Study Notes

2Kings 5:1-27

5:1 Leprosy

It is written here that Naaman was a leper, someone afflicted with the disease of leprosy.

Before we get too deep into our story tonight, I'd like to make sure that you have a full understanding of leprosy.

Leprosy was both terrible and incurable. Its impact on early society was so far-reaching that God devoted two complete chapters of the law, Leviticus 13 and 14, to its diagnosis and treatment.

It started small, looking like a small spot or rash on the skin, but ultimately became lethal. Dr. William Thompson, who was a missionary over 100 years ago, wrote, "(Leprosy) comes on by degrees in different parts of the body: the hair falls from the head and eyebrows; the nails loosen, decay, and drop off; joint after joint of the fingers and toes shrink up and slowly fall away: the gums are absorbed, and the teeth disappear; the nose, the eyes, the tongue, and the palate are slowly consumed; and, finally, the wretched victim sinks into the earth and disappears."

One effect that leprosy has on the body is that it deadens the nerve endings, making your body completely desensitized to pain. You could pour boiling water on your feet and not know it. You could cut your hand open and not feel it. Extreme damage could be done to your body, and you would not be aware of it.

In every way, leprosy is a perfect picture of sin. They both start small, just a spot on an otherwise clean body. But if the spot does not go away, it spreads to other areas. We then become desensitized, and ultimately become hideously ugly to those who are clean. We end up losing parts of our own selves as it runs rampant through us. And ultimately,

James 1:15 ...When sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

If, then, you read the Bible with the understanding that when the Word mentions lepers and leprosy, there is much to learn about sinners and sin, we can gain some understanding and insight from these passages.

Naaman The Aramean

There were varying degrees of leprosy's severity and progression. Because the Arameans did not have the same strict rules of separation from society that the Jews did, Naaman was still able to both function in society and in fact serve as captain of the Aramean army.

Now, as we have learned in past studies, the Arameans worshiped false gods (Judges 10:6, 1Kings 20, etc.). Thus, the first fact of leprosy we can glean in regards to sin in tonight's study, is that the understanding of the severity of the affliction is relative to society's standards. To put that in simpler terms, when a culture is wicked, they perceive leprosy to be less severe.

The Jews, being governed by God, followed the Law of leprosy, which stated that the priests had to isolate a person with even the smallest of infection (Lev. 13). The Arameans, on the other hand, didn't think that it was that big of a deal.

Haven't we seen that in our own society, as more and more we have as a nation forsaken God, and our toleration for sin has increased. Sin that used to land people in prison for twenty years now only brings a ticket with a fine. Behavior which was considered utterly sinful when we were a Christian nation is now both tolerated and welcomed. Leprosy is leprosy, but while the nation governed by God knows how contagious it can be and will not tolerated it, the nation who is steeped in idolatry is far more accepting of the leper's condition.

5:2-3 Elisha's Reputation

One so-called "benefit" of the continuing Aramean/Israeli conflict was the bringing of captives into the slave trade. This boosted the nation's economy, and made war more more "profitable."

Naaman's wife had gained a young Israeli girl, who had been captured in this manner. This girl knew of Naaman's leprosy, and said to his wife, "If he was with the prophet in Samaria," speaking of Elisha, "he would be cured."

5:4-6 Word Sent To The King Of Israel

When Naaman heard of this, he told his boss the king about it. The king responded with hope, sending a large gift to the king of Israel, along with letter stating, "I'm sending Naaman to Israel, so you will cure him of leprosy."

5:7 The King's Reaction

What the king of Aram didn't know was that the prophet in Samaria did not have a great relationship with the King of Israel who ruled from Samaria. It would not occur to the king of Israel to think, "Oh, Elisha can work miracles - I'll just give him a call!"

And so the king of Israel, knowing that curing leprosy was an impossibility, was suspicious of the Aramean king's intentions. He had sent a letter, asking for the impossible to be done. Was this the way that the Arameans would justify beginning the next war?

5:8 There Is A Prophet In Israel

When Elisha got word of what was going on, he let the king know that he could take care of the situation.

5:9-10 Elisha's Technique

When Naaman showed up, Elisha didn't bother to make himself the center of attention. He didn't come in a flashy robe with moons and stars all over it. He didn't put on a special hat, wave a wand, or chant some sort of prophet's incantation. He simply said, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times."

I think that this is an important precedent for us to follow in the church. Today, the church tolerates a lot of hoopla from people who claim to be miracles workers and anointed healers. But they always make themselves the center of attention. They name their ministries after themselves, their faces are prominently and proudly displayed, they wildly work themselves into hysterics, waving their arms, speaking in strange voices, and generally making a circus out of things, as if it was their own power that was effecting these healings.

But Jesus didn't operate this way, and neither did the disciples. They simply said things like, "Go wash in the pool," "Stretch out your hand," and "Rise up and walk."

Elisha didn't even show his face. He just said, "Head down to the river."

5:11-12 Naaman's Anger

Naaman didn't like Elisha's lack of presentation. He wanted the show, he wanted something to be impressed by. But wash in a river? He could have done that at home. Back in Damascus, he had cleaner and more impressive rivers, like the Ab-aw-NAW and the Par-PAR.

Here's the next thing that we can learn about the leprosy of sin: when we tell people how easy it is, the simplicity of their sin being washed away by belief in Jesus Christ, they will often refuse. Their response is often, "I just can't believe it's that easy." "Well, why can't I just believe something else?" "Why can't Buddha or Mohammed get me to the same place?"

And let's face it, from their standpoint, what is the difference between the Jordan and the Ab-aw-NAW or the Par-PAR? Why couldn't he wash in any of those? Why can't someone believe in some other religious system to save them, to heal their sin?

I think the answer can be found right here in the names of these rivers. The Ab-aw-NAW and the Par-PAR are great examples of world religions. Ab-aw-NAW means "a sinking weight." Religion puts heavy burdens on people, insisting on their own righteousness, insisting on keeping themselves afloat. But in reality, the harder they try, the more they realize that they cannot live up to a standard of perfection. It becomes a sinking weight.

The word Par-PAR comes from a root word meaning "frustration." This is also an accurate description of the bondage of a man-made religion.

But the Jordan represents the miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ. The word Jordan means "Descender." We know that Jesus Christ first descended to earth:

Phil. 2:6-8 ...although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

After His death on the cross, He continued to be the Descender. As Ephesians says,

Eph. 4:9-10 (Now this {expression,} "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

And so here are the choices: be healed in Jordan River, representing the Descender, Jesus Christ, or go try out the Ab-aw-NAW and the Par-PAR, representing the frustration and sinking weight that man-made religion will place on you.

Salvation IS that easy. It is that simple. And, as the Scripture says,

Acts 4:12 "...there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."

But Naaman didn't yet realize this truth - he was too angry, and was leaving.

5:13 The Insight Of Servants

Naaman's servants had great insight. "Why can't you believe the simple, when you were prepared to believe the difficult?" Sometimes I wonder at those who have an easier time believing that difficult religion consisting of confessions and candles, purgatory and prayers, tithes and trumpets can lead them to God, than the simple message of salvation by grace.

I thank God for people who are used to open the unbelievers' eyes with simple statements like this.

5:14 Seven Times In The Jordan

Naaman was convinced, and he went and dipped in the Jordan seven times. His leprosy was completely healed, and he was cleansed.

Now this incident brought about commentary from Jesus Himself almost a thousand years later.

As Jesus taught in the synagogue of His hometown of Nazareth, He said,

Luke 4:24-29 ..."Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his home town. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Tsaq-ref-ATH, {in the land} of Tsee-DONE, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.

Jesus was pointing out two Old Testament examples of God blessing Gentiles instead of Jews, which obviously didn't make anyone in the synagogue very happy!

So Naaman was cleansed, healed of the leprosy, with Jesus confirming validity of the miracle.

5:15-16 Refusing Gifts

The healing brought Naaman to the point of faith in the Lord of Israel as the only true and living God. As a result, he wanted to reward Elisha with earthly treasure. But Elisha knew the rules that we play by.

Jesus spoke them to all of us, saying,

Matt. 6:1-4 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

Elisha preferred heavenly reward over earthly reward any day. Knowing that he would receive treasure in heaven was preferable to gaining it on this earth, only to lose it in death.

5:17-19 Naaman's Sticky Situation

Naaman was now in a sticky situation. He was the head of the army of Syria, the Arameans. This carried some uncomfortable responsibilities, including paying homage to Rim-MONE, the Syrian god with the king.

He says, "When I go to bow down to Rim-MONE, I hope that the Lord can forgive me."

To tell you the truth, I don't understand Naaman's position at all. It seems to me that it would be better to defect to Israel, to quit his job, to do anything other than bowing down to a false god after coming to faith in the true God.

There have been so many people that have felt stuck in similar situations, forced to bow down to Rim-MONE. They tell me things like, "My job doesn't let me come to church. My kids have an important game this Sunday morning. I've got to dress like a jack-o-lantern for the fund raiser." And every fiber in my being is screaming, "What are you, crazy? Don't you trust God to provide a job that will let you worship Him? Don't you see the precedent you're setting for your children? Don't you see where your compromise is ruining your testimony?"

But, like Elisha gave example here, I have to trust the Word of God to do its work, and follow Paul's command to pastors:

2Tim. 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

It's the great patience that I'm working on, waiting for people to realize that there is not a single situation in life where they're being asked to bow down to Rim-MONE that they cannot say no.

"Sorry, either I have Sundays off, or I'll be serving my two weeks' notice. Sorry, my child won't be at the game - we're going to church. Dressing like a jack-o-lantern violates my religious beliefs - I won't do it."

So Elijah held his peace, figuring that the Spirit of God would bring conviction. He merely sent him away with a kind word - "Go in peace."

5:20 Gehazi's Thought

Gehazi is another interesting character in the Bible. A servant of a prophet of God, yet motivated by greed. He decides to run after Naaman to collect the reward that his master had turned down.

5:21-24 Gehazi's Story

Gehazi cooked up a story to deceive Naaman into giving him some silver and clothes.

And how much judgment must await those who deceive and take advantage of new believers?

5:25-27 Gehazi Is Caught

Elisha showed Gehazi that he didn't just know about the theft, but also what he planned on doing with the money - he had thought, "I'm going to be rich and have my own estate with olive groves, vineyards, sheep and oxen, and servants!" It is obvious that God knows both our actions and our plans.

As a result of Gehazi's deception, he was judged with the same leprosy that Naaman had previously had. But while Naaman's was localized, Gehazi's engulfed his entire body.

And this is our final lesson in regards to the sin of leprosy: No matter what your position, whether the captain of an army, or the servant of a prophet, we are all susceptible to sin. And the more knowingly we commit sin, the worse it engulfs us.

Jesus said,

Luke 12:47-48 "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know {it,} and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."

May we act on the knowledge that we have and not infect ourselves with the leprosy of sin.

Go to next study

Go to previous study