Jump Start # 2033
2 Kings 5:1 “Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him, the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.”
He sat in the corner of the waiting room of a doctor’s office. He sat all alone. A mask covered his mouth and nose. His head hung down. You could just tell he wasn’t feeling well. The mask gave the indication that he probably had the dreaded flu that has been so rampant throughout the country. Everyone that came into the office looked at him. No one dared sit by him. His very presence made me wonder what it must have felt like to have leprosy.
There are many accounts of leprosy throughout the Bible. Moses put his hand into his shirt and pulled it out and it was leprous. Moses’ sister, Miriam, became leprous. There were the ten lepers who begged Jesus for mercy. One returned and thanked Jesus. He was a Samaritan.
Our verse today, shows the mighty soldier, Naaman, and all his wonderful qualities. He was a captain of the army. He was considered a great man to his master. He was highly respected. The Lord worked through him, even though he was a gentile. He was a brave warrior. He had fought many battles. In our modern times, his chest would be decorated with ribbons and medals. A hero. With all those powerful statement, is that dreaded word, BUT. But he was a leper. Those accomplishments meant nothing now. Of all the battles he fought, this would be the greatest. His fellow soldiers would not be able to help him. This was a personal battle. It was his own war. We are not told how he got leprosy, that doesn’t really matter. Was it from battling a leprous opponent? Was it from helping a hurting citizen? Was he careless? Did he do everything according to the book? He has leprosy, and now he can’t do anything about it. His king can’t help him. His master can’t help him. His family can’t help him. He is on his own in this journey.
Not only was leprosy an sure invitation of death, it also came with an extreme social stigma. It’s one thing to have a broken leg. You can’t catch that from someone else. Cancer, bad news. But cancer isn’t contagious. Leprosy was different. It was extremely contagious. To keep it hidden, to be silent about it, would likely give the same horrific disease to your family. This is why we learn about leper colonies back then. This is why we find a leprous Samaritan gathered with leprous Jews. Their disease brought them together. They had one thing in common, that dreaded disease.
Unlike that masked guy sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, the lepers had no hope of medicines that would make them better. The flu, with the right drugs, passes in a few days or a couple of weeks. Not so with the leper.
Naaman’s leprosy came to the attention of a servant girl from Israel. She had been captured. Rather than being bitter or wishing the death upon all Syrians, she told of a prophet would could heal him. Word was sent. Naaman, because of his position and prominence, must have expected the prophet himself will show up. He didn’t. He expected a dramatic display of power. Mighty words. Arms waving in the air. A real show. That didn’t happen. Just a plain, ordinary message. Go dip seven times in the Jordan River. That’s it? That is supposed to get rid of leprosy? Surely, this must be a joke. Naaman was furious. He wasn’t going to do it. The leprosy remained. He finally humbled himself and obeyed the message. His leprosy left him.
Great lessons come from standing in the shadows of Naaman.
First, there are certain things in life that we are unable to conquer ourselves. It is amazing what we can do. We have proven that we can break the gravitational pull of the earth and shoot a rocket to the moon. We can even bring those men from the moon back to earth. Amazing. We have proven that we can open the chest of a diseased heart and transplant a different heart into that chest and the patient lives. Amazing. We can send emails across the world in seconds. Amazing. But all of this can make us believe that we can do anything. We can’t. It can make us believe that we can solve all problems. We can’t. It can make us think that nothing is beyond our reach. There are things we can’t touch. Modern times has taught us to man up and be tough. It has taught us to figure things out. And what modern times has little room for is prayer in God. Why prayer, when we can do just about anything? We have fooled ourselves into thinking that we do not need God.
The N.T. equivalent to Naaman’s leprosy is sin. The exception is that we have sin because we chose that. Leprosy wasn’t chosen. No one would want it. All of our credentials and all of our accomplishments cannot remove the stain of sin. Only Jesus’ blood can. We will never outgrow the need for Jesus.
Second, we, like Naaman, want, expect and look for solutions that seem more impressive than the Gospel of Jesus. We want twelve steps. We want seminars. We want literature, booklets and slide shows that walk us through better thinking and better lives. The answer we really need is found in Jesus. Baptism? Walking with the Lord? Denying ourselves? Taking up our cross? Really? In today’s world? Surely, there are better things for us today. Nope. And, like Naaman, when we walk away from the Gospel plan, we walk away with our diseased souls, broken and helpless.
Third, sometimes the answers are spoken from the most uncommon places. For Naaman, it was the voice of a captured servant girl. She wasn’t a noble. She wasn’t a warrior. She certainly wasn’t in the army. What could she possibly tell someone like Naaman. She knew. She had seen. She believed. For us, it might be the voice of one of our kids. It might be the voice of a high school student. It might be the voice of a senior citizen. Do we dismiss it because of who said it. Do we even listen to them? We expect our preachers to have the answers. We want our elders to have all the right answers. But from a kid? A teenager?
Fourth, sin once it’s known is embarrassing. That guy wearing the mask in the doctor’s office couldn’t help having the flu. It’s everywhere. Sin is a choice. There comes an embarrassing stigma that is attached to sin. We don’t think about that much. Sin is shameful. Sin is wrong. But the forgiveness of God restores us to where we ought to be. Under the banner of forgiveness all hope is restored. Wrongs can be made right. Masks can be removed. We can embrace fellowship with one another.
Sitting in the corner of life, wearing a mask, and hoping that no one will notice us, is not the way God expects us to live. God has something much better for us.
Naaman found that. You and I can find that in Jesus Christ.