Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God, stood before him, and declared, "Now I know for sure that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant."
I. THE INTERPOSITION OF ELISHA. Naaman was on the point of being sent away, when Elisha interposed. God's prophet vindicates God's honor.
1. Elisha sends to the king. "He sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes?" etc., His words were:
(1) A rebuke of faithlessness. The king was not God, to kill and to make alive; but was there not a God in Israel who could? Has he already received no proofs of this God's power? Wherefore, then, had he rent his clothes? How much of our despondency, fear, despair, arises from want of faith in a living God!
(2) An invitation to seek help in the right quarter. "Let him come now to me." The proof that there was a prophet, and behind the prophet a living, wonder-working God, in Israel, would be seen in deeds. Why does the sinner rend his clothes, and despair of help? Is Christ not able to save? Does he not invite him to come?
2. Naaman comes to Elisha.
(1) He seeks cleansing.
(2) Yet with unhumbled heart.
His horses and chariot drive up to Elisha's door. The great man has no thought of descending to ask the prophet's blessing. He waits till he comes out to him. He is the man of rank and wealth, whom Elisha should feel honored in serving. But Elisha does not come out. Not in this spirit are cures obtained at the hand of God. Naaman must be taught that gold, silver, horses, chariots, rank, avail nothing here. To be saved the highest must become as the humblest. Pride must be expelled (Philippians 3:7, 8).
II. THE MODE OF CURE.
1. Elisha's direction. Instead of himself appearing, Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman, directing him to wash seven times in Jordan, and he would be clean. The means of cure was:
(1) Simplicity itself. Nothing could be simpler or more easy than to bathe seven times in Jordan. Any leper might be glad to purchase cleansing by plunging in a river. God's way of salvation by Christ is characteristically simple. It involves no toilsome pilgrimages, no laborious works, no protracted ceremonies. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).
(2) Symbolical. Jordan was the sacred stream of Israel; bathing was the Levitical mode of the purification of a leper (Leviticus 14:8, 9); seven was the sacred number. Leprosy, as the type of sin, was fitly cleansed by these purificatory rites. That which answers to the bathing in the spiritual sphere is "the washing of regeneration, and of renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).
(3) In its very simplicity, fitted to humble the proud heart. As we are immediately to see, it humbled Naaman. It did not strike him as a sufficiently great thing to do. Thus many are offended by the very simplicity of the gospel. It seems treating them too much like children to ask them simply to believe in the crucified and risen Savior. Their intellectual eminence, their social greatness, their pride of character, are insulted by the proposal to efface themselves at the foot of the cross.
2. Naaman's anger. "Naaman was wroth, and went away." The causes of his anger were:
(1) His expectations were disappointed. He thought the prophet would have shown him more respect; would have employed impressive words and gestures; would have given the cure more eclat. Instead of this, there was the simple command to wash in Jordan. What a down-come from the imposing ceremonial he expected! Men have their preconceived ideas about religion, about salvation, about the methods of spiritual cure, which they oppose to God's ways. They say with Naaman, "Behold, I thought, He will surely do this or that. The Jews rejected their Messiah because he was" as a root out of a dry ground" (Isaiah 53:2); they rejected Christianity because its spiritual, unceremonial worship did not accord with their sensuous ideas. Others reject the gospel because it does not accord with the spirit of the age, is not sufficiently intellectual, philosophical, or aesthetical. God reminds us, "My thoughts are not your thoughts," etc. (Isaiah 55:8).
(2) He was required to submit to what seemed to him a humiliation. He was told to bathe in the waters of Jordan, a stream of Israel, when there were rivers as good, nay, better, in his own country, to which, if bathing was essential, he might have been sent. "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus," etc.? It seemed like a studied slight put upon his native rivers, an intentional humiliation put upon himself, to require him to go and bathe in this local stream. How often does wounded pride rebel at the simple provisions of the gospel, because they involve nothing that is our own, that reflects glory on self, or allows glory to self! This is the very purpose of the gospel. "Where is boasting, then? It is excluded" (Romans 3:27). Things are as they are, "that no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Corinthians 1:29). When Christ's atonement is extolled, the cry is, "Have we not rivers, Abanas and Pharpars, of our own?" "Naaman came with his mind all made up as to how he was to be healed, and he turned away in anger and disgust from the course which the prophet prescribed. He was a type of the rationalist, whose philosophy provides him with a priori dogmas, by which he measures everything which is proposed to his faith. He turns away in contempt where faith would heal him" (Sumner).
3. Naaman's obedience. Thus a second time the blessing was nearly missed - this time through his own folly and obstinacy. But, fortunately, a remonstrance was addressed to him, and he proved amenable to reason.
(1) The remonstrance of his servants. They, looking at things through a calmer medium, and with Jess of personal pique, saw the situation with clearer eyes. They addressed him soothingly and affectionately. They touched the core of the matter when they said, "My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?" It was Naaman's pride that had been offended. But they pointed out to him, in very plain terms, the folly of his conduct. Was it not a cure he wanted? And if it was, then, surely, the simpler the means prescribed the better. Why quarrel with the conditions of cure because they were so simple? The same reasoning may be applied to the gospel. It is the simplicity of its arrangements which is the beauty of it. If men really wish to be saved, why quarrel with this simplicity? Surely the simpler the better. Would men not he willing to do "some great thing" to obtain peace with God, pardon of sin, renewal and purity of heart? How much more, then, when it is said, "Wash, and be clean"?
(2) The washing in Jordan. Naaman's ire had cooled. He felt the force of what his servants urged. He might prefer Abana and Pharpar, if he liked; but it was Jordan the prophet had named. If he did not choose to submit to bathe in this river, he must go without the cure altogether. "Neither was there salvation" (Acts 4:12) in any other river than this one. This decided him. He went down without further parley, bathed seven times in Jordan as directed, and, marvel of marvels, "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." So speedy, sure, and complete was the reward of his obedience. As effectual to procure salvation and spiritual healing is the look of faith to Jesus, the appropriation of the merit of his blood, the spiritual baptism of the Holy Ghost.
III. NAAMAN'S GRATITUDE AND PIETY. What joy now filled the heart of the newly cleansed Naaman! How clearly he saw his former folly! How glad he was that he had not allowed his anger to prevail against the advice of his servants and his own better reason! At once he returned to Elisha; and it was very evident that his heart was overflowing with gratitude, and that he was a changed man. Like the leper in the Gospel, he returned "to give glory to God" (Luke 17:17, 18). Gratitude is most becoming in those who have received great mercies from God. Salvation awakens joy; gratitude prompts to consecration - not in order to salvation, but as the result of it, man becomes "a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17). We observe:
1. His acknowledgment of God. "Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel." This is not a comparative statement, but an absolute one. Naaman is convinced that the gods of the heathen are nullities, and that the God of Israel is the only true God. He was brought to this acknowledgment through the great miracle God had wrought upon him. It is God's mighty acts in and for men which give the best evidence of his existence.
2. His offer of reward. It was no longer the heathenish notion of purchase, but a pure motive of gratitude, which led Naaman to press the wealth he had brought upon Elisha. The prophet, however, had no desire for his goods. With an emphatic asseveration, he declared that he would accept nothing.
(1) He must keep his act free from the possibility of misconception.
(2) A miracle of God must not be vulgarized by being made the occasion of money presents.
(3) Naaman's instruction must be completed by teaching him that money gifts do not pay for spiritual blessings. Yet Naaman's motive was a right one. It is right also that, from the motive of gratitude, we should consecrate our wealth to the Lord's service.
3. His determination to worship. If he cannot persuade Elisha to accept gifts, he himself will become a suppliant, and ask a favor from the prophet. He entreats that he may be permitted to take with him two mules' burden of earth of the Holy Land, that he may form an altar for the worship of Jehovah; for he is resolved henceforth to worship him only. This was granted. His altar would connect his sacrifices with the land which God had chosen as the place of his special habitation. Real religion will express itself in acts of worship. It will not content itself with cold recognition of God. It will build its altars to Jehovah, in the home, in the closet, in the church, and in the chief places of concourse.
4. His religious scruple. One point alone troubled him. In attending his royal master, it would be his duty to wait on him in his state visits to the temple of Rimmon, and, as his master leaned on his hand in bending before that idol, he would be under the necessity of seeming to bend before it, and yield it obeisance also. He asked that the Lord might pardon him in this thing. Elisha bade him go in peace.
(1) His act was not really worship, nor did he mean it to pass for such either before the king or the other worshippers.
(2) "An idol is nothing," and, if he understood that clearly, his conscience would not be "defiled" (1 Corinthians 8:4-7). There is need for great care, even in outward acts, lest they expose the doer to misconception, or hurt the consciences of others. Life, however, is woven of intricate threads, and it is impossible but that in public, social, and official positions the Christian will sometimes find himself in situations of all the concomitants of which he can by no means approve. It will not do to say of these that it is his duty at all hazards to come out of them; for it is frequently through his duty that he is brought into them, and to escape them entirely he would require to "go out of the world" (1 Corinthians 5:10). If active participation in anything sinful is sought to be forced on him - as if Naaman were required actually to bow the knee in worship to Rimmon - then he must refuse (Daniel 3.). - J.O.
Now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.
1. Money represents the good things of this world, which all are prone to love too well (Mark 10:22).
2. As the Lord Jesus has bought us, He claims absolute proprietorship over us (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20), and therefore His claim extends to our money.
3. The manner in which a man acknowledges or repudiates this claim is, to a great extent, decisive of his spiritual condition (Matthew 6:21). In the latter part of this chapter the money test is applied to three characters, Naaman, Elisha, and Gehazi:
I. NAAMAN LONGS AT ONCE TO PROVE HIS GRATITUDE, convinced that he was indebted to the God of Israel for the cure of his leprosy (Psalm 116:12; Luke 17:15). He was wealthy, and to offer Elisha a present was the most natural way of showing his thankfulness. It is well when thank-offerings are common in families, when special gifts are offered for special mercies received by individual members of the household; thus the young are trained to recognise God's claim on their possessions. But, more generally, a man who, through the cleansing power of the blood of Christ, has been cured of the leprosy of sin, will (if he has the means) pour his grateful offerings into the Lord's treasury (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
II. BUT ELISHA FIRMLY DECLINED THE GIFT. He feared lest Naaman should imagine him to be influenced by selfish considerations, and to be exercising the prophet's craft for filthy lucre's sake. He must not leave Naaman with false impressions as to the principles of the worshippers of the true God. Bishop Patrick says: "It gives great authority to a teacher of virtue, not to be covetous." This example shows what an all-pervading principle true piety is; it leads its votary to make the glory of God his supreme end, and to shape his course accordingly (cp. Acts 8:20; 1 Corinthians 9:15).
III. TRIED BY THE MONEY TEST, GEHAZI IS FOUND WANTING. He had every religious advantage: the constant attendant of Elisha, the witness of his miracles, the hearer of his words, the observer of his godly life, he ran well for a time. Covetousness, the love of money, is his ruin (1 Timothy 6:10; see ver. 20). It made him a liar, and his lie made him a leper (Proverbs 21:6). Compare the cases of Judas and Demas.
(F. F. Goe, M. A.)
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