Reading through the Bible together
In this chapter, Naaman, the powerful and wealthy Syrian general, comes to Elisha desperately seeking healing for his advancing leprosy.
When Naaman and a small entourage of soldiers arrived at the humble home of Elisha, the prophet sent his servant out with a distinct message, “Go wash in the Jordan River seven times and you’ll be clean.” The insulted officer was angry that the prophet did not at least come out and speak to him personally. There were no prayers calling on God or expected magical words. Furthermore he was indignant the prophet implied he was so dirty he needed to bathe, seven times! Perhaps it all seemed too simple; most likely his pride was offended. In a rage, the terminally diseased general turned away from Elisha’s house in a huff and began riding back to Damascus.
What does leprosy represent? If the Jordan represents baptism—death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:4)—leprosy represents sin. It was a deadly contagious disease causing a slow miserable death. It began by affecting the nerves and the extremities, so if you had leprosy, you lost your sensation. And sin will numb your conscience (1 Timothy 4:2). That’s what sin does to you. At first you’re convicted of sin by your conscience, but the longer you stay in a life of sin, the more you lose your sense of conviction. Your heart becomes hard; the disease of sin has devoured you like leprosy.
Naaman reasoned, “The rivers of Damascus are much clearer and cleaner than the waters of the Jordan.” That was likely true, but God had said, “You wash in the Jordan River. But God is good and knows what He is doing. To reach Damascus Naaman had to ride by the Jordan River. Then one of Naaman’s soldiers approached him and said, “Look master, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, you’d do it, right?” He agreed. “So why not wash in the Jordan River and be clean?”
Naaman humbled himself, rode down to the edge of the river, took off his armor, waded into the muddy water of the Jordan, dipped down, and rubbed himself with each immersion. Elisha had told Naaman to wash seven times. If the commander had washed only five times, it wouldn’t have worked. God seems particular about numbers. When He told Joshua to march around the city of Jericho seven times on the seventh day, did the walls fall down after four times? What about the Sabbath day? He didn’t say He would bless whatever day we decide is convenient to set aside for rest and worship. God said “the Seventh Day” and He means what He says, and He expects us to obey in small particulars.
When Naaman finally came up the seventh time, his skin felt different. The leprosy that had ravaged his skin, and maybe had attacked some of his fingers or toes, was gone. Naaman was healed! The Scripture says, “His flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child” (2 Kings 5:14).
Can you imagine the scene? After the general washes in the Jordan the seventh time, he comes up, and his soldiers say, “What a miracle! Praise the Lord! Your leprosy’s completely gone and your skin looks new! Can we touch it?” Can you imagine that?
A Christian is a soldier with new baby skin. You’re born again, yet you’re a soldier. It’s also a picture of baptism; it happened in the Jordan River, which is where John the Baptist first introduced baptism and Jesus was baptized as an example for you and me (Matthew 3:13). And speaking of leprosy, Jesus healed many lepers during His ministry.
Finally, at the end of this amazing story, Elisha is betrayed by a companion for silver. Naaman tried to pay for his healing, but Elisha refused to take the money because salvation is a gift of God. However, Elisha’s greedy servant Gehazi chased after Naaman, lied, and took the silver. Gehazi ended up with the leprosy of Naaman because of his greed and treachery. Likewise, because of his greed Judas sold the Savior for silver and ended up hanging himself after his betrayal of Christ.
Dear Lord, like Naaman we have all been stricken with the leprosy of sin. But we humbly come to you now. We repent of our sins and long to be washed in the blood of your Son, the Lamb who shed His blood for us to make us clean. Amen.
Sacramento Central Church