Naaman: A portrait of how God saves


So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 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.” 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. 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. 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’?” 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. 2 Kings 5

J. Hampton Keathley on “The Significance of Leprosy in the Bible”:

(1) The leper was considered unclean and had to be isolated from society to a certain degree. Wherever he went he was to cry out, “unclean, unclean,” and he had to wear black with a hood covering his face and live outside the city walls.

(2) Whenever the Lord Jesus healed a leper he always pronounced the person, not healed, but cleansed.

(3) True leprosy was incurable by man in Bible times just as sin is incurable for man (Jer. 17:9, “desperately sick,” “beyond cure” or “incurably sick”; see also Isa. 1:5-6). There is nothing man himself can do to deal with his sin problem. Further, his sin separates him from God and even from intimate fellowship with people (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-132 Cor. 6:14-7:1). When the Lord healed a leper, therefore, the picture should have been obvious. His power to cleanse a leper demonstrated He was the solution to man’s sin and defilement; He alone was and is the means of reconciliation, peace with God and man.

(4) The rite of purification in the Old Testament did not cure, it only recognized the fact a leper was cured, he was clean of the disease, or that he never really had the incurable type of leprosy. He could then be reconciled to society.

(5) Leprosy, like sin, begins within (with what we are) and then erupts on the skin (on the surface). As such, it clearly reminds us of the principle that men are, by an inherited nature, sinners and that it’s not just what we do that is so bad, but what we are. The point is the mouth speaks and hands do as a result of what the heart is and thinks (Luke 6:43-45Ps. 51:5; 58:3Matt. 12:33-34Eph. 2:1f). With this in mind, compare Leviticus 13:1-4. Even the slightest blemish in the skin, a swelling (a boil), a scab (a small tumor), or a bright spot (a red or scaly place) was to be carefully observed to see if it was the product of something deeper, i.e., some form of true leprosy.

(6) The priest was to examine the skin and pronounce the person clean or unclean depending upon his observation of the facts. So today, since Christ has provided cleansing from sin, every believer as a believer priest is to detect sin in their own life and pronounce it sin when it first appears (1 John 1:8-10).49

(7) The pain of leprosy, at least in certain forms, was not acute because it also killed the nerves in the affected area, but it kept the victim restless, miserable, and frustrated as they felt the stigma of the disease. They saw portions of their bodies become numb, muscles atrophy (waste away), tendons contract making the hands like claws, and then the ulceration of the fingers and toes and hands and feet resulting in their loss bit by bit until the whole hand or foot was gone. We must not miss the picture God wants us to see from this emphasis in Scripture. Sin is like this. Because of man’s separation from God, because of his spiritually dead condition and the hardness of his soul, he becomes insensitive, callused, restless and never satisfied. He often does not experience severe pain from his sin and waywardness, only insensitivity, restless misery, and futility, ever seeking some means of fulfillment running from one thing to another (cf. Isa. 57:20-21Eph. 4:16-19). Even in apparent prosperity and happiness, not only is there a certain amount of inner peace and true happiness missing, but their ultimate plight is death, loss, and the judgment of separation (Ps. 1:4-5; 73:1-28).

(8) Because of the nature of the disease, the leper was often considered as dead; it was a kind of living death though physically alive. So men without Christ are nothing more than the living dead; though walking about they are spiritual zombies (Eph. 2:1).

(9) Regardless of one’s position, honor, power, possessions, or wealth, leprosy, like sin, is no respecter of persons. Naaman was a man of position and prestige, but he was also leprous.

(10) As seen previously, in Israel, according to the Law, lepers were excluded from society as a picture of sin and its effects. God used this to remind Israel of His holiness. Cleansing a leper meant being restored back to a normal life. The term “cure” in 2 Kings 5:3 literally meant, “to receive back.” This provides us with a fitting picture of our reconciliation to God and to one another (cf. Isa. 59:2 with 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

(11) Finally, the leprosy of sin destroys the pleasantness and beauty God meant for mankind in His creation. Sin deforms us, but in Christ we are made new creations and can be transformed into His glorious likeness (2 Cor. 5:17Rom. 12:1-2Gal. 4:19). See also 2 Kings 5:14.

Namaan held a high position, but had a very great problem. We need to understand that God often uses the personal failures, sicknesses, and problems of men as a means so bring them to the end of themselves and to a knowledge of the Lord and His salvation. (Ps. 119:67, 71, 73). God uses problems in life to force us to face our deeper problem, the problem of sin, and the need of God’s forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. This chapter illustrates this. Naaman went from his problem to God’s solution which was more than simply the healing of his leprosy. As we will see, Naaman came to know the true God. So, with verses 2 and following we will see how God worked in various ways, through the disease and through people to bring Naaman to the Lord. In these verses we have portraits of how God saves.

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