Desperate: The Dying Hero

“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.” (2 Kings 5:1)

For the next week or so, we’ll be following the story of a military leader called Naaman. We’re dropping in on the story of Israel at a time when God’s people had been conquered by their enemies once again. They had not remained faithful to God, and Naaman was part of the military that had defeated Israel.

dive_350Naaman was a success story. In his day, the only way you could hope to make a name for yourself (unless you were royalty) was to rise up the ranks of the military. He had done that. He reported to the king of Aram. And even though he fought against Israel, God had used Naaman to bring victory to Aram. A successful leader, highly respected, at the top of his game.

One problem: He was dying. He had leprosy, a disease still in the world today though much less common. There was no cure. Your skin would start turning grey/white and then begin to flake off until it ate away at your whole body. All the success in the world — even being used by God — didn’t keep him from getting this ugly disease.

Think: What’s the point of working hard to be successful if it can all be taken away in a moment . . . when you’re just going to die anyway?

Pray: Ask God to give you insight into your own life this week through the story of Naaman.

Do: Make a quick list of some successful people you know about who have died or gotten seriously ill even though they were rich and/or famous.

Desperate: Hope – This Way

“Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ ” (2 Kings 5:2-3)

We don’t hear much from this “young girl” after this paragraph, but in a lot of ways she’s the real hero of Naaman’s story. In contrast to Naaman’s life, hers sucked.

dive_350He was a military hero, a self-made man, a genuine success story. Her nation had been conquered. Her family may very well have been killed by the raiding party mentioned here. She had been made a slave, hauled off to Aram to serve Naaman’s wife with very little hope of ever going back home.

Instead of speaking up about a prophet in Samaria who could heal Naaman, she could have kept that news to herself. She could have prayed for his death. Instead, she selflessly made a choice to point her dying “enemy” to the source of hope and life — the prophet of the God of her people.

Think: Do you need to let go of any resentment or anger to make yourself more available to point hurting people to our God of hope through Jesus?

Pray: Ask God to use your whole life as a giant arrow pointing to Jesus.

Do: Make yourself a giant arrow costume to wear to school or work this week. (Okay, don’t do that. That’s just silly.)

Desperate: Hard Times

“The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: ‘With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ As soon as the king of Israel 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?’ ” (2 Kings 5:6-7)

Naaman, the hero dying from leprosy, is sent by the king of Aram to Israel in search of a cure. Naaman was desperate. Why else would he embark on this journey on the word of one young slave girl? It’s the only hope he has left of beating this ugly disease.

dive_350Notice two things: First, many people will not come to God until they are out of other options. How loving and generous of the Father to use our desperate circumstances to drive us into His care — and then to care for us as only He can.

Second: Naaman assumes that if there is someone in Israel with the power over leprosy, he’d be living at the palace. He’d be a rich and powerful person. But the rich and powerful king of Israel doesn’t have what Namaan needs. The dying hero was looking for the right answer in the wrong place.

Think: Have you ever turned to God with a big problem only after trying all of your other options first? Do you believe God ever uses our desperate moments to get our attention and give us great gifts?

Pray: Thank God that He uses our hard times to help us learn to trust Him more.

Do: Think about asking a wise older Christian how God has used hard times in her life to help her trust Him more.

Desperate: Boring Miracles?

“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.’ But Naaman went away 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. . . .’ So he turned and went off in a rage.” (2 Kings 5:10-12)

Naaman was desperate to be cured of his leprosy, but he still had expectations for how this miracle cure should come about. Yesterday, we saw that he expected it to come from the royal palace of Israel. It didn’t. Next, he expected the cure to come with the prophet waving his hand over the death spot in a kind of religious ceremony. Nope.

dive_350Instead, Elisha sends a simple servant with a simple message to do a simple task: wash in that filthy river seven times.

Confession: I’ve also gotten angry when God answered my desperate prayers in the “wrong way.” I wrote the script for the miraculous answer I really wanted instead of the good gift He gave me. That’s big and stupid pride, pride that wants to control God instead of trusting Him with my whole heart.

Think: Can you understand Naaman’s rage at being told by a servant to go and wash himself in a muddy river with no pomp or circumstance or magic words?

Pray: Ask God to make you grateful for His gifts, including that ones that come wrapped in plain, brown paper.

Do: Imagine what it would feel like to go and bathe yourself in a dirty river seven times in a row.

Desperate: No Quest Required

“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.” (2 Kings 5:13-14)

Naaman’s servants were smart. Not only did they see their master’s pride problem from a different perspective, they were able to help him see that perspective as well. I hope those guys got a raise after this.

dive_350With sincere respect (“My father,” they said), they showed Naaman that he would have gladly climbed the highest mountain or crossed the widest ocean or gone in hunt of the meanest dragon to escape the death sentence that came with that spot of leprosy. So why not try an easy thing?

It takes real wisdom to approach someone in authority over you to help him see that pride is getting in the way of what’s best for him. And it takes real humility to listen to the wisdom of those who are NOT in authority over you. When Naaman finally humbled himself and quit demanding to be healed his own way, God healed him for free.

Think: Are you available to those in authority over you as a source of wisdom? Are you humble enough to receive wisdom from your peers and others?

Pray: Ask God to help you to grow both humble and wise.

Do: Pack your stubborn pride in a box and mail it to Baton Rouge (unless you live there, then pick somewhere else).

Desperate: Cash Healing?

“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. Please accept now a gift from your servant.’ The prophet answered, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.’ And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.” (2 Kings 5:15-16)

Naaman was healed. It was a simple gift from God received by a simple act of faith — washing in the river as he’d been told to by a servant of the prophet. It was also a powerful miracle — one that no god of Naaman’s people had been able to give to him.

dive_350Now Naaman wanted to pay for it. Obviously, being healed was a valuable thing. What was it worth? We know from verse five that Naaman had brought with him about 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold and 10 sets of valuable clothing. In today’s market, that would be worth at least $150,000. Elisha wouldn’t touch a dime of it.

Why? Because it was God’s gift to Naaman, not something Naaman could earn or buy or conquer. All he could do was to accept it. Too many of us, after receiving God’s free gift of salvation in Jesus, start looking for ways to “pay God back.” We cannot. All we can do is love and worship Him for it.

Think: Do you feel like you have to do something to earn a little piece of your salvation from sin and death? Why is it so hard for us to see that the bill is already paid in full?

Pray: Thank God for healing Naaman for free and for welcoming you into His family through Jesus for free, too.

Do: Make a quick list of all the really valuable things in your life that you did not earn or pay for.

Desperate: God Goes First

‘If you will not,’ said Naaman, ‘please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD.’ ” (2 Kings 5:17)

Notice two amazing things from today’s passage. First, Naaman asks for some Israeli dirt on which to set up an altar back home for making sacrifices to the God of Israel. He vows never again to sacrifice to another god. Seems like a rational response to his miracle healing, but it had the potential to be risky for Naaman. His boss the king worshipped another god.

dive_350The bigger deal to me, though, is what this story says about God. He did not require Naaman to vow to worship Him before He healed him. His only demand was that Naaman trust Him enough to follow the instructions to wash in the humble river. God healed Naaman with few strings attached — and Naaman’s worship followed.

God did the same for us, but in a much bigger way. In Romans 5, we’re told that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God gave the gift first — the gift of His only Son’s life for our sin. Our conversion and worship of Him followed once we understood His sacrifice and power and love.

Think: Is it risky for God to give away such amazing gifts without asking us to sign on the dotted line first?

Pray: Thank God for sacrificing Jesus before you knew to want to be saved. Ask Him to help you to worship Him in the best possible way.

Do: Read the last 10 verses of chapter 5 to catch the surprising ending to the story of Naaman and Elisha.