Our Savior’s miracles were intended for the lost sheep of the house of Israel; yet one fell like a crumb from the table to a woman of Canaan. Similarly, in this chapter, Elisha worked a miracle for Naaman, a Syrian; for God does good to all, and desires that all people would receive His saving grace and mercy.
Naaman was under great affliction, even though he enjoyed honor and riches; for he was under the loathsome disease of leprosy! This terrible plague is a very fitting picture of the natural sinful condition of all humankind. Leprosy could not be cured except by direct intervention from the Lord Himself; and in the same way, the malady of sin can only be removed and healed by Christ alone.
But Naaman’s wife had a Hebrew maidservant, who had been carried captive into Syria from her home in Israel; and there, in Naaman’s family – despite the unhappy circumstances which had brought her there, and even though she was just a little girl – she honored the name of her God and spoke highly of His prophet Elisha. What a blessing it is for children to acquaint themselves early in life with the wonderful works of God! This little maidservant desired the health and well-being of her lady’s husband. Elisha never cleansed any leper in Israel (Luke 4:27); yet this girl, from the other miracles which the prophet had done, inferred that he could cure Naaman as well.
Naaman took notice of the words that were spoken by his wife’s maidservant, and did not despise them for the sake of her being only a servant. O that those who are spiritually diseased would be just as quick to listen to the good news that is brought to them of Jesus, the Great Physician! The king of Syria sent a letter to King Jehoram of Israel, on Naaman’s behalf. He did not know where in Samaria to find the wonder-working prophet, but he took it for granted that the king of Israel would know where to locate him. Naaman also took gifts with him – 10 suits of clothing, 600 pounds of silver (worth over $182,000*), and 6,000 gold pieces.
But the Syrian king’s letter greatly alarmed King Jehoram. He understood this message to contain a great affront upon God, by attributing a Divine power to a human king; and therefore, he tore his clothes, according to the custom of the Jews when they heard something blasphemous. He also thought the Syrian king was trying to pick a personal quarrel with him, by asking him to do something beyond his power. If Jehoram had been acquainted with Elisha, he would have easily understood what to do when he received the letter; but he was put into confusion because he made himself a stranger to the Lord and his prophet.
Upon hearing of this, Elisha offered his services. So Naaman came to the prophet’s door in his chariot, and expected to have his compliment returned; but Elisha sent him a messenger without any formality, saying, “Go wash in Jordan seven times” – and promising him that if he did so, his disease would be cured.
Naaman turned away disgusted. He had imagined that Elisha would come out to him and exercise his healing powers with great ceremony. But Naaman’s servants advised him to obey the prophet’s prescriptions. So, on second thought, he decided to follow Elisha’s directions and wash in the Jordan River seven times; and God was pleased to honor Himself and His Word, and make the healing effectual!
Convinced now of the power of the God of Israel, Naaman came back to Elisha and made a noble confession to him. He had formerly thought the idols of Syria to be gods indeed; but experience had rectified his mistake, and he now knew Jehovah was God alone, and the sovereign Lord of all. As a token of gratitude to the prophet, Naaman offered him the gifts that he had brought; but Elisha generously refused them, in order to show this new convert that the servants of the God of Israel look upon the wealth of this world with a holy contempt. Being converted to the worship of the Lord, Naaman not only resolved to offer a sacrifice to Him, in thanks for his present cure; but he also promised that he would never again offer a sacrifice to an idol. It was a happy cure of his leprosy which cured him also of his idolatry, which was a far more dangerous disease. Nevertheless, Naaman did wrong in reserving to himself the liberty to bow in the temple of the idol Rimmon, according to the duty of his place at the Syrian king’s court. This conduct was not approved by Elisha; yet because his promise to offer sacrifices to the God of Israel alone was a great point gained with a Syrian, the prophet bade him to go in peace – for new converts must be dealt with gently and tenderly.
But alas! Elisha’s own servant was guilty of the love of money – that root of all evil. His master condemned Naaman’s treasures, but he coveted them. His heart, says one writer, was packed up in Naaman’s treasure-chests; and so he had to run after him to fetch it. Sadly, many people, by coveting worldly wealth, have erred from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Gehazi was soon made to understand that the Holy Spirit could not be deceived, and he was justly punished for his sin by being cursed with the leprosy of Naaman. He was struck with the awful plague before he even left Elisha’s presence. Was the little bundle of silver coins worth it to Gehazi after all? “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Lord Jesus, we thank and praise You for healing our sinful souls of their spiritual leprosy, with Your precious blood – without money and without price! And we pray for grace to be made a blessing in whatever sphere in life in which we are placed – just like the little servant-girl in Naaman’s family. Amen.
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*based on the current value of silver on October 23, 2022
illustration by Henry Davenport Northrop, 1897