence a leper {as white} as snow." Consequences! This was teaching him a lesson, i.e. that God's grace is free. It is extremely dangerous and sinful—leprosy speaks of sinfulness—to pile legalism on grace, to create systems where people are required to do something in order to gain the grace of God. 

Illustrations