Healed in Muddy Waters (2 Kings 5)

In Sermons, The Whole Story, Year 2024 by harvest.admin

Resource by Peter Park

This morning, we’re going to be in 2 Kings 5 as we continue in our series through the Bible this year. You can go ahead and turn in your bibles there. 2K5 is the story of Naaman, who was not an Israelite. He was a leader from the enemy nation of Syria. The kings of Israel and Judah, with only a few exceptions, are following after other gods. So while God’s people are in the Promised Land, where they are supposed to have peace and rest, they are constantly at war amongst themselves and with the surrounding nations. So let’s walk through the story…

2 Kings 5 1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. Just take quick note here that God is using an enemy of Israel to do his will. I think oftentimes, we oversimplify God and put him in a box…At least according to our minds, we assume we know all the ways of God and there are things God surely can’t be in or allow – like using suffering or a nonbeliever to do his will in our lives – when in fact God is in control of all things! He holds the hearts of kings, leaders of nations, in his hand and bends all things towards his ultimate will. That should make us humble and a lot less presumptuous in labeling what is happening in our lives – who he is using and for what purposes – but it should also give us a lot of confidence as we live in a chaotic and broken world. (Keep going.)

He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” Today, having leprosy is not a big deal. It’s curable. But in those days, they didn’t have the medical advancements so there was no hope for you.

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. Ok. I get all the gold and silver, because it’s worth a lot of money, but why ten outfits? (Kid – Christmas – money vs clothes.) Finest materials – Think more like the most expensive outfits from a designer brand like Louis Vuitton or Gucci.

6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” So the king of Israel is like, I can’t heal leprosy. No one can. This has to be a set up. Afterall, Naaman has raided our lands before. (If you come to me with a rash. I’ll pray for you. But that’s out of my control.)

8 But when Elisha (not to be confused with Elijah – 1K18) the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” Note: Elisha’s main concern is not healing the leprosy but Naaman’s understanding that there is one true God.) 

9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. (With what would have seemed like an incredible show of force, a reflection of the importance, power, and wealth of Naaman.) 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. At first, you kind of feel for Naaman. He’s already had to swallow his pride a little to come to Israel for help. But when he finally gets there, two things happen. First, Elisha doesn’t even have the courtesy to come out of his house! Doesn’t he know who Naaman is and what he could do to him? (Maybe he was in the middle of watching a good football match.) Instead, he just sends a messenger. (And that poor messenger. He’s like, I’m really sorry. Please don’t hurt me. I’m just the messenger.)

Naaman thinks he’s a special somebody but Elisha treats him like a nobody. And my guess is, if Elisha would have just come out and waved his hand to heal him like Naaman wanted, the healing would have just been transactional. Elisha would have waved his hand, Naaman would’ve been like, that was simple enough, here are some gifts, I appreciate you, you can get back to your football match. And he would have just gone along essentially the same person as he came.

Secondly, Naaman is offended by the instructions because the waters of the Jordan are dirty and not nearly as nice as what he had back home. It’s not up to his standards. In some ways I understand Naaman’s predicament…medically speaking, I don’t know that I’d want to get into some dirty water with a skin disease. Imagine – KL – Muddy estuary site. Not clear water like in other places, exotic islands in Malaysia.

13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. So Naaman’s servants, being much more calm, are trying to talk sense into Naaman, to just try and see what happens. – “You would have done things much more difficult…What do you have to lose? Just your pride if it doesn’t work.” And you’ve got to wonder what was going through Naaman’s mind when he was getting in and out of the water. 1st time, 2nd time, …, 5th time, 6th time, still nothing. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. This is ridiculous.” And then finally, it’s the seventh time, and BOOM! He’s healed with skin as soft as a baby’s bottom.

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. (Probably to make it clear that God’s work, his salvation, cannot be bought.) 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.” So here you have Naaman, who came looking for healing for his leprosy, but he unexpectedly found a greater spiritual healing. See Naaman’s leprosy was an outward sign of his inner sickness, his sin, which was far more devastating. Like leprosy, sin grows, and it numbs you. It takes what is alive and deadens it. It kills you. And only God is able to bring what is dead back to eternal life. And Naaman realized…that his healing from leprosy was nothing compared to the salvation he found in God.

The first words out of Naaman’s mouth to Elisha are not “Look my leprosy is gone! Check it out. Want to feel? You have to. Just once.” No. He doesn’t even mention it. Rather he says, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.” “My life has been changed and the God of Israel is the only one worthy of my worship. So let me take some of this dirt back and I’ll offer sacrifices on it to God. And when I go back to serve my earthly master, forgive me when I have to go in the temple of his god.” Naaman doesn’t understand that he doesn’t need the dirt to worship God. He’s taking baby steps in his walk with God as he figures things out but he’s excited. He’s a new man.

And that’s the incredible story of Naaman. And for the rest of our time, I want us to take a deeper look at the suffering in this story…Let me ask you: Who here likes to suffer? (No one?) Ok. Here’s another one: How many of you genuinely want to know and love God more?

Well when we look at Naaman’s suffering, we see that God uses our suffering for our own good – to bring us to himself. Now, I’m with you. I wish there was another more pleasant, more comfortable way, but in many cases there’s not. The truth is there’s a deep knowledge and love of God that can only be accessed through suffering.

Take Naaman’s suffering…Was Naaman’s leprosy a curse or gift? Well, on one hand no one wants leprosy. It’s a horrible disease. Your skin becomes disfigured with white and red sores and nerves are damaged…(Let me show you…lift pant leg. JK. Picture – Too gross.) Not only do you have to deal with the physical issues, there was usually a social stigma. (Kids – Koodies) But God used Naaman’s leprosy, his suffering, and his search for a cure for his own good – to bring Naaman to the end of himself and back to God. 

But Naaman’s pride could have kept him from his own healing. And if it were not for his servants, he would have left unchanged and still full of himself. (Which by the way is a great reason to live in biblical community. Because when you’re going through something hard, you’re the least likely person to see things clearly. You need brothers and sisters who love you, can calm you down to see the bigger picture and what God may be doing in your life. – Connect Table)

Our pride is the number one hindrance to God’s work in our lives. And not only that, our refusal to do things God’s way doesn’t make our suffering better, it makes it worse. And then we usually get even angrier with God – “How could you let this happen to me? Why aren’t you making things better?” This is exactly what Adam and Eve did in Ge. 3. They thought they knew better than God. So they decided to reject God and go their own way. And look where that got them, where it got us. Our pride has ruined us and the world we live in and things aren’t getting any better on our own.

So what are you refusing to do his way? Where is your pride and living life on your own terms keeping you from God?

-Single Believer – You’re desperate for companionship and marriage or it’s your desire to be wanted and loved that you’re dating a nonbeliever or you’re considering it. Maybe you’re even thinking about marriage. Listen, lonely, desperate people become lonely, desperate, married people. Marriage doesn’t solve those issues. Marriage just amplifies them. The Bible is clear about this – Don’t do it. It’s not good for you. It is one of the worst decisions you can make in your life. It is better for you to be single. (BTW, singleness, just like marriage, is a gift from God. It’s not lesser than marriage. It’s a season or a lifetime you can dedicate your life fully to God. And that’s a beautiful thing.)

-(Better Life -) You cannot have a good or fulfilling life unless you attain a certain level of comfort or status. You’ve always wanted your life to look a certain way, to live in a certain place/neighborhood, to take certain kinds of vacations/holidays, to travel and see the world. So your education and career become the most important thing to you. And by your own free choice, you’re willing to sacrifice being in community and coming to church on Sundays so you can put in a little more work, a little more study, and get ahead of the competition. 

-Money – You’re not generous towards God. You give your leftovers – what you can afford after everything else rather than giving your first and best to God. Money is not a bad thing. Having lots of money and enjoying nice things is also not a bad thing. But the love of money and stinginess is. And the love of money has a way of enslaving our hearts to this passing world like nothing else. It gives us a false sense of security, control, and comfort – all things we are to find in God.

Closing Savings Account – “RM100k. We’re good.” I was a fool to have trusted in money. It completely changed how I looked at money. It used to be my security, my ability, my freedom. Now I see that it’s a God given resource I’ve been called to steward and to leverage for the sake of the gospel. So I give generously to the church and its mission.

-FOMO. If you follow God, you think you’re going to miss out on all the good and fun things in life. So you’d rather follow God a little. He can have 5-10%, but the rest of your life you want to have full control. But if God is not Lord of all in your life, then he’s not your Lord at all. If you’re afraid of anything, it should be that you’re missing out on God and the good things he has for you when you live fully for him.

As your pastor, if you’re living this way and not fully following God, I hope you suffer. (Does that sound harsh?) It’s not because I don’t like you or want you to be punished, but because I love you and desire your good, and want you to experience the fullness of joy in Jesus. Do it before you have to suffer.

In a room this size, I know several of you are suffering and going through hardship. And I’m not making light of how difficult some of the things you’re going through are. I also don’t know everyone’s individual situation. But God may be using your suffering (relationship, health, financial) to get your attention, to bring you to the end of yourself and back to him. Because you’re desperate beyond your own strength to the point where you despair for life itself. But we can have comfort and peace in the midst of our deepest pains if we truly understand that God is worth everything. He’s more valuable than life itself.

Don’t let your pride, what you think you know or what you think you deserve deceive you into thinking that if you can’t see what God is doing, then he must not be up to anything good or know what he’s doing. That’s an incredibly arrogant way to view yourself, that all truth and God’s plans are subject to your understanding or approval. That’s foolishness. Your complete and immediate obedience to God should be based solely on the fact that he is God and you are not.

Like Naaman ultimately did, you have humble yourself before God to have faith to do what he says. Humility and faith are the only way to God. God doesn’t often ask us to do big miraculous things for him. Instead, he asks for faith and small and simple steps of obedience (NBC) that add up over a lifetime to be an incredible life with God.

God uses our suffering for our own good – to bring us to himself if we will lay down our pride, humble ourselves and have faith in him.

Now let’s look at the suffering of the Little Girl – God uses our suffering for the good of others – to bring others to himself.

Who was she? We don’t know her name or much about her other than she was a slave girl who was kidnapped from her homeland and possibly her murdered family. She was there due to no wrong of her own. She had every right to be angry and bitter. “Serves you right, Naaman. I hope you suffer a long, horrible death.” Yet she had forgiven him and was seeking the welfare of her kidnapper! Her faith in God was greater than her circumstances and what she could see.

So a great man was saved by the suffering of a little girl so that he could have faith in the one true God like the little girl. (ESV Study Bible) The little girl’s suffering brought life and God to another person. Is that a category that we have for suffering? And are we ok with that? That God would ordain our suffering so others might know him? Because that’s definitely in his ability and right as God, just as we see in this story.

Sometimes we get so stuck on healing or deliverance as the only way God can work in our situation. We have “me vision” when we can only see and think about ourselves. We think the only thing the God of the universe is up to is what’s happening in my life with no regard to how it relates to the billions of other people in the world. Of course, it’s not to say we shouldn’t pray for healing and deliverance. We absolutely should ask with incredible boldness – Like kids asking. At the same time, if He doesn’t answer the way we want, we can have a peace in knowing that God is loving and wiser than we are. And we can be ok with the fact that he may be doing something bigger than what is going on in my life.

-Health Issue – You’re praying for healing but it hasn’t happened yet. The hope and peace that one day you will have an imperishable resurrection body should be a testimony to those around you.

-Unbelieving Spouse/Children – Life is hard because you can’t agree on  the most important things in life, including how to raise your kids, how to steward your time, talent and treasure. But it may be through your long suffering and grace that the rest of your family becomes believers.

-Terrible Boss – Taking advantage of you and making your life miserable. Maybe you’re trying to honor God but their idol of money or success is affecting your work schedule and demands.

-Persecution – Family or community. You get treated differently, unfairly, even physically harmed. In one of the most shocking verses in the bible, when the disciples were suffering for their faith, they praised God that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. And through their unwavering testimony even in suffering, many became believers. One of our partner churches just shared a story with me – They got connected to a believer in a closed country, and met with him in person – used to be a part of a terrorist organization. He became a believer and told his brother who was the leader of that terrorist group – gun to his head. No fear. Brother becomes a believer along with many of the men that followed them. Incredible how God works.

Important for us to remember: Our enemy is not against man, against flesh and blood, against people who follow another religion, or none at all. Our enemy is spiritual. And people who are not followers of Jesus are people made in the image of God, just as valuable as you and me, and for whom Jesus died just as much as he did for you and me. And like the little girl to Naaman, our role is to point them to Jesus. To tell them about the hope and life that can only be found in him…even if they are the ones causing our suffering. It’s why our call to follow Jesus is to die to ourselves, pick up our cross and follow him.

That’s suffering according to 2K5 – God uses your suffering for your good to bring you to him and for the good of others to bring them to him. And God is glorified both when his people are healed from their suffering and also when his people suffer and die well. This is the way our sovereign, good God works. 

Just look at Jesus. Like the little girl, he suffered for our sake, for no fault of his own. Jesus already had perfect oneness with the Father. But knowing it was the only way, he willingly took upon himself the death we deserved because of our sin so that we could be forgiven and healed of our sin and receive all the goodness of God he deserved. And he did it with joy because he knew that through his suffering and death in our place that God would bring the nations back to him and receive the worship and glory he’s due.

Maybe you’re here this morning and it’s the first time you’ve ever heard about Jesus. Maybe you came because you find yourself in a situation like Naaman, where you need help. And God used that thing in your life to bring you here this morning. I want to tell you that Jesus loves you and offers a healing and salvation that is even greater than what you face today.

See, we all have a stain called sin that we can’t hide or get rid of. In our pride we have rebelled against God and the penalty is eternal death and separation from him. And the only way for you to be washed clean of your sins…It’s not through your good works, becoming a better person, working harder, etc. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, what ethnicity, what religion you were “born into”. There is only one way. It is only through being washed by the blood of Jesus. And maybe that sounds just as crazy and foolish as it did to Naaman…but faith compelled him to do it. And that’s all you need this morning: humility and faith to surrender to God and receive what Jesus has done for you. It’s a free gift because Jesus paid the cost for you. And when you do, the Spirit of God will come to dwell in you and spring up as living water for your soul. And maybe God will heal you of your suffering, but more importantly he’s given you eternal life with him.

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