Cleansed

Pastor Galen, May 19th 2019

2 Kings 5:1-14

Everything Was Perfect – Until It Wasn’t

How many of you know someone who seems to have it all together? Maybe from outward appearances they seem to have the perfect life – wealth, power, prestige, the perfect marriage, good health. From outward appearances they have it made.

Such was the life of Naaman, the successful military commander of the country of Aram who was favored by the king – that is, until he was struck with leprosy. Until then, Naaman had the power, money and prestige to get whatever he wanted or needed. He had a great family, a beautiful house, a wonderful wife. He had servants and soldiers who did whatever he told them to do. He had access to the best doctors and medical care that money could afford.

And so, you can imagine his shock when physician after physician told him that his disease was incurable.

And not only incurable, but debilitating, degenerative, and life-threatening.

His leprosy would one day cause him to become crippled, or paralyzed, and possibly even blind. There was nothing that could be done to prevent this, nothing that anyone do to help him. He would be forced to live with this disease for the rest of his life, and slowly and painfully watch everything that he had worked so hard to gain gradually slip through his fingers.

Not only that, but because leprosy was believed to be highly contagious in those times, Naaman would soon be banished from his friends and family, forced to live a life of loneliness and isolation.

There comes a time in almost everyone’s life when they come face to face with their own vulnerability and mortality. For Naaman, this was that time.

Naaman’s diagnose was essentially a death sentence – a slow, painful, horrendous walk down death row.

A Young Girl’s Testimony

That is, until Naaman’s wife’s young servant girl spoke up. Forcibly taken away from her homeland, ripped away from her friends and family, it would have been easy for her to become embittered or cynical. Naaman himself may have been the one who took her captive. She had every right to hate him, to rejoice in his impending demise.

And yet she spoke up. She spoke up with compassion, but also a sense of pride and dignity. Even in captivity, even after being forced to travel over 700 miles away from her home, she still remembered her homeland and she still remembered her God. And she remembered the prophet Elisha performed miracles. And despite everything that her captor had done to her, she wanted him to know and experience the healing power of her God as well.

And so she spoke up. “If only my master were with the prophet in Israel. Surely the prophet Elisha would be able to cure him of his disease.”

Naaman’s Desperation and Extravagant Gift

Now, the fact that Naaman believed her, and that he went to such great lengths to travel all the way to Israel find the prophet Elisha speaks to the power of this young servant girl’s testimony. She must have been known to be honest and trustworthy, or Naaman would have never believed her.

But of course, Naaman was also incredibly desperate.

And so Naaman went to the king, who immediately drafted a letter to the King of Israel and sent Naaman along with “ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.” (2 Kings 5:5).

Now this was an absurdly exorbitant sum of money.  Ten silver shekels was the average annual income in those days, and you could purchase a ton of grain for one gold shekel. So the ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten garments that Naaman brought with him were equal to 750 million dollars! This shows not only how desperate Naaman’s situation was, but also how much the king valued Naaman and wanted him to be healed.

The Rest of the Story

You probably know the rest of the story. Naaman arrives in Israel and delivers the letter to the king of Israel, most likely assuming that a prophet who had the ability to cure diseases must be a member of the royal court.

The king of Israel thinks that the Aramean king is trying to start yet another battle with him (they have been fighting off and on for many years), because he knows that neither he nor anyone in his royal court has the power to heal Naaman. He tears his kingly robes as a sign of mourning. This is a national emergency — he thinks that the King of Aram is trying to start another war with them!

But the prophet Elisha hears of it and sends word to the king requesting that Naaman come to him to be healed.

Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house, but Elisha doesn’t even answer the door. He sends a messenger out to Naaman, instructing him to go and wash seven times in the waters of the muddy Jordan River.

Naaman is offended. He just traveled 700 miles and brought ¾ of a billion dollars to be healed by this prophet, and the prophet tells him to wash in a river? He could have done that back home! At the very least he had expected the prophet to come outside and meet him and be impressed by the large sum of money that Naaman brought to him, and wave his arms in the air and call on his God to heal Naaman!

But Elisha doesn’t seem to be impressed by Naaman’s power, wealth, or prestige. Instead, like Naaman’s servant girl, he simply wants Naaman to know that there is a God in Israel who has the power to heal.

Naaman storms off, back in the direction of his homeland, but his servants chase after him and convince him to at least give it a try. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ve come all this way, Naaman might as well do what the prophet instructed him to do.

And so Naaman finally humbles himself and dips into the waters of the Jordan River seven times, and he his healed. He is made new, cleansed of all his leprosy, his life is restored to him. His skin is made whole again, like the flesh of a young child. Naaman has gotten his life back.

Why was Naaman healed? In the end, it wasn’t because of his vast sums of money or because of his power or prestige or the fact that he was favored by the king. Naaman was healed because he was willing to believe the testimony of a humble and compassionate servant girl, and because he was willing to humble himself and obey the simple instructions of a humble Israelite prophet.

Remembering Who We Are, and Whose We Are

There are many people in our society today who feel like they have it all together. They seem to have a great life, they have everything they need. They feel like they don’t need God. We interact with people like this every day – maybe they’re our co-workers, neighbors, family members. Maybe they are our supervisors, professors, our rich uncle, or those new neighbors who just moved in down the street.

There can be a temptation for us to be jealous of them, to wish we had what they have, to focus on how much more they have than what we have.

But like Naaman’s servant girl, let us remember who we are, and whose we are. Let us remember that we are children of the living God, and that God has already given us everything that we need. Through Christ we have received grace, mercy, forgiveness, and redemption. Because of Christ we have the hope of eternal life with God, we have been given hope and a future. Because of Christ we have been made new, our lives have been restored to us. We have been given a fresh start, a clean slate.

And as children of the living God, like Naaman’s servant girl, and like the prophet Elisha, let us look for opportunities to humbly and gently share God’s love with those around us.

In those moments that will inevitably come when our friends, neighbors and relatives come face to face with their own vulnerability and mortality, let us be ready to speak a word of hope and love, even to those who seem to have it all together. Let us point them to our all-powerful, loving and compassionate God who heals, restores, cleanses, and makes whole again. A God who welcomes all who call upon the Lord in humility and faith.