Tim Morgan, our Preacher, was used in my life for a very important moment and he doesn’t even know it. In the span of my life he hasn’t been there that long. But wow the impact already and I just have to tell it. I am so thankful that I heard the message God placed on His heart that morning at the church a few months ago. He preached telling about the man Naaman who had leprosy in 2 Kings 5 and that lesson still has not left me and I suspect that it never will. God brings it to my heart and my mind over and over with one sentence that Pastor Morgan asked in his Sunday Morning message all those weeks ago. Let me set the scene.
Naaman had come to the door of Elisha seeking healing from being a leper because he had heard that Elisha could heal with The Power of God and Naaman apparently desperately wanted to be healed and was determined to make it happen. He was a doer. He wasn’t afraid to take the bull by the horns. Naaman also was considered an important man. He was the “Captain of the Host of the King of Syria”. What a title. He was a high ranking military official and a man of high social and economic standing. The bible says he was a great man, a mighty man in valor (valor means: boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle and heroic courage and bravery) but he was a leper. He had a skin disease that made his skin look horrible and white like death and it would have affected his nervous system and his nasal membrane: the inside of his nose. Leprosy is a fungus, if you can imagine, on the skin that kills it over time. Pieces of your flesh can fall away. I cannot imagine the pain. His skin would have had ulcers and he would have been contagious so no one would have been able to be around him on a close intimate scale and there was a chance somewhere down the road that he could possibly lose a limb to this disease. AND he was still a mighty heroic man very high up in the King’s army. He really was a great man even by our accounts today and he had a horrible disease that he desperately wanted healed.
Naaman, being so use to authority and so use to going through all of the right channels and being able to walk the line and having a picture in his head of what was expected of him because he was use to following orders, had the King of Syria write the King of Israel. Naaman seems to think that if the King of Israel commands Elisha to heal him then he will be healed. He sees it as The King of Israel being over Elisha and in control because that’s what he’s always known in his world - The Chain of Command - so he goes straight to the top. At least he thinks he’s going to the top. He’s cutting out the middle man. He’s not playing games. He wants the healing and he wants it now and he goes right to the source of power. Only he doesn’t know God yet. He doesn’t get it that God is the high authority. He doesn’t understand yet that Elisha is only a vessel for the Lord to work through and that Elisha can’t be commanded any more than we can tell the world itself to stop spinning.
So Naaman goes to his King because he trusts that he can get results and he does get them. The King of Syria writes the King of Israel. So now Naaman thinks he’s gone through the right channels and the proper procedures to insure his healing. He’s done all the right things he thinks and he’s ready for some action. Only things don’t quite work out the way Naaman thought they would. The King of Israel actually gets upset. He was so upset by this in fact, that he mourned over it and showed it publicly, as was the custom, by tearing his clothes and everyone knew he was distraught by his actions. The King of Israel understood a relationship with God and understood the unlimited, unflawed ability of His power as much as we can probably and that we are God’s creation and not His equal. The King of Israel understood that He could not command God to heal Naaman through Elisha. Knowing this and understanding that Naaman and his King obviously did not understand “A Living God” verses a manmade god and did not understand what they were asking, the King was afraid that the 2 nations would come to war over it and he was deeply deeply troubled by their request.
When word reaches Elisha, and he hears that the King of Israel has torn his clothes, he sends him a message and asks why he’s done this, why he’s upset. When the King replies and Elisha realizes what is going on, he sends word for Naaman to come to him directly so he will know that there is a prophet in Israel. Naaman goes in faith and in expectation to Elisha’s house to have Elisha heal him. I picture Naaman having been really excited! He’s heard that this man has the power of The Only Living God to take this horrible disfiguring disease and that he can make him whole and he’s going there to make it happen. His hope must have been off the charts mingled with a little “what if” but mostly just driven in hope and excitement that he was going to be clean of rotting flesh and whole.
When he gets to Elisha’s door though, Elisha doesn’t even meet him. The man surely knows how important Naaman is. He sent for him after all but Elisha sends his servant to meet him instead. Can you imagine? As Americans, whether you agree with our President today or not, you still know the importance of his office, of his position. He is our highest official; specifically our highest military official and we give him our respect and our loyalty because he leads our nation. Elisha is a man that is filled with the Spirit of God. He is a Holy Man. He has the power to heal. Naaman is going to see a very important man and he is a very important man in his own eyes. Can you imagine if the President of our United States sent for you to give you the most precious gift he could give you, something that you had longed for forever and then didn’t even meet you when you arrived but sent his servant instead? What a blow. Then to top it off the servant tells Naaman that Elisha says to go and wash in the Jordan river 7 times to be healed of his leprosy. Picture this. It wasn’t enough for Naaman to show up. It wasn’t enough that he tried to make it happen through all the proper channels and by his superior authority and by the King's final authority, it wasn’t enough that he was placing his faith in a God he didn’t know, now Naaman has to go out and do something to help this healing happen. I bet Naaman was like “Are you kidding me? You want me to do what?”
Naaman isn’t actually a practicing believer. He’s not even a new convert at this exact moment. He hasn’t gone to the temple and sat in on the service, he hasn’t jumped on the internet to read all about it and decide that he likes what Elisha believes in, he hasn’t talked with believers to see what they think. The only step toward Christ Naaman has taken is that he's placed his faith in what he’s been told and he's hoping that he will find freedom and healing from his horrible disease. Now that’s huge and it’s a first step but he’s stepping out on simple faith being driven for an answer and a fix. There is no depth to his faith and nothing to fall back on, no backbone or hard faith that he’s been walking and learning and growing in. This is a first act in his step towards being converted to “life” instead “punishment”. Naaman has simply heard from his wife’s maid servant (captured slave from Israel) that her God is real and that He can heal him through this man Elisha. That’s all he knows and he is desperate for healing. He needs this God to be real and alive. He needs for this healing to be real and this maid servant believes in this God so he’s willing to grasp on to this is desperation because He needs this God to do what no other gods have done for him, ever. Do you see the full picture here?
And now Naaman is knocking at the door and Elisha isn’t even coming out to meet him when he sent for him. Naaman isn’t use to being treated this way. In his world people hold him high. He says jump and they jump. Can you imagine not being greeted? Naaman was angry. He was full of wrath The Bible says because he thought that he would have a face to face with Elisha and that Elisha would at least speak with him and call on God to heal him right then and there. Naaman thought he would walk in and see an instant result. He thought he knew how it all was going to work out. He had a plan and a picture and he thought he got it. But he didn’t. Then on top of it all the command that Elisha gave for Naaman’s healing was crude. The fact that Naaman was from Syria and not Israel, made Naaman believe that Damascus, the capital of Syria, had better waters than Israel. We tend to be very loyal to the places that we live. Naaman would have been no different. His job was to protect Syria after all so of course he was loyal. The Jordan River that Elisha is asking him to dip in is in Israel. I can imagine it being a little beneath Naaman, a little “can you believe this common thing he has asked of me” type of attitude. Naaman of course thought so much more of his own home land and took great pride in Syria. It seems to have made him feel a bit indignant and insulted to have to do such a common thing and he was feeling a bit discarded and possibly mocked by the fact that Elisha didn’t even great him and come out to meet him. The Bible says that Naaman turned away in rage. He was going to leave. The blessing he was seeking wasn’t coming in the package that he expected and he was going to leave ticked off and miss the blessing and the whole story.
What happened next kind of melts me and excites me because I’m a “little people”. I’m not someone that runs the nation or works for the King as the head of his army. I don’t stand before important people with messages straight from God and I don’t heal lepers. I’m the little gal that was taken from her home land and working in the background to make other people’s lives the best they can be by being faithful and loyal and a hard worker no matter my circumstances just like the little maid servant that worked for Naaman’s wife and took care of her and I identify with that maid servant in a hundred ways even though we don’t even know her name. I just love her and that she shared her faith in her God with Naaman's wife and then with Naaman as well. I love that she is the puzzle piece to Naaman’s healing and that even though she isn’t a big person in the bible or the whole scheme of the world she is important in Naaman’s story and the lives of the people in Naaman’s story and now in mine and yours as well. She is a shining light that gives me hope and reminds me that every single one of us big or small in the eyes of the world matter and count and that my life is important even if I don’ t know why in my life time. Years down the line someone could be reading how God changes the life of someone profoundly and maybe I’m one of the puzzle pieces in their story, or even better yet… maybe you are. Fantastic!
So here is mighty Naaman (the important, big, knowledgeable, powerful, known man) and he is done. He’s been insulted and he’s out of there. He’s hacked off and in his temper and his not understanding the full picture and what is being asked of him, he decides he is going to settle for his circumstances and not being healed because now his hope can’t even be seen because of his emotions and his temper. He’s got tunnel vision and he’s storming out. BUT His simple servant who spends his life doing Naaman’s bidding, and is not well known and is not thought of as big and mighty, says “Wait! If the prophet had asked you to do something you thought was great or grand and worthy of your time and effort, wouldn’t you have done it? Then, how much more willing should you be to do this simple thing that he’s asked of you to do? Just go and wash yourself and be clean of your Leprosy.” Naaman listened to his servant. He was wise and he heard his servant and listened and retracted his rage. He was willing to bend. This big strong military man was willing to be reshaped and slowed down and changed. First he listens to this wife’s servant which gets the ball rolling and then when all seems lost, he listens to his own servant. Wow! He was wise and willing to be shown and taught from humble places and he changed his mind and went down and dipped in the Jordan 7 times as Elisha had told him. The bible says his skin instantly became like that of a little child: smooth, healthy, new and healed!!!!!!! Amazing!
This is the point where our Pastor Tim said the thing that helped me even unto this day. He stopped in the story of Naaman and asked us what would have happened if Naaman had only dipped in the river 6 times? Pretty simple question but what a profound thought! That question keeps coming back to me over and over as I struggle with getting stronger with this eating thing that God gave me in my journey to be healed of my past and my shame and my broken body from it all. The dead broken things in my life that have been removed from me in the spirit through my faith in Christ still need to be removed from me in my walking it out and in my obedience. I’ve watched God heal so many things inside of me one by one. He will never be finished with His work in me until the day I stand with Him in Heaven but I clearly see that I am not who I use to be. I see dramatic differences in my thinking and my desires. I also really see the broken places now shinning bright for me to notice. I want them healed. Food had always been the biggest place inside of me, the most broken place that I recognized. It was the one thing I could not control. Until recently I didn’t understand that the first sin was created with food. Of course this is my hardest battle as of right now. I’ve been working on this with The Lord for 13 years now. My healing is not complete but how close He is to bringing me to a 7th dip in the Jordan River! And I’m excited, but what a battle. So I understand what it might have been like for Naaman to suck that rage back up and to realize that maybe it wasn’t all going to happen the way he planned and with the blue prints he’d designed in his head based on what he’d been taught about God. I get it because of the journey I’m walking with The Lord even right now as I write this.
What would have happened if Naaman had not obeyed and carried his part out? It didn’t take great faith; it took “I need You to be real and to help me because there is no other help.” Faith the size of a mustard seed, that’s all it took and it took a change of heart. He thought he was above going into the Jordan River. He thought He shouldn’t even have to carry out an exercise of any kind to be healed. He had done enough. He had shown up after getting backing from the King. The command for him working out his healing didn’t make since to him. He couldn’t understand it. He knew that others had been healed with a word but how unreal that he should have to carry out this act in order to be healed when he had been told a word could be spoken and a command given over his body and total healing could have been applied in and instant. He had faith in what he had been told of God but no understanding yet, no wisdom or walk under his belt that lead him to immediately do what Elisha told him. He had to have a change of heart. Instead of an easy way to gain his healing God gave Naaman a task that seemed ridiculous to him. Why? Well, I don’t claim to know God’s thoughts but I sure can see how God was building faith in Naaman by making him obey Him instead of just handing it to him. God was asking him to step out in faith and He was changing his heart along the way. He was changing Naaman by showing him that he doesn’t see the full picture and he doesn’t know how it all works but God will work it to our good just trust Him and do what He says.
So what if Naaman had given into the idea and kind of had a change of heart and decided he would go and dip in the Jordan but only did it halfheartedly? What if he had only done it “almost” and not “all the way”? What if he had only dipped in the Jordan 6 times instead of 7? What if? Not only would Naaman not of been healed but myself and everyone else who ever read this true account and put their faith in The Word of God would not have learned a lesson from Naaman and been strengthened by his life and these several moments in his walk towards the Lord. He had to step out in a very much “unformed” faith, a very new faith that was just sparking and he had to be willing to put faith in this God He didn’t understand yet at all and who He was but because of that little flicker of faith he was healed completely.
Naaman’s healing from leprosy was so profound to him and such a faith builder that he says in 2 Kings 15 “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel!” and the bible says in vs 17 that Naaman says that he will never offer from that moment on another burnt offering or sacrifice to another god but only to The Lord. That’s a LIFE CHANGER folks. He would of missed out on a life changing event if he hadn’t stepped out in hope and faith. Everything he had ever known in his belief system and in his worship and asking for help had depended on gods that didn’t breathe and think and answer. He didn’t know any other way. God messed his whole world up in a great way and Naaman was forever changed.
God didn’t ask Naaman to run down through all the great things he’d done in this life to be saved. He didn’t ask for an account of his work in the service to The King or how he’d treated his fellow man or his family or how many drinks he’d had and if he’d ever been drunk or if he’d finished any type of training or schooling and God didn’t ask if he’d ever cheated on a wife or if he’d ever hit her or if he’d always had the best thoughts and never said bad things in fits of rage. God simply said prove you have faith by doing what I’m telling you right now.
What a message of hope. No matter what state our lives are in, God is doing something wonderful to heal the dead parts and the broken parts and the parts that keep falling away that the life has drained out of and left white and ashy - if we place our faith in Him, in His son Jesus Christ, in His death for our saving grace and His resurrection to conquer the grave and give us life for eternity with Him. AND what does he ask of us because of our faith? He’s asking us to be faithful completely to Him…not to the 6th moment when He’s asking for 7, not just “for the most part” but ALL THE WAY. Give your whole life, not just a little of it…not just the moments that are easy to give but the things that shake your world up and change it forever. Give the parts that you don’t understand, give the parts that make you mad and make you feel ashamed. Give the parts of your life up to God that need healed and run to Him instead of waiting. What are you holding on too? The dead stuff? The white stuff that hurts you and you need gone anyway? Let it go. Embrace what God has for you even if you don’t understand why He’s asked you to do something. Step out in faith even if it’s just a tiny tiny bit of faith and hold hope that He’s real and that He will help you. He’s got a wonderful plan for your life. He created you for His plan. Embrace it and let Him be a LIFE CHANGER for you.
“And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:27