2 Kings 5:1-14
31 July 2016
Several years ago, a bus made a scheduled midday stop in the town of Kingsport Press, Tennessee so the passengers could freshen up a bit and get a bite to eat. After the driver brought his bus to a stop, he made the following announcement: “Folks, we will be stopping here for twenty minutes. This bus line makes it a strict policy to never recommend an eating place by name. But if anybody wants me while we are here, I will be eating a wonderful T bone steak with French fries at Tony’s first class, spotlessly clean diner, directly across the street.” Sometimes the people we least expect are the ones who point us in the right direction or give the right type of advice.
My text for this morning, 2 Kings 5:1-14, is about this very thing. Our Bible story is about a servant girl who gave her master some very important information: where he could go to have his leprosy healed.
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”
He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, 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 give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean. This is the Word of God.
Naaman was the commander of the enemy Aramean or Syrian army. He was a general officer who had absolute control of thousands of young Syrian soldiers. But despite his rank and position, there was something that had kept him from enjoying the prestige of his high office: Naaman was a leper. Back in Biblical times there was no cure and in most cases the one infected with that disease was banished from society.
But for national security reasons, Naaman was needed to fight Syria’s wars, so an exception was made. Though his leprosy might have been on the mild side, he still needed to keep his distance from others. Verses 2-3 brings us into the story.
V2-3. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
When the Syrian army went on border raids, they often took captives, and on one such expedition, a little Jewish girl was taken. We don’t know the circumstances of how she was taken away or if her family had been killed during the raid. But what we know is that she lived with and served the general and his family.
Now I am surprised that this little girl had a loving attitude towards those who made her a slave. You would almost expect someone in her situation to have deep seated anger or resentment, but apparently that was not the case. I suspect that her new adopted family was loving, and they helped her work through her grief.
Before her captivity when she lived with her birth parents, this little girl had heard of the mighty miracles performed by the prophet Elisha. Because of that, she had faith and trust in the Lord God of Israel and all the things that he could do. In her childlike innocence, she openly shared her beliefs with her adopted family.
As modern day believers, we too are called to do the same thing: to share in conversation what Jesus has done for us and the hope that he provides for us. It doesn’t have to be much, just a word here or there in casual conversation. That should be enough to point a person in the right direction.
I liken this to the story of a Chinese farmer who had cataracts removed from his eyes. This medical procedure was performed at a Christian Missionary Compound, prior to the time the communists took control of the country. After the farmer was made well, he went home. Several days later, when the missionary doctor looked out of his bamboo window, he saw his former patient with a long rope leading several dozen blind people to the clinic. The farmer had gathered all the blind people that he knew and led them many miles to see the doctor who performed the eye miracle. What gave the Chinese farmer credibility was his restored sight, and that alone gave hope to others.
You see, when we point others to Jesus, we give them the same hope that we have. While performing a service or in our conversations with others, we should not be afraid to say anything about the Lord. We don’t have to preach, but we can say something to the effect that Jesus came in our hearts and we want to do something for others.
In our Bible text for today this servant girl’s faith was believable. Her sincerity and her trust in the Living God made it all the more genuine. When it comes to us, I hope that people in the surrounding communities will see that there is more to us than going to church, that we have a faith that is vibrant enough to attract others.
A number of years ago, when a man was on a business trip to France, he bought his wife a souvenir matchbox that would glow in the dark. When he got home and presented it to her, he turned off the light, but the matchbox would not light up. Both husband and wife were disappointed with the outcome and wondered if they were cheated. But then the wife noticed some French words on the top of the box. So she took it to a friend, who understood the language and this was the translation: “If you want me to shine at night, keep me in the sunlight all day.” The woman did that, she put the matchbox in the window most of the day. That evening when she turned off the light, the matchbox began to give off a brilliant glow. Her surprised husband asked, “How did you make it work?” She answered “Oh I found the secret, before it can shine in the dark; it must be exposed to the light.”
Just as the matchbox had been exposed to the light and took on the nature of the sun, so may all of us, when we stay close to the Son of God, take on his good nature. Hopefully others will recognize us as children of our Heavenly Father.
In our scripture text, Naaman followed the servant girl’s advice and traveled to the land Israel and eventually received his healing. This little girl pointed out to her master that there was a cure and a way to be healed.
Let me close. The bus driver shared information with his bus patrons and led them to an excellent meal. Following his successful cataract surgery, the Chinese farmer led a group of blind people to the medical clinic. To help others, we do not have to be skilled or clever. Most of the time, we need to be present and show others the way or what needs to be done.