Posts Tagged 'leprosy'

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out!

shifty_eyes

2 Kings 5:20—27

 

 It was Faber who famously wrote:

My very thoughts are selfish, always building mean castles in the air;
I use my love of others for a gilding to myself look fair.
Alas! No speed in life can snatch us wholly
Out of self’s hateful sight.

Attempting to build a Godly character and life on the foundation of self-interest is “building castles in the air.”  Castles in the air look good to other shallow, foolish builders, but they don’t really exist at all.  People would do well to take the advice of the Master Builder:  be careful where you build and what you build!

But those who hear my instructions and ignore them are foolish, like a man who builds his house on sand.  For when the rains and floods come, and storm winds beat against his house, it will fall with a mighty crash.  (Matthew 7:26, 27  TLB)

In the Old Testament we read about a little-known “castle builder.”  His name was Gehazi.

1.  Special position and privilege

Namaan had a terrible skin disease.  He was not an Israelite but his wife’s servant, who was an Israelite, told her about a miracle-working prophet in Israel:

“I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy!”  (2 Kings 5:3  TLB)

Namaan thought that was a good idea, so he went to Israel armed with all manner of gifts for Elisha the prophet.  The Lord healed Namaan but Elisha didn’t want any payment.

“I know at last that there is no God in all the world except in Israel; now please accept my gifts.”  But Elisha replied, “I swear by Jehovah my God that I will not accept them.”  Naaman urged him to take them, but he absolutely refused.  (2 Kings 5:15b, 16  TLB)

It was truly an amazing miracle that not only healed Namaan’s body but also his soul.  He became a follower of Jehovah.  He resolved to worship Israel’s God even though state affairs of his own country required that he accompany his king on certain times of worship at his pagan temple.  Namaan’s miracle was amazing, but Namaan himself is an inspiring, historic figure.

Meanwhile, back at Elisha’s house, we learn that the great prophet had a servant named Gehazi, and Gehazi hated to see all those gifts go to waste.

Gehazi’s name means “valley of vision,” and being Elisha’s servant he must surely have seen many great and miraculous acts.  Imagine the things he saw and experienced living and traveling with a prophet of Elisha’s stature!  He lived and moved in a power spiritual atmosphere, yet that singular privilege didn’t seem to have much of an effect on his character.

But Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, said to himself, “My master shouldn’t have let this fellow get away without taking his gifts.”  (2 Kings 5:20a  TLB)

Gehazi, in spite of his position and very distinct spiritual blessings, remained worldly minded.  This is a great lesson for church goers!  Just going to church and associating with other Christians is not what changes a person’s heart.  A new heart and a renewed mind are the results of a genuine conversion experience.

2.  Selfish, worldly minded

Marley’s ghost could have easily called Gehazi, “man of the worldly mind!”  He was worldly, and he was selfish.  He seized the opportunity to get something for himself that he neither earned nor deserved.

“I will chase after him and get something from him.”  (2 Kings 5:20b  TLB)

He wasn’t going to let Namaan return home with all those expensive gifts.  If Elisha was too dumb not to take them, then he, Gehazi, would make sure he got something from Namaan.  He was a worldly, selfish, opportunist.

Certainly, the temptation must have been great.  How much could a prophet him paid him, after all?

We get a clue to this man’s character with the words “I will.”  He thought about it before he did it.  He planned to chase after Namaan; it didn’t just happen.  A lot us are “overtaken” by sin because of our sinful natures, that is, we get caught up in something sinful before we even know it.  But this thing that Gehazi did was not something that “overtook” him; it was a planned, deliberate sin.  He saw something that he wanted, and he schemed a way to get it.  Deliberate, sinful rebellion is what took place.

3.  Deceitful heart, deceitful actions

As soon as his mind was made up, Gehazi took off running after Namaan and all that good stuff Elisha refused to take.

So Gehazi caught up with him.  (2 Kings 5:21a  TLB)

He was slippery and he was stealthy.  Driven by his own greed, Gehazi caught up with Namaan.  We’ve already caught a glimpse of Gehazi’s pitiful character, now we see it contrasted with Namaan’s sterling character:

When Naaman saw him coming, he jumped down from his chariot and ran to meet him.  “Is everything all right?” he asked.  (2 Kings 5:21b  TLB)

Namaan has, once again, shown himself to be a changed man!  No longer do we see the proud, arrogant military commander of a few verses earlier.  Now we see a man concerned about others.  Namaan, recipient of God’s mercy, grace, and healing touch, had been a fallen, sinful man, yet now displays the grace of a true believer.  Gehazi, on the other hand, was one who had enjoyed all the privileges of being surrounded by God and God’s grace, and he is about to use that same grace to further his own selfish ends.

“…my master has sent me to tell you that two young prophets from the hills of Ephraim have just arrived, and he would like $2,000 in silver and two suits to give to them.”  (2 Kings 5:22b  TLB)

What a bold-faced lie!  Like a lot of con-artists, Gehazi mixes in just enough truth to make the lie sound like the truth.  The true part of the story comes from 2 Kings 4—

Elisha now returned to Gilgal, but there was a famine in the land. One day as he was teaching the young prophets, he said to Gehazi, “Make some stew for supper for these men.”  (2 Kings 4:38  TLB)

Gehazi implied that these men were destitute on account of the famine.  We can see how Namaan could draw his own conclusions.  We can also see how a black heart can manifest itself in sinful actions.  Sin always lies in wait, looking for the right opportunity to strike.  Who knows how long Gehazi had worked for Elisha?  He demonstrated in the past that he had faith.  Somehow he had been able to keep his sinful heart in check.  But without a new heart, it was only a matter of time before sin found this man’s Achilles’ heel.

For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.  (Romans 7:11  TLB)

4.  Temporary success

Gehazi’s lie seemed to yield success.

“Take $4,000,” Naaman insisted. He gave him two expensive robes, tied up the money in two bags, and gave them to two of his servants to carry back with Gehazi.  (2 Kings 5:23  TLB)

Namaan’s generosity is to be applauded.  He got the gifts ready personally for Gehazi to take back with him.  He gave the conniving servant even more than he asked for.  By now, Gehazi must have been amazed how well his lie had worked!  He may have even in his mind given God the credit for giving him so much.  A lot of Christians behave like that; they acquire things, sometimes by very devious means just like Gehazi, and when they seem to get away with it, they rejoice in their good fortune.

As we read what Gehazi did and of his success, the question must be asked:  Does the end justify the means?  Some people think that it does.  Some Christians think that it does.  But the Bible teaches us something else completely, and what happened to Gehazi’s drives the truth home.

5.  Shocking discovery

Gehazi’s deception continued—

But when they arrived at the hill where Elisha lived, Gehazi took the bags from the servants and sent the men back. Then he hid the money in his house.  When he went in to his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”  “I haven’t been anywhere,” he replied.  (2 Kings 5:25  TLB)

He hid the money and he lied outright to Elisha.  He sounded like a teenager.  “I haven’t been anywhere” is what a kid would tell his father!  Nobody can nowhere; you’re always somewhere!  For such a good lying con-man, this was a real dumb thing to say; a pathetic attempt to cover up a sin.

Christians would never do that, would they?  Think about the last time you went to pray with unconfessed sin in your heart or about the last time you lied to God by justifying your sin.

What happened next reminds us of Deuteronomy 32:32b—

…you may be sure that your sin will catch up with you.  (TLB)

This is one of those verses that we wish was not in the Bible.  Here’s another one—

A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.  (Proverbs 28:13  TLB)

He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.  (Proverbs 28:13  NKJV)

Did Gehazi actually think he’d get away with what he did?  Look who he was working for!

But Elisha asked him, “Don’t you realize that I was there in thought when Naaman stepped down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to receive money and clothing and olive farms and vineyards and sheep and oxen and servants?  (2 Kings 5:26  TLB)

Elisha confronted Gehazi.  He knew where his servant had been.  You could argue that Elish simply knew Gehazi’s heart, but his detailed knowledge of what transpired showed that Elisha’s knowledge was miraculous.

Gehazi’s lies probably made everything worse, but in Elisha’s rebuke is a hint that what Gehazi did was far more serious than first thought:

Is this the time to receive money and clothing and olive farms and vineyards and sheep and oxen and servants?  (2 Kings 5:26b  TLB)

In other words, Gehazi’s greed had cast a dark shadow over the honor and integrity of Elisha’s office as a prophet.  Elisha did his work with NO expectation of pay.  What Gehazi did put Elisha on the same level as all the prophets-for-hire running around at this time in Israel.  Furthermore, Gehazi’s selfish act showed that he had no faith in God to provide for his needs.

There is no such thing as a “secret sin.”  God knew what Gehazi had done, and Elisha did, too.  Because he took advantage of his privileged position for personal gain, Gehazi had to be punished.  In an ironic twist of fate, Gehazi, who had chased after Namaan, a former leper, in order to get something from him, really did get something:  Namaan’s disease.

Gehazi became a victim of his own selfishness.  He became full of a disease and was banished.  The apostle Paul got it right:

For none of us lives to himself…  (Romans 14:7 NKJV)

The sins we engage in that we think effect nobody, actually harm the entire Body of Christ.  Gehazi’s sin harmed himself, Elisha, and even the honor of the Lord.

A Man Full of Hopelessness

Luke 5:12—16

Man without Jesus Christ is not only lost, but hopelessly lost, living in despair. To someone like that, Jesus’ words offer the only hope:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies… (John 11:25)

Man’s withered hopes can be resurrected at the touch of Jesus. A man full of despair can be made clean by God’s grace.

In this stirring incident, Jesus heals a man full of leprosy, void of hope; a lost man. Matthew tells the same story, but he places it right after the Sermon on the Mount. Luke, the physician-historian adds a detail to Mark’s account: the man was “covered with leprosy.” He as literally FULL of leprosy. In other words, the disease had run its course and was in a very advanced state. This man had no future.

This kind of man offered Jesus a chance to demonstrate His compassion and healing power in a way that caused onlookers to think twice about who this Jesus was.

1. Misery does not love company, verse 12

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. (verse 12a)

This incident is recorded in Mark 1:40—45 and Matthew 8:1—4. Mark’s account is the most vivid and all three Gospels place these events during different periods of Jesus’ ministry. This is not unusual. It was not uncommon for Biblical writers to record history, not chronologically, but logically, grouping together teachings and incidents that had common themes. Regardless of precisely when the healing took place, the fact is it did and one man’s life was radically changed by our Lord.

Luke doesn’t tell us what town Jesus was in, but He was probably on the outskirts of the town since lepers were not generally to be found IN any town. This man was not destined to remain in this world for much longer; his leprosy had eaten him up. His health was almost gone. He had no friends, yet he was able to get close enough to Jesus to be touched by Him! The fact this this leper was able to get so close to Jesus is remarkable given what Leviticus 13:45, 46 says—

The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.

It’s interesting to compare what happened in this incident with a similar one later on in the ministry of Jesus:

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance… (Luke 17:12)

Like sin, leprosy works slowly but irresistibly. It can be deadly. It poisons the blood, ultimately polluting the whole body. Sin affects the heart, which in turn directs the whole course of one’s life. Sin corrupts a person’s entire being, inside and out. A sinner without Christ is not only in a hopeless state, he is already dead. During the early days of the Church, Rome considered lepers as dead and actually had “rites” said over them!

A person living in sin is dead to God, regardless of how he may feel.

When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (verse 12b)

Seeing Jesus was enough to inspire hope in this man’s heart. No doubt he heard about this “miracle working” teacher and somehow he realized that in this Man rested his last, best hope for life. This poor leper had no guarantee that he would get the help he needed. But he stepped out in faith in a most humble manner: he fell on his face before Jesus.

This leper demonstrated not only faith but submission. He was sure Jesus had the power to heal him, but he wasn’t so sure of Jesus’ willingness to heal him. He had begged Jesus to heal him, but at the same time he was willing to submit himself to Christ’s sovereignty. What an important lesson for all believers to learn! This very short prayer reveals two important things:

(1) A knowledge of Jesus. He didn’t know much, but this leper had some knowledge of Jesus, and intelligent faith grows out of knowledge. The problem with too many believers today, and why so they are so often disappointed with their prayer lives, is that they really don’t know much about the Savior they are praying to! The more you know about Jesus through what the Word reveals about Him, the greater your understanding of Him will be, and the stronger your faith will be.

(2) The burning desire of the leper. He wanted to be healed. The leper prayed a focused prayer. It wasn’t long, but it was to the point. The leper confessed his need simply and succinctly.

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:6—8)

2. Instant healing, verse 13

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Over and over again, the Gospels attest to the “healing touch” of Jesus! Every miracle in the Gospels is linked not only to Jesus’ “I am willing,” but also to His coming into contact with the one who was in need. However, it is interesting to note that sometimes, the one in need wasn’t touched by Jesus; sometimes they (the needy ones) took the initiative and reached out to touch Him. Either way, somehow there had to be a connection between the needy one and the healing power that flowed from Jesus. It wasn’t magic! It was the willingness of Jesus and the faith of the leper. Mark gives us an important detail Luke leaves out:

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. (Mark 1:41a)

The man may have been full of leprosy, but Jesus was full of compassion. The compassion was where need met power.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, KJV)

(1) The touch. Jesus touched the leper. Unthinkable! No healthy person would dare touch a leper. According to the Law, the moment Jesus touched this man, Jesus became defiled. But, the power of God, flowing through the Jesus, cleansed the disease.

(2) The word. Jesus told the man: “I am willing to heal you. Be clean!” Jesus not only touched the man, He gave the man assurance by His word. We are saved by the blood of Jesus along with the power of His Word. Jesus speaks and it is done.

(3) Total healing. What a miracle! Immediately the leprosy left this man’s body. One moment this man was full of sickness but his heart was empty. The next moment his situation was completely turned on its head! The disease was completely gone and his life was full of hope.

Jesus was a rule-breaker! He loved to “go rogue” around the religionists. Here He touched a leper, in defiance of the Law. Later on (7:14), Jesus would touch a coffin, another forbidden act. Jesus would not let any rule or man stop Him from His work. He did what He had to do. And He still does.

3. A curious command, verse 14

Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Why would Jesus tell this healed man to keep quiet about his healing? That surely goes against not only human nature, but also the mandate to witness and share one’s faith. Some have asserted the idea that Jesus wanted to prevent or at least forestall a national “crown the Messiah” frenzy. Jesus may have wanted to prevent some other crisis. Jesus may have wanted to correct the misconception that He was some kind traveling miracle worker. This wasn’t the first time Jesus wanted a miracle kept quiet; it happened back in 4:41.

But hand-in-hand with the command to keep quiet about the healing, this former leper was to do something else.  Jesus was mindful of the Law of Moses, and He commanded this man to go and present himself to the priest so that the priest could confirm that he was clean; that the leprosy was gone and so that he could be restored to full social and religious fellowship. In addition, he was to make a special offering, two clean, living birds, according to Leviticus 14:1 – 7.

If the command to be silent about a healing was a recurring pattern in the Gospels, so was the urge to disobey it. Instead of silence, there were voices. Lots of voices!

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.

Even Jesus couldn’t stop people from talking! Of note is the telling phrase, “all the more.” Clearly, during these early days of His ministry, Jesus was a genuine phenom, at least among the common folk.We read this in Mark’s account:

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (Mark 1:45)

Huge crowds were now looking for Jesus. They came from all over for two reasons: to “hear Him” and to “be healed of their sicknesses.”

Here is where and why Jesus began His practice of withdrawing from the public arena to be alone and to pray by Himself. As a man, Jesus would need to rest. We may be sure that the Gospels record merely a fraction of Jesus’ work among the sick and lost. Anybody who has every engaged in public speaking of any kind, but especially of preaching or teaching the Gospel, knows how exhausting a few minutes behind a podium or pulpit can be. Add to that the compassion and heartfelt love Jesus had when He saw the sick and dying coming to Him as their only hope, and we can totally understand why Jesus the Man needed to rest.

But Jesus the Son of God needed to get by Himself so that He could commune with His heavenly Father; so that He could seek His Father’s will and direction and receive divine strength. If any man knew about the importance of prayer, it was Luke. Luke had that in common with his friend Paul, whom he would later travel the world with, taking the Gospel to other people who were lost and full of hopelessness.

Jesus, the Son of God, is still full of compassion and still has the power to heal.  Maybe you don’t have a disease like leprosy, but maybe you feel a sense of hopelessness, or a sense that your life is far from what it could be.  Maybe you need to come into contact with Someone with the power to heal you and make your life right.  These are things things Jesus is so good at!  And these are things He still does.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  (Revelation 3:20)


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