logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

“When God Asks Too Much”

July 24/16 - 2Kings 5:1-14


What if you were a highly respected, well-known public figure, a household name as it were – yet whenever people saw you coming down the street, instead of stepping up to congratulate you and shake your hand, they moved away and kept their distance? What would it be like to be held in high regard, yet at the same time, ostracized, forbidden from actually making contact? What if you had done great things yet were afflicted with a physical malady that made people turn their faces away from you in disgust? You would be ‘great’ – yet not so great. Imagine how much you would long to be free of that physical affliction that cut you off from others.

      In 2 Kings 5 we meet Naaman, commander of the army in Aram, the neighbouring country north and east of Israel. V1 describes him as “a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram.” So he’s ‘a great man’, ‘a valiant soldier’ - NRSV “a mighty warrior”; highly regarded; victorious in battle; admired by his boss, the king. V1 adds, “but he had leprosy”. This would seem to be some disfiguring kind of skin condition rather than the nerve ailment we know today. It seems not to have isolated him as much as lepers in Israel were affected, because Naaman apparently was able to keep his position and function in society. But his leprous condition nevertheless must have troubled him much. He longed to be made whole.


Back when King Ahab was King of Israel, there seemed to have been a truce worked out with the Arameans. But now that Joram was king, things had deteriorated. Aram had conducted raids across the border. V2 “Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.” That much was not unusual. What IS unusual is that Naaman seems to have had a very good relationship with his servants. In v13 they address him as “my father” not “my lord” or “my master”. And that young girl captured from Israel? Kidnapped, abducted we might say? She actually wishes him well! She doesn’t wish he were dead out of resentment; she actually suggests a way he might be healed! V3 “She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."”

      What if you were in her shoes – would you actually have positive thoughts toward your captor? Yet this is the kind of attitude Jesus calls us to in the New Testament. Luke 6:27f “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The apostle Peter wrote, 1Peter 3:9 “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” That’s GRACE living!

      This young slave girl is not a priest or Levite, not a trained theologian, she’s probably uneducated – yet she believes God’s truth, and that’s about to have mighty effects. Massive resources are about to be allocated because of what one young believing slave girl says. Vv4f “Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said."By all means, go," the king of Aram replied."I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing...”

      The commander of the army ACTS on the basis of what she says. The king of the country ACTS on the basis of what she says. Resources are set aside for the purpose: some 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold; I checked this week and one pound of gold is worth about $19,000, so 150 pounds would be worth upwards of $3M! 750 pounds of silver at $245 would be worth about $184,000. And don’t forget the ten sets of designer outfits thrown in for effect, to dress it all up.

      The main point: GOD’S TRUTH in the mouth of a mere slave girl HAS POWER TO MOVE A KINGDOM. The army commander and the king both took what she said at face value, and acted on it. The power did not come from her authority or position: she was but a young slave captive. The power was rooted in the truth of what she said: God’s reality planted in the situation, that God was already active through the prophet Elisha.

      Do you and I apply this when we pray? Do I beseech God with childlike faith? Or do I presume to know better than God? Mark 10:14-15 “...Jesus...said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."” God values simple childlike trust in Him and His ability. Do we pray with faith, or with doubts? James 1:6-8 “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”


A real contrast emerges between the king of Israel (at this time, likely Joram) and the slave girl: the former’s LACK of faith is quite striking. Vv6f “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? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!"” Leprosy at that time was widely regarded as impossible to cure, as hard as raising the dead. So King Joram takes this as some kind of sick prank the king of Aram is asking, setting him up with an impossible request, with the only conceivable purpose of picking a fight, giving the Aramean king an excuse to attack yet again. So Joram tears his robes as a sign of grief and despair, it seems a hopeless and dreadful situation.

      Joram’s unbelief blinds him to seeing the possible opportunity God may be opening up by this strange request. Where fear sees problems, faith sees potential. The king may have much materially – wealth and power, an entire country at his disposal – but he lacks the faith of the slave girl. It doesn’t even OCCUR to him to consult with a prophet of Yahweh.

      Where are your fears prompting you to only see problems instead of God’s potential? Which problems am I currently facing where my doubts may be interfering with God’s solutions?

      Last week in Vacation Bible School one of the stories was Jesus and Peter walking on the water in the storm. For illustration we used a mixture of corn starch and water, a “non-Newtonian fluid” which was solid enough to hold you up on it if you kept moving, but if you delayed and stood in one spot too long, you would start to sink. Don’t get stuck in unbelief, fixated on your fears! Mt 14:30f “But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"” Peter’s mistake was taking his focus off Jesus, paying attention to the wind, becoming mired and sinking in fear.


Into this diplomatic quagmire, potential provocation of an international incident, Elisha the prophet intervenes. The king of Israel may not have much faith, but Elisha certainly does; he sees this as a situation with potential for God’s majesty to be displayed. V8 “When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: "Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel."” HE WILL KNOW – that there is a prophet, yes, but even more – that Yahweh is the one true God and delights in working through the agency of His people. Elisha perceives the Lord at work, bringing about a course of events in which His supernatural greatness may be made manifest, His glory shown, His uniqueness and relation-ability known. Jump ahead a bit – What is Naaman’s response after he is cleansed? Vv15,17B - “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...Your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD.

      God’s goodness experienced in our lives – whether through extraordinary miracles, or the regular outworkings daily of His marvelous design of the created order – His goodness is not just for our enjoyment and consumption: He works wonders for His GREATNESS to be known and acknowledged, not just for our mere GRATIFICATION. If you’ve experienced the Lord’s grace and mercy some special way this week – did you stop and give Him thanks? Or are you like some other lepers in the New Testament who carried on their way after Jesus healed them without returning to thank Him? (Luke 17:17)

      One of Jesus’ greatest miracles was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. But He sets it up in such a way as to make it clear the miracle was not just for the benefit of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha: there was much more at stake. John 11:40,42B - “Then Jesus said [to Martha], "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"...[Then praying aloud to the Father] "I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."” Raising Lazarus would display God’s glory and greatness, and prompt more people to trust in and acknowledge Him (Jn 11:45).

      When you pray, do you bring a list of self-oriented wants as you would to Santa Claus? Are you praying just for your own needs, or is there more in view? Can we graduate from “gimme” prayers to “greatness” prayers – seeking God’s renown to be spread, with the actual answer to the prayer being a sort of beneficial side-effect?


Naaman is pursuing healing for his leprosy. But there’s a more subtle condition afflicting his soul that God also wants to deal with. This all comes to the surface when the great general finally arrives at the residence of the prophet Elisha. Vv9-12 “So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.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.Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage.”

      Picture it. Naaman arrives with horses (plural) and chariots (plural), toting millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise, a colourful ambassadorial entourage causing quite a stir in some sleepy suburb of Samaria. Today one would imagine a fleet of black limousines pulling up accompanied by police on motorcycles, with secret service agents in black suits and sunglasses popping out to check for any potential threats, then the great general emerging with cameras flashing. But who’s there to greet him? No one! Elisha doesn’t even bother to emerge from his house. This is a real diplomatic slap in the face!

      Eventually, a lowly servant emerges from Elisha’s place with a simple message: Naaman is to go wash in the Jordan River. The muddy, hot, thicket-encroached Jordan River!

      It’s all too much of an affront for Naaman’s ego. He erupts in a volley of outrage. NLT “But Naaman became angry and stalked away.“I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said.“I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!” As if to say – “Doesn’t he know who I AM?! At least a little show of respect would have been fitting! I expected him to make a big thing of it.”

      Because Elisha declines to emerge, it becomes apparent Naaman has more issues than just leprosy. His soul is very selfish. This great man, highly regarded, this valiant soldier – is extremely PROUD. And that is something God makes an issue of. Prov 8:13 Divine Wisdom says, “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance...” The apostle Peter says in 1Peter 5:5, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." God can’t help Naaman with his physical problem until he deals first with his spiritual problem, comes down off his high horse, repents, and humbles himself.

      This he eventually does. His own servants patiently and politely plead with him, v13, “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’!” Eventually he calms down, sees their point of view, repents of his pride and stubbornness, and humbles himself to wash in the muddy Jordan. His skin is not just healed and restored to be like that of other men his age: it’s as if God actually goes one better and turns the clock back! V14 “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.” It’s as if he became as a little child...Hmm, reminds me of something Jesus said! Matthew 18:3 ASV “Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

      Naaman just about missed out on God’s blessing of healing because of his stubborn arrogance. Until Naaman was willing to suck up his pride and obediently follow God’s directions – carry out the instructions of the prophet, humble himself and do it on the Lord’s terms – he was blocking himself off from God’s goodness. So the principle here is, SELF MISSES OUT WHEN WE INSIST ON SEEKING GOD ON OUR TERMS. When Naaman obeyed the word of the Lord, the miracle happened. So doing, he became an example to the whole nation of Israel, which at the time was wavering between following Baal or following Yahweh. And he even became an Old Testament figure who received honourable mention by the Lord Jesus. Luke 4:27 “And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed— only Naaman the Syrian.”

      Does selfishness get in the way of God answering our prayers? It’s natural - fleshly - to want to be made much of. Ego crops up ever so easily. But if you try to dictate to God, don’t be surprised when He doesn’t seem very co-operative! When praying, first check our ATTITUDE GAUGES. Are we objecting that God seems to be stipulating we wash in the muddy Jordan when we’d rather wash in a crystal-clear mountain-fed stream instead? Is our heart right when we’re making our request? Are we asking for purely selfish motives? Are we harbouring unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone?

      The Lord teaches that setting our human affairs straight is a prerequisite for connecting in worship. Matthew 5:23f “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” James writes to the church to check our motives when praying, to make sure our requests aren’t for selfish reasons. James 4:3-6 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God...He gives us more grace.That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."”

      Naaman discovered the wonderful blessing of physcial AND spiritual healing. He came to share the faith of his young servant girl: a God who receives and rewards those who come to Him humbly in faith. Let’s pray.