II KINGS: NAAMAN THE LEPER – Part Three
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 (II Kings 5.1).
Naaman the leper was healed! The dreadful disease that tormented him was gone. "...And he was clean (2 Kings 5.14)." Whatever Naaman knew at that time regarding Jehovah, His glory or sovereign grace, we cannot say. He appeared rather ignorant of heavenly things. One thing he could know, however, was the servant of the God of Israel told him the way of deliverance. Elisha informed him all that was needful to be free from his uncleanness. Naaman alone was informed. Think of it! Lepers abounded, but Naaman only was healed. It was a miracle of the immense proportions and Naaman alone was the beneficiary.
Returning again to the reference in Luke 4.26, 27; our Lord makes this astounding reference to the deliverance of Naaman as follows: "But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian." Jesus introduced to them a historical fact having great bearing on God's sovereignty.
"And he [Naaman] was clean." Among the wretched and pitiful lepers living out their miserable lives with this plague, and the Lord said there were many, Jehovah cleanses Naaman only. This point is beyond dispute. Both the Old Testament and New Testament records are completely clear; Naaman alone was made whole. So then, what may we learn by all this? First and foremost, it should be admitted by all who reverence the record we know as the Bible, that it positively was God's will and purpose to cleanse the leper, Naaman. Since no man on earth possessed the power to remove leprosy from another, any such removing must have been conducted by God's direction alone. The little maid in captivity could tell Naaman's wife of the prophet in Saniaria, but there was no healing power in her testimony. She could only relate the bare facts of Elisha being the prophet of God. The king of Syria could gather all the gold and silver he could muster: lade asses with royal raiment, send the whole bounty to the king of Samaria to pay for this hoped-for healing of Naaman, and yet God alone possessed the power to cleanse. None but frothing fools could dare deny such.
The several disappointments Naaman suffered in the presence of the King of Samaria, and the apparent scruffy treatment dished out to him by Elisha is enough for us to see, "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
After considerable encouragement by his servants, Naaman dipped seven times and he was made whole. He was clean. The saving deed was done! Naaman could once again walk among the living unashamed, no more filled with self-loathing. The profound question, then: Was there any way possible Naaman might not have been cleansed? Was there at any moment in time, from the time Naaman contracted leprosy until he dipped in Jordan, for anything to be different than it was? Should even one little link in the chain of events fail some might boast that free will was on the throne and random events only fell together because God permitted them. May God in His mercy forgive us that we might even think such a blasphemous notion. Bow then to the Dagon of Arminianism if this is so. But no link failed! Naaman was cleansed. That fact cannot be argued if you believe the dear Lord was telling the truth in Luke 4. Pity the poor soul that could conceive such ignorance.
We come again then to the words of the Lord in Luke 4: "And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian." When Jesus spoke these words He had shortly before come down from the mountain where He was sorely tempted of Satan. He then entered the synagogue at Nazareth where "there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias." He opened the book and read from Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel...." And then: "And he began to say unto them, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. Jesus was not telling them that these things were now fulfilled, but that this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. This was the beginning of His gospel ministry, and they were hearing of it and all to come until all was fulfilled. And He introduced the singular account of Naaman the leper.
Jesus believed Naaman was cleansed. Why? For one thing, the Bible recorded the affair, and too, Jesus knew all things, being God in the flesh. A question then? How long had Jesus known of Naaman's healing? Since He read in the sacred Scriptures? Or, from all eternity? "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world (Acts 15.18)." Since this work of the leper's cleansing was God's work, then Jesus must have know from eternity, yea, even before the deed took place, Jesus was fully aware of its certainty. 1. It transpired. 2. It was God's work. Thus, God knew it as a certainty from the beginning of the world. God surely did not know that which would not come to pass. It was certain! Thus it must have been the will of God for it to come to pass. Predestination assured its certainty.
Jesus would never have told those in the synagogue Naaman had been cleansed of leprosy unless it had certainly been so. In His infinite wisdom He had known it from eternity as sure as He knew the rising of the sun or the four seasons that bring variation to all creation.
All this has been said to emphasize the necessity of seeing all things that took place in the Old Testament as predestinated events, conceived by the will of God and brought to pass by His power over all events of time and eternity.
"And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant (2 Kings 5.15)."
We know not how far along Naaman and his company traveled prior to reaching the banks of Jordan. It is of no real importance to us as it certainly was not to him when he arose from Jordan after the seventh dip. With no other information afforded us, we are told "And he returned to the man of God." One might think his first priority would be to hasten home to his wife, his friends, his beneficent king and with all the exuberance within him relate his seeming impossible deliverance from leprosy. What joys were contained within his heart at that moment we cannot know. They must have been many, each arousing him to give account of them all before those who may be interested. That was a wonderful day in Naaman's life. Deliverance had come.
It must have been startling, both to Naaman and to his company, to see renewed flesh where only moments before the dreadful decay of death had its grip. For most of us, deliverance such as Naaman's would surely stir our emotions to the highest pitch. Think, if you will. Naaman daily lived with this death sentence called leprosy. Now it was gone. Naaman was a whole man again. What then, was his first order of business?
"And he returned to the man of God." Remember. Naaman had never actually seen Elisha, the seer, nor had he conversed with him. His contact was limited to a brief word from Elisha's servant Gehazi. "Go and wash seven times in Jordan." Suddenly, Naaman is drawn back to Samaria, to the man of God. Who may dare doubt Jehovah was ordering the general's priorities at this moment? Naaman must converse with this heavenly representative, Elisha, the man sent from God in heaven. He must see the man with power and authority. This power could only come from God, the God previously unknown to Naaman. Is this all speculation on our part? Hardly! Let us all think back to the great moments in our own spiritual lives when blessings from God's throne were conferred upon us. At such time what company did we seek? With whom were we eager to relate our experiences? Was it the Arminians? The Conditionalists? No, never! We went to our own company.
The Sanhedrin first apprehended Peter and John then thundered terrible warnings and dire imprecations at them for speaking in the name of Jesus. After what the Sanhedrin thought was sufficient abuse, they finally let them go. "And being let go, they went to their own company...(Acts 4.23)." To the child of God, comfort and solace is found among, and with, those of their own company, those who also know somewhat of those things each have experienced. Even so, Naaman was compelled to return to the man of God, his newfound company. Naaman had been turned.
"Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant (2 Kings 5.15)." Now I know! Where darkness once prevailed in the mind of Naaman, relative to the true and the living God, light now shined. This was not community knowledge. Naaman could not have learned this from all the wise men on the earth combined. Nor could he have dug it out of a thousand libraries. No! "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona [Naaman], for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 16.17)." Deliverance, and the knowledge of it, both derive from the eternal purpose of God to make whom He will whole. In this case, not one single leper, from the river unto the ends of the earth, had been favored with what Naaman had experienced and subsequently knew in his heart. Now I know! Blessed be the name of our God who both blesses His chosen and as well reveals Himself unto them.
Now I know! Almost anyone, from a near imbecile to a genius, can say, "Now I know" something. It may only be some little scrap of intelligence or perhaps vast amounts of particulars. However, until the Lord opens his heart, none, positively none, can say, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel." "Well," some self-esteeming Arminian may say, "Naaman did not have to go to Israel and then Jordan to find out God. God is everywhere," say they. "Just reach out to Him and he will reach out to you." Even so thought Naaman when he said, "Are not Abana and Pharpar. rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" Was not his view at that time essentially the same as the Arminian?
"God can be found anywhere." Is this the word from the Lord or simply foolish notions dredged up out of the blinded heart? "I am found of them that sought me not (Isaiah 65.1)." How often have fools said, "I found Jesus"? Moreover, do not the self-serving false prophets pervert the word of the Lord when they plead with dead sinners to "Seek the Lord while He may be found"? Can an honest soul find anything in our subject that suggests Naaman was seeking the Lord, or that he longed for fellowship with the Ruler of the universe? Or, was Naaman simply looking for a cure for his leprosy? Whatever Naaman was seeking, we feel certain the Lord had a plan for him, and it included every event that transpired, from the beginning to the end. If this is not so, then we beg the objectors to inform us what might have been left out of the whole series of events.
The message from the prophet of the Lord was as good as a message from God. In fact, it was a message from God. It can be safely believed that if God had given a message to Elisha for Naaman's ears, then it was eternally certain, unless God whips out declarations and decrees on the spur of the moment according to what He newly discovers these earthly creatures doing. This we must firmly reject! "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isaiah 46.9, 10)." If you are numbered among them that fear God, you will bless the Lord for the passage quoted from Isaiah. We need not fear or dread, come what may, if God has truly declared the end (of all things) from the beginning (as far back as you can go) and determined the washing of a leper as well as the downfall of a nation that forgets God.
Naaman was the lone leper to be healed of leprosy in his day. This was a miracle of the utmost magnitude, yet it took place at an unspecified and lonely spot on the river Jordan. Only a handful of servants and traveling companions witnessed the magnificent scene. It should remind us that the great work of God for each of us often goes unnoticed and uncared for by the world in general. Even today, as we witness the blessed benefits from heaven in our behalf it is noticeable how often the blessing only redounds in our own souls, along with perhaps a few others that also love the Lord. A casual observers would soon dismiss it as he would all other things to which he holds no affections.
To our continual shame we confess, even those few who love Jesus as Lord and Redeemer need refreshing reminders of our exalted Physician and eternal Benefactor. A classic example is the following: "Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples. And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me (Matthew 11.2-6)." Such an array of wonders ought never be dismissed or thought lightly of, yet they are. Even poor John needed a refresher lesson. The healing of Naaman was an unique and singular event in his day, but in the Lord's brief ministry healing lepers was a frequent manifestation of His authority and Godhead. This is obviously another of those dim figures of the Old Covenant days that shined brighter in the holy effulgence of Jesus, the Light of the World. With every miracle Jesus was bringing the shadows and types of the former days to full view. In a popular hymn it says: "The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day." We may paraphrase and say, "Naaman rejoiced to see that cleansing in his day." And, that was centuries before the thief was brought to the fountain filled with blood.
Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. From everlasting, before He spoke forth the universe with all it vast expanse; before he summoned the world from nothing and left it to lay void until He called forth all it contains, His eternal plans were formulated, sealed by His eternal power with everlasting and unlimited wisdom. In simple terms, God planned everything! Nothing is going to change. He planned what He sees and sees what He planned. Conditionalists, free-willers, do-gooders and assorted other Arminian rabble may murmur like the Egyptian magicians at the miracles of Moses, but that is the way the Bible relates it.
Since this is a continuing series of articles on predestination from Genesis to Revelation, it seems to be in order to examine the whole of the incidents in 2 Kings 5 so that we may determine if the proposition has been carried to the extreme or not. One thing of which we may be sure: The Old School Baptists will discover considerably more predestination in this context than will the Conditionalist foxes who would spoil our vines if possible. Those young foxes would, if given leave by the Lord, make havoc of our heritage before the tender vines could bring forth the ripened fruit. They cannot drink of this cup of joy when the fruit is pressed into it so they had rather see it all spoiled than admit its value. We shall, therefore begin before Naaman became a leper.
As we have before noticed there must be a fixed chain of events prior to any specific event we may desire to examine. There is no exception to the proposition. In the healing of Naaman's leprosy, and spoken of by our Lord as a certain historical fact, nothing could have prevented its occurrence or the Scriptures would certainly have been broken. "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119.89)." Reader, do you believe this truth? For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. Perhaps you say that only means the Bible and not the speech of Jesus. Is it not so that the account of Naaman is in the Bible? Then it is settled for ever as God's word. Naaman must have leprosy or it could not be a part of the word of God. "Then possibly," says the nay sayer, "Psalm 119 is speaking of the words of Jesus and not the record we call the Bible." Now, you who clutch free will to your breast as your darling idol, you have been gored by the other horn of your dilemma. If Jesus spoke of it as a certainty, and He surly did, then it would be impossible that it had not taken place. Jesus did not make this up. He drew from the absolutely predestinated facts of the 39 books we call the Old Testament. What a joy to be a babe in Christ, to be blessed to simply believe by grace what is taught everywhere in the word of God. On the other hand it must be a miserable lot to attempt to twist and turn the truth of God as an ironmonger would his twisted creation.
One of the simplest tests of predestination is to trace the previous generations that must, without fail, have given birth to the next in line for a David, an Abraham, a Solomon or a Naaman to come into the world. Should one person in any genealogical line fail to bring to birth the next in line, the chain would be broken. Say, for instance, Naaman's great-great grandfather (to be) had fallen in battle before giving seed to his wife, pray tell, how could Naaman ever be born? We are perfectly aware of the law of the brother (in Israel's law) taking up the widow so that the deceased would have seed but it would not be that seed; it would be another. Anyone that does not have sufficient understanding of common biological facts should certainly not aggravate their brain trying to disprove predestination.
All we have said about Naaman's birth line applies equally to the little captive Samaritan girl, the unknown person who carried this wisdom to the King of Syria, the King of Israel, the servant of Elisha, Elisha himself, and the servants of Naaman who begged him to at least give the proposed remedy a try. Each of these persons must have had an unbroken line from Adam and Eve to exist then, to carry out their predestinated role. The varied multitude of events and circumstances necessary to bring them all together would defy examination with any instrument but faith. But so it was. At the proper time for each, their little role in Naaman's recovery must be fulfilled.
On the darker side, it must be admitted that for this miracle to come to pass and Jesus give His striking lesson on its purpose, Naaman's leprosy must have existed. Had Naaman done anything, more or less, to bring this dreaded malady upon him than others had? If, as some believe, leprosy is a type of sin, then where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
Suppose this little maid of Israel had been so strikingly beautiful and fair and her captors, having been away so long from home and the obvious comforts it would afford, had some dark evening led her to a suitable place and maliciously mauled her for their carnal pleasure. The prospects of death at that time would be great; and if not death, her disposition would no doubt have been so warped against these and all other Syrians that she would never have suggested the cure that awaited Naaman in Samaria. Remember, this was the time of war; the opponents were bitter enemies. Our proposed scenario is not at all a stretch of loose ideas to gain a point. She was living out her days in the real world, a world filled with unfettered passions abounding.
Enough proper examples have been given. Those who love free and sovereign grace will have no trouble at all in seeing the wisdom in them. Gain-sayers will continue trying to tear the God we love from His throne to a position of servitude to their beloved free will. They shall fail and soon, like the chaff in a windstorm they, with all their God-hating notions, will be blown away, leaving the good seed to serve its purpose in the hand of the Master.
Should the Lord bless, the subject will be taken up again with hope of finishing this chapter.
J. F. Poole
Volume 15, No. 2