2 Kings 5:1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram.
In the political order, Naaman was probably second only to the king. He was a valiant man and highly regarded because of his many victories. But even the strongest are frail, and one day Naaman noticed a patch of skin that was different from the rest. He may have treated it with balm, and hoped it would go away, but it remained. The condition grew worse, in fact, and began to spread. Naaman probably went to an expert who confirmed his deepest concern. It was leprosy. This meant the end of Naaman’s career, and even his family life, since he would probably have to live in isolation until he died.
2 Kings 5:2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.
It was a terrible day when this little girl was taken from her family, and she must have wondered why God allowed it to happen. But nothing happens by accident, and God had important work for her. When she learned of Naaman’s condition, she told his wife that the prophet Elisha could heal him. Her child-like faith seems simplistic, but God would use her witness dramatically. Whenever bad things happen to us, we should be alert to how God may want to use us.
2 Kings 5:4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.
The words of a little girl from Israel were now the subject of conversation between a king and the commander of his army. Naaman’s situation was desperate, and since there was no hope for him in Aram, the king encouraged Naaman to go to Israel. He also gave him a letter to Israel’s king.
Some people only seek God when they are desperate, but seeking God is never a bad idea. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13), said God elsewhere. Our prayers will not always be answered the way we want, but God will always do what is best. And nothing compares to knowing God better.
2 Kings 5:6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.
Israel’s king was understandably alarmed. Since miracles are not available on demand, the king of Aram seemed to be starting a fight. But the prophet Elisha was not at all concerned. Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel (2 Kings 5:8), he said. So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house (2 Kings 5:9).
This was an important moment for Naaman. He came a long way and his hopes were high. He had even imagined what would happen next. Elisha would wave his hand over the spot, call on God, and cure him (2 Kings 5:11). But that is not what happened.
In fact, Elisha did not even come to the door. His messenger simply told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was so insulted that he left in a rage and mocked the Jordan River. But after his servants calmed him down, he went to the river and did as he was told. When he came out, his skin was completely restored.
God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (James 4:6), wrote James. If Naaman remained proud, he would not have received what he came for. But when he humbled himself, and obeyed Elisha, God gave him what he wanted. Whoever wants to receive from God will be helped by a little humility.
2 Kings 5:15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.
Naaman was a changed man. He was not only healed, but converted. He publicly confessed that Israel’s God exists, and all other gods do not. This was a bold profession of faith, but Naaman went even further. [P]lease accept a gift, he said. He had 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing (2 Kings 5:5). This was an extreme amount of wealth, but it seemed like very little compared to his life.
2 Kings 5:16 The prophet answered, As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing. And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
Elisha could have used the money to build a school, a house, or any number of things. But he refused to accept it because he did not earn it. God did the miracle, not Elisha. He may have also feared that Naaman would think his motives were mixed. You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), said Jesus.
Success in ministry is not determined by income, but by faithfulness. Christian ministers should be paid (1 Corinthians 9:14), but should handle financial matters with complete integrity, so they do not discredit the gospel.
2 Kings 5:17 [I] will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.
As Naaman thought about his future, he resolved never to sacrifice to pagan gods again. But he had a problem. Part of his royal duty was to escort the king of Aram to a pagan temple and bow down. For this he wanted forgiveness. Go in peace, Elisha said (1 Kings 5:19).
This was quite a concession in light of the second commandment. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything . . . . You shall not bow down to them (Exodus 20:4-5). But Elisha’s consent seems to imply God’s consent as well. If so, it shows that God is understanding toward those who want to follow him, even if they do so imperfectly.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:9-14), wrote David.
2 Kings 5:19-20 After Naaman had traveled some distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.
Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was astonished that Elisha declined a fortune without a second thought. Surely it was meant to be a blessing for their years of faithful service. So Gehazi went after Naaman and requested a gift, which Naaman was happy to give. But after Gehazi returned, Elisha said to him, Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever (1 Kings 5:17). Gehazi put money ahead of God, and it cost him everything.
Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10), wrote Paul. Money is so powerful that people will do almost anything for more of it, even at the cost of their souls.
One man stole a bag of coins and put it into his backpack. He jumped into a river, to avoid police, but sunk to the bottom and died. First he got the money, then the money got him. That is what happens to everyone who puts money ahead of God.
Reflection and Review
Why did Elisha allow Naaman to participate in paganism?
Is it wrong for Christian ministries to ask for money?
Is it wrong for Christians to pursue wealth?