Sabbath, November 29, 2014

“Naaman the Syrian consulted the prophet of God as to how he could be cured of a loathsome disease, the leprosy. He was bidden to go and bathe in Jordan seven times. Why did he not immediately follow the directions of E-lish-a, the prophet of God? Why did he refuse to do as the prophet commanded? He went to his servants, murmuring. In his mortification and disappointment he became passionate, and in a rage refused to follow the humble course marked out by the prophet of God…. Yes, this great man considered it beneath his dignity to go to the humble river Jordan, and wash…. But it was following the specified directions of the prophet which would humble his proud and lofty spirit. Willing obedience would bring the desired result. He washed, and was made whole.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 309, 310.

Captain, but sick 

1. Who was Naaman, and how was he regarded for his service in his country? From what did he suffer?

2 Kings 5:1 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. 

“Of all diseases known in the East the leprosy was most dreaded. Its incurable and contagious character, and its horrible effect upon its victims, filled the bravest with fear. Among the Jews it was regarded as a judgment on account of sin, and hence was called ‘the stroke,’ ‘the finger of God.’ Deep-rooted, ineradicable, deadly, it was looked upon as a symbol of sin. By the ritual law, the leper was pronounced unclean. Like one already dead, he was shut out from the habitations of men. What-ever he touched was unclean. The air was polluted by his breath. One who was suspected of having the disease must present himself to the priests, who were to examine and decide his case. If pronounced a leper, he was isolated from his family, cut off from the congregation of Israel, and was doomed to associate with those only who were similarly afflicted. The law was inflexible in its requirement. Even kings and rulers were not exempt. A monarch who was attacked by this terrible disease must yield up the scepter, and flee from society.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 262.

The precious testimony of a little girl

2. Was there any hope for him to be healed in Syria? What did a little captive girl who served Naaman’s wife say to her?

2 Kings 5:2, 3 And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. 

“Ben-hadad, king of Syria, had defeated the armies of Israel,… and in one of their raids they had carried away a little maid who, in the land of her captivity, ‘waited on Naaman’s wife.’ A slave, far from her home, this little maid was nevertheless one of God’s witnesses, unconsciously fulfilling the purpose for which God had chosen Israel as His people. As she ministered in that heathen home, her sympathies were aroused in behalf of her master; and, remembering the wonderful miracles of healing wrought through Elisha, she said to her mistress, ‘Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.’… 

“The conduct of the captive maid, the way that she bore herself in that heathen home, is a strong witness to the power of early home training. There is no higher trust than that committed to fathers and mothers in the care and training of their children. Parents have to do with the very foundations of habit and character. By their example and teaching the future of their children is largely decided.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 244, 245.

In search of healing

3. What hope was kindled in the captain’s heart when he heard about this? What did the Syrian king tell him to do when he was informed about the matter?

2 Kings 5:4-6 And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. 5 And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. 

“Naaman heard of the words that the maid had spoken to her mistress; and, obtaining permission from the king, he went forth to seek healing, taking with him ‘ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.’ He also carried a letter from the king of Syria to the king of Israel, in which was written the message, ‘Behold, I have … sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.’ 2 Kings 5:5, 6.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 246.

4. Did the king of Israel know that there was hope of being healed from the terrible disease in his country? What message did Elisha the prophet send him?

2 Kings 5:7, 8 And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. 8 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. 

Wanting to be healed according to his idea

5. To whom was the Syrian captain therefore directed? When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house with his horses and chariots, what instruction did the prophet’s servant give him?

2 Kings 5:9-12 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. 11 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. 12 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. 

“Naaman had expected to see some wonderful manifestation of power from heaven….

“The proud spirit of Naaman rebelled against following the course outlined by Elisha. The rivers mentioned by the Syrian captain were beautified by surrounding groves, and many flocked to the banks of these pleasant streams to worship their idol gods. It would have cost Naaman no great humiliation of soul to descend into one of those streams. But it was only through following the specific directions of the prophet that he could find healing. Willing obedience alone would bring the desired result.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 249.

Cleansed by faith

6. What was the wonderful result when by faith he accepted the prophet’s direction to wash seven times in the Jordan River? Do you believe he was cleansed by the water or by his faith in the God of Israel?

2 Kings 5:13, 14 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? 14 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. 

“The faith of Naaman was being tested, while pride struggled for the mastery. But faith conquered, and the haughty Syrian yielded his pride of heart and bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. Seven times he dipped himself in Jordan, ‘according to the saying of the man of God.’ And his faith was honored; ‘his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.’ 2 Kings 5:14.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 249.

Knowing the true God

7. After he was miraculously healed, what did Naaman humbly confess before the prophet of God? How did he express his great thankfulness for the grace he had received?

2 Kings 5:15 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. 

“… Naaman … had been faithful to his convictions of right, and had felt his great need of help. He was in a condition to receive the gifts of God’s grace. He was not only cleansed from his leprosy, but blessed with a knowledge of the true God.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 239. 

“Today in every land there are those who are honest in heart, and upon these the light of heaven is shining. If they continue faithful in following that which they understand to be duty, they will be given increased light, until, like Naaman of old, they will be constrained to acknowledge that ‘there is no God in all the earth’ (2 Kings 5:15), save the living God, the Creator.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 253.

8. Did the prophet accept the gifts? What did Jesus say centuries later when He referred to Naaman’s being healed of leprosy?

2 Kings 5:16 But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. 

Luke 4:27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. 

“In accordance with the custom of the times, Naaman now asked Elisha to accept a costly present. But the prophet refused. It was not for him to take payment for a blessing that God had in mercy bestowed….

“Centuries after Naaman returned to his Syrian home, healed in body and converted in spirit, his wonderful faith was referred to and commended by the Saviour as an object lesson for all who claim to serve God.… God passed over the many lepers in Israel because their unbelief closed the door of good to them. A heathen nobleman who had been true to his convictions of right, and who felt his need of help, was in the sight of God more worthy of His blessing than were the afflicted in Israel, who had slighted and despised their God-given privileges. God works for those who appreciate His favors and respond to the light given them from heaven.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 250, 252, 253.

For reflection

  • How would we feel if we were taken captive and made a servant, as was the little girl in this story?
  • Are we like Naaman, more inclined to follow our own way than God’s way?
  • What do we learn from this story, since we all are affected by and suffer from the deadly leprosy of sin?

For further study

“Your case is similar in some respects to Naaman’s. You do not consider that in order to perfect a Christian character you must condescend to be faithful in the littles. Although the things you are called to do may be of small account in your eyes, yet they are duties which you will have to do just as long as you live. A neglect of these things will make a great deficiency in your character. You, my dear boy, should educate yourself to faithfulness in small things. You cannot please God unless you do this. You cannot gain love and affection unless you do just as you are bidden, with willingness and pleasure. If you wish those with whom you live to love you, you must show love and respect for them.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 310.

“The widow of Sarepta and Naaman the Syrian had lived up to all the light they had; hence they were accounted more righteous than God’s chosen people who had backslidden from Him and had sacrificed principle to convenience and worldly honor.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 416.