Elijah & Elisha: The Story of Namaan

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m a pastor here on staff.  We began Journey Church with the express intent of creating a place where people who are beginning their spiritual Journey could learn about Jesus in a place that tries to make things as easy to understand as possible.

So we say we are a church for people who are just starting, or restarting their journey.  We are a church for people who are skeptical about the existence of God or cynical about the church.  And it’s a church for followers of Jesus who like being around people I just described.  So wherever you might be on your spiritual journey there is a place here for you.

Today we are going to read a story about a man named Namaan – who lived about 850BC in a country that we now call Syria- and we love this story because Namaan is the kind of guy we love at Journey.  It’s the story of a guy who had no idea that God was hovering on the horizon of his life, waiting to be found.

Namaan is a guy that seems to have his life in order until one day he is diagnosed with something he can’t handle on his own and it forces him to look for help from God.

We will remember that the books of 1 and 2 Kings are report cards on the Kings of Israel – the northern part of Israel – which became known as Samaria as well as Israel, and the Southern part of Israel – known as Judah.   There were 40 kings in these two countries – and only 8 of them received a passing grade by God regarding their rein.  Only 8 out of 40 that were just, godly and good. 

This book seems to be all about the Israelites – and then out of nowhere – we read a story about God’s kindness to – not only a non-Israelite – but an often times enemy of Israel – and – to top it off – the commander of the armies of the enemy of Israel.

Just so you know…  Aram is located in present day Syria.  Map  Frankly – it would be just as shocking to learn today that a commander of the Syrian army came to Israel to seek help.  It’s just as hard to imagine then as today.

The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories.

But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”

So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. “Go and visit the prophet,” the king of Aram told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.” So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing. The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.”

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? Why is this man asking me to heal someone with leprosy? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”

But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

11 But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.

13 But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” 14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!

15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. 

This morning I want to ask three questions about a person’s spiritual journey and use Namaan’s story as an example as we search for answers.

  1. What causes people to become seekers?
  2. How do we find God?
  3. What do we do when we find him?

First – What causes people to become seekers?

Well, what did we learn about Namaan?  Namaan was highly respected; wealthy;  accomplished; courageous; well-connected. BUT – But what?  He had leprosy.

He ran into an issue in his life that could not be conquered with his army or money or network of powerful people.  He had a disease for which there was no known cure – and it was a brutal, disfiguring disease.  The story of Namaan’s salvation begins – Namaan had everything, but…  Namaan was powerless to save himself.

Leprosy unveiled the lie of self-sufficiency.  It forced Namaan to come to terms with the reality that he was in control of so very little.  Here’s a guy who has money, power, influence…  But none of that could help him.

Why do people become seekers?  Because – inevitably – it is a gift of God really – inevitably we will come face to face with something happening in our life that exposes as a big fat lie the idea that ‘we can handle this’ – we can fix this- I’ve got this.

People become seekers the day God is kind enough to lead them face to face with something that will ruin them, unless God intervenes.

Like what?  It might be financial woes, it might be a health crisis, it could be relationship disasters – or perhaps the death of a loved one – one day all of us collide head on with something bigger than we are – and nothing in this world will be able to help us – and we find ourselves asking – is there one above this world who can help me?

Author Tim Keller writes,  Pain and crisis wake us up to the reality that we don’t have what it takes to orchestrate life the way we want.

Now – does this mean that all crisis in life are orchestrated by God to ‘get our attention?”  The answer of course is no.  Many times we are only able to see God’s hand in hindsight.  After the fact –

For Namaan – he is heading to Israel to find a miracle man – not God.  He has no idea that God is even in the picture.  But he’s always there.  He’s always working.  Even when life reaches out and rattles us.  God works in the midst of crisis.

In other words, God doesn’t have to cause the trouble in life.  Life brings crisis quite naturally due to its present broken condition.  Remember – it was Jesus said, in this life you will have many troubles.  But take heart – I have over come the world.

In other words – whether or not you believe in God – most likely at some point we will be gut punched by the brokenness of this world.  And it’s likely to rattle us to our soul.

And it will force us to ask – am I adrift in this kind of world without hope or help?

Thankfully, the message of the Bible is abundantly clear – there IS a loving and living God who promises to walk with us through the darkest of valleys.   There IS such a God, which means we can live life fearlessly.

Namaan will soon discover that God.  But not until his life is jarred with a diagnosis of leprosy.   And not until a young Jewish servant girl speaks to him a word of hope – of a prophet in Israel.

I wonder how many of you might be able to stand and say – the reason I am a follower of God today is because of a life jarring moment – that made you look up for help?

What has prompted YOU to begin your spiritual Journey, searching for God?  Was it crisis?  Difficulty?   Rarely is one willing to re-evaluate their spiritual stance in the warmth of good times.  It takes the storms of life to make us ask the hard questions – is there really a God?  Is he loving and good?  Can I count on him?  Will he help me?

Perhaps you are going through a time right now that has you evaluating your previous position about God.  Like Namaan – you had no idea that God was up to something in the midst of it all.  But perhaps now you are beginning to taste and sense that God is close by and that He is up to something.

Why do we seek God?  We will seek him when we recognize that self-sufficiency is an illusion, and that the world cannot help us – but there is One who can!

  1. How do we find God?

The first thing we see from Namaan continues to be the first requirement of anyone wishing to find God today.  And that is – Humility.

Proud people rarely find God.   For a proud person, admitting that self-sufficiency is an illusion is too much for them to bear.  It takes humility to say “I don’t got this.  I can’t handle this.  I’m not able, and perhaps have never been.”

The fact that Namaan left his home in Syria to travel to Israel is the first sign of some measure of humility.  However -pride is still very much part of his story.  Which is why he goes from the King of Aram to the King of Israel loaded with gold and silver – he thinks somehow his prestige will award him the right to be healed.  He goes to the King thinking, like in most lands, the prophets work for the King and do what the King directs.

But Namaan didn’t understand there was another King.  And the prophet worked for THAT king not the little one.  And That king already has plenty of gold and silver.  And all of God’s goodness comes to us as a free gift – never earned and certainly never purchased.

We see the bigger issue of Namaan’s pride when he is met – not by the prophet but by his assistant?  Well, come on now.  He’s the commander of the army man!  Show some respect Prophet – get out here and heal me here.  Why are you asking me to bath in a dirty little river?

After pitching a fit – one of his officers musters up the courage to challenge him about his attitude – one thing you have to say is Namaan was surrounded by people who cared about him.  Then and only then, when Namaan the great surrenders how he thinks the world should operate, does he find healing.

One of my favorite authors, Dallas Willard, says, “Humility is the disposition where we abandon our project of running the world – The surrender of self will is the beginning of faith.”

I shudder to think how many people there are in the world – maybe even right here in this room – who are missing out on the best life possible because they are too proud to admit they were wrong about God.

Author Andrew Murray writes, “The truth is this: Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.”

The first attitude we must embrace is the attitude of humility.  I cannot fix myself.  I cannot handle this alone.  I cannot save myself.  We will never find God without humbly admitting our need for Him.

  1. It will require Belief/Obedience

And perhaps you are asking – aren’t those two different things?  And the answer I’d say is that there are always linked together.  It is impossible to say you believe that Jesus is who he says he is – the Son of God, the creator of the universe, and then say – but I choose not to obey him.

It’s theological heresy to think – I trust Jesus for enough to get me into heaven when I die- but I don’t trust him enough to obey him while I live.

You can’t say –  I trust Jesus for my salvation, but I don’t trust him enough to let him be Lord of my life.  Jesus in the bible offers no such agreement.

Belief – combined with obedience – becomes the building blocks of faith.

Here at Journey we often talk about crossing this line of faith – and we define that as thinking highly enough of Jesus to trust him in every area of our lives.  Trust is faith in action.  Belief and obedience.

How does Namaan display faith – as little as it might have been – in Elisha’s instruction?  By getting off his high horse and baptizing himself into the muddy waters of the Jordan river.

Of course, the water didn’t heal him, right?  It’s not the water.  There isn’t anything special about the water.  The water is a symbol of obedience.  The water is an external demonstration that points to an internal belief.

By the way – you know what’s interesting?  Baptism is interesting?  Why does Jesus ask us to be baptized?  What’s the point?

Jesus says one of the first things we should do when we believe is be baptized.  As a symbol of our obedience/belief.  He asked us to do it.  So we obey – and by doing so we are united symbolically with Jesus in his own death, burial and resurrection.

Namaan humbles himself.  He believes and shows his belief by obeying.  And the result?  Namaan is healed.  Like a newborn’s skin.  Namaan is in a sense, born again.

Lastly – What do we do when we find God?

What is Namaan’s response to receiving this free gift of God?  He utters one of the clearest expressions of faith ever uttered.

“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. “

Namaan worships!

Here he is the “outsider” – non Jewish commander of an enemy army – and he is saying the words that one would expect the Kings of Israel to be announcing.

Namaan – having seen and witnessed the work of God in his life – becomes a faithful devoted follower of God.

He worships.

Now – here’s the deal.  You and I we don’t have leprosy.  Praise the Lord that you and I aren’t dealing with the disfiguring disease of leprosy.

However – and this is very important to understand…  the bible is very clear that there is an even deadlier issue that has infected the hearts and souls of every person on earth.

The entire premise of the bible – the starting line – is that you and I have a much bigger problem than leprosy.  It’s called sin.  Here’s the starting line of the bible.  We were originally created to be able to walk with God in the garden – nothing between us – however, one day Adam and Eve decided that they would prefer to swap places with God.

“Thanks God, but we will take it from here.  We will run the show.  We will call the shots.”  And from that moment on – sin was introduced into our DNA – and you and I have followed suit ever since.  And that decision to be our own shepherd – to be the captain of our own fate – has disfigured our very souls.

We are like Namaan.  We are sick and we need help.

Thankfully – there is one who can help.  His name isn’t Elisha.  His name is Jesus.

When Adam and Eve swapped places with God – it condemned us to be fairly and rightly judged for our sins.  And there would be no cure for us had not God in his mercy decided to heal us.  And here’s how he went about healing us.

Jesus swapped places with us.  He took the cross in our place.  He took the disease of sin and rebellion upon his own body – he carried our disease.

The first book of the New Testament is called Matthew and in the 8th chapter there is a story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy.   The man approaches Jesus and says, “Lord if you are willing,  you can heal me.”  And Jesus says, “I am willing!”

Matthew goes on to say

“He took our sicknesses
and removed our diseases.”

And friends there is no greater disease than the disease of a sin riddled heart.

But there is a cure!

See – that man in Matthew 8 – he had no idea that he had asked a question of Jesus that Jesus never refuses.  If you are willing you can make me clean.

Oh he is willing.  What kind of God carries our diseases?  Pays the price to be healed.  Bears in his own bodies the penalties of our sin?  What kind of God swaps places with us and offers us healing and oneness with God again?

If you have yet to go to Jesus – if you have yet to think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with your life – if you have yet to make a decision to place your faith in him.  Then you are still in your sins.  You are carrying your own disease and it’s disfiguring your soul each day.

There is one who is willing to help.  Go to him in prayer and ask him to heal your heart and soul.  Ask him to be your good shepherd.

And if you have already done this, then let us worship him.  Let’s give him the glory and adoration that is due him.

For there is none like him in all the world.

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