2 Kings 5[i]
Leprosy terrorized humanity for millennia. Before the age of antibiotics, leprosy was untreatable, incurable and terminal. The disease started with skin lesions and insensitivity of the body’s extremities (fingers, toes and such), and progressed to disfigurement and death.
Today, leprosy is considered curable and although approximately 180,000 cases exist in the world, it is considered rare. In 2015, 63 cases of leprosy were diagnosed in the United States.[ii]
In 1873, a doctor, named G. H. Armauer Hansen, discovered the bacterium that is the cause of leprosy. As a result, the disease is now also known as “Hansen’s Disease.”[iii]
The bacterium that causes leprosy can live in a person’s body for many years without causing any symptoms. Therefore, leprosy has a long or unpredictable incubation period. A person exposed to the disease may never develop symptoms or may develop symptoms 6 months, a year or 20 years after exposure.
Because of these characteristics of the disease, its unpredictable incubation and incurable nature, it is used typologically to represent sin and impurity in the Bible. God does not fear, hate or misuse the victims of leprosy. However, humanity has done so in the past. As long as it was considered incurable and was not understood, leprosy was greatly feared, and to be diagnosed with leprosy was to be instantly made an outcast. The only way to control the spread of the disease was to isolate those infected, separating them from the general population. The similarity with sin breaks down at this point, because humanity is all infected with sin without a single exception.
In 2 Kings 5, we meet Naaman. Naaman was the commander of the army of Aram, a mighty warrior and a leper.
In his day, this was a certain death sentence. There was no cure. However, Naaman was valuable to the king of Aram. Naaman led his troops to great victories. Therefore, the king was willing to commit the resources of the nation to curing Naaman.
For a disease or condition without a cure, no amount of resources, money or effort can help. Sin is like this. No amount of resources, training, effort or money can alter the natural course of sin in a person’s life.
Our world screams, “Where is God in all of this?” “God is silent.” “He does not speak.” However, humanity refuses to acknowledge we have a problem. We refuse to acknowledge that we are sick, disfigured and infected with a terminal illness.
Naaman was not in denial. The Scripture does not tell us Naaman tried to hide or deny his disease. However, it does tell us that a young servant girl told Naaman’s wife, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:3)
The first step in finding healing, help or a cure is to acknowledge the problem.
Whether the problem is physical or spiritual, this acknowledgement must be honest. It will not do to treat leprosy as if it is a simple wart or acne. It will not do to treat cancer as if it is a simple cold. It will not do to treat alcoholism as if it is a simple desire for alcohol. It will not do to treat sex outside of marriage as if it is a simple desire for pleasure or happiness. At what point are we willing to acknowledge we have a problem?
Naaman was on the right track. He knew he had a problem.
God provided an answer.
He always does. In the case of Naaman, it was through a servant girl. Of course, Naaman would not have listened to the servant girl. However, he did listen to his wife. We do not always listen, but occasionally God gets through to us.
Naaman listened and told the king there was hope in Samaria. Therefore, the king sent money and a letter to the king of Israel, who lived in Samaria, saying, “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:6)
The king of Aram and Naaman made the mistake we all tend to make. They looked to other people for the answer. Other people are not the answer. Other people help us in so far as they bring us to the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6)
The king of Israel responded by tearing his clothes and saying, “He is trying to pick a fight with me.” There was no way that he could cure Naaman’s leprosy. However, Elijah heard of the king’s dilemma and sent the king a message saying:
Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel. (2 Kings 5:8)
At this point, Naaman is being directed to the only One who can help.
Naaman went to Elisha’s house. He went with horses and chariots, because he was an important man. He represented a nation and came with a letter of introduction from his king.
This is human. We like to be important.
Elisha is unimpressed. He does not bother to come out of the house. He sends a messenger out to tell Naaman:
Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy. (2 Kings 5:10)
Naaman is outraged. He said:
“I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” (2 Kings 5:11-12)
However, Naaman’s officers reasoned with him and said:
“Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” (2 Kings 5:13)
As a result, Naaman went and washed himself in the Jordan River and he was healed of his leprosy.
Our expectations keep us from the healing God has for us.
We want to be treated as important, but we must humble ourselves and acknowledge our leprosy (read sin). We want to pay for a cure or earn a cure, but no price can pay for what we need. We want to do some great deed in order to merit being cured. However, God has provided only one Way.
Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
Our expectation is that we should be able to find our own way to God, but He says there is only one Way.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Our expectation is that nothing is free. We have to work for it. However, God takes away our right to boast. We cannot earn it. If Naaman had done some great deed to take healing for himself, he could have boasted, but God did not give him that option. Neither does God give any of us that option.
Our world may scream, “Where is God in all of this?” However, as long as we refuse to acknowledge we have a problem and as long as we refuse to accept His solution, God’s voice falls on deaf ears.
God gave His Son to save us from our sins, what more do we expect?
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.