15 Minutes of Fame: A Man Named Namaan


2 Kings 5:1—15

The characters of history are infinitely more interesting than the events of history.  Of course, it’s hard to separate the two since they are so closely intertwined.  What is true of secular history, is definitely true of Biblical history.  But sometimes, when we look at the big events of Biblical history, we miss seemingly insignificant ones.  Such is the case of a man healed of leprosy.  Healings in the Bible, even in the Old Testament, are not that rare, so it’s tempting to gloss over the story of another healing of another leper.  But what about the characters involved in this event?  They are what make this event of Biblical history more than interesting.

1.  Namaan had an exceptional life

The king of Syria had high admiration for Naaman, the commander-in-chief of his army, for he had led his troops to many glorious victories. So he was a great hero, but he was a leper.  (2 Kings 5:1  TLB)

The character at the center of this event of history is Namaan.  According to Jewish legend, not the Bible, Namaan was the military commander whose arrow had slain Ahab.  He was a brilliant military man and highly respected by the king of Syria.  Namaan had almost everything the world had to offer:  honor, respect, power, position, courage, intelligence, fame and success.  But there was one thing wrong in his life that all these worldly things could not fix:  he was a leper.  The Hebrew word often translated “leprosy” is better rendered “skin disease.”  It’s sort of an all-purpose word that describes all manner of skin problems besides leprosy.  In fact, Namaan probably did not have leprosy.  He was active among people, he was not quarantined.

But the fact remains, Namaan was in bad shape and there was nothing he could do about it.  He was like a character over in the New Testament:

As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running to him and knelt down and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get to heaven?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good!  But as for your question—you know the commandments: don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, respect your father and mother.”

“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve never once broken a single one of those laws.”

Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. “You lack only one thing…”  (Mark 10:17—21a  TLB)

Just like the rich young ruler Jesus talked to, Namaan lacked almost nothing, but the most important thing he lacked was the one thing he needed most.  Namaan needed health; he needed healing.

He probably had already sought help from his god, and of course got nothing.  So we can imagine how Namaan must have felt.  He had it all, but all wasn’t enough.

Sickness and disease are no respecter of persons!  You may live right, eat right, exercise right and still be stricken with a deadly ailment.  A person may never have smoked, yet still develop lung or throat cancer.  Namaan found this out.

2.  A powerful testimony

Bands of Syrians had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a little girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid.  One day the little girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy!”  (2 Kings 5:2, 3  TLB)

What a coincidence!   Namaan’s wife had a servant who just happened to be a young Israelite girl.   How did that happen?  It’s providence at work!  The days of Israelite king Jehoram were filled with skirmishes between Israel and Aram, or Syria as it’s referred to in The Living Bible.  During the course of one of those skirmishes, a young Israelite girl had fallen into Namaan’s hands.  He didn’t kill her or imprison her, but took her home to his wife, where she became her servant.

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.  (Romans 8:28  TLB)

This girl’s life had become the one that God would use for His glory and Namaan’s healing.  She apparently cared for her “employers,” and was concerned about her master’s health.  She had convictions that were real and deep and she was not afraid to share them with others, even those who had power over her.

Think about this girl.  Had she not shared her faith with Namaan, the chances are good that he would have been eaten up with his skin disease!  It took faith and courage for this young lady to speak up. In a sense, she was like a missionary…a stranger in a strange land doing the work of the Lord.  But one thing was not strange:  her faith.  She took it with her.  In this, she was a lot like Daniel, who was unafraid to live his faith in a foreign land.  Her testimony came at just the right time and was given in the right spirit.

3.  A false interpretation

“Go and visit the prophet,” the king told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to carry to the king of Israel.”  So Naaman started out, taking gifts of $20,000 in silver, $60,000 in gold, and ten suits of clothing. The letter to the king of Israel said: “The man bringing this letter is my servant Naaman; I want you to heal him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:5, 6  TLB)

Namaan took the young servant girl’s suggestion seriously, and he took it to his boss, the king.  To the king’s credit, he also took the young servant girl’s suggestion seriously and did all he could do to make it happen.  Look at what the king did for Namaan:  he gave him a letter of introduction, as well as lavish gifts of gold, silver and cothing.

The king’s reaction was interesting.  It’s really a picture of a worldly man’s response to God’s grace.  Worldly wisdom is unable to grasp the nature of God’s “free grace.”  God would be willing to heal Namaan without a fee!  The king couldn’t see that, and so in his mind, he had to pay for this healing.  In truth, a lot of people today are like this king.  The think they can earn good points from God; that they can purchase a blessing or His favor.  Even Christians are notorious for this attitude.  If they want an answer to a very important prayer, the first thing they try to do is strike a bargain with God:  Lord, they say, if you do this for me, then I will do this for you.  It’s humorous, but we do it all the time.

Say there! Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine and milk—it’s all free!  (Isaiah 55:1  TLB)

4.  A merciful message

So Naaman arrived with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s home. Elisha sent a messenger out to tell him to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times and he would be healed of every trace of his leprosy!  (2 Kings 5:9, 10  TLB)

King Jehoram of Israel completely misinterpreted the letter and the gifts.  He thought that, perhaps, it was all a trick; a prelude to invasion.   He proved to be just as worldly minded as the king of Syria.  It wasn’t HIS job to do the healing!   We guess he had forgotten all about the prophets in the land, so self-centered a person he was.  Apparently he didn’t even think about Elisha.  How ironic!  This prophet was better known in the far-away capital of Syria than he was in his own country.

Elisha’s instructions to Namaan seemed a little too cold and impersonal, and they caught Namaan off-guard.  Here he was, a great leader of men, carrying with him letters of introduction and expensive gifts and the great, famous prophet sent a mere servant out to give him instructions.

On top of that, the so-called cure seemed ridiculous.  Of course, God’s cure for man’s sinful condition seems equally ridiculous.

He brought them out and begged them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and your entire household.”  (Acts 16:30, 31  TLB)

That’s pretty simple, but leave it up to man to muck it up with all manner of litmus tests to prove if you’re saved or not.

5.  Understanding rebellion

But Naaman was angry and stalked away.  “Look,” he said, “I thought at least he would come out and talk to me! I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call upon the name of the Lord his God and heal me!  Aren’t the Abana River and Pharpar River of Damascus better than all the rivers of Israel put together? If it’s rivers I need, I’ll wash at home and get rid of my leprosy.” So he went away in a rage.  (2 Kings 5:11, 12  TLB)

You can see a little wounded pride in Namaan’s words and actions.  He was exasperated.  And he wasn’t all wrong, either.  Taking a swim in the Jordan was not very appealing.  The waters of the other rivers would have been much cleaner and fresher than those of the Jordan.  It was inconvenient to go to the Jordan, and what’s worse, it didn’t make any sense!  Namaan rationalized that any river would do.  The thing is, though, he was wrong.  It wasn’t about the water; it was about his obedience to the Word of God.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.  (Proverbs 14:12  TLB)

All the time, Christians find ways to justify their sin and rebellion, just like Namaan did, and their justification makes all the sense in the world to them.  But, as the writer of this proverb observed, just because a way seems right, doesn’t mean it is right.  That right way, if it’s not God’s way, will end in your death.

6.  A surrendered will

So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the prophet had told him to. And his flesh became as healthy as a little child’s, and he was healed!  (2 Kings 5:14  TLB)

Fortunately, the logic of Namaan’s servants was stronger than his pride, so he went down to the Jordan, about a 30 mile trip, and did exactly what he was told to do.  What did he have to lose, after all?  Well, as it happened, the simple minded logic of servants proved to be correct.  He was obedient, albeit reluctantly, and God honored him and healed him.  As soon as his mind was made up to be obedient to the Word of the Lord, his fate was sealed!  His going down to the river was evidence that he put his will in line with God’s.

Faith without works is dead (James 2:17).  Your faith (on the inside) must be seen on the outside (actions/works).  This man, Namaan, showed his faith by his actions.  But they weren’t just any “good works,” they were specifically the “good works” demanded by the Word of God to him through the prophet Elijah.

7.  Namaan became a changed man

In more ways than one, Namaan became a changed man. He was healed completely of his skin disease, but then he came to a startling conclusion:

“I know at last that there is no God in all the world except in Israel…”  (2 Kings 5:15a)

Now, this was a truly amazing confession for Namaan, a pagan to make.  And we have to admire him for saying this.  However, he would say one more thing that showed his conversion to be complete:

However, may the Lord pardon me this one thing—when my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow too.”  (2 Kings 5:18  TLB)

Namaan, this powerful military man, hoped that God would forgive this apparent compromise of his commitment.  He hoped that God would know his heart and know that he in no way, from this day forward, would be a worshipper of any god, but the One true God.

Namaan stands as a great example of how God’s mercy can reach anybody and how God providentially moves in history to achieve His will.

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