A quick trip to a grocery store a person would find many products for cleaning. Products that would clean your dishes, laundry, hair, body, teeth, and hands. There are so many products that they are often not found on just one place. The question for the day is, “what can we do to clean out the sin in our lives?” The answer may be found in many of our hymns such as Nothing but the Blood. Some of the hymn lyrics read, “what can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We must trust in Jesus for our cleansing and salvation.
The Scripture text is 2 Kings 5 and in that text we find the story of a foreign military leader who has come down with leprosy, his name was Naaman. In battle the Army Commander can look his enemy in the face and fight, but now he has an enemy he cannot fight, this disease. There was a young girl from Israel who was a servant to Naaman’s wife told her that there is a prophet in Israel that can cure her husband of leprosy. Naaman is pleased to hear this information and goes to his king and shares the news. The King of Aram sends Naaman with a letter to the King of Israel along with gifts. It is important to note here that the people in positions of “power” think that power must flow through those channels. There is a role for them to play but the governments and kingdoms of this world can’t take care of every need or solve every problem.
When Naaman and his note reach the King of Israel he becomes distraught. The problem is his logic is right but his faith is weak and short-sighted. He acknowledges that he cannot do this only God can bring back to life. The logic part is good, then there is a pity party wondering if the other king is trying to pick a fight. In the letter being addressed to the King of Israel, the king looses sight of God’s prophet and the power of God that works through him.
Word of the meeting reached the house of the prophet Elisha. He sends word to the king not to despair but send the visitor to him that he will know that there is a prophet in Israel. Elisha has full confidence in the power of God to restore and knows that God can use this opportunity to reveal his glory. When Naaman and his group arrive Elisha sends out his servant Gehazi to give Naaman instructions to go wash in the Jordan seven times then his flesh will be restored and clean like that of a young boy.
Naaman at first is upset that the prophet didn’t come out and touch him or place his hand on him, or some other healing gesture, instead asks him to go into the Jordan, which was not considered by Naaman a clean river compared to the ones in his native land. Then his servants reasoned with him, that if the prophet had asked him to do a great task or challenge he would have, so why not try this thing that has been asked.
Naaman enters the waters and finds after the seventh time the he is clean and his flesh has been restored like that of a young boy. Excited Naaman goes back to the home of the prophet and this time meets with him and makes a bold statement about God, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” Then he offers gifts to Elisha. Elisha refuses them Naaman asks to take some soil that he may set up for himself a private place of worship and asks for forgiveness for when his civic duty makes him bow. Elisha sends him on in peace.
Now Elisha’s servant Gehazi wanted the gifts and tries to sneak of and tell Naaman a story to get some of the gifts. Naaman gladly gives them, and Gehazi returns and hides them. After doing so Elisha asks him where he has been. Gehazi tries to dodge the question but Elisha knows and because of the disobedience Gehazi received the leprosy of Naaman.
This was a longer passage but several points to the sermon. The bravery of the servant girl to seek what was best for Naaman. Naaman going to his king to get a leave of absence to seek healing. The king believes that the power is in the position and sends a note to the King of Israel. The King of Israel recognizes he doesn’t have that power it belongs to God but looses sight of God’s presence and power working through the life of the prophet. The power of God can work through whoever he chooses but the power of God is not limited to a place or government or ruler. In that day, nothing short of a miracle could save someone from leprosy. It is not referred to a healing but a restoration and cleansing.
Naaman’s arriving at the home of Elisha was a key point, because Naaman expected the man of God to doing some religious posturing and restore his skin and instead he sends his servant. If Elisha goes out, it may be understood by some that it was Elisha that had the power apart from God. Then Naaman goes to what he considers to be a “dirty” river to be cleansed. Again, it is not about the river, if a man declared unclean by his disease gets into a dirty river seven times and comes out clean that is truly about the power of God, not the prophet through whom God spoke, or either of the kings, or even the servant girl but about the power of the real God to change and cleanse our lives. If God can do that on the outside through his Son Jesus he certainly can cleanse us from the inside out.
Elisha will not take any of the gifts because God is not a commodity and God’s grace is just that grace. It can’t be bought or sold or bargained for. It is this same principle that Gehazi learns the hard way.
This was also a communion Sunday. May the blood of Christ cleanse us from all unrighteousness.