2 Kings 5:1-14

Unnatural Laws!

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2 Kings 5:1-14

Unnatural Laws!

Richard Niell Donovan

The story of Naaman the leper deals with several issues simultaneously. First, Naaman was Syrian—a gentile—not a Jew. The Jews, for whom this story was written, didn’t have much use for gentiles. Naaman was not only a gentile; he was a leper—so he was a loser on two counts. The Jews of Jesus’ day would have been just as happy if all gentiles were lepers.

When Jesus preached at his hometown, Nazareth, he pointed out that God could have chosen to heal any number of Jewish lepers but in fact chose to heal Naaman, a gentile, instead. The people of Nazareth were so incensed at being reminded of God’s blessing a gentile that they drove Jesus out of town and tried to throw him off a cliff.

Naaman was an interesting person! Commander of the Syrian Army, he had led them to victory after victory. But he was a leper. Watching the white patch grow on his skin day by day, he was robbed of enjoying his victories.

On one of their raids, Naaman’s men had captured a young Israelite woman, and Naaman had given her to his wife as a servant. This young woman, certainly well-treated, felt great sympathy for Naaman and Naaman’s wife. Imagine what it must have been like for Naaman’s wife, married to a man who could not touch another human being for fear of spreading the disease. Leprosy in that day was much like AIDS in this day.

And so the servant girl said to Naaman’s wife:

“I wish that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!

Then he would heal him of his leprosy” (5:3).

When Naaman heard of the servant girl’s words, he went to the king of Aram, his boss, to get his leave papers signed. He would go to Samaria and find Elisha. The king not only signed his leave papers, but also wrote a letter of introduction to the king of Israel, asking the king of Israel to render all possible assistance to this loyal general.

So Naaman went to the king of Israel, bearing the letter and bearing many expensive gifts as well. He presented the letter to the king of Israel, who read:

“Now when this letter has come to you,

behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you,

that you may heal him of his leprosy” (5:6).

The king of Israel read the letter with alarm. How could he heal anyone of leprosy? Everyone knew that leprosy was incurable. Perhaps the king of Aram was trying to pick a quarrel! The king ripped his clothes, a sign of great distress.

But Elisha heard of the king’s concern, and sent him a message. The message was:

“Why have you torn your clothes?

Let him come now to me,

and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8).

So Naaman set out to see Elisha. He must have created quite a spectacle as he drove through town with his full retinue of soldiers—gleaming chariots—horses snorting and pawing the ground—sun glinting off swords and armor. The people of the little town would have heard them coming for miles, and would have gone outside to see the spectacle.

But Elisha didn’t stir! When Naaman got to Elisha’s house, Elisha was nowhere to be seen. One of Naaman’s soldiers went to Elisha’s house. He would have banged on the door with the butt of his spear! Bam! Bam! Bam!

Even then Elisha stayed inside. He didn’t even go to greet Naaman, but sent a servant with this message:

“Go and wash in the Jordan seven times,

and your flesh shall come again to you,

and you shall be clean” (5:10).

But Naaman was angry! He said to his aide:

“Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me,

and stand, and call on the name of Yahweh his God,

and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leper.’

Aren’t Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus,

better than all the waters of Israel?

Couldn’t I wash in them, and be clean?” (5:11-12).

Naaman started to depart in a rage, but one of his soldiers stopped him. He said:

“My father, if the prophet had asked you do some great thing,

wouldn’t you have done it?

How much rather then, when he says to you,

‘Wash, and be clean?'” (5:13).

In other words, “Hey! It doesn’t cost much! At least try it!” Good advice!

“Then went (Naaman) down,

and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan,

according to the saying of the man of God;

and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child,

and he was clean” (5:14).

Clean! Do you understand what that meant? Suddenly this dying man wasn’t dying anymore! Now this man without a future could see his children grow up! Now this diseased man could embrace his wife and children! Now this man who could not be healed was healed! It was truly a miracle!

A SUBSCRIBER SAYS: “Dick, I find your sermons really great. I use them for my scripture prayer group and also as a focus for Bidding Prayers for the Sunday Mass. Your Sermon on Matt. 9 was just super. Down to earth and real for all believers! Many thanks for the great contribution you make to spread the Good News.”

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As I reflected on this story, I realized that the Bible and the world are full of God’s natural laws and God’s unnatural laws. The natural laws, such as the law of gravity, are orderly and predictable! As we study our world, we can learn how these laws work. We can do wonderful things with them. We have harnessed natural laws to send men to the moon.

But God has also set forth unnatural laws! There was nothing natural about God’s requirement that Naaman bathe seven times in the Jordan! Naaman bristled at the nonsense of it! Finally, however, he obeyed. And, when he obeyed, he was healed!

The Bible has many stories of unnatural laws:

• Moses, stretch out your hand over the Red Sea

and lead the Israelites across on dry land!

• Gideon, send ninety-nine percent of your soldiers home,

and win the victory with the few who are left!

• Love your enemies!

• Tithe, and receive a blessing!

I call these God’s unnatural laws, because they require us to suspend our mathematical approach to life, obeying God when we cannot expect our obedience to pay off. They are a call to radical obedience.

You know better than to try to break God’s natural laws. You would never jump from a high building in the assumption that you could break the law of gravity—unless you were using a parachute to play one natural law against the other. As someone said,

“We cannot break God’s laws;

we can only break ourselves against them!”

Just as God rewards us for obeying his natural laws—the laws of nature—so also he rewards us for obeying his unnatural laws—laws of the spirit. God rewards generously!

Chuck Swindoll tells about a missionary-lady who was sitting by her window as she opened her mail. In one letter she found a crisp, new, ten-dollar bill. She was pleasantly surprised, but then she noticed a poorly-dressed stranger, leaning on a post by her window. She couldn’t get him off her mind. Thinking that he might be in greater need than she, she slipped the bill into an envelope and wrote, “Don’t despair.” She handed the envelope through the window to the man. He read the note, smiled, tipped his hat and walked away.

The next day she heard a knock at the door. There the same man handed her a roll of bills. When she asked what they were, he said: “That’s your sixty bucks, lady! ‘Don’t Despair’ paid five to one!”

I won’t tell you that, if you obey God, he will pay off five to one. But I will tell you that:

• If you obey God, he will bless you with many blessings.

• God will not allow himself to be in debt to you for long.

• If you give God the gift of your life, he will return even greater gifts.

• He will reward you with “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you” (Luke 6:38).

Now hear this word of God again:

“Then went (Naaman) down,

and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan,

according to the saying of the man of God;

and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child,

and he was clean”

That was what God did for Naaman! Just imagine what he will do for you!

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan