2 KINGS: NAAMAN THE LEPER – Part Two
Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper (2 Kings 5.1).
FROM this verse and the seven verses following, the path of each person involved, directly or indirectly, displays the relationship each occupied in the final recovery of Naaman the Leper. These persons were: Naaman; his wife; a little maid taken captive from Samaria; an unnamed mediator; the king of Syria; the king of Samaria (Israel), and, finally, Elisha and his servant.
Since the prominent theme of these articles is the absolute predestination of all things, we have frequently attempted to demonstrate that (and how) each individual fit their appointed place. The absurdity of suggesting all these persons and events blended together by chance is clearly manifest. So perfectly does each link in the chain meld itself with the other it would seem that only the blind could not see the divine pattern.
Readers shall decide for themselves if predestination or chance accomplished the recovery of Naaman. Their decision, however, shall not change the eternal purposes of God.
The story continues
"So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha (Verse 9)." The long, weary journey from Syria was over but the boldest steps were yet to come. It must be remembered, Naaman had just been at the court of the king of Israel. There he witnessed the hissy fit Jehoram pitched because Ben-hadad, king of Syria, had sent Naaman to him. To Jehoram it was nothing less than a bizarre challenge for Ben-hadad to send Naaman there for a recovery of his leprosy. Based on what everyone knew about leprosy it would seem that Jehoram acted much like most anyone else would, excepting that a king should exemplify more rational conduct. Surely, all flesh is grass.
Naaman was a man who had experienced much. He was an impressive leader and a figure of considerable importance. Yet, for all this, he was stricken! Leprosy, like an insidious intruder, had marred his flesh and thus his life. After his hopeful journey he is confronted by the rude outburst of the king of Samaria, probably altering his disposition somewhat. He had, no doubt, bathed his sword in the blood of lesser men for such abuse. That with which he was confronted in the court of Jehoram might well have tempted his to a similar response. Yet he remained calm, at least outwardly. The Scriptures record nothing of his demeanor while in the presence of Jehoram. Naaman had not come this distance to simply inflict a deadly wound on this ranting king, much as he may have felt it was deserved. Naaman did not turn away just yet. It seems he awaited other developments, and they were not long coming.
"And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel (verse 8)." We dare not speculate on matters, but from other incidents of similar circumstances the kings, evil and untrusting, usually kept a close eye on the prophets and the prophets always knew what transpired in the king's court.
"Let him come now to me." Human endeavor had run its course; now it was time for a display of God's will and power.
Naaman, like one caught in the middle, had bided his time while kings exposed themselves for the fools they were. Was it curiosity that kept Naaman there? Was it a fleeting hope? Whatever it was, Naaman must stand before the prophet in Israel. The plan of God had not unraveled. All was going along apace at the direction of divine purpose.
Remember, this incident carried such significance that our Lord made direct reference to it (Luke 4.27), even reciting the name of Naaman the Syrian.
"So Naaman came." The words are simple, yet profound. All the events and seemingly trivial turns that brought the great soldier directly to the door of the prophet of God were all ordained of the Lord. Naaman's journey appears to have climaxed and from nature's viewpoint so it did. It was, however. just the beginning of an entirely new journey. Now in the company of Elisha, the servant of Jehovah, Naaman was a babe in the womb of divine providence. Travail and sorrow would soon ensue, emanating in the spiritual awakening of the leper of Syria.
"So Naaman came." No sooner had he come than he heard the words, not of Elisha, but of a lowly servant, saying, "go."
That which followed could not have been the way Naaman had planned the affair to develop, as we shall presently see.
Just here it seems good to examine the validity of our theme, absolute predestination as it regards our subject. There can be no doubt with the true believer, only the hand of God was sufficient to have brought events to issue so far as they had come. Those who differ would do all a great favor by revealing what portion of events God could have left alone to come into being by chance.
For many centuries the saints of the Living God have derived comfort and strength when seeing the unfolding events of time as so many landmarks through the eternally predestinated plan of God to bring to pass His will. It matters not if a small breeze of wind bends a blade of grass or the mighty upheaval of an erupting volcano rains death and destruction all about. God reigns! God reigns over all, and that with an exacting plan called predestination. From the first to the last event recorded in the Bible, remove predestination and there is nothing left but blind fate and the vagaries of chance. Remove one spoke from the wheels of time and the axle of progress grinds to a halt. God would be thus frustrated. Perish the thought!
Naaman surveyed a situation far different than he had supposed would occur. He had endured the rage of the king of Samaria. Next, he and his entourage arrived at the home of a surly (from all appearances) old prophet who would not even show him the simple courtesy of trudging to the door. Rather than a "Welcome, stranger," Elisha's messenger was sent out to the awaiting caravan. The lowly servant summarily dismissed them with, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean." What is this? Had Naaman come this great distance to hear such nonsense? Blessed be the Name of the Lord; things were not as they seemed. This was but another step in the journey to light and truth in the Lord's great plan. But for the moment Naaman is blind to its glory and wonder.
The unhumbled Arminian and assorted other free willers would seize upon this situation as an undisputed crossroad for Naaman in the whole scheme of things divine. "Naaman had a choice to make," say they. "Naaman might just as well go one way as the other." "God won't force the leper to wash contrary to his will." "Naaman is no robot. He is no puppet on a string.
Can you not see the workmongers appealing to Naaman? "God did all he could and now it is UP TO YOU!" "Hell awaits the tarriers." On and on they would bleat like goats bloated on garbage. Dear reader, despite any perceived outbursts of Arminians this story would continue to progress exactly as it was determined from eternity. The whole disposing was of the Lord.
"Go and wash." No doubt the word go was a severe wound to Naaman's ego. Go and wash could only inflame the wound. That this was nothing like what Naaman expected to hear. Now came the salt for the wound. "Go and wash in Jordan." National pride was vexed as well. Go? Wash? Jordan? How can these things be? Could it be that the Lord had put more on this sinner than he could bear? Pride humbled is not easily recovered and Naaman seemed to be bombarded with stroke upon severe stroke, sufficient to crush his tried spirit.
The deepest wound was yet to come. "Go and wash in Jordan seven times." Naaman was totally ignorant of the importance of numerics to the Hebrews. Seven times did not signify that Naaman was seven times filthier than the ordinary leper. Seven meant completeness or perfection and seven dips in Jordan were no more vital to cleanse Naaman than one, except for one thing: This was the word from the Lord. Our Lord left out nothing when He directed Elisha to inform the Syrian general the manner of his cure. God told him what to do. He told him where to do it. He told him how to do it. He told him how many times to do it. Finally, He told him what he could expect from his obedience to the word of the Lord; "and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean." None but fools, whose minds were inflamed with hatred for God's sovereignty, could ignore the evident; the Lord God almighty was ruling.
The First Departure
"But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper (2 Kings 5.11)." If ever there was an example in the Bible of a sinner in the state of rebellion, Naaman is it. Naaman was wroth! To the Syrian general the whole trip had gone sour and was a waste of time. His pride was wounded. Sufficient respect had not been shown him. No doubt the leper's wounded spirit could uncoil at any moment, and he could vent his rage on almost anyone. But God yet superintended with each turn of events as He had at the beginning. The lion leper of Syria would soon lie down with the lambs, but in God's good time.
"And [Naaman] went away." O how resentful is the unhumbled sinner. Left to himself, even for a moment, he will flee the presence of truth and "run as far as sheep can run." Before his departure is aborted Naaman speaks, probably from anger and frustration, "Behold, I thought!" It is clear from what we have seen that Naaman had thought out how things would go. He had a plan all laid out in his brilliant mind and then, to his dismay, it is nothing more than a whiff of smoke disappearing before his eyes. Naaman, a living being of God's creation, was motivated by a plan. "I thought!" Arminians are fully deceived that man governs himself by a personal plan, to be executed to the full extent of his capability, at a whim. As for God, Arminians consider any plan He might have would be a violation of man's free will. Let them wallow in their ignorance. The Old Order of Baptists have been spiritually taught God has a plan, worthy of Himself, and He also has the capacity to execute His plan without any interference or assistance. Naaman, at that moment, was controlled by his "Behold, I thought!" Naaman reacted much like a creature whose plans have been shattered by others, without his agreement or consent. How true the text, "Verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity (Psalm 39.5)."
Naaman's assumption that the old prophet would come out to him was in keeping with his perceived importance of his (Naaman's) station in life. Surely, generals commanded more respect than soothsayers. Naaman even ventured the thought that the old prophet would call on the name of his God, whomever he may be. Observe, Naaman says his God, meaning not Naaman's god, but the prophet's. If Naaman even placed any value on gods in general at that time is open to question.
A difficulty of considerable proportions arises here. "Was Naaman spiritually quickened at that time and being brought through the process of God's plan to the truth?" Or, "Was Naaman yet dead in trespass and sin awaiting the spiritual work of God to bring him to light from darkness?" This writer can only say "I do not know!" Furthermore, it is our opinion that far too much effort has been expended by the curious on matters such as these. It really does not make any difference if he was alive or yet dead in sin. We know from the end of the story that he was probably an elect vessel so all concludes well no matter your view here.
"Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper (2 Kings 5.11)." Contained in this text is an important item for consideration for it reveals a deep spiritual truth. Verse one of this chapter began by describing Naaman and concluding with, "but he was a leper." In those days lepers were generally outcasts and the contagion was normally extensively spread so it could be seen from a distance and thus the leper was avoided. It is our view that Naaman had but recently contracted the horrible disease and the manifestations of it were at that time restricted to a place where the prophet could strike his hand over it. Otherwise, had the leprosy invaded a considerable portion of the general's body he would have begun to be held in contempt and possibly even be removed from his lofty station.
Nevertheless, a minor or an extensive manifestation of the plague was sufficient for it to be said, "But he was a leper." Just so, as we compare leprosy to the plague of sin, it matters not the extent of the manifestation; one spot of sin within or upon our being renders us sinners. "Strike his hand over the place" sounds minor in degree, yet that one place identified him with the host of outcasts called lepers. It would be difficult to imagine the horror Naaman, and even his family and friends, must have experienced when the disease was made known. It must be kept in mind also, there was nothing that would shock and panic Naaman's associates, or others for that matter, more so than leprosy. He and his circle of associates were living a mental hell at the time.
"Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper (2 Kings 5.11)." Naaman had not trooped all the way to Samaria to be insulted, ignored and shuffled off by an unceremonious instruction from the servant of this prophet Elisha, whom all had come to believe could work miracles.
The reader might at this time wonder what all this has to do with absolute predestination, the theme of our series. Well, if you believe in predestination it has everything to do with it. If you do not believe in predestination it still has everything to do with it. What we believe or cannot believe has never altered the eternal will of our God of heaven and earth. If the reader can identify one single incident up to this point that evolved through chance we shall hastily extend our regrets and give up the struggle. If there is any chance occurrences at all in this fascinating series of incidents we would at once be compelled to think Elisha crawled out on a skinny limb when he sent instruction to Naaman to go and wash seven times in Jordan and he would be clean. Elisha was God's prophet! If he understood or not; if he believed what he gave instruction for or not; none of this matters. This was the word from the Lord. God had spoken through His prophet. Thus, the matter was sure. Sure as the foundations of eternity and as certain to come to pass as the rising of the sun each morning.
The Second Departure
"Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage (2 Kings 5.12)." Several things are revealed here of the mind of Naaman. First, he did not disbelieve the old prophet he simply minimized his specific instructions. Pride, on this occasion national pride, enflamed the thinking of Naaman. Samaria was a conquered enemy of Syria. They were considered little better than rabble to the Captain of the Syrian host. Elisha's word from the Lord was fully unreasonable to the Captain. "So he turned and went away in a rage." Naaman, a man of war, was in a rage. What his plans were beyond leaving the humble surrounding of the prophet is not recorded. Appearance would suggest that he was on his way back northeast to take a dip in one of the rivers of Damascus. Mark well; Naaman never discounts the genuineness of Elisha's pronouncements. He simply discounted the methods to be employed. It appears this valiant captain of the Syrian army could handle the business of war but was completely frustrated by a recluse prophet of Samaria.
"So he turned." Naaman probably figured this was the end of a sorry chase for a phantom cure not to be. At least it was not to be at or in Jordan as far as he was concerned. "So he turned," heading home. Natural circumstances and geography were to direct the path of the Captain. Be certain, however, that Jehovah had control over the events of the moment. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Leaving Elisha to proceed homeward would bring Naaman and his troop directly across Jordan somewhere south of Galilee, depending upon where in Samaria Elisha was residing at the time.
At this point we see another unlikely event take place. Being near Jordan, Naaman is approached by several members of his band. "And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean."
This was a daring and perilous move. Naaman had already manifested his predilection to rage. Servants are exceedingly wary to make suggestions to their captains, especially when their captains are giving vent to fuming emotions within. Moreover, Naaman was exceedingly disappointed, doubtless weary, and feeling somewhat foolish. He may well too have been embarrassed. Life and death may have hung in the balance just at that moment. Pause, reader, and ask: If God had developed all these previous details to get Naaman to this juncture, would He somehow lose grip on the entire state of affairs? Or rather, as we believe, was not the God of Absolute Predestination still at the helm? These servants, seeking the welfare of their leader, were in no more danger then than David was when approaching Goliath. It is surely a blessing beyond measure to be persuaded "all our times are in His hands; and all events at His command."
Being near Jordan, the servants felt this was the time to speak. Who but a hardened agnostic would deny God directed these servants to speak at this time? "My father" was their salutation. Their reasoning was sound. If Elisha had bid Naaman to execute some mighty deed he would have done so at once. "Why not then, since you are at the river's bank, at least heed Elisha's words to 'Wash and be clean'?" It much appears they are saying he really had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Where did these servants get this wisdom and courage? We suggest they received it from the same source as all the others had in this saga. Small as their part might have been in the unfolding events, they were as important as every other event. God was executing his plan. For those arrogant free-will worshippers that deny God has a plan we suggest they not waste any more time reading this article, for, the Lord willing, we shall extol absolute predestination at every opportunity.
"Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (2 Kings 5.14)." The first word, then, indicates Naaman accepted the counsel of his wise servants. "Then went he down" surely portrays the submissive posture of a poor sinner following the Lord's bidding. We leave that thought as a suggestion only. In going down he dipped himself seven times. It can only be imagined what must have been going through the mind of Naaman each time he dipped himself. Down he went. Up he came. No change. If dipping in Jordan might cleanse a leper then, with all his good intentions and obedience why was he not cleansed after the first dip. And the second? On and on!
Now Naaman comes to dip number six and still no change. What must have he thought? Probably that he was a ridiculous fool for starting this whole thing; Bless the name of the Lord, there was yet hope. The command from the prophet was to dip seven times. One time would avail nothing, nor would five or six. God had spoken. Seven times! So, down he goes the seventh time.
"And his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." When he rose from his seventh dipping he was clean. There, for all to see, Naaman was a renewed man with regard to his former awful affliction. He was clean. We may only indulge our imaginations as to the joy and excitement of Naaman and those gathered with him at the banks of Jordan. Sweet Jordan; the same Jordan our Lord would, many years later be dipped in by John, according to the will of God. But now, Naaman is freed from his terrible leprosy. Every detail, however detached they may have seemed at the time, had fallen together as if guided by Divine decree, a truth we firmly believe.
Herein too is found a truth, somewhat concealed, but a truth nevertheless. It was not just that the leprosy was gone. "His flesh came again." Dear readers, though our flesh and composition may rot and decay; and though disease and afflictions invade our frame, and corruption swallows us up, when the saints of the most High rise from their last Jordan in the resurrection, all these things will be swallowed up in victory. Like Naaman, we shall be whole again. Naaman did not get a new portion of flesh; Ills flesh came again! "And he was clean." That awful and odious affliction was removed and his flesh came again pure as when he had been born.
Should someone ask, "If you are saying that that very flesh that once was clean had returned, where was it before? We would answer that it was in the same place the whole of creation was before God called it into existence. It was with God. All true believers will fail to see any problem. Furthermore, before this chapter is over we shall get another glimpse of the leprous plague that tormented Naaman. It did not simply disappear.
Leaving the subject now to another article, it is suggested the readers explore the remainder of 2 Kings 5. Further mysteries and strange matters will present themselves if the Lord provides eyes to see. Finally, keep in mind this one healing of one leper was of sufficient note that our Lord Jesus brought it to the attention of His hearers during His early ministry.
J. F. Poole
Volume 15, No. 1