Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.
2 Kings 5:1
(with 2 Kings 5:13)
I. What a fund of wisdom is contained in that remark of the servants of Naaman, "If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it"! How true is this with reference to a variety of acts, duties, and remedies proposed for us. It is seen in our behaviour in illness, in social domestic intercourse, and in reference to Christ's holy ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. The very easiness and simplicity of these rites should recommend them to our acceptance. Let all who think otherwise turn to the words of the text.
II. Once more look at the greatest lesson of all that this history teaches. Leprosy represents sin, and the leper is the sinner; and so we are all represented by Naaman. Naaman was cured by washing, as he was bidden, in Jordan—a type of the blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. As nothing would avail Naaman till he came and stood like a suppliant at the door of Elisha, so nothing shall avail us till, like humble suitors, we sit at the feet of Jesus Christ; and there is salvation in no other.
R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 186.
References: 2 Kings 5:1.—C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 379; E. Monro, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 195; G. B. Ryley, Christian World Pulpit. vol. v., p. 280; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, 1st series, p. 350. 2 Kings 5:1-3.—T. T. Munger, Lamps and Paths, p. 173. 2 Kings 5:1-7.—A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 137.
2 Kings 5:1-14The little Hebrew maid was torn from her mother and her playmates at the age of seven or eight, and hurried amid all the alarms of war to a foreign land, robbed at once of home, of freedom, and of childhood.
I. Her faith in God. In that land of idols and idolaters she was not ashamed to own her Lord. She had full confidence that Israel's God could cure the leper.
II. Her faithfulness. She had so much of the true faith that it filled her whole nature, and made her faithful under terrible trials. She was a lonely child in a heathen palace, which often rang with laughter at her religion. Hers was a nobler courage than the hero's on the battlefield.
III. Her fruitfulness. Seeming the meekest human being in Syria, she proved one of the mightiest. What a treasure she was in the house of Naaman! She directed her master to the waters that healed his leprosy. Through her the true religion was known and respected in Syria, and Naaman became a worshipper of the true God. The humblest people who have faith and faithfulness may hope to be fruitful in good works.
J. Wells, Bible Children, p. 119.
References: 2 Kings 5:1-14.—Preacher's Lantern, vol. iv., p. 242. 2 Kings 5:1-19.—Parker, vol. viii., p. 136. 2 Kings 5:1-27.—Outline Sermons for Children, p. 48; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 87. 2 Kings 5:2.—T. Champness, Little Foxes, p. 19; J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, No. 71. 2 Kings 5:2, 2 Kings 5:3.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 270. 2 Kings 5:2-4.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 107; G. B. Ryley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 301. 2 Kings 5:4.—New Manual of Sunday-school Addresses, p. 171. 2 Kings 5:5-14.—G. B. Ryley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 318. 2 Kings 5:7-14.—A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 150. 2 Kings 5:9.—J. Frere, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 1st series, p. 357
2 Kings 5:10-11I. God's cure puts us all on one level. Naaman wanted to be treated like a great man that happened to be a leper; Elisha treated him like a leper that happened to be a great man. Christianity brushes aside all the surface differences of men, and goes in its treatment of them straight to the central likenesses, the things which in all mankind are identical. In wisdom and in mercy, Christianity deals with all men as sinners, needing chiefly to be healed of that disease.
II. God's cure puts the messengers of the cure well away in the background. The prophet's position in our story brings out very clearly the position which all Christian ministers hold. They are nothing but heralds; their personality disappears; they are merely a voice. All that they have to do is to bring men into contact with God's word of command and promise, and then to vanish.
III. God's cure wants nothing from you but to take it. Naamans in all generations, who were eager to do some great thing, have stumbled and turned away from that Gospel which says, "It is finished." "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy, He saved us."
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Sept. 24th, 1885 (see also Sermons in Manchester, 3rd series, p. 241).
References: 2 Kings 5:10-12.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 146. 2 Kings 5:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1173.
2 Kings 5:11Naaman represents human nature, anxious to be blessed by God's revelation of Himself, yet unwilling to take the blessing except on its own terms; for Naaman saw in Elisha the exponent and prophet of a religion which was, he dimly felt, higher and Diviner than any he had encountered before. He was acquainted with the name of Israel's God, and he expected that Elisha would cure him by invoking that name. In his language we see:—
I. A sense of humiliation and wrong. He feels himself slighted. He had been accustomed to receive deference and consideration. Elisha treats him as if he were in a position of marked inferiority. Elisha acted as the minister of Him who resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble. The Gospel must first convince a man that he has sinned and come short of the glory of God.
II. We see in Naaman's language the demand which human nature often makes for the sensational element in religion. He expected an interview with the prophet that should be full of dramatic and striking incident. Instead of this, he is put off with a curt message—told to bathe in the Jordan, a proceeding which was open to all the world besides. The proposal was too commonplace; it was simply intolerable.
III. Naaman represents prejudiced attachment to early associations, coupled, as it often is, with a jealous impatience of anything like exclusive claims put forward on behalf of the truths or ordinances of a religion which we are for the first time attentively considering. He wished, if he must bathe, to bathe in the rivers of his native Syria instead of in the turbid and muddy brook he had passed on the road to Samaria.
IV. Naaman's fundamental mistake consisted in his attempt to decide at all how the prophet should work the miracle of his cure. Do not let us dream of the folly of improving upon God's work in detail. The true scope of our activity is to make the most of His bounty and His love, that by His healing and strengthening grace we too may be cured of our leprosy.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 756.
2 Kings 5:12Naaman was a man who stood high in the highest virtues of the heathen world. He was lifted to the proudest eminence of worldly ambition. He had a generous heart; he enjoyed a well-earned reputation; he shared the smile and the favour of the great Benhadad. Such was the prosperity of Naaman.
How affecting are the words which follow: "but he was a leper." Wherever he went there was a heavy, settled trouble gnawing at Naaman's heart.
His story teaches us two things: (1) the simpleness of God's ways and (2) the pride of man's ways.
I. The first instrument used in providence towards the accomplishing of God's design was a little servant-girl. God's ends are gigantic, infinite, unutterable, but His ways are a little child's. He must have prepared the minds both of the king and Naaman to give implicit trust to the words of the little child. Solitude, and longsuffering, and frequent disappointments had made Naaman patient to take counsel. So God prepares souls for Christ.
II. Observe the natural tendency of man's heart. The maid had said, "Go to the prophet." That was simple. They must needs travel by a more royal road. The king of Syria writes a letter to the king of Israel; and with his horses and his chariots, and his silver and his gold, Naaman sets oft and comes to the palace at Samaria. Even when he went to Elisha, four things in the prophet's conduct seem to have given him offence. (1) He thought he should be treated with more personal consideration. (2) He had expected a too instantaneous cure. (3) He was jealous that contempt was put upon his natural resources. (4) He was incredulous that a means so simple should produce an effect so great. All these causes hinder us from coming to Christ.
Even Naaman's rebellious spirit was made to yield at last to God's longsuffering grace. He went and washed, and was clean. Thus we see the triumph of God's simple ways over man's proud ways.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 9.
I. There were two ways of cleansing the leprosy: the grand way that Naaman expected; the very simple way which the prophet prescribed. Even so there are two ways of salvation: God's way and man's way. Man's way is unavailing, yet much frequented, because it flatters the pride of man. Man's way of salvation deals with what it takes to be great things: great works which man himself is to do, great organisations, great gifts, which flatter human vanity and will-worship, but have this trifling defect, that they are of no avail. God's plan knows nothing of earthly grandeurs, burdensome minutiae, external observances. God's messages are very short and very few and simple. He says only, "Wash, and be clean;" "Believe and obey;" "Believe and live."
II. The spirit of doing great things dominates all false religions, because it expresses an instinctive tendency. Satan's one object is to turn men towards the things which they devise for their own salvation, and away from the things which God requires. God vouchsafes to man His last, His absolute, His eternal revelation. He sent His Son to die for us, His Spirit to dwell in our hearts. We are to use God's way of salvation, not make it or add to that which is made. The first act is to know what is true of God; the second act is to express it in our lives.
III. It rests with you to take Christ's service or man's bondage, Christ's simplicity or man's inventions. If the kingdom of God is not within you, then it is nowhere for you. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
F. W. Farrar, Family Churchman, Sept. 22nd, 1886.
I. God has provided a remedy for all human ills. This remedy is found in the Gospel of His Son. It is (1) simple; (2) suitable; (3) it has in it the elements of success.
II. God's method of dealing is frequently offensive to the pride of man. Naaman thought that for such a patrician case of leprosy there could not be the ordinary plebeian method of cure. This preference of the rivers of Damascus to the waters of Israel is as foolish as it is wicked. There is no gospel in nature. It has its Genesis, its Exodus, its Psalms, sweet, plaintive, and beautiful, but it has no gospel. All its resurrections die again. There is no gospel in nature, not one word of recovery for the lapsed, not one announcement of recovery for the erring. The water of Israel is flowing today freely, as when its fountain was first opened in the house of David for sin and for uncleanness. Christ invites us to come and take of the water of life freely.
W. Morley Punshon, Penny Pulpit, No. 324.
References: 2 Kings 5:12.—F. G. Lee, Miscellaneous Sermons by Clergymen of the Church of England, p. 69. 2 Kings 5:13.—H. Melvill, The Golden Lectures, 1854 (Penny Pulpit, No. 2173); Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 892; W. G. Blaikie, Sunday Magazine, 1876, p. 386; C. J. Vaughan, Lessons of Life and Godliness, p. 205; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 77; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 186. 2 Kings 5:13, 2 Kings 5:14.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 264. 2 Kings 5:13-16.—A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 161.
2 Kings 5:14I. The slaughter of the Innocents suggests a thought on the sufferings of children. A man seems to require suffering or to bring it on himself, or to have remedies, or a recompense, or the self-command to bear it. But the case of childhood is utterly different. Pain, and weariness, and aching limbs, and the slow agonies of death are natural in the close of a laborious, overtasked, sin-defiled life, but that infant features should be so discomposed is a thought that offends our natural reason. The question, Is it just? is it the ordinance of a God of mercy? can only be answered by revelation. (1) Reason knows nothing of original sin; it is revelation that instructs us in it. Death and its preceding sufferings entered by sin; and if even infants suffer, they suffer for sin. If these words implied that actual sin is the cause of children's sorrow, they would not only be harsh, but untrue; but that children born in sin are heirs to suffering is a true saying, and not unkind. (2) Children's sufferings imply their need of a redeemer. Christ at His birth drew within the magic circle of His influence representatives of His whole creation. Angels, shepherds, kings, widows, and aged priests are associated with His infancy, and here are infants also. By their death in connection with Christ they seem to signify their acceptance by Him and their seat in His heart.
This thought adds tenfold to the charm and dignity of the age of infancy.
II. This day brings before us in vivid colours the loveliness of the life to come. Children are something like angels to tell us tales of heaven. (1) Their ignorance of evil gives us a faint image of the blessed state of those whose souls are so cleared of sin that they remember it not, and see no trace of it, and feel no breath of temptation. (2) The perfectness of their joy suggests to us of sadder experience something of the security of joy in heaven. Their happiness has something of an unearthly savour. (3) Some of the subtle beauties of heaven are suggested to us by the delight which children have by instinct in glorious colours and musical sounds. (4) We learn, finally, that joy is prepared for the satisfaction of those who suffer in Christ's spirit and for His sake on earth.
C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 273.
References: 2 Kings 5:14.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 113; C. Girdlestone, Course of Sermons for the Year, vol. ii., p. 257. 2 Kings 5:15-19.—G. B. Ryley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 330.
2 Kings 5:17-19Here we find Naaman making an excuse, it is said, for dissembling his religious convictions, and Elisha accepting the plea. He is convinced that Jehovah is the true God, but is not prepared to make any sacrifice for his faith. What is this but to open a wide door for every species of dissimulation, and to make expediency, not truth, the rule of conduct? To state the question thus is not to state it fairly.
I. Even if Elisha did accept Naaman's plea, it would not follow that he was right. An inspired prophet is not equally inspired at all times.
II. Did Elisha accept Naaman's plea? The evidence turns entirely on Elisha's words "Go in peace." These words are the common form of Oriental leave-taking. They may have been little more than a courteous dismissal. Elisha may have felt that the permission craved by Naaman involved a question of conscience which he was not called upon to resolve. Hence he would not sanction Naaman's want of consistency on the one hand nor condemn it on the other. He declines the office of judge. He leaves conscience to do her work.
III. Who shall say this was not the wisest course to adopt? The prophet saw Naaman's weakness, but he also saw Naaman's difficulty. Put the worst construction on his words, and you will say he evades the question; put the best, and you will say he exercises a wise forbearance.
IV. We may fairly ask how far Naaman is to be excused in urging the plea of the text. Superstition mingled with his faith. He was a heathen, only just converted, only newly enlightened. We may excuse Naaman, but we cannot pretend as Christians to make his plea ours or to justify our conduct by his.
V. The Christian missionary preaches a religion whose very essence is the spirit of self-sacrifice, the daily taking up of the Cross and following Christ. It is plain therefore that he could not answer the man who came in the spirit of Naaman, "Go in peace."
VI. Two practical lessons follow from this subject, (1) The first is not to judge others by ourselves; (2) the second is not to excuse ourselves by others.
J. J. S. Perowne, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 168.
References: 2 Kings 5:17-19.—G. Salmon, Gnosticism and Agnosticism, p. 158. 2 Kings 5:17-27.—A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 173. 2 Kings 5:18.—T. Gasquoine, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 24; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 547. 2 Kings 5:18, 2 Kings 5:19.—C. A. Heurtley, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, Nov. 1st, 1877. 2 Kings 5:20.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xvii., p. 26; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 154. 2 Kings 5:20-24.—G. B. Ryley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 349. 2 Kings 5:20-27.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 80; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 180; Parker, vol. viii., p. 146.
2 Kings 5:25There was a stern justice in the penalty which followed on Gehazi's lie. Naaman's leprosy should go along with his wealth. In grasping at the one, Gehazi had succeeded in inheriting the other. The justice of the punishment will be more apparent if we consider what it was in Gehazi's conduct that led up to his lie, and which, from his point of view, made it at the moment necessary for him to tell the lie. Gehazi's conduct involved:—I. A violation of the trust which his master had reposed in him. Confidence is to society what cement is to a building; it holds all together. Gehazi was not merely Elisha's servant; he was also, to a great extent, a trusted companion; in a certain sense he was his partner. To use the great position which his relation to Elisha had secured to him for a purpose which he knew Elisha would disapprove was an act which even the pagans of Damascus in their better moments would have shrunk from doing.
II. Gehazi's act was so wrong in the eyes of Elisha because it involved a serious injury to the cause of true religion. Elisha had been careful to refuse the presents which Naaman offered because he did not wish the blessings which Naaman had received to be associated in his mind with the petty details- of a commercial transaction. Gehazi's act, as it must have presented itself to Naaman, had all the appearance of an afterthought on the part of the prophet, which would be fatal to his first and high idea of the prophet's disinterestedness.
III. Notice the blindness of sin, blindness in the midst of so much ingenuity, so much contrivance. No one knew better than Gehazi that Elisha knew a great deal that was going on beyond the range of his eyesight. Sin blinds men to the real circumstances with which they have to deal.
IV. Gehazi's fall teaches us three practical lessons: (1) to keep our desires in order if we mean to keep out of grave sin; (2) to remember that great religious advantages do not in themselves protect a man against grievous sins; (3) the priceless value of truthfulness in the soul's life.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 1122.
References: 2 Kings 5:25.—E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. ii., p. 228; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 419. 2 Kings 5:25-27.—G. B. Ryley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 365. 2 Kings 5:26.—R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii., p. 136. 2 Kings 5:27.—J. Baines, Sermons, p. 186. 2Ki 5—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., pp. 78, 79; A. Macleod, The Gentle Heart, p. 131; A. Saphir, Found by the Good Shepherd, p. 351; H. Macmillan, Sunday Magazine, 1873, p. 417. 2 Kings 6:1.—Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 274.
And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.
And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.
And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.
And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.
And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.
And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman was wroth, 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 strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.
But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.
And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD.
In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.
And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.
But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.
So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?
And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments.
And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him.
And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed.
But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.
And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?
The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.