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—2 KINGS 5:1-14.—APRIL 2.—
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is none else."—Isaiah 45:22 .
GENERAL NAAMAN, of the army of Syria, on the northern border of the land of Israel, was a sick man. He had the loathsome infection and incurable disease called leprosy. Wealth, influence at Court, life's abundance and honors could not offset this terrible plague upon his life. The study of today tells of his miraculous healing by the Prophet Elisha. In Naaman's household was a young girl who had been captured from the Israelites and was a slave, although doubtless well treated. The maid remembered the Prophet Elisha and how wonderfully Divine power, through him, had healed diseases. Instead of rejoicing that her captor and master was suffering, she sympathetically inquired why he did not go to the Prophet, who, she felt sure, would be glad to pray for him and heal him.
Although it seemed like catching at a straw Naaman followed up the suggestion; he got a letter from his King to the King of Israel and presented himself to the latter, requesting healing by Israel's great Prophet, of whom he had heard. The King was astonished. He knew leprosy to be incurable. Apparently he knew little about Elisha's powers. He surmised that the King of Syria was intent upon picking a quarrel as an excuse for sending an invading army to pillage his kingdom. Eventually, however, Naaman was directed to Elisha's place of residence, at a distance from the King's Court.
Here again there was difficulty. Naaman expected great consideration for his rank—that the Prophet would make gestures over him and pray; perhaps offer sacrifice and incense, and, possibly, after a great ado, he might be healed. But instead of this, Elisha, without coming to see him at all, merely sent word by his servant that the General should go to the river Jordan and there wash seven times.
Naaman was angry. He had come several days' journey with servants and costly presents hoping for healing, and he was turned away like a dog with a bone. He fumed as his chariot drove on: Have we not better rivers in Syria than this river Jordan, which is always muddy? It is not bathing that I need!
However, a message of wisdom came to him from his servants, who suggested that he try the Prophet's prescription; that the fact that it was simple and easy of performance should not cause the General to reject the proposal. Although fearful that no good would come from the washing, and that he would be made the laughing-stock [R4769 : page 60] of his own servants, his own people and the Israelites, he concluded, nevertheless, to follow the Prophet's direction. He bathed seven times in Jordan and his leprosy was healed thoroughly.
As only Divine power could heal the leper, only the same can heal the sinner. As the maid could call attention to the Prophet, and the Prophet prescribe the remedy, and the servants exhort compliance, so all those who know of a Divine power and arrangement for the healing of sinners may tell the good tidings, even to their enemies. The ministers or prophets of the Divine Word may direct as to the proper way to obtain Divine forgiveness and restoration, and others may help to impress the lesson; yet no recovery can be made except as the individual himself follows the Divine prescription, exercising both faith and obedience.
The number seven in the Bible is used to represent completeness; hence the seven washings in Jordan would signify a complete cleansing, washing. The poet has beautifully referred to this and pictured the cleansing, healing Fountain into which by faith sinners may plunge:—
It is by faith that we may now wash ourselves completely in the blood of Christ; by faith we may realize that the sacrifice of Christ was for the sins of the whole world, and may appropriate our share thereof.
Gratitude is one of the most worthy sentiments of the human mind. General Naaman's nobility was manifested in the fact that, after being healed, he retraced his journey nearly forty miles, in order to thank the Prophet for his recovery and to bestow upon him gifts which he had brought. We may assume that if he had not been noble-minded, God would not have provided for him this healing. "The generous soul shall be made fat."
To the General's surprise the Prophet declined to take anything. The gifts of God's grace are not to be bartered for earthly good things. How fortunate it would be, and how much to the Lord's glory, if all of God's people would emulate Elisha in this respect! But Gehazi, Elisha's servant, had a different spirit. As he saw the wealth rolling away he thought the Prophet foolish and determined to get something by a process of "graft."
When the chariot was out of sight he hastened and hailed it and told the General that although his master would take nothing of the things offered for himself, he would willingly accept some of the garments for the young men of the School of the Prophets. The General [R4769 : page 61] very promptly and gladly assented and gave more than was requested. But God through the Prophet punished the perfidy of Gehazi. He took Naaman's presents; he got, also, Naaman's leprosy.
Many have erroneously assumed, in connection with this lesson, that Naaman was saved to heaven and Gehazi lost. Both conclusions are unscriptural. Naaman was saved to health and Gehazi lost his health. But the eternal interests of neither were settled.
Not until Cornelius' day, three and a half years after the Cross, did any Gentile come into any kind of relationship with God. Previous to that, from the time of Moses, only the Jewish nation had recognition. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." (Amos 3:2.) And God's favor to Israel was merely an earthly and preparatory one. No one gained eternal life prior to the Redeemer's sacrifice. Thus the Scriptures declare that Christ "brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel"; again, "So great salvation which began to be declared by our Lord."
Since Jesus' day immortality has been brought to light—the offer of "glory, honor and immortality" to the saintly followers of Jesus' footsteps who, as the "very elect," will be the Royal Priesthood through whom earthly Restitution blessings will be opened up to natural Israel and, through Israel, to all nations during Messiah's reign of glory.