September 24, 2011

2 Kings 5

Naaman, commander of the army of the King of Syria, was a great man with his master, and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little maid from the land of Israel, and she waited on Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."

So Naaman went in and told his lord, "Thus and so spoke the maiden from the land of Israel."

And the King of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the King of Israel."

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shields of gold, and ten festal garments. And he brought the letter to the King of Israel, which read, "When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy."

And when the King of Israel read the letter, he rent his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me!"

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the King of Israel had rent his clothes, he sent to the King, saying, "Why have you rent your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know there is a prophet in Israel."

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the door of Elisha's house.

And Elisha sent a message to him, saying, "Go and wash yourself in the Jordan seven times; and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean."

But Naaman was angry and went away, saying "Behold, I thought that 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 Abana 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.

But his servant came near and said to him, "My father, if the prophet had commanded you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much, rather, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?"

So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Then he returned to the man of God, all his company; and he came and stood before him, and he said, "Behold, I know that there is no god in all the Earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant."

But he said, "As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will receive none."

Then Naaman said, "If not, I pray you, let there be given to your servant two mules' burden of earth; for henceforth your servant will not offer burnt offering nor sacrifice to any god but the Lord. In this matter, may the Lord pardon your servant: When my master goes into the House of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the House of Rimmon; when I bow myself in the House of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your master in this matter!"

He said to him, "Go in peace."

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, "See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him, and get something from him." Sp Gehazi followed Naaman.

And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he alighted from the chariot to meet him, and said to him, and said, "Is all well?"

And he said, "All is well. My master has sent me to say, 'There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Pray give them a talent of silver and two festal garments.'"

And Naaman said, "Be pleased to accept two talents." And he urged him, and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two festal garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they carried them before Gehazi.

And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand, and put them in the house; and he sent the men away; and they departed. He went in and stood before his master.

And Elisha said to him, "Where have you been, Gehazi?"

And he said, "Your servant went nowhere."

But he said to him, "Did I not go with you in spirit when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, menservants and maidservants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants for ever."

So he went out from his presence a leper white as snow.


At 11:18 a.m., Anonymous David said...

I find this passage fascinating on a number of levels. It points to peopel of power having the ignorance highlighted by peasants. OTH the poor schmuck who tried to take advantage of the situation got himself smoted.

It also points to the faith/faithfulness of outsiders--a Syrian healed by the Lord asks for agift of Israelite land so he may worship their God. And it points to the visceral connection between the ground beneath our feet and our spirituality.

All in all--where we stand and where we take our stand speaks to and give expression to our faith.

At 12:31 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Yes. "There were many widows in Israel, you may be sure, in Elijah's time, when for three years and six months the skies never opened, and famine lay hard over the whole country; yet it was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but to a widow at Sarepta in the territory of Sidon. Again, in the time of the prophet Elisha there were many lepers in Israel, and not one of them was healed, but only Naaman, the Syrian."

And also, ~Your god won't hold it against me if I attend services with my King now & then over at the First Church of Rimmon, will he?

And also: How come none of those Israelite lepers swim in the Jordan and come out healed?

At 8:38 p.m., Anonymous David said...

the rain falls on the just and the unjust...

At 1:08 a.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

Wonderful comments.

God has problems: 1) When ‘it’ works, we’re tempted to profit. Or take credit. Over time. It’s the Achilles heel of Pentecostal and charismatic friends (me included) and, 2) when ‘it’ doesn’t work on request, then the one who requests is picking a fight with me (and indirectly with God – or the other way around). The politics of national gods are ever under the surface even when not at full boil.

I’m in an uncomfortably expansive and confused season with property concepts. And the ground under my feet. I’m thankful for the challenge to keep this question fresh.

At 6:17 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

"The rain falls on the just and the unjust [farmer]"-- except that back in that previous Elijah story it wasn't falling on the just or the unjust-- and that was a problem. This was evidently because Israel was being converted to worship Baal-- but it was likewise causing a famine in Sidon. "Rain on the just and the unjust" is God's bounty, not God's stinginess...

So we can't say God is 'refusing' to cure Israelite lepers. God cures one Assyrian leper, not because he's a nice guy, or has been good to Israel, or ever will be good to Israel, but because he's reachable in some sense.

And the inhabitants of Israel, at this time, are evidently not. Not because they're "unjust". Prophets will say bad things about their descendants, later, but Elisha isn't criticizing anyone except the rulers.

A young woman from Israel tells her Assyrian mistress that there's a prophet in Israel who can cure leprosy.

Nobody actually in Israel is telling the lepers there's a prophet who could cure them? Or they aren't listening?

One man from Assyria hears this, travels a long way to see that prophet... and after completing one simple assignment, is cured.

The people who hear Jesus talking about this story... get angry enough to try to stone him.

It's a little like this story: Once upon a time someone heard that Quaker worship could acquaint him with God. So he went a long way to find a Meeting, and when he did, he became acquainted with God. The Quakers he told about this... didn't have a clue what he was talking about...

At 4:40 a.m., Anonymous David said...

a prphet in his own country...


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