The Lord and the Leper
Gordon L. Bissett, Penarth, Cardiff, Wales
NAAMAN AND HIS NEW TESTAMENT COUNTERPART
2 Kings 5. 1-14; Luke 4. 27-29; 5. 12-13
He stood on the bank of the river Jordan, dripping wet. At that moment there was nothing to suggest that this was the greatest man in Syria, next to the king. His military clothes were in the care of his batman and now he stood undressed before his servants, just a man. But his face was radiant; his leprosy had gone! He was the only leper to be healed in the whole land of Israel, and he was a gentile, John 4. 27. But something even more important had happened - his heart had turned forever from Rimmon to serve the living and true God, and he was cleansed from the leprosy of sin.
God had known Naaman long before Naaman knew God. The God of Israel was then, as always, Lord of all the nations, Dan. 4. 17, and He had chosen Naaman to be His instrument to save Syria, 2 Kgs. 5. 1. He had also chosen him to be an object lesson of His unmerited grace, and a warning against preumption, Luke. 4. 27. How unsearchable are Gods ways! How perfectly His sovereign power works to fulfil His purposes of grace, Eph.1.11. The God-given might of Syria made possible the unchecked inroads of her raiding parties into backslidden Israel.
What measureless tragedy and tears are brought by sin under the judgement of God, and believers are not exempt from the sorrows of their nation. A little girl had been siezed - with what grief and terror we can only imagine - and had been carried off to a foreign land. Did she cry out to her God to be saved from these men? But in the house of her slavery and loneliness she was to become a shining light, and her testimony would be preserved forever within the inspired record of its saving effects in her earthly master.
Why was Naaman the only leper healed in Israel? There were in fact many in Israel, but our Lord clearly implies that it was because of the unbelief of many others. There was boundless power from on high with the prophet Elisha, but neither leper nor king thought of going to him in their hour of need, although Elisha’s ministry was not done in a corner. Therefore God left His erring people to the results of their unbelief, and extended His grace to a people who were ‘strangers to the covenants of promise . . . without hope’, Eph. 2. 12.
He would do the same again with the Israel of His earthly ministry, Matt 21. 43. Yet there was one leper, this time an Israelite, who did uderstand his dependence upon, and hope in, God’s free mercy, Luke 5. 12. His countrymen had turned in fury on the Lord at His warning about the sovereignty of grace, Luke 4. 27-29, but this man came with the assurance of knowledge, ‘You can make me clean’, (he knew that much from the earlier testimony of Christ’s miracles) and he came with the humility of that true faith which casts itself entirely on His mercy – ‘if thou wilt’.
Do we take it for granted that ‘we are the people of his pasture’, Ps. 95. 7? Do we presume that He ought to bless us because in past decades He blessed the assemblies to which we belong? Do we feel resentful when He blesses others and not us? Are we ourselves so far out of touch with the word of God that, like the king of Israel, we do not know how or where to direct a seeking ‘leper’?
The disheartening lack of response to the gospel in many places may perhaps be a divine judgement on a generation that has heard and ignored the word of salvation, but God has not ceased to work in grace. Let us have the compassion and faith of the captive girl, 2 Kgs. 5. 3; the boldness and faith of Elisha, v. 8; and the persistence and faith of Naaman’s servants, v. 13.
Nothing was impossible with God in their day, and nothing is impossible to Him in ours, however adverse the circumstances may seem to be. His sovereign will allows these events to happen; may He find us ready and willing to be used in the midst of them to His glory, to tell the ‘leper’ of the One who can and will heal him.