Elijah and Elisha Message #22, “The Cleansing of Naaman, the Leper”, Ed Miller, September 13, 2023

Listen to the audio above while following along in the transcript below which is also available for download at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com

We’re looking at the life of Elisha, but I know you didn’t come to see or hear about Elisha; you came to hear about the Lord, and that’s why we gather. 

There’s an indispensable principle of studying the Bible, and that is to trust the Holy Spirit who gave us the Bible; He lives in our hearts and it’s His ministry to always turn the eyes of our heart to the Lord Jesus.  Before we go to prayer, I would like to share Psalm 43:3&4.  There are sort of stages in this precious passage, “Oh, send out Thy light and truth, and let them lead me.”  That’s stage one, send out Your light and truth.  And then it says, “Let them bring me to Thy holy hill to Thy dwelling place.”  So, His light and truth leads us into His presence.  “Then, I will go to the altar of God.”  That’s stage three.  His truth comes, brings us into His presence, and then we go to the altar; we surrender.  And then, stage four, “Then, I will go to God, My exceeding joy.”  It always ends up with Him.  So, His life is truth, He comes and brings us into His presence, and causes us to surrender and go to the altar, and then we find the Lord to be our exceeding joy. 

With that in mind, let’s bow and commit our time to Him.  Heavenly Father, we thank You for the indwelling Holy Spirit whose joy and privilege it always is to turn us to the Lord Jesus.  We ask You, Lord, to give us a living revelation of Christ this morning.  I say that you protect Your people from anything I might say that’s just from carnal reasoning or from the flesh.  Thank You that You’re going to meet with us, and You’re going to show us Christ according to our capacities, and then enable us to walk in the light as Christ is in the light.  We pray in the matchless name of our Lord Jesus.  Amen.

I want to pick up where we left off when we last met.  We call our meeting place here “Bethany” because in the Bible, that’s the one place where He was fully excepted, and I know He’s fully accepted here, so we sort of call this Bethany.  Besides the fact that we haven’t gathered for more than three months, we are beginning lesson number twenty-two of our little series.  We’ve been studying the ministries of the lives of Elijah and Elisha.  The last nine of our lessons have been on Elisha, the ministry of Elisha.  So, How do you review?  After three months and twenty-one lessons, to pick up where we left off, I’m going to state again what I’ve stated before, and it’s vital.  I hope we really understand this. 

When the Lord Jesus is proclaimed, review is helpful, but it’s not necessary; when Jesus is proclaimed, every lesson stands on its own two feet.  Even if this is the very first time you’ve attended the study, and you’ve missed twenty-one studies, you’re not going to be lost because we’re presenting Christ, and every lesson presents the Lord Jesus in a different way.  All Bible study leads us to Christ.  There’s a verse in John 6, “Whoever is taught of God comes to Me.”  If it doesn’t lead to Jesus, you’re not being taught of God.  So, I’m not going to fill up this lesson by reviewing previous lessons.  I want to remind you of a couple of main things, and then we’ll get right into it.

In November, and that’s a long time ago of 2022, we introduced Elisha, and I called attention to the fact that he looks like Jesus.  Here’s where I get that.  I’m going to quote from the gospels; this is a description of Jesus; these are characteristics of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  He’s known for many miracles, He cleansed the leper, He multiplied loaves, He was filled with the Holy Spirit, He opened the eyes of the blind, He raised the dead, He wept over Jerusalem, He had a traitor, and after His death He also gave life to others.  That’s a description of our Lord Jesus.  Now we come to Elisha, and I ask this question, did God use Elisha to do miracles?  The answer is yes.  Did He use Elisha to cleanse a leper?  The answer is yes.  Did He use Elisha to multiply loaves?  The answer is yes.  Did Elisha open the eyes of the blind through the Lord?  The answer is yes.  Did God use Elisha to raise the dead?  The answer is yes.  Did Elisha weep over Jerusalem?  The answer is yes.  Did Elisha have a traitor?  The answer is yes.  Did Elisha preach the gospel to the gentiles?  The answer is yes.  Did Elisha raise somebody after he died?  The answer is yes.  You see what I mean; Elisha looks like Jesus.  He’s an illustration in the Old Testament. In these stories, when they came to Elisha, he was representing coming to the Lord Jesus.  That’s sort of an overview of how we’re approaching Elisha.

We aren’t going to review a lot, but it would be helpful to preview the occasion for the story we’re about to look at.  Sometimes when you’re reading the Bible, like you go to Isaiah 1, it says, “In the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah…”  That’s God inviting you to study that background, because that will shed light on what He’s saying.  The political background is sometimes important; who is the king, who is the enemy, is it peacetime, is it wartime, and what’s going on?  I believe I can take that background and weave it in as we tell the story, so I’m not going to give you the background first; we’ll just go to the story.

We’ve come to our study to 2 Kings 5 which is the record of the cleansing of Naaman, the leper, Naaman, the Syrian, the gentile, the cleansing of the leper.  Jesus made a big deal of that, and when He did, they tried to kill Him.  Luke 4:27-29, “There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet.  None of them was cleansed, but only Naaman, the Syrian.  And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things.  They got up and drove him out of the city and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw him down the cliff.”  That’s because of our story that we’re going to look at today. 

The point Jesus was making was to the proud Jews.  He said that there were many Jewish lepers, but Elisha healed a gentile leper; they didn’t want to hear that.  He loves the Jews, but He also loves the gentiles.  He has a worldwide heart.  He loves everyone and anybody who is willing to accept His salvation; those are the ones the Lord is going to reach.  They considered themselves special; they were the chosen people; they were the Jews.  So, they were very proud.  When they heard that God had prepared the heart of Naaman to receive a cleansing, they were jealous, angry and furious, and they attempted to kill our Lord Jesus.

Before we look at the story to see Christ—that’s why we’re here, we want to see the Lord–I thank the Lord for the story of Naaman, but if that’s all you get, you’ve wasted your time coming; we’ve got to see the Lord.  Before we start that, though, let me present this story in the way most reliable evangelical Bible commentaries look at the story, and it’s quite understandable why they take it this way.  The story is interpreted as a graphic illustration of God bringing salvation, and God bringing to a person for the first time, when they first come to meet the Lord.  There are many, many parables between the cleansing of Naaman, the leper, and how a person gets saved, how they come to the Lord.  It’s a wonderful picture of a sinner receiving the Lord for the first time. 

I’m going to mention several parallels and you’ll see why they interpret it this way.  One likeness is that Naaman was not only a gentile, but he was also a leper.  Listen to 2 Kings 5:1, “Now Naaman, captain of the army of the King of Aram, was a great man with his master, highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram.”  Aram is another word for Syria.  The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.

Leprosy is a separate category of diseases from all the other diseases.  God gives two complete chapters on the cleansing of a leper, in Leviticus 13 & 14, one hundred and sixteen verses just on this particular disease.  Jesus doesn’t give chapters on any other disease.  You might say that we have one chapter on the blind man, and that’s true, but Jesus healed diseases.  I’m going to quote a few verses or reference a few verses.  In John 4:7, when the official from Capernaum had a sick son, he prayed, “Come, heal my son.”  And when the Centurion wanted help for his dying servant, Jesus said in Matthew 8:7, “I will come and heal him.”  He healed disease.  They brought to Jesus a demon possessed man who was blind and mute, Matthew 12:22, “He healed him, so the dumb man saw and spoke.”  When the Pharisees challenged Jesus for wanting to heal a man with dropsy on the Sabbath day in Luke 14:3, Jesus asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?”  Then in verse 4, “He took hold of him and healed him.”  That’s what Jesus did; that’s His ministry.  He healed the sick.  Even Gethsemane when the Apostle Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, Luke 22:51, “Jesus touched him and healed him.”  That’s what He did with disease; He healed it.  But it’s different with leprosy; he didn’t heal the leper.

Listen to Matthew 11:5, when John the Baptist expressed his doubts, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see; the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed.’”  It doesn’t say that the lepers are healed; it says that the lepers are cleansed.  Luke 5:12 we read of a poor leper, and he cried out to Jesus, “When he was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy, and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face, and implored him saying, ‘Lord, if you’re willing, you can make me clean.’’’  He’s talking about cleansing, and Jesus responded in verse 13, “He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed,’ and immediately the leprosy left him.” 

Leprosy is a picture of sin; it needs to be cleansed; it needs to be forgiven.  It’s such a graphic picture of sin with its insidious beginnings and its slow process and then the destructive power and then the hideous end of a leper’s experience.  Naaman, by the way, is not the first leper mentioned in the Bible.  Are you familiar with the Jewish leper mentioned in the Bible?  It was Miriam; it was Moses’ sister.  She’s the first one, and Aaron cries out in Numbers 12:12, “Do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb.”  That’s so descriptive of sin. 

The process of corruption that takes place in a person after they’re dead and buried, already began that process in the leper while he was still alive.  You see what a picture of sin this is!  The difference between Miriam’s leprosy and Naaman’s, Miriam was already a believer; this is not getting saved for the first time.  She needed to be restored, and that’s why this is the only time in the Bible when it says “healed”, Miriam was healed of leprosy because she needed to be restored, but Naaman is the first time, and he needs to be cleansed.

Leprosy is only one reason why commentators say that this is a picture of salvation.  Remember that the leper used to have to, when anyone was within range, put his hand over his lips and cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” so people would stay away.  So, it’s an apt picture of sin and corruption, but let me mention a couple of other parallels, and you’ll see why commentators interpret this story this way.

As far as the world is concerned, Naaman was not just an ordinary guy; he had achieved, and he was up in the world; he was very famous.  Listen to 2 Kings 5:1, “Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord has given victory to Aram.  The man was also a valiant warrior.”  When we read that he was a great man with his master, his master is Benhadad, the king of Syria, and he was highly respected and valiant warrior, and that made him very proud.  When you read through the record, you are going to see how proud this man was.  When he arrived at the house of Elisha with a large entourage, with a great group loaded with gifts, it’s estimated that he brought with him 15,000 ounces of silver, 3,000 ounces of gold, 10 changes of clothes, and in verse 9, “Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.’” 

When he heard that, he was insulted because Elisha didn’t come out; Elisha sent a messenger out.  You would think that being a leper would have humbled him a little bit, but there’s no record of that.  He came in his pomp and in his pride because of his worldly rank and his station.  He was not only insulted when Elisha didn’t come personally, but sent a messenger, but when he heard of the simplicity of what he had to do, verse 10, “Elisha sent a messenger saying, ‘Go wash in the Jordan seven times; your flesh will be restored to you, and you will be clean.’”  2 Kings 5:11&12 shows his reaction to that.  This is not at all what he expected.  Here’s what Naaman expected, “Naaman was furious, and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord, his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.  Are not Abanah 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.”  This man needed to be saved; he was a very, very proud man.  On the level of earth, his human reasoning is true.  The waters of Syria which came from the springs in the mountain were much better than the dirty, muddy Jordan River.  He was actually right, there.  But it seems foolish because he’s carnal; he’s an unsaved person.

I’m jumping ahead now, but after he was cleansed, after he found his salvation, there is evidence that he became a transformed man.  Let me give you a couple of indications of that.  Matthew 18:13, “Jesus said, ‘Unless you are converted and become like children, you’ll not enter the kingdom.”  Well, watch the change in that proud man.  2 Kings 5:15, “He returned to the man of God with his company.”  Now, remember, I told you that Elijah represents the Lord Jesus.  Remember in the New Testament, the one leper returned to give thanks?  Well, here we have it again now, but it’s in picture form.  He’s coming to Elisha.  Let me finish reading, “He returned to the man of God with his company, and came and stood before him and said, ‘Behold now I know there’s no God in all the earth but in Israel.  Please, take a present from your servant.’”  He came to know the one true and living God, and he came back to give thanks and to give a present.  Verse 17, “If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ loads of earth, for your servant will no longer offer burnt offerings, nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord.”  He wanted that to take ground from Israel to build an altar in Syria to offer offerings to the true and living God.  Because he is a new Christian and still superstitious, Elisha didn’t deal with that.  Jewish ground is no more holy than Syrian ground, but it just shows the change in his heart; he’s now looking to the true God. 

He even shows that he has a sensitive conscience; look at verse 18, “In this matter, may the Lord pardon your servant.  When my master goes into the house of Rimmon,” that’s a false god, “to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.”  He already knew it would be a sin to bow down, even to please his master.  He knew it was wrong, but his pride was broken.  He was not only clean in his body, but we can see evidence that he was saved, that he was clean in his heart. 

His leprosy points to salvation, and his transformation from a proud, haughty man to a thankful, humble man who wants to worship the one, true and only God, and that’s not all; there’s another picture to think that this story is to teach us about salvation.  In 2 Kings 5:10, “Elisha sent a messenger to him saying, ‘Go wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you, and you will be clean.”  Then verse 14, “So, he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”  He was actually cleaner after his cleansing than before he got leprosy.  He’s like the flesh of a little child.  Here is pictured the simplicity, the obedience of faith, and it’s just pure grace. 

The number seven is often used as a number of perfection.  I say often, and not always.  Job had seven sons, and that’s not the perfect number of sons; that’s just six plus one.  Sometimes seven means seven, but sometimes it’s the number of perfection.  I just think here that it’s a perfect cleansing that he received; his flesh became as soft as the flesh of a little child.

Try to picture this.  At this time, he wasn’t yet cleansed, so he’s still the proud Naaman, and he’s still the proud general of the Syrian army, and now he’s going to, at the persuasion of his servants, is going to try it, “I’m going to go to the Jordan, and dip down seven times.”  I can just picture this proud man going down once, and coming up and examining himself, and still has leprosy, and then goes down a second and third time, and comes up and he still looks at himself, and nothing is happening.  “This is stupid; what in the world am I doing, but I might as well continue.”  He says, “Well, I know the mountain streams of Syria are much cleaner than this, but here we go again.”  So, he goes down a fourth time and a fifth time and he goes down a sixth time, and there’s not a change; he’s still as leprous as he always was.  We know it was full-blown leprosy because his leprosy was then, in a curse, given to Gahazi and Gahazi went out white as a leper.  So, Gahazi’s leprosy was full blown leprosy.  Then he goes down the seventh time.  Oh, what a blessing it must have been to come up out of the water, “He’s clean!”  Not a drop of leprosy—what a picture of coming to the Lord for the first time, and being cleansed of your leprosy, and the simplicity of obedience and faith, just pictures to the simplicity of how we come to our Lord.  In a moment he’s transformed and he’s clean and now he knows there’s one, true and living God.  He turns from all his idolatry, and in a moment of time; that’s salvation.

There’s another picture of salvation.  I told you that Naaman came laden with gifts.  2 Kings 5:15, he goes to Elisha and says, “’Please, take a present from your servant.’  But he said, ‘As the Lord lives before whom I stand, I will take nothing.’  And he urged him to take it, but he refused.”  It’s free; it’s grace.  This is a picture of salvation; it costs nothing.  Isaiah 55:1, “Ho!  Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; you who have no money, come and buy and eat my wine and milk without money and without prize.”  I’m sure you can see why commentators say, “This story is a picture of salvation, because leprosy pictures it, a proud man needing salvation pictures it, human wisdom pictures that he needs salvation, the simplicity of obedience and faith, and the transformation and free grace of God, all points to salvation.  So, the majority of conservative commentaries say, “This is what this story is all about.”

I think we’d blind if we didn’t see those parallels; they are there as clear as the nose on your face, and as the noonday sun, but if that’s all you see (I’m saying it’s there) but this story teaches far more than that.  This story presents the Lord Jesus, and now that’s what we need to see.  I’m not suggesting that it’s not there; it is there, and I hope you’ve seen that.  These parallels are there, but if all you see is the story of salvation, you might conclude that salvation is a plan, and here are the steps, the plan of salvation.  You’ve got to be a sinner, you can’t be proud, and these are the steps of salvation. 

As I sit before you, it’s a privilege to proclaim that salvation is more than a plan; it’s a Person, and His name is Jesus.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, if a weary sinner comes within the circle of your influence, don’t just give them a plan of salvation.  Their hearts need to be satisfied, and no one is satisfied with a plan.  You need to meet a Person.  Introduce them to your best friend; introduce them to the Lord Jesus.  Salvation is a Person.

In that connection I love Isaiah 12:2, “Behold, God is my salvation; I’ll trust and not be afraid.  The Lord God is my salvation and song; He’s become my salvation.”  There’s no salvation apart from the One who is salvation.  Salvation is far more than freedom from leprosy, freedom from sin.  It’s fellowship with the One who frees you from leprosy and sin.  Psalm 62:2&6, “He only is my rock and salvation and my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.”  When Jesus was brought to the temple by his mother, Mary, and his stepfather, Joseph, as a little baby, there was a man in the temple named Simeon.  He wanted to hold the baby.  When Mary gave him the baby, here’s what he said, Luke 2:29, “Now, Lord, you’re releasing your bondservant to depart in peace,” (in other words, “I’m ready to die”), “according to your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”  He’s looking into the eyes of a little baby, and he says, “I see Your salvation, which You’ve prepared in the presence of all people alike, of revelation to the gentiles and the glory of Your people, Israel.”  May the Lord help us see the difference between a plan of salvation and the glorious One whose name is salvation.  Matthew 1:21, Gabriel said to Mary, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin.”  It’s Him that saves.

Jesus didn’t say that it’s a plan and let me show you the way.  He said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.”  He doesn’t show you the way through some plan; He is the way.  He didn’t say, “I’m going to give you bread to eat.”  In John 6:35, He said, “I am the bread of life.”  He is the bread of life.  John 1:12, “As many as received,” not salvation, “Him, to them He gave the power to become the children, the sons of God, those who believe in His name.”  Colossians 2:6, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in Him.”  You didn’t receive a plan when you got saved.  You didn’t receive a church when you got saved.  You didn’t even receive a Bible when you got saved.  You received a Person, Christ Jesus, the Lord, and so walk in Him. 

Even the redeemed in heaven know that.  Revelation 19:1, “After these things, I hear something like a load voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to God.’”  Praise God for salvation.  It should go without saying, but I think I need to say it again, that salvation is more than a plan.  Do you know that wonderful hymn written by Newell, “At Calvary”?  There’s one verse in there, “Oh the love that drew salvation’s plan.”  We don’t deny there’s a plan, “Oh the grace that brought it down to man; oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.”  So, sing about the salvation, but then come back and know that sin and forgiveness and cleansing and obedience and faith and grace are all from a Person.  They’re gloriously true because they manifest who He is.

I say we come to see Jesus, and it’s not enough to say that Jesus is salvation; there’s a greater revelation in this story than Jesus is salvation.  I’m going to go over the story again, and this time we’re going to drill a little deeper, and we’re going to look at what the Holy Spirit gives to reveal Christ.  May God help us as we look at this!  We’re going to look behind the scenes, not only at the Redeemer, but what the Redeemer is doing before redemption and after redemption.  In other words, everything He does before a person gets saved is redemptive, and everything He does after a person gets saved is redemptive.  I think some of you may have heard now and then that I say, “Everything is redemptive,” and I believe it with every fiber of my being, but let me illustrate that.

Before we ever get to the story of Naaman, the leper, God has been busy behind the scenes.  He was active because Naaman needs to be prepared to get saved.  He’s not going to just run to Elisha and say, “How can I get saved?”  He needs to be prepared.  Many things had to happen to prepare.  2 Kings 5:1, “Now, Naaman the captain of the army of the king of Aram was a great man with his master and highly respected because,” now watch, “by him the Lord has given victory to Aram,” to Syria.  The Lord had given victory.  Syria was gentile and they were at war with Israel.  God didn’t give Israel the victory; He gave Syria the victory.  Most believe this is the battle when Ahab was killed. 

You remember when Ahab tried to disguise himself and out maneuver the Lord, and we read in 1 Kings 22:34, “A certain man drew his bow at random, and struck the king of Israel in the joint of armor.  So, he said to the driver of the chariot, ‘Turn around and take me out of the fight; I’m severely wounded.’”  Somebody got bored with the battle and took an arrow and just shot it up in the air, and it came down and found a hole in this armor where he’s disguising himself.  The rabbis believe, it’s not spelled out in the Bible, but they believe that Naaman is the one that shot that arrow that killed Ahab, and that’s why he was exalted in this high position of the king.  We don’t know that one hundred percent but maybe it’s true.

You’d expect to read that God gave Israel a victory, but God gave Syria a victory.  For Israel that battle was chastening because they had turned from the Lord.  For Naaman, it was preparation for salvation.  Why?  Before we get to that, listen to Psalm 22:28, “The kingdom is the Lord’s; He rules over the nations.”  Isn’t that a wonderful thing?  This was one piece of the mystery of salvation, preparing Naaman.  The reason why that was important is found in 2 Kings 5:2, “Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel, and she waited on Naaman’s wife.”  Among the victory that the Syrians had, they took prisoners of war, and one of the prisoners of war is called “a little girl”, and she ended up in Naaman’s house, and she became the servant of Naaman’s family.  Do you think that was an accident?  God is working behind the scenes.  She was ripped from the land and from her family and became a servant in the house of Naaman.  That was all part of God’s preparation.  Do you think that little unnamed girl, that maiden girl from the Jews, do you think her family said, “Oh, the wisdom of God!  How redemptive; my little girl has been taken as a slave, and she’s somewhere in Syria; how wonderful are the ways of God!”  There’s no way that family could know that.  It’s not possible.  What’s going on behind the scenes is too large for anything but faith.  You cannot reason it.  On the level of earth, I do not doubt, though the Bible doesn’t say it, that little girl was screaming in terror as she was dragged away by those ruffian soldiers.  I know that’s the case, and there’s no possibility of thinking, “Well, God is using this and He’s doing something redemptive.” 

When that girl learned about the leprosy of her master, she sighed out loud, and she said to her mistress in 2 Kings 5:3, “I wish my master were with the prophet in Samaria, and then he would cure him of his leprosy.”  She just happened to say, “Oh, I wish he was in Israel,” and the wife told the husband, and the husband told the king, and the king went to Jehoram and told that king, and that king told….  Do you think that’s just a mistake, that it’s just happening?

How important it is that God had already worked in Naaman to give him a reputation, so the king would be concerned.  Without that reputation, the king wouldn’t have even been concerned.  There’s another point that I left out, and that is that God gave him leprosy.  That was also providential from the Lord.  When Naaman and his family found out that he had that dreaded disease, I’m sure their hearts sunk.  They didn’t see God in it any more than the little maiden or her family saw the Lord in it. 

It’s like the question that the disciples put to the Lord Jesus when He healed the man born blind.  John 9:2, “His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned; this man or his parents that he was born blind?’”  I’m sure that they were shocked at the answer.  John 9:3, “It was neither this man that sinned nor his parents, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  Brothers and sisters in Christ, that’s always the answer.  Everything that takes place is redemptive; don’t rule God out of any detail. 

God gives another illustration of His sovereignty in the Naaman story in 2 Kings 5:13, “His servants came near,” now this is when he was furious, and he went out in a rage.  Don’t forget, he’s the captain.  “And they 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 said, “Wash and be clean?”’”  Do you realize what a miracle this was on the level of earth, for these servants to stand up to their captain when he’s in a rage, when he is angry?  Those servants were more concerned for Naaman’s health than they were concerned about his anger or his authority.  You wouldn’t think that servants like that would disagree with their captain. 

I can hear, for example, the average servant, “If the captain goes out in a rage and he’s angry, say, ‘You know, you’re right, boy, they didn’t treat you well; they sent out a servant instead of coming themselves.  They didn’t do some great miracle for you.  And you’re right about the waters of Syria being better than the waters of Israel.  I don’t think you should let him get away with it.  I think you should go back.’”  That’s what the servants should have said, but instead they went against him and persuaded him. 

Once again, behind the scenes the Lord is doing a work.  God’s heart is big with salvation.  He worked in the kings of the earth.  He worked at war, in the outcome of the war.  He controlled who would be taken as prisoners of war.  He controlled where the prisoners of war would be assigned.  He controlled the words that the maiden would say, and who would hear it and how they would spread it.  He guided the servants here to convince their master to do the simple thing.  It’s an amazing thing; He prepared the reputation of Naaman long before he went to the king.  I’m going to show you in a moment that God was even working in the heart of the king of Israel, Jehoram, the king of Ahab.  He was a Baal-worshipping king.  That’s why they lost the war.  God was chastening them.  This king was a Baal worshipper.  He worked in the faithful servant, Naaman, to talk some sense into Jehoram.  So, God is even using that for him. 

We have no idea, brothers and sisters, to leave the text and come to our lives; God is orchestrating everything behind the scene.  What he said to the prophet Habakkuk is always true.  Habakkuk 1:5, “Look among the nations; observe and be astonished!  Wonder, because I am doing something in your day—you would not believe it even if you were told.”  Isn’t that a marvelous passage?  Nobody knows and nobody can figure out what God is doing behind the scenes.  He has a reason for every decision that’s made.  At the same time, he’s preparing to bring redemption.  I can say this on the authority of God’s word, that God is always doing one of two things, always, and there is no exception.  God is either preparing someone for a revelation of Jesus, or He is revealing Jesus.  That’s all He’s doing.  He’s either preparing you for a revelation of Jesus or He’s revealing Jesus.  It might be for you, it might be for me, it might be for somebody else, or it might be for somebody we never know. 

God was dealing with Benhadad, the king of Syria, and He was dealing with the Syrian army, He was dealing with Jehoram, the king of Israel, and the Israeli army, and He was dealing with the family of that little maiden, and He was dealing with the maiden, and He was dealing with the wife of Naaman, and dealing with Naaman himself, and dealing with the servants of Naaman, and dealing even with Elisha, and with Gahazi, which I’m going to show you in a couple of moments.  God is working behind the scenes.  Sometimes He uses others to show Jesus to you, and sometimes He uses you to show Jesus to others.  He’s always preparing somebody and revealing something.  There’s never a moment when God is not providentially orchestrating and lining up circumstances for somebody to get saved. 

Do you think He’s working behind the scenes controlling kings and kingdoms and servants just for Naaman?  No!  I’m telling you, God will move heaven and earth to reveal Jesus to you; He’ll move heaven and earth just to reveal Jesus to me.  What He’s doing in your life and preparing behind the scenes, you can’t understand.  You might be dragged away kicking and screaming and wondering and questioning and doubting, and even holding His wonderful love in suspicion.  May God deliver us and teach us that God is behind the scene!  We love Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  The next verse tells us that He’s working it to conform us to Christ. 

I want you, just for a moment, to notice that God causes all things…  It doesn’t just say, “All things work together.”  God causes all things to work together.  I think the King James Version says, “All things work together,” but in the original it says God causes all things, and not some things, but all things, not most things, but all things, not almost everything, but all things.  All things work together.  The best part of that verse is, “Now we know.”  You’ve got to know it; I’ve got to know it.  Romans 8:28-29 will remain true whether we believe it or not; it’s a matter of our own peace in our heart, if we believe it. It’s still going to happen whether we believe it or not.  God doesn’t ask us to feel like all things are working together, because sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.  He doesn’t ask us to reason or to figure it out, “How can I prove all things are working together?”  He’s just asked us to believe it, to trust Him, to know that He’s working behind the scenes.  We’ve got to see beyond that salvation is a plan; it’s a Person, and that Person is busy preparing for salvation, and then presenting and leading us to salvation.  I hope you can pull out all the stops and believe with all of your heart that everything is redemptive; all people, all events, all times, God is at work.

I want to close with two more illustrations, and I’m not going to be able to develop it, but I’ll give you one principle.  One is Elisha, and he was greatly used and we’re going to see Elisha, and I’ll begin next lesson with that, that Elisha was willingly used by the Lord.  Gahazi was the unwilling servant of the Lord, and he was also used.  Let me just present this unwilling servant.

Psalm 76:10 says, “The wrath of man shall praise you.”  God is never a loser; God is going to get glory from wicked people and from wicked nations and so on.  When you read the text, and we’ll look at that next time, we’re going to see that Gahazi was a renegade; he was a hypocrite, he was a liar, and I put him in the same category as Aken and Annanias and Balaam and Demos and Judas; he was covetous, he was a terrible man.  He’s not an instrument where you would say, “Oh, God will choose Gahazi to become an instrument for good,” but God can use anything and anybody. 

2 Kings 8:4, listen to this, “Now the king,” that is Jehoram, the son of Ahab, the Balaam-worshipper, “was talking with Gahazi, the servant of the man of God, saying, ‘Please, relate to me all the great things that Elisha has done.’”  God is using Gahazi, wicked Gahazi, to tell wicked Jehoram all the great things that God had done through Elisha.  Testimony—God is inviting Jehoram to get saved, to come to Him.  Jehoram didn’t go to church; he was an idolator.  He didn’t attend some Bible conference.  I don’t think anybody gave him a tape or a CD or a book to read, so God sends Gahazi, a wicked instrument for good. 

Gahazi not only ministered to him, but Gahazi was used for the woman of Shunem.  She’s the one whose son was raised from the dead.  Gahazi is telling this wicked king all the stuff that Elisha did, and he comes to that story.  2 Kings 8:5, “As he was relating to the king how he had restored the life to one who was dead, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her field.  Gahazi said, ‘My Lord, oh king, this is the woman, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’”  Right at that moment she walked in to talk to the king.  An accident?  I don’t think so.  2 Kings 8:6, “When the king asked the woman, she related it to him.  So, the king appointed for her a certain officer, saying, ‘Restore all that was hers and all the produce of the field from the day she left the land until now.’”  God used Gahazi to bless this woman and restore everything to her.

Psalm 119:91, “Faithfulness continues throughout all generations.  You established the earth and its stands.  They stand this day according to Your ordinances, for all things are Your servants.”  All things: He’ll use kings, He’ll use nations, He’ll use war, He’ll use pestilence, He’ll use disease, He’ll use tragedy, He’ll use willing instruments, He’ll use unwilling instruments, He will control all circumstances, all events, all delays, all people at all times to carry out His redemptive purposes. 

Who is Christ?  He’s the One, the Redeemer, who is working before redemption, after redemption, into redemption; He’s the One who is preparing and then revealing the Lord Jesus.  Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.”  Anything concern you?  The Lord will accomplish what concerns you.  “Your lovingkindness, oh Lord, is everlasting; do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

Heavenly Father, thank You for the story of Naaman and the look behind the scenes on how wonderfully You prepared for that moment when he would be cleansed.  Lord, we know that You’re the same yesterday, today and forever; You’re constantly preparing and then constantly revealing Christ.  Thank You that You’ll allow us to have a part in that.  We pray, Lord, that we might be instruments of Your redemption.  Work this in us.  We ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.