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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:God's Deliverance is free for anyone who submits to His Word
Text:2 Kings 5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Well Meant Gospel Offer
 
Preached:2001-07-00
Added:2011-05-16
Updated:2016-11-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

From the 1984 Book of Praise

 

Psalm 96:1,4

Psalm 51:4,6

Psalm 67:1,2,3

Hymn 24:1,3,5

Psalm 40:2,3,4

 

Read:  2 Kings 5

Text:  2 Kings 5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Has God ever failed you?  We believe He never does, but does it ever seem that way?  Have you ever had reason to doubt His Word, to wonder if He will really give you what He has promised? 

  God’s people of Israel did.  When the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, the king was removed from his throne, and they were ripped out of their country and sent into exile then they asked, “What’s going on?  Have God’s promises failed?  Is He unable to give us what He promised after all?”

  And as they were struggling with these questions, a book was written.  A history of the kings of Israel.  And this book makes it clear that God never forgets His people, nor does He forget His promises to you.  The problem, however, was that God’s people had rejected Him!  They did not wish to submit to His Word.

  And so God warned His people and said, “Watch out, Israel!  My grace is bigger than you think.  If you reject me, then I will turn to the gentiles.  Then my light will shine in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.  Yes, even your enemies will declare that I am the Lord, the God of heaven and earth and besides me there is no other.”

  That is what God was doing in 2 Kings 5.  As a lesson to Israel and a lesson to you, He caused His promise of deliverance to go out in the wicked city of Damascus, in the country of Aram.  His Word went forth from the small voice of a little Hebrew slave girl.  God used this little girl as a forerunner of the coming age when God’s plan of deliverance would be spread far and wide.  When all nations would be called to believe in the One sent by God to save the entire world.

 

I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

God’s  deliverance is free for anyone who submits to His word.

1. Humbly seek God’s free deliverance.

2. Faithfully submit to God’s way of deliverance.

3. Give an upright response to God’s deliverance.

 

1. Humbly seek God’s free deliverance.

It was a quiet, still morning.  The birds were chirping, the children were playing, and the parents were working in the fields and in the home.  It seemed like this would be like the many days that went on before it.  But then comes a sound. It’s hardly audible at first but it quickly gets louder.  A few people notice, and look warily around.  What is it?  And then they see a cloud of dust hurrying towards them, and then the sound is unmistakable:  it is the sound of horses’ feet thundering towards them!  The Arameans!  Someone gives a shout of warning, and everyone tries to flee in terror.  But it is too late.  The horsemen are upon them.  They attack, they kill, they maim.  Hurrying, always hurrying, they loot and plunder the city, taking what they can, burning the rest. Then snatching up a few women and children to take as slaves, they rush back to their horses and are gone.  A stillness returns to the city, but it is the stillness of death.  Things will never be the same again.  And the man responsible for all of this, is a man called Naaman.

 

The name Naaman was enough to bring the cold hand of fear into the hearts of any Israelite.  He was the commander of the army of Ben Hadad 2, the king of Aram, in what is today known as Syria.  It was the Arameans who had killed Ahab in battle and even now, from time to time, they rushed in and raided the towns and villages of Israel.  While Israel, under King Joram, was losing its strength, the Arameans were gaining the upper hand.  It would only be a matter of time before an all-out war between Aram and Israel would happen again.  God is doing just as He said He would, and is punishing Israel by giving strength to their enemies.

 

That is not to say, however, that the people of Aram appreciated what was happening.  The land of Aram was a land of darkness, polluted with idol worship.  They did not know who God was, and they worshipped a god called Rimmon, another name for Baal.  They were wicked.  They were blood-thirsty.  They had an intense dislike for the nations around them, and for the laws and customs of Israel.  They were proud.  They were the masters of the world, the super power of the day!  Their god had given them the victory; they had arrived at the pinnacle of success.

  As far as Ben Hadad was concerned, this was all thanks to his god Rimmon and his right hand man, the great and well respected commander of his army.  Naaman.  This man Naaman was good!  He was a valiant man, a brave and courageous soldier.

 

As for the man Naaman, he was on top of the world!  He had proven that he was the greatest.  He was an outstanding success.  He was admired, respected and feared.  He had reason to be proud, and proud he was. And as for Israel… Well, he had a souvenir from one of his raids against Israel.  That souvenir was always around to remind him of how great he was.  That souvenir was a little slave girl, who served Naaman’s wife.

  Here was a little girl, booty from a raid; a living testimony of the power and might of Naaman, the military commander.  She was a stranger in a foreign land.  She had no rights.  She was young, a woman, a slave, an Israelite.  There was no one lower in the social hierarchy of ancient Aram.  The difference between Naaman and this little girl could not have been greater.  But this little slave girl had something that Naaman did not.

 

As for Naaman, he would have been happy.  Except for one thing.  Naaman had leprosy. A horrible, loathsome skin disease.  Painful, repulsive sores covered his body.  And that one thing was enough to turn his life from one of grand pomp and splendor to a life of misery.  In desperation, Naaman visited every doctor, every magician, every soothsayer who could possibly help him.  He had access to the best medical care available in the land of Aram.  He tried his special diets, he tried special baths.  He tried everything, but nothing could help.  Nobody at all was able to help Naaman and cure his horrible disease.

  That would have been enough to make any man in Israel smile.  “Naaman, it serves you right!  You’ve caused so much grief and misery to God’s people, so now you are getting some of that back.  God is punishing you with leprosy!  And do you know what Naaman?  It is not just that leprosy is a horrible disease.  Your leprosy is an illustration of your sin; it is God’s way of saying that you can never be in His presence.  You are a living testimony of what God will do to all of Israel’s enemies.  God’s deliverance, His grace and salvation will never be given to terrible sinners such as you.”

 

But not everyone thought that way. In Naaman’s household was a little slave girl.  And this obscure little girl had the answer to Naaman’s problem.  She knew how it would be possible for Naaman to be delivered of his skin condition.  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 a witness this girl was!  Here she is, a young girl in a strange land, declaring that the God of Elisha could heal.  That there is deliverance for the leper, even for the greatest enemy of God’s people!  Here was a girl, who inspite of her situation, had learned what Peter would later tell the church in 1 Peter 3:15 – to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.  God used this young slave girl to sow the seed, to be a missionary, to be a forerunner of all those who proclaim the Good News of deliverance in the God of Israel.

 

As Naaman listens to the words of this young slave girl, a ray of hope begins to glimmer where once there was none.  Naaman knew full well how wretched his condition was.  He had done all he could to be delivered of his leprosy.  But his doctors, his magicians, his gods were not able.  Could it be, perhaps, that the nation of Israel had something that Aram does not?  Could they be holding the secret to the deliverance from his wretched skin condition?  If so, then he would do all that was in his power to get it!

 

Naaman got ready for the 200km journey into Israel.  He was entering into enemy territory to seek deliverance from his leprosy.  This was not something to be taken lightly.  The pride of his nation was at stake.  He could never be seen as one who was grovelling at the feet of his enemies.  That would never do!  He could never bow down in humble submission to the king of Israel, or his prophet.  He would have to display his power and might so that Israel would never forget who was boss, who were the great and mighty ones in the earth.

  Naaman checked his provisions.  The men loaded the sacks silver onto the camel backs.  One after the other … 340 kg of silver, and then 90 kg of gold.  And then 10 of the best sets of clothing money could buy.  In todays value, that’s more than $1 million.  Far more money than was necessary.

  In addition to this, Naaman brought with him a letter from the king of Aram.  A letter that said:  "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

  Naaman was ready.  He had the money, he had the letter.  Wealth and power.  He was ready to demand deliverance from his leprosy.

 

But where could Naaman find the deliverance he was seeking?  The king of Israel did not know.  He tore his robes in fear.  “I’m not God!  It’s all a wicked plot of Ben Hadad to try to pick a fight with me!”  The king of Israel did not know where to turn in a crisis such as this.  He had forgotten that deliverance is to be found in the Lord, and that there was a prophet of God living down the road from the king.  A prophet whose very name meant, “My God saves.”  The prophet of whom that slave girl spoke.  Elisha.  God’s free deliverance was available at the finger tips of the king of Israel all the time, but he never bothered to seek after it.  In fact, he forgot about it.

 

Elisha gets to hear what is happening, so he calls for Naaman to come to his house.  So there went Naaman with his entire entourage of horses, camels, servants, an incredible amount of wealth and a letter from the king of Aram.  Here is a man of status, a man of means.  In all his pomp and splendour, he comes to the lowly house of the prophet Elisha and waits for the prophet tocome out and meet him.  Naaman is all prepared.  He is ready to receive deliverance at the hand of Elisha.

  Or so he thinks.  For Naaman is not at all prepared to meet the prophet of the Lord.  He is still proud.  He thinks that deliverance from his skin condition can be bought with the authority of a king’s letter and with money.  But Naaman is wrong.  Very wrong. The world’s money and power will never buy that blessing of God’s saving deliverance.  In the eyes of God the gift Naaman brings fades into insignificance.  For Naaman to be healed, it will take something other than money.  Naaman must become like that little slave girl back in his hometown of Damascus.  He must acknowledge something that the king’s letter does not acknowledge:  that there is a prophet in Israel.  A prophet of the Lord Most High.  God’s deliverance is free, but you must seek it in the right manner.

 

2. Faithfully submit to God’s way of deliverance.

Here was the greatest commander of the greatest army of the world, waiting in front of the lowly house of an obscure prophet.  And then the unthinkable happened.  A man appeared, but it was not the prophet.  It was his servant. “Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

  That was it.  No interest in that important letter from the king of Aram.  No talk about money; in fact no interest at all in all that gold and silver that he took.  Naaman’s status, his power and money faded into insignificance before Elisha, the prophet of God.

 

That did it!  Enough was enough!  The least Naaman could expect was that Elisha would come out to meet him, voice the right mumbo-jumbo, roll around on the ground in an ecstatic frenzy, wave his hand over the leprosy and declare him to be healed.  That’s what a magician was all about, right?  Do something to force the hand of God to fulfill your wishes!

  But that does not happen.  No great things happen, nor is Naaman told to accomplish some great deed.  Just the simple command to humbly submit to the word of the prophet and wash in the Jordan seven times.

 

And then Naaman saw red. Who did this Elisha think he was?  Was he trying to make a laughing stock out of Israel’s #1 enemy, out of Naaman?  “Wash in the river Jordan and be cured of leprosy.”  What a preposterous idea!  I can’t think of anything more ridiculous!  That muddy creek could never contain any healing powers!  Who does Elisha think Naaman is?  The very idea of telling him to go out of his way to stoop down in that muddy creek called the Jordan and wash!  He would not even wish to stoop so low as to wash his camels in there!  That young slave girl would have something to answer for when he got home.  The humiliation of it all!  The laughing that would go on behind his back when he got home.  Naaman’s efforts to get healed had all come down to this:  the muddy Jordan.  What a joke.  And in a storm of rage, Naaman decides to quit the whole venture and go home.

 

Go and wash seven times in the river Jordan.  Naaman could be healed, but only by the power of God, and only if Naaman obeyed the word of God’s prophet.  The God who offers His deliverance freely, hates pride.  To experience His grace and deliverance, you must first understand your own wretched condition and look to God in your weakness, and rely on His strength.  God does not care who you are, or how great the world thinks you are.  It is God who saves – not you yourself.  Whether you be an Aramean general, or a wealthy Canadian/Australian/American, the poorest peasant or a leper, to know and experience God’s deliverance, you must abandon your pride and submit to His Word.  Naaman does not do this.  He is an obstacle to his own healing by his angry, disappointed reaction of unbelief.

  Naaman, there is nothing wrong with God’s plan of deliverance.  He can heal your skin condition.  He is able, and He is willing.  But the problem is you!  You are so obsessed about being someone, about being great.  You, the great man of Damascus, came here to Israel in order to do something great.  You want to earn your healing, and be in debt to no one.  But consider this.  Elisha is saying, “No.  You can’t buy this gift.  It is free.  But you will only receive it if you humble yourself, submit and obey.”

 

Thankfully Naaman’s servants knew just what the problem was.  They understood that his pride was wounded.  And so said to him, “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’!”

 

And then Naaman listens.  He begins to understand just what is going on.  And so he goes. And as he travels to the Jordan river, he has time to think.  If he is healed, then it is not the prophet who did it.  For Elisha is too far away.  Nor can it be the water:  he could be sure about that.  So should he be healed, Naaman will have to find the source of his deliverance somewhere else.

  The process of being humbled begins.  The power of kings and the money of the world have come to nothing, of no account.  The great commander Naaman is being led first by a slave girl, then a prophet’s servant, and now his own servants.  They are pointing him to something he did not have:  the need for a humble submission to the Word of God.

 

Naaman reaches the river Jordan.  He was not mistaken. It really is a small river, and the waters are somewhat muddy – nothing like the crystal clear waters of the rivers back home.  But Naaman submits to God’s way of deliverance.  He begins to dip in the water.  Once.  Then twice.  He must have felt foolish.  Three times.  He ducks his head under once again.  How can this work?  The preposterousness of it!  Five times …  What must his servants be thinking?  Isn’t this beneath the dignity of a man the calibre of Naaman?  Six times.  Once more now…

  And then it happens!  Naaman did what the man of God had told him, and now his flesh is restored like that of a little boy!  It is as if he is born again, and his skin is smooth and soft, just like … just like the skin of that Israelite slave girl who had told him to see Elisha in the first place.

  And more than that!  Now Naaman begins to understand what that slave girl knew all along.  There is deliverance to be found in the God of Elisha, through humbly submitting to His Word.  “Now I know,” Naaman tells Elisha, “that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

 

“Wash in the Jordan and be cured of leprosy.”  What a preposterous idea!  I can’t think of anything more ridiculous.

  Except for one thing.  The idea that putting your trust in a man executed on a cross 2000 years ago can give you a renewed life now, forgiveness from sin, resurrection from the dead and eternal life.  Now that beats all.

  God’s promise of deliverance requires faith.  A true faith that will result in a humble submission to the Word of God.  God’s promises often look foolish, unbelievable, unlikely, impossible.  But God’s seemingly foolish commands are, once obeyed, the power of God – for Naaman and for you!

 

3. Give an upright response to God’s deliverance.

Naaman is a changed man.  It is not just his skin that has become like that of the little slave girl.  His attitude has changed too.  He comes back to Elisha a humble man.  He has learned his lesson.  He is no longer a great and mighty man, but the servant of the Lord and of Elisha.  For there is no God but Yahweh, the creator of heaven and earth.  It is the Lord alone who is able to help.

  Once more Naaman tries to force Elisha to take his money.  Not as payment this time, but as a gift.  But Elisha refused.  What you, along with Naaman, need to understand, is that God does not expect repayment, but merely allegience and submission.  God’s grace is free.  You can’t earn it, you can’t repay it.  Understand that.  And make sure that none of you stands in the way of the free deliverance that God promises to give to all who follow Him.

 

Naaman has shifted his allegence from his king and his gods to Elisha and the God of Israel.  But now he has to struggle with how this is all going to work in practice.  He knows what Israel refuses to accept, that you can not serve the Lord and the false gods of the land at the same time.  The Lord demands your total allegiance.  And now the work begins for Naaman.  He has two requests:  that he be given some dirt to take back home on which to worship the Lord and that he be excused for accompanying the king into the temple of Rimmon to bow down to that false god. 

  Naaman is struggling with the question of how to serve the Lord in a land that is polluted with the worshipping of other gods.  Actually we have reason to criticize Naaman for his requests.  Naaman had some growing to do with respect to the major doctrines of faith.  But he is on the right road.  He is learning what it means to submit to the Word of God.  He places himself under the land, the prophet and the God of Israel.  And so Elisha simply responds by saying, “Go in peace.”  No, Elisha does not give his opinion with respect to Naaman’s requests, but he is confident that God, who began a good work in Naaman will bring it to completion.  He would grow spiritually from this point on.  And Elisha does not want that flame of faith to be snuffed out.   Naaman is a spiritual babe and thus he must be gently led in the way of truth.  Elisha’s concern at this point is that Naaman understands that deliverance is granted only by the free grace of God.  And as for the rest, the matter of taking dirt from Israel, or of bowing down to Rimmon, or  for that matter, circumcison or attending the annual feasts in Jerusalem, these things will by the grace of God soon fall into place.  The point is that Naaman is giving the right response to God’s deliverance.

 

It would be nice if the story ended there.  But it does not.  Gehazi, the servant of Elisha is outraged by what he sees.  “What?  Why has my master let this Aramean go scot-free?”   The lesson taught to Naaman, that grace and deliverance is free, was lost on Gehazi.  Gehazi is here a picture of what the nation of Israel was like in those times.  God wanted Naaman to know His grace, to know that He would not be manipulated by money, nor would He make room for human pride.  But Gehazi worked against this lesson.  He was putting a price back on the goodness of God.  He who had been entrusted with the message of God’s deliverance, now wished to exploit that deliverance for his own gain.  He was not interested in submitting to God and His ways.  Like the rest of his nation, Gehazi was only interested in himself. 

  The sin of Gehazi obscured the lesson of God’s free grace, and so Gehazi needs to learn that lesson again, for himself.  Gehazi gets something from Naaman all right – he gets Naaman’s leprosy, and he is driven out of the presence of the prophet Elisha and of the Lord forever.

 

Gehazi stood in the way of the work of God’s deliverance in Naaman.  He became a leper.  Which begs the question.  What will happen to you if you stand in the way of God’s grace and reject in unbelief?

    Be very careful.  Christ warns you about this in Luke 4.  Naaman became a sign to Israel and to all of you, calling for you to repent.  For God’s blessing is only found in the path of trusting obedience.  God does not owe you a thing.  He raises up a people for Himself from the east and the west, and they all take their place at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside into utter darkness.

 

A little slave girl spoke up and professed her faith in the God of the prophet Elisha.  She witnessed to the household of Naaman.  What a blessing that was to Naaman.  For if she had not spoken up, Naaman would have remained in more trouble than just a skin condition:  he had to have his sin condition cared for as well!

  That little slave girl was used by God as a forerunner of the coming age when the Good News of God’s plan for salvation would be spread far and wide.  When there would be a globalization of the gospel message.  The Lord is calling all the families of the earth, even your enemies, to the same Saviour, and the same salvation.  Nothing can force God to give His gift of salvation, not even status or money.  But nothing, nothing at all, can stop Him from spreading His grace and deliverance far and wide!  Therefore humbly submit to the Word of God and that deliverance will remain with you forever!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2001, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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