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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:You Will Be Cleansed!
Text:2 Kings 5:1-19a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:03/12/2017
Added:2017-03-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


You Will Be Cleansed!”
2 Kings 5:1-19a
 
Naaman would be one of those people who would be so hard to buy a present for. I’m sure you’ve encountered that at some point. Maybe you have a friend or family member who seems to have everything. At Christmas or their birthday, what can you possibly buy for them?
 
Naaman was like that. He had everything anyone could ever want. He had everything that those in the world value. He had a great job. Verse 1 tells us how Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Syria. Syria had a powerful army and Naaman was the chief commander.
 
Because of his position with the king of Syria, he also had prestige. Verse 1 goes on to say, He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded.  His high regard was due to the great success that he had as a military commander. Verse 1 describes how through him the LORD had given victory to Syria. 
 
Furthermore, he had wealth. When Naaman left for Israel he took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing (5b). Yet, even though Naaman had all these blessings there was not a single person in Syria who would trade places with him. For he also had leprosy. Verse 1 concludes:  He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.
 
It wasn’t a minor skin disease, although many Bibles have footnotes explaining that the Hebrew word for leprosy covers a wide range of skin diseases.  But this was no minor rash. This wasn’t a light infection. It was terminal disease.  It was fatal. There was no human cure.      
 
However, his life would be profoundly changed because of the witness of a young girl. Although she was young in years she had already experienced excruciating trial and hardship. Verse 2 explains, Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife.
 
We are not given her exact age in years, but for any of you young girls among us, can you begin to imagine what it would be like to be taken captive during war? Soldiers from Syria would periodically go into Israel conducting raids. They would take whatever plunder they could get their hands on, and they would take captive whomever they could.
                      
Perhaps this girl was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when suddenly she was snatched away from her family, her friends and her home. We don’t know all the circumstances, but we can be sure that it was a heart wrenching, terrifying experience as she was taken captive and brought from Israel to Damascus.
 
In Damascus she ended up as a servant to Naaman’s wife. She must have made a good impression upon Naaman and his wife. Like other Christians who had been brought into captivity, she continued to live out her faith in the Lord. In that way she was like Joseph in Potiphar’s household, or Daniel in Babylon. And because she had the respect of Naaman and his wife they listened when she said to her mistress in verse 3, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
 
In that statement we see that she had a childlike faith. Although she had been taken captive in war, her faith and trust in God shone through. She had faith that God would work through Elisha to bring healing for Naaman.
 
It was through a young girl, a captive, a servant, through whom Naaman was introduced not only to Elisha but to the God whom Elisha served. Elisha, whom we have seen in our study of 2 Kings was a “type” – or foreshadow – of Christ.
 
There are some other people in the cast of characters in this passage. There is the king of Israel who demonstrated a total lack of faith and compassion when he was approached by Naaman. There was also the king of Syria who sent the letter that Naaman gave to the king of Israel. And the passage describes how Elisha sent an unnamed messenger, perhaps Gehazi, who told Naaman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River.
 
But the main focus of the passage comes back to Naaman, the servant girl, and to Elisha. And as we look at the interaction of these three people we see that this passage teaches, first, how God, in mysterious and awesome providence, leads His people to salvation.
 
God’s Providence and Our Salvation
 
In our Young People’s catechism class we memorize portions of the catechism, as well as some of the supporting Scripture verses. And recently we memorized Lord’s Day 10 which describes God’s providence, as being “the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures…” The catechism goes on to describe how all things come to us, not by chance, but from God’s Fatherly hand.  And we certainly see that truth in the scene that unfolded when this young girl was captured by the Syrian soldiers.
 
Can you imagine the distress of her mother and father, not to mention her own distress and fear for her very life and safety? Some commentators describe how search parties must have been formed to go out and to search for this girl. Perhaps armed forces from Israel tried to catch up to the Syrians who had captured her.
 
Others describe the anguish of the parents and point out that often in such case, even among Christians, the question is raised, “Why God? Why would our daughter whom we are raising to be your daughter, a child of faith – why would you allow her to be captured by the Syrians? Why would you allow her life to be put in jeopardy? And even if her life is spared, what quality of life will she have in Damascus?”
 
I have three daughters, and many of you have daughters. Can you imagine them being kidnapped at a young age by enemy forces? From a simply human perspective this is a story of great tragedy. From our viewpoint it makes no sense, and in a wavering state of faith, we may be inclined to question why God, in providence, would allow such a thing to happen to a young girl who had a childlike faith in Him. But God allowed that kidnapping for a very definite purpose. Just as it was not by chance that Joseph ended up in Potiphar’s household, or Daniel in the council of the king of Babylon, so too, it was not by chance that this young girl ended up in Naaman’s household as a servant to his wife.
 
God allowed those events, as heart wrenching as they were, to bring salvation to a Syrian commander. Naaman was not part of Israel. He had conducted raids against Israel, the people of God. Verse 1 tells us that through Naaman the Lord had given Syria success over Israel.  But now who would expect that God would reach down in grace and transform his life, and cleanse him not just of leprosy but of the sin which the leprosy represents?
 
We see in this passage that God is the God of all grace. And it is not unusual for him to use the most dire circumstances of life to bring people to himself. It is true that sometimes when his providence seems harsh, people blame God for their circumstances and turn from him in bitterness. But for God’s elect, it is often the trials of life that God allows in his providence, which brings them to eternal life.
 
Most of the people in our church know a woman who had terminal cancer. There was no cure. She had not been in regular church attendance for decades. But she and her husband and son shopped at the Supermarket down the street, on Sunday no less, and as they drove by this church the son said to his mother, “We ought to go there sometime.” When she had cancer they began attending church.
 
The people of our church know of whom I speak. Her funeral was conducted almost a year ago now. I don’t doubt for a moment that God allowed the cancer so that she would realize her need to be reconciled to God through saving faith in Jesus Christ.
                          
Admittedly she prayed, and we all prayed, for remission from the cancer. But it was God’s will to allow the cancer to convict her of her sin and the need for saving faith. And then he allowed, in his providence, the cancer to bring her to the doorway of heaven, where she came to God, justified by saving faith in His Son.
 
And we see similar scenarios time and again. It is often the great troubles and trials of life that bring us closest to the Lord. And we see that in this passage as well. Naaman’s leprosy, and the girl’s captivity, were both heart wrenching, life altering circumstances. But God, in gracious providence, combined them to bring saving faith to a Gentile, to the commander of the army of Syria who had inflicted so much sorrow (which God allowed as judgment) on Israel.  Such is the mysterious and wonderful providence of our gracious, almighty God!
 
Not the Labors of Our Hands
 
As God’s providence played out in Naaman’s life, and also in the life of the young girl who witnessed to him, we also see the inability of human efforts to cleanse.
Did you notice the value of the gifts Naaman brought to Elisha, as recorded in verse 5?  He had ten suits, and these weren’t just any suits. These were special. They were expensive suits of exquisite quality, carefully tailored and expertly crafted from the finest materials available.
 
The silver was also special; Naaman had seven hundred fifty pounds of pure silver. There were no impurities mixed in. It was the purest of the pure. And then, in case that wasn’t enough to buy the cure, he had gold, one hundred fifty pounds of solid gold! Back then gold was weighed and valued differently than today, but by today’s standards the one hundred fifty pounds of gold would be worth well over two million dollars. If a cure could be bought, Naaman had the resources and the money to buy that cure.
 
He also tried to be cleansed from his terminal disease through influence.  He got a letter from the king of Syria, addressed to the king of Israel. 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.”
 
Naaman may have thought: “If the gold and silver aren’t enough to impress the prophet, I’ll bring a letter from the king of Syria to the king of Israel. That will be impressive enough to lead to my cleansing, my healing cure.” But as he discovered, there is no human cure for leprosy. There is no human cure for sin, which the leprosy is pointing us to. The leprosy is just the outward manifestation of the inner death, the reality that the wages of our sin is death. And there is no human cure.
 
That was true for Naaman so long ago. He could not be cured of this leprosy by influence, nor could he buy his cure, not even with all of his gold and silver. Yet there are still many today who try to earn their salvation by their deeds of self-righteousness. There are many still today who try to be cured of their sin by influence. “I have been a lifelong member of the church,” they might say. Or, “Because of my baptism I know that God will receive me. To them the baptismal certificate has the weight to carry them into the heavenly gates.
 
But all of our righteous deeds are as a filthy rag in God’s sight, and the sacraments, precious as they are to those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet can never save us.
 
The Only Source of Cleansing
 
The only way to be cleansed from sin – which is represented by Naaman’s leprosy – is to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and that is portrayed in the cleansing that Naaman received as he washed himself seven times in the Jordan River. Peter puts it this way, in 1 Peter 1:18, For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
 
There is no other way to be cleansed. Naaman resisted dipping himself in the Jordan River. Verse 11 tells us how he went away angry and said, “…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?”
 
­And there are still many people today who say essentially the same thing. They say, “All roads lead to heaven. You don’t need the River Jordan; you don’t need faith in Christ; any river – any faith – will do, so long as you are sincere in your faith.”
 
But the message of Scripture is that there is only one source of cleansing, and that source of cleansing is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is only through saving faith in him alone that you and I are cleansed of a disease far worse than leprosy.
 
Through faith in Jesus Christ we are raised from spiritual death, for we were all dead in our sins and trespasses and were by nature objects of God’s wrath. But in mercy, just as great as the mercy he extended to Naaman, God has extended mercy to you and to me, to all who by his grace and Spirit’s power believe upon his Son.
 
A Childlike Faith
 
But to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ we need, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, a childlike faith in him alone. In verse 3 we read of the childlike faith of this girl. She said, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
 
But later on, in verse 11 and 12, we read how Naaman had none of that childlike faith. Instead of faith, he had anger. He was furious that Elisha’s messenger said that he had to wash in the Jordan River. The last phrase in verse 12 describes how he turned and went off in a rage.
 
Naaman was deeply offended that Elisha didn’t come out to meet him and go through some elaborate ritual to cleanse him from his leprosy. Instead Elisha sent the messenger who said, “Go wash in the Jordan seven times.” It infuriated Naaman.
 
That should not surprise us. People find true Christianity to be offensive. In the New Testament we read about the offense of the gospel. People take offense that they must be cleansed of sin, and they ridicule the concept that cleansing is only found through faith in Christ. As Paul told the Corinthians, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
   
At this point Naaman was so close to being cleansed, and yet so far. Yet, by God’s grace, he listened to his servants as they said, “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you have not done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”
 
At that point he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, and was restored and became clean like that of a young child. From that time on this commander of the Syrian army lived not in reliance on his military might and prestige. He no longer lived in reliance on his wealth. Instead, we can be assured that he lived with a childlike faith. He now had the same saving faith as the young girl who had witnessed to him.
 
From this point forward his life would be lived for the Lord. We see him express great remorse that in his service in Damascus he would bow in the Temple of Rimmon. We see him take soil from Israel, as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, so that he would never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.
 
You see, by God’s grace and regenerating spirit, Naaman came to have a childlike faith in the eternal Christ, who is foreshadowed and typified throughout the Old Testament.
 
The greatest question that any of us can ever answer is, “Do you and do I have that same childlike faith in him who was born in Bethlehem – in the Lord Jesus Christ?” And having that faith, do we witness to others as the servant girl witnessed to Naaman?
 
In Matthew 18:1-4 we read how the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
 
May you and I, by God’s grace and enabling Spirit, have that childlike faith in Jesus Christ alone, this afternoon and always! Amen.
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
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.” - 2 Kings 5:10
 
“You Will Be Cleansed!”
2 Kings 5:1-19a
 
I.  Three significant people in this passage include:
       1) Naaman, blessed with so much, yet a victim of leprosy (1)
 
 
 
 
       2) A young girl, a captive made servant, with a childlike faith (2)
 
 
 
 
       3) The prophet in Samaria, Elisha, a foreshadow of Christ (3)
 
 
 
 
II. The passage teaches:
       1) The providence of God (1-3) leading to salvation (14-18)
 
 
 
 
       2) The inability of human efforts to cleanse (4-7)
 
 
 
 
       3) The cleansing from Christ portrayed in the Jordan River (13-14)
 
 
 
 
III. Application: To be cleansed of sin we need, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, a childlike faith in Christ alone (3, 14; Matthew 18:1-4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

03/12/2017 – p.m.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 03/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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