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There is a God

Date: May. 17, 2015

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

2 Kings 5:1-27

Key Verse: 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. So please accept a gift from your servant.’”

I know that if you are here, then you already have some idea about if there is a God, but have you ever experienced any doubt about God’s existence? Have you ever wondered, even for a moment, if there is a God? A lot of the world just denies his existence. What if they are right? What if all of our faith and belief is in something that doesn’t exist? It would mean that our lives are emptier than anyone else’s life in the whole world because we serve a myth and a lie. That would be horrible. I am so happy that that really is not true. Our God does exist and he loves us, his children. Those questions of doubt may be bombarding us from all over the place. We see it on the news, the internet, in books, or we hear about it in class or when talking to our friends. However, when we take a chance to trust God’s existence, we can open ourselves up to meet him and to know him. In today’s passage, there is a man that does not believe in God, but he took a chance and trusted. In the end, he saw that there is only one true God.

Our passage, this week, begins by introducing us to Naaman. “Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” (1) As the verse says, Naaman was the commander of the Aramean army, pretty much second in command of all of Aram. He was great man and highly regarded by the king of Aram. He was wealthy, powerful, honored and he had a problem. For all the great things in his life, Naaman had a terminal disease. He had leprosy, and in those days, leprosy was fatal and thought to be highly contagious. It was only a matter time until the disease would spread to his whole body. Leprosy is caused by bacteria and there can be no symptoms for five to twenty years after infection. Eventually, the symptoms that do form are granulomas from around nerves, respiratory tract, skin and eyes. Granulomas are white blood cells that gather around an item that the immune system thinks is foreign and cannot get rid of. This means that the immune system cordons off nerves and skin thinking that they are foreign to the body. Over time, there is a loss of feeling and pain because the nerves no longer function. Then disfigurement can occur because the person does not know that they have been injured or if a secondary infection has taken place. It looks like Naaman’s leprosy was not advanced. In many places, people with leprosy were shunned by society. It may have been that only a few people knew of his disease or he was so highly regarded that his disease didn’t matter that much to people. At any rate, Naaman’s leprosy was still the one sore spot in his life.

Now, one of Naaman’s servants had a solution to his problem. The young servant told Naaman’s wife, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (3) The young girl was from Israel. Raiders had attacked her town and took the girl and sold her into slavery in Aram. She became the servant of Naaman’s wife, and apparently served her well. I find it very interesting that the girl gives a solution to Naaman’s leprosy. You see, Arameans stole the girl from her home, and she might have been angry toward all the people of Aram for her capture. Her freedom was stolen and the ones who held her captive now were Naaman and his wife. The girl could have resented Naaman and be glad to see him afflicted with such a terrible disease, because, in those days, leprosy was considered fatal. The girl could have been glad that Naaman was going to die a slow, horrible death. Instead, she shows compassion for her master and suggests that he go see the prophet in her home country.

What’s more amazing than the girl’s suggestion is that Naaman actually listens to her and even tells the king about what she said. Like I said before, Naaman is the number-two guy in all of Aram. Why would he listen to any of his servants, especially one that is a young girl from an enemy country? It’s seems kind of absurd. She could have had it out for him, but Naaman listens to her and the king does too. What does it hurt to check it out? All he would have to do was go to Samaria and see the prophet. It would probably just take him a few days or so to find out if there was a cure for his leprosy. So, he saddles up and takes with him a letter from the king and a lot of swag. Naaman was prepared to either be thankful or to pay the prophet whatever the cost for his healing. Naaman goes to Samaria to see the king. If there was such a powerful prophet in Israel, then surely he would be in the king’s employ. What king would pass up the power and knowledge of such a prophet? So Naaman goes to Joram king of Israel and hands him the letter from the king of Aram.

Joram’s response is quite what Naaman expected. Joram basically soiled himself when he read the letter. He tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!” (7) Joram thought that the king of Aram was trying to pick a fight with him. He thought that Aram was just looking for a reason to attack Israel. “Well, I’m going to fight you because you couldn’t heal my man of leprosy.” It’s like saying, “Well, I’m going to fight you because you couldn’t teach my dog how to talk.” Nobody ever said that they could teach a dog how to talk. This is no different. Naaman just shows up demanding that he be cured of leprosy and Joram never said that he or anyone else is able to heal anyone of leprosy. It has got to be Aram looking for a reason to fight.

When Elisha heard that Joram needed a new diaper, he told the king to send Naaman his way and he would know that there is a prophet in Israel. Naaman took his entourage, all the horses and chariots that came with him and went to Elisha’s house. “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’” (10) Elisha didn’t wait for a knock or even go to the door himself. He sent a messenger to the door to deliver the message and even that was strange. Elisha told Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan and this flesh would be restored.

When Naaman heard the messenger, he was angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” (11-12) Naaman thought that something special would happen. He didn’t even see Elisha. Naaman expected that Elisha would come out and mutter some special words, wave his hands over the spot, show some magic and heal the leprosy. Naaman wanted a big spectacle, but all he was told to do was wash in the Jordan. The Jordan wasn’t a clean river. It was known to be muddy. Naaman knew it and thought it better to wash in the rivers of Damascus. It was all so strange, but everything that was going on had a singular purpose.

Elisha seems very aloof about this whole situation, but let’s look back in the passage again. When the girl servant suggested that Naaman go to Samaria to be healed, she said that he should go see the prophet and be healed. She didn’t say that God would heal him, but that the healing would come through the prophet. Naaman went to Israel to find a man to heal him, but Elisha didn’t want to confuse Naaman in thinking that he had power, but rather Elisha wanted Naaman to know God. Doing things in a way that Naaman didn’t expect would allow him to know that the healing didn’t come through magic or a man, but through God. Even Joram knew that only God could heal Naaman of his leprosy and now it was time for Naaman to know it as well.

The story continues, “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, “Wash and be cleansed”!’” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” (13-14) One of the servants that came with Naaman reasoned with him. Naaman had expected a huge spectacle and, if Elisha told him to do a great thing like take a quest to find a rare blue flower and bring it to the top of a mountain or to search the world for seven mystical orbs that, when brought together, would allow a person to wish for anything he wanted, then Naaman would have done it. However, here it was, Naaman was only told to go and wash seven times in the Jordan. It was a simple thing to do. The servant showed Naaman that he was angry because he only had a simple thing to do in order to be cleansed. It is kind of outrageous. Naaman could have been angry at the fact that Elisha didn’t come out to greet him. His pride could have been hurt, but the servant just mentions about the simplicity of the task. Naaman was angry because it wasn’t what he expected. He felt swindled and was furious, but what it boiled down to was the fact that Naaman was angry because washing in the Jordan seemed too simple. Honestly, that sounds a little silly.

When Naaman realized his folly, he went to the Jordan and dipped himself in the river seven times and he was healed. His skin was no longer leprous and his skin became like that of a young boy, like my son Lucas. I’d like to make a note that the passage doesn’t say that Naaman saw progressively better skin each time he dipped himself. He didn’t notice that the leprosy was disappearing. It just disappeared after the seventh dip. It took tremendous patience for Naaman to keep dipping in the muddy waters of the Jordan. Think about our culture. Many times, we might do something once, but if it doesn’t work out that one time, then we just give up. We workout that one time and don’t see any difference in our bodies. So why should we do anything? Or we might shoot some baskets just one time and miss everything and conclude that basketball isn’t the game for us. We gave it a try, but it didn’t work. Now, imagine doing this six times without seeing any difference. There is that cliché of a quote, which may or may not be from Albert Einstein, that says that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s what we would think, but Naaman didn’t heed that cliché and dipped himself the full seven times and sure enough he was healed.

After Naaman was healed, he returned to Elisha and stood before him. Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” (15) Naaman was a believer in the Aramean gods like Rimmon, but they couldn’t do anything to help him. However, God was different. God had the power to heal Naaman and to do it in a way that Naaman would know where the healing came from. He didn’t come seeking the Lord; he came seeking healing from a prophet, but Elisha had minimal contact with Naaman and wasn’t even around when the healing took place. Since there was no prophet nearby, Naaman concluded rightly that the healing came from God himself. There was no other way to explain it. It wasn’t the water or mud of the Jordan. He dipped himself six times with no change, but after the seventh time, he was completely healed. Naaman’s heart was open to trying and when he was open, he was able to meet God and find healing. His healing was inexplicable otherwise.

That inexplicability occurs even now. I heard a story on the radio a few weeks ago about a girl who has had a heart defect from the time she was born. Two of the valves in her heart never functioned properly and she had to see a cardiologist regularly. There was no cure for her problem. The day before a doctor’s visit, the girl’s mother asked her pastor to pray for the doctor’s visit. She didn’t have anything specific to ask, but just for healing. When they went to the doctor for a check up, he told them that they wouldn’t have to see him anymore. Her heart had been completely healed. They had been seeing this doctor for about eleven years, but they wouldn’t have to anymore. The doctor had no explanation for the healing. It was like there was nothing ever wrong with the girl’s heart. However, the girl remembered the prayer of her pastor and knew that it was God who healed her.

I can also tell you that there is a God. About six years ago, I lost my job a few months before I was supposed to get married to my beautiful wife. I looked for a job for months to no avail and one of God’s servants thought that I should have a job when I got married and it would be easier to find a permanent job when I already have a job. It was a temp position at Northwestern University and I worked about twenty hours a week. Now, there is a policy that temps can only work for a year or 1000 hours in a position. My time was coming to an end and I still couldn’t find a permanent position. However, one opened up for me where I was temping. That sounds simple, but the department were I was working didn’t have a specified budget. In order to operate, they had to charge other groups, but my position was created after the department was finally given a budget. A year later, I found out that my position had a time limit of two years. Again, it was time to scramble, but God was working. There was someone else on the team that was moving on to another position and I was able to move into his position. Again, there was no way a person could maneuver it. It provided me with a bump in pay at a time where my family was growing. Again, at the beginning of this school year, my job was upgraded right at a time where we would need more money. God’s hand has been working in my family so that we are provided for. It’s not me necessarily seeking it out, but God providing the right amount at just the right time. It’s just too much for coincidence or the machinations of a single person. It has to be God. I know it is the Lord hand in my life. I have no doubts about it.

We are not alone. There is a God who loves and does not condemn. Naaman was an enemy to his people, but the Lord showed mercy and grace to this enemy and he became a believer. He denounced all other gods as fake and that God, the one who helped him was the only God. He wanted to thank Elisha with a gift. It was customary to give a gift for the services of the prophet, but Elisha refused because he wanted Naaman to know that it was only God who healed him. When that didn’t work, Naaman requested to take some dirt back with him. He wanted to build and altar to the Lord. I don’t know if he was going to turn the dirt into bricks or use the dirt as a base where the altar would reside, but he wanted to honor God. It might seem a little weird, but it is kind of like picking up a souvenir and bringing it home. It reminds you of a trip and great experience that you had. Naaman is a bookend to what we saw in chapter 1. There, King Ahaziah of Israel was injured and he sent some people to consult Baal-Zebub the god of Ekron concerning his condition. Elijah caught up with the messengers and asked if there was no God in Israel that Ahaziah could consult. Here there is Naaman a foreigner who is proclaiming that there is only an God in Israel. What a difference!

Now, after Naaman left, Gehazi thought that the Aramean got off a little too easily, and he ran him down in order to get something from him. I’m not sure if Gehazi was greedy for himself or really nationalistic and hated Arameans. At any rate, he caught up to Naaman and made up a story about how Elisha would need a talent of silver and two sets of clothes. Naaman happily gives Gehazi the clothes and two talents of silver. Then, he heads off for home and Gehazi returns to his house with the newly acquired goods. He returns the Elisha, but Elisha knows what’s up and outright condemns Gehazi for his actions. It might seem a bit harsh for Gehazi to become leprous, but he really misrepresented God. Elisha had specific reasons to do things the way that he did. He wanted Naaman to meet God unhindered. He wanted Naaman to meet a God who is vastly different than the fake gods that litter the landscape, but Gehazi tainted that picture. Satan was working in Gehazi to cause the new believer to stumble and that is a really strong problem that required a strong punishment. Gehazi thought that the price of Naaman’s healing was too cheap.

That’s almost like Naaman thinking that the task was too simple, but that is the nature of our God. The gospel is simple and a lot of people don’t understand it. How can just believing save us? That cost seems too cheap for us. There has to be something more for us to do, right? Maybe believing is just he first step, but after we believe, then there is more for us to do to maintain our salvation, right? These are common thoughts for people who don’t really know God, but think they do. They call themselves believers of God, but just like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ time, these “believers” force rule upon rule on other believers. They say that believers don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they wear suits on Sunday, don’t have any facial hair, they wear a plastic smile and don’t talk about their struggles. Believers don’t watch movies with a rating higher than PG and God forbid that any believer turns on their television at all. It’s people like that that are turning this nations youth away from all faith. One-third of all the rising generation, the Millennials, are not affiliated with any sort of faith. They are the nones or none-of-the-aboves. They left because their parents pushed too much on the rules but they didn’t show them God.

People don’t know that there is a God. They’ve been told about price and rules, but not about God. They haven’t experienced him and they have become more and more jaded by the thought of God. I didn’t know God and I didn’t like the idea of God. I didn’t want to be bothered by the restrictions of God, because that is all that I heard about. If there was a God, he seemed ineffective because war, hunger, violence and death are still prevalent. If there is a God, doesn’t he care about what happens to his people? Did he create all this pain? These are questions that many still have, but all it takes is the ability to know that our vision is limited and we have to take a chance on God’s existence. He didn’t create this broken world. We broke it when we walked away from him. He could fix it all in an instant, but that would not bring us back to him. It wouldn’t let us see God for who he is. We would never see his great love for us. It was when I was at my lowest and I saw what my actions had done. I needed forgiveness and God was right there waiting for me. God showed me that Jesus had already died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins and he rose from the grave so that I could live a new life. My part was so simple because God’s part was so hard. He loves me and he loves each one of us.

Naaman experienced God’s love through his healing in the Jordan, and it caused him to know that there is no other God in existence. That same God sent Jesus to die on the cross to heal us. Naaman was washed in the river and his skin was cleansed. We are washed in the blood of Jesus and our souls are cleansed. We only need to open our hearts and minds to the thought that God does exist and he will show us without a doubt the truth of the possibility. Someone once wrote, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) The cost to us is so low that it seems almost absurd, but result is healing and joy and the fact that knowing God is the very definition of eternal life.

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