Greeting: As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are God's ways higher than our ways.
Text: 1) Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. 2) Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman?s wife. 3) She said to her mistress, ?If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy. 4) Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5) ?By all means, go? the king of Aram replied. ?I will send a letter to the king of Israel.? So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6) The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: ?With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.? 7) As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, ?Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me! 8) When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message; ?Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.? 9) So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha?s house. 10) Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ?Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed. 11) But Naaman went away angry and said, ?I thought that the would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12) Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn?t I wash in them and be cleansed?? So he turned and went off in a rage. 13) Naaman?s servants went to him and said, ?My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ?Wash and be cleansed!? 14) So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
Dear brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus,
It is an honor to worship God with you today. May the Holy Spirit richly bless our time together as we hear and learn God?s Word. ?It seems rather strange, but it is very effective.? That is a comment a person makes when he/she sees an action that is unusual or unconventional, but produces good results. So we can appreciate that the God who made us and dearly loves us has His own unusual ways of accomplishing His great work in our lives. This truth becomes clear as we consider the Old Testament story about the healing of the Syrian commander, Naaman. Our goal in examining this lesson is to appreciate the surprising, but helpful way God saves and restores sick and sinful people like us. Today we consider GOD?S CURIOUS WAY OF CARING.
1. God Lets The Difficult Become Desperate
God has a curious way of caring. His curious methods start right at the beginning of this lesson. We are told of a brave, skilled and important man. He is Naaman, commander of the armies of Aram (also called Syria). Naaman was appreciated by his king, Benhadad, and he was highly regarded by his soldiers and fellow citizens. He had won a great victory for his country against the very powerful Assyrian Empire. After learning a bit about Naaman, we hear that a major problem had developed. Naaman was afflicted with leprosy. We do not know how he got it or how long he had it, but this strong, vigorous name has developed a serious, deadly illness. Leprosy was curable in some cases, but in many cases it could not be cured. From the context of this story, we surmise that efforts had been made to treat Naaman, but that nothing had worked. Naaman?s disease was progressively getting worse. It appeared that it would kill him.
God intended to help Naaman, but (in His curious way of curing) we notice that God let the difficult situation become a desperate situation. What is bad becomes worse; what is critical becomes hopeless. We see the desperation in Naaman?s actions. This important man is willing to take the advice from a little, slave girl. He is willing to pay lots of money for a cure ? 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold.
A person might think that God would not let our difficulties become desperation for us, that this is often the case. It may be the illness that defies easy diagnosis, the family member who stubbornly persists in making one foolish decision after another, two costly expenses facing us even before we can get the one we are currently working on paid off. We think it would be so much easier for God and so much better for us if God would only grant quick relief and never let anything become too serious or too painful.
But would it? God let Naaman go from difficult to desperate because God had some work to do in Naaman?s life that went far beyond curing leprosy. And so, God sometimes lets our situations go from difficult to desperate because He has some work to do in us that goes beyond our surface problems. Bringing people to a point of desperation, where we are willing to turn to Him in ways that we would not do otherwise is a valuable part of His helping us. God has a curious way of curing. At times, it is required that He let the affairs of our life go from difficult to desperate.
2. God Requires The Proud To Learn Humility
In His treatment of Naaman?s body and soul, God also required Naaman to go through some humbling stages. Naaman?s desperation drove him to seek the help of the God of Israel and of the Bible, the true God that Naaman knew little about and did not embrace in faith. However, Naaman was a sinfully proud man. His pride could have easily cost him healing and deliverance.
Notice how God gave Naaman a number of lessons in humility. First Naaman can find no cure in all of Syria. He must place his hopes on the recommendation of a small, slave girl whom he had seized from her home during a raid on Israel. Naaman must rely on the word of a person who was his defeated captive.
Second, Naaman was required to seek the help of an uncertain neighbor, King Joram of Israel. Joram was a weak leader and a man whom Naaman considered his enemy. Yet it was to Joram that Naaman?s king sent a letter asking for help.
A third lesson in humility comes when the prophet Elisha invited Naaman to come to Samaria. Naaman had to endure being treated as a common person without special privileges. Naaman was a national hero in Aram and publicly honored wherever he went. But here in Israel, the prophet Elisha would not even bother to meet him in person. Elisha?s servant is sent to tell Naaman what he must do. How humiliating this must have been to this proud general.
Finally, Naaman was required to accept God?s remedy of washing in the Jordan River. Because of the Bible the Jordan River is a famous river. But when you see it, you discover that the Jordan is not an impressive river, and it is not an especially clean river. It is rather dirty like the Mississippi River that flows near my home in St. Louis, Missouri. Naaman complained that the rivers of his home country of Syria ? the Abana (?Golden River?) and the Pharpar - were far superior in quality to the Jordan River of Israel. And they were! Naaman bristled at the instructions he had been given, but eventually he followed them. His servants helped him see that his pride would cost him any chance of healing. So Naaman learned to set his pride aside.
The path to receiving God?s help is a humble one. St. Peter reminds us: ?God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.? A person who is not overcome by self-love and an attitude of self-importance can enjoy God?s blessings. God helps us gain these blessings with His curious methods of teaching our hearts humility. He teaches us to give up our proud ways of self-reliance when we think we have no need of God?s help or when we believe our flawed lives are good enough and that we have no need of His pardon or when we think we are in a position of strength and have the right to set the terms of our relationship with Him. He would show us that we receive His grace only as a free gift that we have no ability to purchase or merit. God employs His curious way of curing to teach the proud humility.
3. God Employs His Word To Work Great Wonders
The third aspect to God?s unusual way of curing is the ways He delivers His healing. Naaman did learn to set aside his pride. He thought God?s prescription was too easy to be effective. He went to the Jordan River and washed seven times. After six washings, nothing happened. But after the seventh washing, Naaman was completely cured. His leprosy was gone all at once. His skin was like that of a young boy. All traces of his disease were gone.
What caused this cure? It was not the ritual of washing. It was not the power of the water. The cause of the cure was the promise of God attached to the washing with water. God?s Word, received by faith, worked wonders on Naaman?s skin ? and also on his heart. Naaman now embraced the God of Israel as his God. He became an eager, devoted follower of the true God.
God?s curious way of curing happens as He employs His Word to work wonders for people. God?s Word contains promises of help to be claimed by faith. Here are some of those promises: ?Call on me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you?; ?Come to all who are weak and burdened and I will give you rest?; ?Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.? God even attaches promises to water as He did with Naaman. In His Word, He says: ?Baptism is the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Baptism now saves you. It is the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.? Through His powerful Word, God creates new life in dead hearts, restores hope where it has been lost, kindles love that has died out. O what wonders His word works for us.
After God has administered His curious ways of curing, Naaman was a changed man outside and inside, especially inside. His heart has been turned to faith and love in the true God who saved him. He was seized with a deep sense of devotion to God. He was determined to serve God well and witness faithfully. God works similar changes through His strange ways in hearts like yours and mine. His methods are unusual, but they are, oh so effective. May we always give thanks to our God for His curious way of curing. Amen.