Wash And Be Clean
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me again today as we look at another amazing chapter in the life of Elisha.
As we begin our message for today, please bow your heads with me if you can. Our Father, thank You for Your rich grace given so freely to us. Your healing power is amazing and You give us the work of cooperating with You in medical missionary lines. It is a privilege to be part of this work. Please teach us a little more today about medical missionary work. Help us to understand Your power and what You want to do to win souls to Your kingdom. We are Yours, and we want to be involved in Your work. So, teach us today we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.
I would like to start today with a scripture text that especially speaks to us concerning Christ and his work. It is found in Matthew 4:23. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”
Notice that Jesus taught in the synagogues and healed all kinds of sickness. Do you wish you had that kind of ability? You can, you know. If you love God supremely, then surrender yourself to be His representative in this world. Put all filthiness of the flesh away from you and purify your life, you can become a true medical missionary just as Jesus was. Jesus combined teaching the gospel with healing of the body. And tying the two together added special power to both. So, if Christ is our model, then we must also combine medical missionary work with teaching of the gospel. In our medical missionary work in Australia, we are finding that there are more Bible study requests than ever before from our guest alumni. What a blessing to me, to see our Bible worker so busy that she can hardly keep up with all the study requests.
And Jesus wasn’t the only one in the Bible who was a successful medical missionary. Elisha was one of them too. He too combined teaching of the gospel principles, with healing. And the Bible records that this method made a substantial impact.
Today, we come to a familiar part of Elisha’s medical missionary work. Naaman was a powerful dignitary and military leader. He was captain of the Syrian host and a shrewd warrior. In the eyes of Benhadad, king of Syria, he was a “great man.” The Lord had given him success in all his wars, and even with Israel. He had defeated the armies of Israel in the battle, which, incidentally, had resulted in the death of wicked king Ahab. And since then, he had planned and executed many border skirmishes and raids into Israel with military ensembles from his armies. He had been conducting something like guerilla warfare on Israel’s border. Naaman was very much a man of his country. He was his king’s favorite. He was so high, so honorable, so rich, so mighty a man of valor that he could not go any higher up in the Syrian government, other than become king himself. He was one of the super-rich elite of Syria.
But while Syria was an enemy to Israel, God intended to bring the light of truth to the Syrian king and his men and through them the whole nation. At least that was God’s desire. At the very least, he wanted to teach Naaman about the true God. He knew Naaman’s heart, proud and boastful as it was. He was loyal and determined and hard working. He knew that though Naaman was an enemy of God’s church and His people, God could turn him, and make him a follower of Christ. This is the great miracle of grace, my friends.
Do you think God can do that today? Of course He can. He turned Paul too. And perhaps He turned you as well. God can still work His miracle on hearts today. And through the healing agencies of medical missionary work, God intends to bring souls into connection with His people, so that they will have the opportunity to witness to the glory of God. God has big plans for us, my friends. He wants to use us if we are willing and surrender to Christ completely. When we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, there is no doubt he will use us. Never turn your back on those who you might think are hopeless. God has ways to reach them.
No man is so high and exalted; no man is so rich and powerful; no man is so mighty in battle and so victorious over his enemies, that he cannot fall victim to the worst calamities of human life; nothing can set him out of reach of the most debilitating disease. Our sickly, weak and disgusting human body clothed in rich and costly apparel is the most amazing sight in the eyes of heaven. Every man and woman has something in their character that blemishes or diminishes them, and humiliates them. They may try to hide it from human eyes, but all is open to heaven’s recording angels. No man can be so exalted in grandeur, that he can escape the curse of sin. There is always something in us to make us wish for a solution in order to be happy.
We are fallen human beings. There is no complete happiness and peace in any of us, unless we have the peace of Christ. Trying to cover up the lack of peace with anything artificial is like the feeble efforts of Adam to put fig leaves on his naked body in the Garden of Eden.
Naaman was as great as the world could make him, and yet the basest slave in Syria would not change skins with him. Yet God wanted to save him. He permitted this terrible and deadly disease to come upon him so that he could humble his heart before the God of Israel. God wanted to teach him the principles of salvation, that faith in God, His law, and obedience to His will is the only way to salvation. Naaman was to love the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, with all of his mind, and with all his might, if he would let God have his way. Because Naaman was well known among the people of Syria, God arranged circumstances designed to reach him and touch his heart and reform his life, so that all of Syria would be able to learn of the God of heaven.
Friends, do you think that is what God is trying to do today to your enemies? Do you think that is what God is aiming for, in putting you in contact with worldly people? Isn’t God amazing? He is planning and working continually to bring souls into connection with His love and power, and we get to cooperate with heaven in this work if we are willing and surrender our sins and our terrible lifestyles to Christ.
God doesn’t think like we do, my friends. He even intends to make his avowed enemies His friends and collaborators, and save them in the end. We may write them off, but God doesn’t. We may think that Islam is intractable, but God doesn’t. Just look at what happened with these ancestors of today’s Muslims there in Syria.
During one of their raids, the Syrians had attacked a home located near the border. No doubt they were always looking for opportunities to oppress Israel and put them under stress. Providentially, they took a little Israelite girl captive, and took her to Damascus where she ended up in the home of Naaman the great and served his wife as a slave or servant girl. Notice I said “providentially” this young maiden had been captured by the Syrians and was now a slave. How can slavery be providential? Well, it can. God can use slaves in ways that no one else can be used.
Can you think of any other slaves that were providentially so? I can. Think about Joseph. Think of the suffering and grieving of Joseph’s father when his sons basely told him that Joseph was dead. Like with Joseph, God had permitted this little girl to be taken forcefully away from them for an important reason. But her parents (if they survived the raid), in their sorrow at the loss of their little daughter, could not have comprehended God’s hidden ways. God’s ways are way above ours. They are beyond searching out. God always has good that He can bring out of evil. If only we had the spiritual discernment, we could see it more readily or at least trust God with the outcome of any tragedy.
But here she was in this heathen home, far from her own godly home, made to serve every whim and wish of Naaman’s wife. She did not forget however, that her parents had taught her to love the God of heaven and consequently she looked for opportunities to be a blessing and be able to minister to this family and show them the true God. So, she was faithful in all she did so as to see if it was possible to reach their hearts with the love of God. God had appointed her to be a witness for Him in that pagan home.
“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.”
Notice that the Lord had used Syria to punish Israel. The Bible expresses it in such a way as to let us know that even Syria’s prosperity and victory in battle, even over Israel was in the providence of God. Even though they glorified their heathen gods, it was the Lord that let them or even helped them win the battle.
The little maiden had heard about the wonderful miracles of healing that Elisha had performed. When Naaman came down with leprosy, she was not so prejudiced against the Syrians that she did not think that the God of Israel and the God of Elisha would not be willing to help him. And while her young mind didn’t understand everything we do today, no doubt, she nevertheless sensed that God could do something for her master. She knew the power of heaven was with Elisha and she believed that if Naaman would go to the prophet, he could be healed.
Friends, here is a very important lesson. Our spiritual and physical wellbeing depends on being “with” the prophet. Did you know that? God has given us the prophets to help us understand how to live in this wicked world including how to stay healthy. And some of these prophets’ writings are thousands of years old, while some are more recent. Yet, if we obey them today, we will have the blessing of God.
When Naaman found out that he had leprosy, no doubt his whole family was grieved by it. Mrs. Naaman was incredibly distressed. How could such a great and honored man fall into such a terrible disease? The god’s must be angry with him. What has he done to provoke their fury? She wrestled and struggled with the fate of Naaman, and for that matter her own fate. She did not want to be a widow.
Naaman couldn’t even be around his own family. He had to keep his distance. He could not sleep in his own bed, eat with the family, or play with his children. All that family means to him, he could not now be involved any longer. He was now an outcast, not only from society, but also from his own family, whom he loved. What was he to do!? He would surely die. What had he done wrong that made the god’s angry? After all, didn’t they know he was a great man in Syria?
The little maiden felt so badly for the distress of her master and mistress. One day, as she listened to Mrs. Naaman express her distress over her husband’s terrible plight, she said to her mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy.”
That thought caught Mrs. Naaman’s attention. At her earliest opportunity she told Naaman what the little girl had said. There was a prophet in Israel that could heal leprosy. Naaman, no doubt, wanted to hear it for himself and question the young maiden for more information. So he called her to him, keeping the appropriate distance, of course, so that no one else would get the dreaded leprosy. “What is this I hear about a prophet in Israel that can heal leprosy?” he must have asked. The maiden explained her simple thinking and told Naaman what she knew about Elisha. Though she had not heard of him healing leprosy, she had heard of him healing many other diseases. Why could Elisha’s God not heal leprosy too? And even though he was a Syrian, Elisha would certainly want to help Naaman.
This little maiden gave Naaman hope! He could not despise this intelligence, even though it came from a slave girl. He wanted healing. He wanted a cure. He did not say, “The girl talks like a fool; how can any prophet of Israel do that for me that which all the physicians of Syria have attempted in vain?”
Friends, the same is true today. So many people will run to their physicians for some pill or some medicine, when a little hydrotherapy will do the job. Seven treatments and its over! The natural remedies that God has given us should be well understood and put into the practice of every godly physician. Yes, there is a place for physicians, surgery and even some pills or medications, especially in an age of serious accidents, trauma, birth defects and other serious illnesses in which medical intervention is necessary. But even when these are completed, the patient should be sent to a medical missionary so that he can recover from the side effects of medical intervention and restore himself as fully as possible under their care. But today, these things are not understood. Lifestyle is at the root of most diseases today. If we would seek the Lord, most diseases of body and soul can be healed by natural means through the attention of an intelligent medical missionary. And when the medical missionary is connected to the prophet of the Lord, his work has the divine blessing and will be successful. Many have been healed, my friends, when all the doctors and specialists have been consulted and failed.
Would God that today people would come to be healed by the Great Physician! Think about it. People hear of the medical missionary, but they refuse to seek him out. And spiritual disease is just as prevalent as physical disease, yet people go to their psychologists and psychiatrists and take this pill and the anti-depressant, when they could look to Christ and be healed!
Look what Naaman did with this little hint from a slave girl. He did not love or honor Israel, but yet he was willing to go well inside the land of Israel, search out the prophet of the Lord, and ask, even beg for healing, if it meant that he could be cured. Naaman was already exercising faith by the very fact that he went into enemy territory in search of a cure. He went where the people would just as soon kill him as give him water to drink. He needed a body guard and a retinue of servants and soldiers.
No doubt the king of Syria was as much distressed by Naaman’s terminal illness. He would lose his best and greatest asset. Moreover, perhaps, when Naaman is gone, Israel would take revenge on Syria. So, losing Naaman at this point in time would seriously disadvantage Syria.
Naaman determined to get permission from his king to go and visit Elisha. He wanted to follow diplomatic protocol, so he sent a messenger to Benhadad and told him what the little servant girl of Israel had said. The king quickly agreed to send Naaman to Israel and write a humble letter to the king on his behalf.
Second Kings 5:5, “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.”
Naaman would not send for the prophet to come to him. He must go to the prophet, even though he was sickly, unfit for human society, even though it was a long journey through hostile territory. Princes, he thought, must stoop to prophets when they need them. He determined that incognito or in disguise would not be the way to go. He must go in state, with a retinue of courtiers, counselors and the necessary protection of his soldiers.
Friends, wouldn’t it be good if all of God’s people stooped to prophets? Here was a heathen man, ready to have the prophet heal him, when God’s people were still living apart from God. How can the prophet bless them or guide them when they are ignorant of his power. How can they mature in Christian grace, when they neglect to study the prophet’s writings? Yea, they turn and go their own way, and fall into their own sins, and pretend all along that they are under the blessing of God.
Naaman determined that he would not go empty handed. He would bring the prophet of the Lord that which the physicians required for their services. He took gold and silver and fine clothing. Those who have wealth and want health show how much they value health over wealth by what they are willing to pay for it. What is the greater blessing, health or wealth? Just look at the wealthy man who has wasted his health away. He dies young and apart from God. And his wealth does not go with him.
He does not know where the prophet of Israel is, so Naaman takes a letter from his king asking the king to intervene in Naaman’s leprosy. The king of Syria hopes that the King of Israel is intimately acquainted with a man of such power and he just assumes that the king and the prophet are friends. But the king of Israel is a son of Ahab, and is no friend of the prophet, in spite of the fact that he had traveled with them and blessed him with victory over the Moabites through the ditches that God filled with water in the wilderness.
Verse 6, “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.”
The king of Israel rent his clothes, a customary symbol of distress over some blasphemy. How could the king of Syria attribute to the king of Israel divine power? “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,” Verse 7.
The king was wary of the Syrians. They were deceptively cruel, and could not be trusted. After all, they were sending bands of soldiers to raid Israel around the borders. What could be the meaning of this open state visit of this Syrian general seeking help? It could only be a bad omen. The king doesn’t even think of Elisha. He is no more connected to Elisha, God’s prophet, than was the king of Syria. Yet the captive maid has God’s prophet more in her thoughts than the king of Israel (shame on him). By his words, the king of Israel, a great man, but a very bad man, admits that he is but man and can do nothing to help poor Naaman.
The king forgets the war going on in Israel for the souls of his people, and claims that the king of Syria is trying to find an excuse to make war with him. It is often true that leaders look to outside threats than to the spiritual threats that constantly arise among God’s own people. Satan is a wily foe. He will find ways to make trouble around our borders, so that we forget or overlook what he is doing in our midst.
Elisha hears about Naaman’s visit. Verse 8, “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.”
Elisha treats the king as if he should have thought to send Naaman to the prophet in the first place, something that the king wasn’t likely to do. He magnanimously wants to help, even though the king has forgotten the good things he has done for him in the past and now neglects him. In essence the king spurns Elisha. The king assumed the worst, and now Elisha reproves him and suggests that he should have sought the best. After all, if Elisha through the power of God could heal Naaman, the king would be off the hook. But more than that, if Elisha, through the power of God could heal this great foreign general, would that not also limit his boldness in making war against Israel. Would healing Naaman not stop the skirmishes and raids along the border? The king of Israel completely misunderstood God’s purpose in bringing Naaman to him. He wanted to show Naaman in a nice way, that he should stop tormenting Israel. Yet Israel’s king was insolent and did not see his opportunity.
Friends, isn’t that the way we are when God presents us with something that is difficult or impossible. We complain, when in reality it is the very way God intends to bless us and help us. Would to God that we could see and understand that every trial, every difficulty, is an opportunity for God to work. Don’t resist Him. Humble yourself before Him and seek Him with all your heart. God will show you what you would not otherwise see in your normal human perspective.
Often we think the worst of others and create a great deal of concern and uneasiness, when they really had good intentions all along. It is best to follow the biblical counsel to think no evil.
Why does Elisha say that “he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel?” It is because he sees that God has sent Naaman so that he might learn of the God of Israel. He wanted Naaman to respect Israel, and value the prophet of the Lord, so that his heart might not burn against Israel, and that he should not continue the fight against them. It wasn’t for his own glory. It was for the glory of God. Elisha recognized the visit of Naaman as God’s way of accomplishing a number of things all at once.
He also wanted Naaman to know that the prophet in Israel could do that which the king of Israel could not do, and which the prophets of Syria could not pretend to do, and which the physicians of Syria had failed to do. He wanted to show Naaman and the king of Syria that the God of Israel was the true God, and that they were fighting against God’s people.
Verses 9 and 10, “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.”
Elisha lived humbly, perhaps in the “poor” section of Samaria. And here comes great Naaman with all his retinue, his horses, his chariots, and his show of human power.
Naaman came expecting to be treated like royalty. He expected that Elisha would come out with great formality and perform some great miracle so all could see, like the diviners and prophets of Syria.
But Elisha sent his servant Gehazi or one of the sons of the prophets to give him instructions without any formality. Also, Elisha did not want to be tempted with the honor that Naaman was trying to bestow upon him. Be careful, my friends, to avoid worldly honor. You can become president or prime minister of some great country, if God puts you there. But don’t seek for it, and don’t position yourself amid those types of people. Don’t run for public office. If you are around all that flattery and useless praise, you will become arrogant and forget God. For by beholding you become changed.
Washing in the cold river Jordan would not cure his leprosy. Perhaps it might even make matters worse, thought Naaman. But the cure was not in the river. It was the sign, the indication that Naaman would humble his heart before God. The cure was in Naaman’s obedience to the instructions of the prophet, which were the instructions of God. Think about that my friends. Would God’s church today be cured of its ills, its apostasy, it’s wandering in the wilderness if God’s people would obey the prophet? Any true medical missionary knows that you have to obey the prophet if you want healing.
So, why did Elisha send a messenger? He knew Naaman to be a great and proud man. And he would have him know that before the great God, all men stand at the same level and must humbly stand before Him.
Naaman was offended because Elisha did not act as he expected. Friends, that’s important. God often works in ways that are unexpected. We should not expect God to always do what we want Him to do or work in the way we think He should work. He has to test our faith. So, He often works mysteriously. But He always works to humble us so we will repent of our evil ways and learn to trust Him.
Two things made Naaman angry. Elisha sent a servant to tell him and thereby slighted him, and secondly, Elisha slighted his country by telling him to wash in the Jordon river.
Second Kings 5:11, “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.”
Naaman had fancied how the cure would happen. He would go to Elisha. Elisha would come out to this great man, a top officer and leader in Syria, who had come to him in state, and respectfully (after all he had defeated Israel’s armies) and ceremoniously pray to his God, and name Naaman in his prayer. Then Elisha would wave his hand over the place on his skin where the leprosy was; say a few incantations and he would be healed. And because it was not done this way, Naaman lost his temper and fell into a passion. He forgot that he was a leper, who was to be shut out of society according to Jewish law, which Elisha would have religiously observed. And as a leper with a deadly disease, he ought not to have insisted on the ceremonial honor he was used to in Syria. He also forgot that he was a petitioner seeking a favor, which he could not demand. After all, beggars must not be choosers. Patients must not prescribe to their physicians, let alone tell the God of heaven what to do.
Naaman essentially said that he would not accept a cure unless it came in the way he wanted it, with a great deal of pomp and parade that is. He does not want the healing unless he is also humored. After all, that’s what he was used to in his own country.
He took it hard that he was not sent to a river in his own country. Verse 12, “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.”
Naaman did not yet realize that the healing power was not in the river or the water, but in obedience to the instructions of the prophet of God. Friends, this is the way it is with all medical missionary work. You have to help your patient know that healing is not in the charcoal, the hydrotherapy treatment, the herbal remedy but that it is in obedience to the God of heaven.
Naaman thought Elisha slighted his country for which he was a great warrior and a member of the elite. He was very patriotic. Could not the Syrian rivers do just as well? He didn’t realize that the Jordon belonged to Israel’s God and that He needed to make a distinction between the Syrians and His people Israel. He could not expect the cure from the rivers of Damascus’ gods. No, the rivers of Damascus would not do. This was a God thing, not a river thing.
Naaman was rather ignorant of Israel’s history. The river Jordan had more than once before obeyed the commands of omnipotence. It had parted so Israel could cross on dry land. And Elijah and Elisha had crossed the river on dry land as well (Elisha twice, in fact). The river Jordon was perfectly suited for this purpose. No, the rivers of Damascus would not do. They only obey the common laws of their creation and had never been distinguished by divine power. Jordan had the distinction of doing that which no natural river can do. It was special. Only the Jordon could serve God’s purpose with Naaman.
Naaman contrasts the rivers of Syria against the rivers of Israel. He speaks glowingly of the one, and scornfully of the other. But often man does not see things the way God does. Deuteronomy 8:7 gives God’s view of the rivers of Israel. “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills…” They in turn feed the rivers of Israel. So, no the rivers of Damascus would not do.
But Naaman thought that the prophet should do all the work and that he should do nothing. He did not want to wash and be clean. But the healing of our physical ills or our spiritual ills, for that matter, is a matter of collaboration. God expects us to cooperate with Him, to follow His instructions and live by His laws and principles.
Elisha bid Naaman to wash and be clean. But this was too cheap, too plain, and too common for so great a man as himself. He might wash and be clean from dirt, but not from leprosy. Naaman did not realize however, God was trying to teach him a lesson. Spiritual evil must be spiritually washed to be clean. It was not in the washing that Naaman would be healed. Likewise in the spiritual sense, it is by obedience with faith that brings restoration. Those that are interested in establishing their own righteousness will not submit to the righteousness of God.
Naaman had some faith. That is made clear by the fact that he even came to Israel for healing from the prophet. Yet his faith was weak and immature. He was a self-made man. Trusting others or following their instructions was as foreign to him as he was foreign to Israel. So, God was patient with him even though he was angry. God saw that he could be reasoned with, but first, before reason, this heathen man had to let go of some things. So God allowed him to vent his rage first, then he could let go of his pride under the wise and respectful counsel of those he trusted. God is strategic. He knows how to reach arrogant and proud men. He arranges circumstances so that they first react against God in anger and rage, and then softens them so that they are willing to listen.
Look at what He did to Saul, the Jew of Jews, who raged against the followers of Christ. He met him on the road to Damascus no less, and convicted him of his arrogance and pride. He humbled him and then He used him to be the most powerful of preachers and the most prolific writer of the New Testament.
Do you think God strategized how to win you? Do you think God can win the hard heart today, just as He has done in ages past? Of course He can. God is big and magnificent. His plans are beyond our comprehension, but when they work out His will, we get to see the result and it gives us confidence in God.
God was about to change the heart of this heathen man. Naaman talked himself into a passionate rage and turned from the door of the prophet. He would be the loser. Jonah 2:8 says, “Those that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercies.” And how true that is. So many people miss the blessing of the Lord because they refuse to humble themselves and obey Him. Proud men are their own worst enemy, and forego their own redemption. If Naaman wanted to be cured, he would have to obey without asking why or wherefore.
Now notice verse 13, “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?”
His servants no doubt knew that this great man was one who would listen to reason from anyone; a good characteristic of a truly great man, and it is a rare one. So they thought to argue boldly, but respectfully with him. They had developed a great opinion of Elisha because they had heard more about Elisha from the common people with whom they had probably conversed, than Naaman had heard about the prophet from the king with whom he had conversed. His own servants gave him a gentle reproof and excellent counsel. They sensed that if Naaman would obey the prophet, he would be healed. Why should he turn away from so great an opportunity because of his own pride?
“Wouldst thou not have done it?” they asked. No doubt you would have done some great thing. So, why not do this simple thing. If it doesn’t work, go home and forget it, but if it works, why not take advantage of it? You travelled all this distance to find healing. The prophet gave you instructions to get it. Why turn from it now? No doubt these words helped Naaman realize that he was being selfish and childish. For all his human greatness, he must have realized that he is mortal like all other men great or small. These “small” men appealed to this “great” man with reason that he could not gainsay. They loved Naaman and respected him. They loved working for him. They did not want to lose him.
You know, it is a wonderful thing to have people around us who will tell us the truth, our faults included, or who will warn us of danger or of misperceptions or anything that we might do that is potentially harmful. They are interested in our well-being and at least some of them in our eternal life. Leaders and bosses, and those whom the Lord raises high in society, the church or the home, must be willing to hear reason from their staff, employees, church members, wives and children and all those who are lower than them, or they will end up making big mistakes and perhaps even fall from their honored position by the very hand that raised them up. Humility and a willingness to listen to counsel is a very honorable trait of character especially when the counsel comes from a source that is unexpected or unappreciated. While we must reject the counsel of the ungodly, and even of professed Christians who give counsel that is contrary to the word of God, we must listen to the entreaties of those who bring God’s word to bear on our behavior and actions, even if it isn’t as respectful as we think it ought to be, or from someone we think is offensive. A truly great man or woman considers honestly the entreaties that speak even against his views and biases, his behavior and attitudes, and even his cherished opinions.
These servants of Naaman could have stirred up his anger more, and offered to help avenge his anger with the prophet Elisha. If so, they might have all been destroyed by fire from heaven (as Elijah did to some rather unfortunate individuals who came to him from Syria). But instead, they took the prophets side, and in the Providence of God, they were used to reason with him.
The diseased and sinners must be willing to do anything, to give up anything, to part with anything, to submit to anything if they want healing and salvation. And when they come to this point, and not until then, will there be hope of a cure. This is true of the physical world as well as the spiritual world. We must take healing, not on our terms but on God’s terms.
“Try it, they said. It’s not difficult; humiliating maybe, but not difficult. Wash and be clean.” And the solution to sin is also just as plain. Believe, and be saved. Repent, and be pardoned. Wash and be clean. Christ’s terms have always been the same. Give up, and gain all. Yield to Christ’s control, and be free. Surrender, and become victorious.
Naaman had second thoughts and yielded to the counsel of his men. He diverted from his journey, and the Bible says in verse 14, “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.”
There was no healing when he came up the first time and looked at the place on his skin. Nor was there healing the second time when he came up and looked. Perhaps he expected that the healing would gradually happen a little at a time with each dip. But there was still no change the third time, or the fourth, fifth or sixth. So the seventh time, he really had to stretch what little faith he must have had. Would he be healed with one more dip in the river? Can he trust God? Does obedience work? He dipped down again. As the cold water went over his shoulders and over his head one last time, the seventh time, representing that completeness of surrender of his whole self to the will of God, a complete humbling of himself before the heavenly throne, his thoughts must have been intense. What would the result be? Would he be healed? Would he be restored?
When Naaman came up the seventh time the place on his skin was healed and his skin was like that of a little child. What relief, what joy, what solemn power is in the hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What immense respect is required of Naaman before this mighty God? No one has ever been healed of leprosy until now.
But there was something else that Naaman realized that perhaps affected him more than anything else. He discerned through that dim heathen mind, that the God of Israel loves him, and is interested in him, even though he is not a follower or believer. Instantly, Naaman is filled with surprise and joy and he raises his hands in praise of God for his healing. He had obeyed the prophet of the Lord, and now he was clean. He learned that God honors His word above all else. When we surrender to His word, which is His revealed will to us in our generation just like in past generations, God will restore and heal us like He healed that heathen general. Oh friends, the word of God is our life and health. It is our sustenance. Some people don’t believe that the Bible is of much value, or that only part of it has value. But when we accept the word, and obey it, we have its power come into our lives and it transforms us.
Friends, if we listen to the prophets, and yield to their instructions and obey them, we will be healed of our spiritual maladies as well as or physical ones, for it is Christ Himself, the Great Healer, who speaks through them. God uses simple means to heal. Often His counsel is to eat differently than the way we usually do. In the Garden of Eden, He gave us the healthiest diet. Other times, it is to dress differently than we are used to, or change friends that we aren’t used to. Instead of watching all that television or videos, we now read the Bible, which we aren’t used to. Instead of listening to all that worldly music, we now sing the hymns of Zion, which we aren’t used to.
Naaman was utterly awed by what had just happened to him. And he was utterly humbled. He could see that the God of Israel was all-powerful. He must go back to the prophet and let him know what had happened. Perhaps tears streamed down his face as he rode his chariot back to Elisha’s home. He had been healed!! He had been recovered! His men followed in silence. They saw it all. They knew what had happened, and they were quietly rejoicing as well.
Of the ten lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17:16, only one returned to thank him. And he was a Samaritan, an outcast from Israel. As far as the Jews were concerned, he was a heathen and did not deserve healing. Yet, he returned to Christ to thank Him for this special gift, this special blessing. He knew he was not of the house of Israel. The others may have thought that they deserved to be healed, and therefore did not come back to thank their benefactor. But the Samaritan did that which was right, and was to this day blessed by it being recorded in scripture that he was a Samaritan. This Syrian does not forget to thank the prophet either. He realizes that he is a foreigner and that a foreign God had just powerfully manifested himself to him.
Think about this my friends. It was Christ who healed Naaman. Here is a prophetic type of the future healing that Christ would bring many lepers in Israel and outside of Israel. Leprosy is a symbol of sin. Christ healed lepers in Israel as well as outside of Israel so that it would be understood that he could forgive sins of both the house of Israel and also those who were far off.
Don’t lose this, my friends. Christ can forgive sins, just as he can heal the leper. If you, my friend, have sinned, you can be healed. You can be forgiven. You can be restored to spiritual health again. Surrender your heart to Christ, and He will heal and restore you. You don’t need to go on some pilgrimage. Just wash in the blood of the Lamb and be clean. Be relieved of guilt. Become an overcomer in the name of Christ.
Naaman made haste to come to Elisha’s home again. The natural response of the heart that has been so blessed with healing is to offer a gift to God. “Please take this gift from me. I humble myself before the living God. I owe you everything. My life, my wealth, my service even, everything.”
Verse 15, “And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him…” And now imagine the passion in his voice as he said, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel…”
This is an amazing admission. Here is a man of many god’s saying not only that Elisha’s God is God, but that he is the only God, God alone! While this is a noble confession, it also suggests that there is misery among the Gentiles because though they have many gods, they really have no god at all, but are without God in the world. Naaman had previously thought that Syria’s gods were powerful gods indeed. But now his experience rectifies his mistake, and now he knows that Israel’s God is God alone, the sovereign Lord of all. The mercy and love of God in the cure affected him far more than the miracle itself.
Friends, when you are a true medical missionary, you will find that the people who are healed by the mercy and love of God become so filled with awe at what God had done for them that they respond in much the same way as Naaman. It’s not the miracle that has them so affected, but that God loves them so much, and that He had mercy on them and healed their disease.
Friends, unless you experience divine mercy yourself, you cannot explain it to others. Unless you have surrendered to the will of God in your life, unless you are healed by grace not only of your physical ills, but also of your sins, you will never be an effective medical missionary. Oh, my friends. Let not this day pass without surrendering your life to Jesus. Plead with him to make you His agent of healing, and to first heal your own soul.
Continuing with verse 15, “Now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.”
Verse 16, But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none.”
But Naaman thought he was just being modest, and “urged him to take it.” “Please take this gold and this silver and this clothing. I do not need them in my abundance. God has blessed me more than I can imagine with healing of a deadly disease. These things are but a token of my gratitude. I don’t need these things. So, please take them.” But Elisha refused.
Why did Elisha refuse? After all, it is in the order of God, that he sustains his prophets, his messengers, with the gifts of those whom he blesses. Elisha needed it. He was poor enough and knew how to distribute it among the sons of the prophets. He has taken gifts of others, but not this Syrian. He would not be beholden to Naaman or to Syria. He would not give Benhadad or Naaman an excuse to say; I have made Elisha rich. See Genesis 14:23.
Naaman was used to paying for medical and spiritual services. Elisha would have him know that salvation from the God of Israel is free. He did not want Naaman to think that Elisha did this service for him for pay. He would also have Naaman know that God’s true medical missionaries look upon the wealth of this world with holy contempt.
Friends, if you do medical missionary work for money, you will not last long in it. You will find some excuse to leave it for more lucrative ventures. And doing some sort of health promotion work or temporary charity work is not the same as dedicating your life in the service of medical missionary work.
Notice verse 17, “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 other words, “give me some of the dirt of Israel to make an alter to make sacrifices until the Lord.” Naaman is determined that he is only going to pray to the God of heaven and thinks that he must have some holy dirt from Israel, perhaps from Elisha’s garden to have the special blessing of the Lord with him in Syria. Of course, this is unnecessary, but you can understand this formerly heathen man’s thinking. He surmises that if he has an alter made of Israel’s dirt, he will magically have the power of God in His home in Syria.
Notice what else he asks of the prophet. Verse 18, “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.”
He realizes that he is a man of position in Syria, and he wants the prophet to know that he must go into the house of Rimmon with the king out of respect for the king. He is not going to bow to the heathen god. He will only do it out of respect for his master.
Here was a new convert that needed to be treated tenderly. He knew that it was wrong to worship the heathen god. But he could think of no other way to forego his responsibility before the king than to be with him there in his responsibility as general of the Syrian armies.
This would have been utterly wrong in Israel, as God had punished Israel for bowing down to false gods. But Naaman did not have all the light that Israel had. He did not have time to study it out with Elisha before going back to his country, his king and his home. He was now loyal to the God of heaven, and God honored that and did not require all of him, which he required of Israel.
Verse 19, “And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.” God had been merciful to him. He now acknowledged that the God of Israel is the only God. And now he should be satisfied with that. Elisha sends him on his way with his blessing.
Verse 20, “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.”
Naaman had many servants. And we learned how wise and good they were. Elisha had one servant and he was a lying, naughty fellow. The servants of Naaman had heard of Elisha from a distance, but they honored him and were blessed by what they heard. But Gehazi stood before Elisha continually, and didn’t learn anything of Elisha’s wisdom.
How often that represents God’s people today. They rebel against God, and His prophet, while new converts embrace the prophet and the truth of God. They live the way the prophet tells them to live according to their understanding. Yet, those with so much light, spurn it, selfishly hoard it, and do not follow it.
Jesus said in Matthew 8:11 and 12, “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Oh friends, I appeal to you, don’t reject the counsel of the prophet. Learn the wisdom of the prophet. Learn how to live in harmony with the instructions of the Lord through the prophet. If we fail to truly honor the prophet by living by the counsel of the Lord, we shall be like those in these two verses of scripture.
Gehazi’s heart was bound up in Naaman’s chests of gold and silver, and he must run after them to fetch them, lest they get away from him. Friends, the love of money is the root of all evil. Elisha despised the gain of riches, but Gehazi coveted them.
Verses 21 and 22, “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.
Gehazi thought himself wiser than his master Elisha. He thought that it would be better to have the gift than not have it. But friends, that is not always the case. Sometimes gifts come with strings attached that you shouldn’t have. Look at the gifts given to Christian universities from the government, for instance. Once a school receives a gift, it must comply with all relevant government regulations. Now Christian schools in America, at least will have to comply with the foolish regulations established by the president requiring schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and bathrooms that are for the opposite sex. Do you think that when these schools accepted government funds for the first time many years ago that they saw this danger. They should have if they were spiritually discerning. But they didn’t and now they are faced with this bathroom chaos and they cannot resist government demands. Now they will be forced to compromise even more, as they continue to feed at the trough of government largess.
Gehazi told Naaman a deliberate lie so that Naaman would appropriate the gifts that he had intended for his master, Gehazi. Think about the effect of this. The story of the two sons of the prophets was as silly as it was false. A talent of silver would have amounted to far more than they needed.
Verses 23 and 24, “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.”
Gehazi hid the gifts in the tower, in a strong place, until he had time to sort it out and use it. Verses 25 and 26, “But he went in, and stood before his master,” ready to receive his orders. “And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither” (another lie). “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?”
No one looked more attentive to his master than Gehazi, though he had basely abused Elisha’s good generosity to Naaman. Gehazi could not have been more injurious to the cause of God, and to Elisha’s reputation. He denied that he had gone anywhere. But Elisha knew it all. It was as if he could read the books in the record of heaven, just like the angels can. God revealed to him every detail of the scene that had transpired between Naaman and Gehazi. “All things,” says Hebrews 4:13, “are opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
“Truth is of God; deception in all its myriad forms is of Satan, and whoever in any way departs from the straight line of truth is betraying himself into the power of the wicked one,” Prophets and Kings, page 252. One lie, my friends, leads to another very often. It is a sin that leads us down. The saints will have no lie or guile in their mouths, the scripture says in Revelation 14:5. So, let us be true and honest in all our dealings.
Gehazi was anything but spiritually mature. Gehazi was to learn that the Spirit of Prophecy could not be deceived. He was to learn that Elisha had spiritual eyes and that lying to the Holy Spirit was a terrible sin. Elisha was Gehazi’s conscience. “When you divert from the road, does not your conscience go with you.” Friends, when you go through your life, does not the Spirit of Prophecy go with you? Does not the eye of God go with you, my friends? You cannot hide from God. You can sometimes hide from man, but it is futile to hide from God.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper,” Proverbs 28:13, and “a lying tongue shall not prosper,” Proverbs 12:19.
Elisha exposed the very thoughts and intents of Gehazi’s heart, what was really on his mind to do with the money. He intended to use the money he got for buying land with olive orchards and vineyards, sheep, oxen and menservants and maidservants. and set up for himself somewhere else and leave the service of the prophet. “Is it time to receive money and enrich thyself?”
True medical missionaries and also the prophets and messengers of the Lord, must not do their work with the motive to gain money. We must not suffer the cause of God to be in disrepute as a result of greed or covetousness. We are to learn to depend on the God of Elisha to provide.
We need to heed the counsel of the Lord through the Spirit of Prophecy. It is vital to our spiritual maturity, my friends. If you feel convicted that you have been untruthful or have lied, confess it and lay it out before the Lord, and then lay it out to the ones you have wronged.
Verse 27, “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.” His leprosy was worse than Naaman’s. Naaman was a heathen man, but his faith, weak as it was, rewarded him with health. Jesus said, many centuries later, “Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” Gehazi, on the other hand, was greedy and covetous, and it eventually overmastered him. His leprosy was a fitting symbol of his sin. Even in this, God was reaching out to the unbelieving. Gehazi would have had to go live with the other lepers in Israel and tell them what had happened to him, giving them a testimony of the power of God. It’s a wonder that none of them went to Elisha for healing.
Friends, we are living in the last days. We all have the leprosy of sin on us, and we need cleansing from the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). We need to spiritually dip seven times in the river Jordan, completely surrendering to God, so that we can be healed.
As we conclude, my friends, I pray that you will become a medical missionary. Every church member should become a medical missionary. You’ll find it to be the most rewarding work. Read books on natural remedies. Pray for God’s guidance, and let God lead you, is my prayer. May God’s grace go with you.
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, thank You in Jesus name for the blessing of working in medical missionary lines. Please show us how to minister to others so that they may find their way to the kingdom of heaven. Give us victory over our sins, our greed and covetousness, our pride and arrogance. Let us live in the light of Your countenance. Help us to be true medical missionaries in the spirit of Elisha and of Christ. Send Your Holy Spirit to enlighten us, and empower us. In Jesus name, amen.