2 Kings 5 – Week Nine
From the moment that we are conceived, there are expectations.
Our parents expected that we would be born with two eyes, two ears, one nose, ten fingers, and ten toes.
As we grew, we developed our own expectations, and they were different for each of us. Some expected to get married and have children and settle down. Others expected to travel and discover new things. Some met their expectations; some did not. Our expectations generate each day. We have expectations about how our day will go. We have expectations with our family. We have expectations with our job. We have expectations with life in general. Some of us will lean towards having high expectations while some of us tend to have low expectations. It’s a glass half-full, glass half-empty situation.
Life is full of expectations. Passengers on the Titanic expected to arrive safely in New York City in the year 1912. Those boarding flights on 9/11 expected nothing worse than perhaps a little turbulence. In 2020, we expected that the coronavirus would be short-lived. Having expectations often set us up for disappointment. But there are times when the unexpected is a blessing. Mary and Martha expected that they had lived their last days with Lazarus, but instead, Jesus called to him and said, “Lazarus, come out!” The Samaritan woman expected to draw water from the well and return to her sinful way of living without an encounter from anyone. But Jesus had another idea. He not only speaks to her, but He also peels back the layers of her sinfulness and offers her living water, and freedom.
Today, we are introduced to Naaman in 2 Kings 5.
2 Kings 5:1 HCSB “Naaman, commander of the army for the king of Aram, was a great man in his master’s sight and highly regarded because through him, the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was a brave warrior, but he had a skin disease.”
Naaman was not just a military man. He was a great commander. God had used him to lead his army to great victories and he was highly regarded. Naaman was blessed with honor, respect, wealth, and power. On the outside, Naaman had a lot going for him. Underneath the armor, though, he had a skin disease. He was a leper.
We hear stories of lepers in the Bible. We know “those who were perceived to have leprosy in the regions where the Bible was written were considered the lowest in society. They faced rejection and were beggars who lived on the side of the road. In Jesus’ culture, it was forbidden for Rabbis to touch people who were classed as ‘unclean’, which included those affected by leprosy.”[i]
So, the obvious question is why was Naaman in a high-ranking position and not thrown outside the city gates and told to yell “unclean!” to passersby. The difference with Naaman was he lived in Syria. “This did not exclude him from the society of men in that country, where the Jewish law was not in force. But it was a great blemish upon him, and also likely to prove deadly; there being no cure for this disease, a disease very common in Syria.”[ii]
In fact, Jesus refers to the commonness of leprosy in Naaman’s time. Luke 4:27 DAR “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian.”
In Naaman, we have this great warrior, highly respected, abundant in wealth and honor, but he has this affliction. That word “but” keeps him humble. It’s that word “but” that discredits him or flaws him to a degree. Different translations word it differently but the meaning is the same. A brave warrior, but he has a skin disease. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. A mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. The man was mighty in strength, but he was a leper. He was a great soldier but suffered from a dreaded skin disease. But. But. But. But. Over and over again, that word lets us know that something unexpected has occurred because Naaman probably didn’t have expectations of being a leper.
2 Kings 5:2 CEV “One day while the Syrian troops were raiding Israel, they captured a girl, and she became a servant of Naaman’s wife. 3 Some time later the girl said, “If your husband Naaman would go to the prophet in Samaria, he would be cured of his leprosy.”
4 When Naaman told the king what the girl had said, 5 the king replied, “Go ahead! I will give you a letter to take to the king of Israel.”
This servant girl who is never named and who tends to Naaman’s wife suggests that he see this prophet in Samaria. She’s referring to Elisha, who has taken over for our beloved Elijah. This sweet servant girl who had been captured and taken from her homeland has expectations that Naaman will be healed.
Naaman, who we can assume was desperate for a cure, goes to the king and asks to go. The king is all for it! He even sends a letter for Naaman to take to the king of Israel as a courteous means of introduction.
Naaman gets to packing and along with ten sets of clothes, he also takes 30,000 pieces of silver as well as 6,000 pieces of gold. He expects this is going to cost him.
2 Kings 5:6 CEV “6 He also carried the letter to the king of Israel. It said, “I am sending my servant Naaman to you. Would you cure him of his leprosy?”
7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in fear and shouted, “That Syrian king believes I can cure this man of leprosy! Does he think I’m God with power over life and death? He must be trying to pick a fight with me.”
This was probably not the response that Naaman was expecting. Somehow, the lines of communication get crossed and the king of Israel is seeing this request for help as more of a threat. The king is suspicious of Naaman’s motives. But word somehow reaches Elisha as to what’s happening.
2 Kings 5:8 CEV “8 As soon as Elisha the prophet heard what had happened, he sent the Israelite king this message: “Why are you so afraid? Send the man to me, so that he will know there is a prophet in Israel.”
9 Naaman left with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent someone outside to say to him, “Go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then you’ll be completely cured.”
Hmmm…okay. Naaman, this mighty warrior, this valiant and highly respected man is probably looking around at his entourage and thinking, “This is not at all what I was expecting.”
First, he goes to the king and the response is the king tearing his clothes in fear and assuming that Naaman intends to do him harm. Then Naaman is summoned by this prophet, Elisha, who doesn’t even bother to get up from his La-Z-Boy chair to face him directly, but rather sends someone else out with the message. Then he’s told to the Jordan River and wash, not once, not twice, but seven times! This was all totally unexpected. And Naaman isn’t too happy about not having his expectations met.
2 Kings 5:11 CEV “But Naaman stormed off, grumbling, “Why couldn’t he come out and talk to me? I thought for sure he would stand in front of me and pray to the Lord his God, then wave his hand over my skin and cure me. 12 What about the Abana River or the Pharpar River? Those rivers in Damascus are just as good as any river in Israel. I could have washed in them and been cured.”
You see, Naaman had already played out the scenario in his mind as to how everything would go. He expected to see the prophet Elisha face-to-face. That didn’t happen. He expected that Elisha would simply pray to God and wave his hand over Naaman to cure him. That didn’t happen. He certainly didn’t expect to be sent to a much smaller and muddier river that was twenty-five miles away when there were more appealing and more convenient rivers nearby. But that’s exactly what happened.
The Jordan River wasn’t just a small, somewhat dirty river. The Jordan River was symbolic to the Jews. We first hear about the Jordan River area when Abraham and Lot decide to part ways. Lot chose the area east of the river and settled near Sodom. Abraham took the west side of the Jordan in the land of Canaan. The Jordan River would be the boundary line between the future Promised Land to God’s people and the sinful, wicked land that would be destroyed because of its vileness.
The Israelites would later cross over the Jordan River and God would cause the river to dry up so that they could have an easier passage. Joshua 4:22 NKJV “Then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; 23 for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” God used the Jordan River to demonstrate his power.
In another major event, Elijah and Elisha had to the Jordan River at the Lord’s instruction, and it was there that Elijah was carried off by a chariot and horses of fire. No doubt that Elisha would ever forget where he was when that occurred.
Shortly afterward, Elisha performed a lesser-known miracle there at the Jordan. 2 Kings 6:1 ICB “The group of the prophets said to Elisha, “The place where we meet with you is too small for us. 2 Let’s go to the Jordan River. There every man can get a pole. And let’s build a place there to live.”
Elisha said, “Go.”
3 One of them said, “Please go with us.”
Elisha said, “I will go.” 4 So he went with them. When they arrived at the Jordan, they cut down some trees. 5 As one man was cutting down a tree, the head of his ax fell into the water. He yelled, “Oh, my master! I borrowed that ax!”
6 Elisha asked, “Where did it fall?” The man showed Elisha the place. Then Elisha cut down a stick and threw it into the water. It made the iron head float. 7 Elisha said, “Pick up the axhead.” Then the man reached out and took it. ” Once again, the Jordan River was the location of another demonstration of God’s power.
Probably most significant is that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and it was there that God acknowledged Jesus as His son. There was no coincidence in that.
The Jordan River is mentioned nearly 200 times in the Bible and its symbolism is great.
In Deuteronomy 30:15 MSG, God illustrates the significance of the Jordan River in a message He has Moses deliver to the Israelites. “Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you
Life and Good
Death and Evil.
16 And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess.
17-18 But I warn you: If you have a change of heart, refuse to listen obediently, and willfully go off to serve and worship other gods, you will most certainly die. You won’t last long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19-20 I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself, a long life settled on the soil that God, your God, promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.“
Through Moses, God is telling the Israelites that to cross over the Jordan River was to choose life and goodness with Him.
“But, the Jordan River also represents the idea of “living water” in Christianity and has become a place that symbolizes new life.”[iii]
The Jordan River was iconic because of its location as a border between good and evil, its choice as a site of miracles and significant events as well as the line to cross to choose life over death. In fact, the Biblical meaning of the name Jordan means “the river of judgment”.[iv]
There was significance in Naaman being sent to the Jordan River.; he just didn’t know it. It was further away, it wasn’t as big or powerful as the closer rivers in Damascus, it wasn’t as clean and it certainly wasn’t what Naaman expected. But that’s where he was sent, and he is not happy about it. Naaman was a well-known, highly-respected man who was known to be brave and heroic. He most likely didn’t want to be seen bathing in a muddy river. What would people think? And to think that he was being told to do it seven times. Although it was a simple task, it would be quite humbling and embarrassing. It wasn’t what he wanted and it wasn’t what he expected.
We will find ourselves dealing with the unexpected in life. Sometimes it’s good and we see it as a surprise blessing. But sometimes those unexpected events are not what we wanted. They’re painful, inconvenient, humbling, and so not what we expected. Those unexpected moments take our breath away. There may have been moments in our lives in which we felt as if we were competing with Job as to who had it more difficult. We can spend our days and nights wallowing in self-pity, asking God “why me?”, and shutting off any means of encouragement from others simply because they couldn’t possibly understand the weight of our unexpected. The sun still makes an appearance in the sky every day, but we don’t feel it shine on us.
What we didn’t expect has occurred and it has shaken our world and our ears, our eyes, and our heart just won’t focus on God. We struggle because we know that God is good. We know that God is loving.
We know that His Word assures us that if we put our hope in Him, He will renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31).
The Lord will fight for us, we just need to be still. (Exodus 14:14)
He will deliver us if we call on Him in times of trouble. (Psalm 50:15)
We are promised that if we love Him and are called according to His purpose that all things work together for our good. (Romans 8:28)
If we’ll just go to Him, He will give us rest. (Matthew 11:28)
There are many more promises that God has made and we can find ourselves standing on the promises of God and declaring victory over any unexpected heartbreak that comes our way. Or, we can defiantly stand there as Naaman did, angry, grumbling, and shouting that this is not what we expected! We can allow the unexpected to take over and blind us to seeing God’s fingerprints on our life. But the healing won’t begin until we are obedient to God.
That’s what Naaman found out. 2 Kings 5:13 GNT “His servants went up to him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. Now why can’t you just wash yourself, as he said, and be cured?” His servants spoke the truth. Naaman had expected to be prayed over and cured. Since that didn’t happen, this great and mighty warrior may have expected to carry out some great task or conquer a difficult challenge in order to be healed. But instead, he was instructed to bathe seven times in a river far away. Totally unexpected.
After being prodded and gently scolded by his servants, Naaman makes his journey to the Jordan River. 2 Kings 5:14b GNT “dipped himself in it seven times, as Elisha had instructed, and he was completely cured. His flesh became firm and healthy like that of a child. 15 He returned to Elisha with all his men and said, “Now I know that there is no god but the God of Israel;”
There was one more unexpected event for Naaman to experience. Remember all that gold and silver that Naaman had packed? He offered it to Elisha as a gift. Elijah, however, refused it saying “By the living Lord, whom I serve, I swear that I will not accept a gift.” (2 Kings 5:16 GNT)
Naaman’s expectations weren’t met; they were exceeded. That’s what happens when we put our faith in God and are obedient to Him. What we expect and what God will do are not always the same; in fact, sometimes the two are a universe away from each other. But rest assured. God loves you. He is more aware of what’s going on in your life than you are. He has compassion for whatever afflicts you. His ways are always the best for us whether we see it or not. No matter what scenario we imagine, God’s script never needs to be overwritten. Ephesians 3:20 GNT “To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: 21 to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen.”
Babbie Mason wrote and sings a song whose lyrics are imprinted on my heart.
“God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see his plan
When you can’t trace his hand
Trust His Heart.”[v]
Especially when the unexpected occurs.
[ii] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/5-1.htm (Benson)