Friday, January 25, 2013
When Naaman, the leper, went off the clock
Have you ever met a Naaman?
The story of Naaman is an interesting account with a lot of backstory. Naaman was the head captain for the king of Syria. Syria was a neighboring enemy of Israel and battles between them had see-sawed their borders for years.
Naaman was known as a great man, honourable and mighty in valour…so honourable that "by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria.” Think about what that meant to Israel...through Israel's sins and Naaman's valor, the Lord let Syria gain the upperhand!
Yet, Naaman's life wasn't all metals and honor. He had a personal problem—leprosy. In fact, this problem was bringing him a slow, torturous death.
During one of his forays into battle against Israel, Naaman had brought back at least one captive for his wife, a little maid. A young girl. Now, I am sure that being taken captive was very traumatic for that little maid. She found herself a slave in the enemy’s house but there must have been some honor and greatness in the way they treated her because this little maid showed concern for Naaman’s condition and told her mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy.”
How many of us wish healing on our enemies?
The little maid's statement intrigued not only Naaman's wife, but Naaman and even the king of Syria. In fact, the king was so desperate to save his favorite captain that he sent Naaman to Israel with a personal letter pleading for Israel’s help in healing this great captain who had led battles against them. Syria’s king also sent ten talents of silver (750 pounds), along with 6,000 pieces of gold.
Now, we don’t know how much those 6,000 pieces of gold weighed. We do know a shekel, a type of ancient coin, weighed just over 15 grams. So, to be conservative, let’s say those gold pieces each weighed 10 grams. That would be about 132 pounds of gold.
I just checked the market value today and gold is at $1,661 an ounce and silver is running at $31.40 an ounce. That would mean 132 pounds of gold would be worth $3.5 million and 750 pounds of silver would bring $376,800. The king of Syria sent, from his own coffers, almost $4 million dollars to buy Naaman’s health from his enemy. He truly loved Naaman and put his personal reputation (the letter) and his pocketbook on the line for this man.
So Naaman arrived at the enemy’s palace and Israel’s king—worried a failure to save Naaman’s life could cause new battles to erupt between the two countries—rent his clothes in despair and asked, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive?”
Letters, the threat of war, millions in gold…none of it could save Naaman.
But this story isn’t about worldly enemies or earthly bank accounts. There is a spiritual story going on with this that is greater than all the power and wealth in the world.
You see, Naaman didn’t know about the Lord or his prophets; yet only the Lord’s chosen servant had the power to save Naaman’s life.
That is true today. Millions of people in the world are slowly and spiritually dying because they don’t know the truth…that the Lord speaks to men through prophets.
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
And we know that He is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever,” (Heb. 13:8) so it just stands to reason that prophets would still be the way He communicates with man.
But people today don't know or understand that truth anymore than Naaman did. Like Naaman, they are dying and nothing they are doing is going to bring them peace or healing, even if they do have $4 million in their bank account and stand in palaces and mansions.
So, that’s when Elisha showed up. He went to the palace, where everyone was in an uproar, and told the king to send Naaman to his house. He could have healed Naaman there, so why didn't he?
That is key…Naaman had to redirect his search. He had to go looking for a prophet of God.
“So Naaman came…and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.” (2 Kings 5:9)
“And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” (2 Kings 5:10)
We all know what happened next. Naaman got upset! Here he sat in front of a humble abode with all this wealth and power…in the middle of enemy territory...at the risk of being captured and killed...sent by the directives of two world kings…and the prophet sends out an errand boy!
Naaman's anger was most likely a result of his pride. He thought he'd done enough. He thought he was enough.
Naaman wanted a "miracle", a show…a striking of the disease and a calling on the Lord that would drive the leprosy from his body in one fantastical instant while he just stood there and watched.
But the Lord doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t put on stage shows. He quietly starts His miracles only when we are finally ready to work and receive that miracle in our lives.
Naaman wasn’t ready. He didn't want to go bathe seven times in the River Jordan. He didn't want to take part in his own miracle. He even grumbled that the waters in his own country were better than all the waters of Israel. Irritated, offended, not willing to do what the prophet instructed, Naaman left--willing, instead, to die for his decision.
So, I ask again...have we ever met a Naaman?
Have we ever been like Naaman—wanting the Lord to perform some fantastical miracle without us having to do anything? Or maybe we grumble because we think our lifestyle is better than what the Lord proposes.
That’s when his servants stop him and point out a simple truth…that truth is simple. If your life is at stake, why won’t you do what the prophet asks? Just try it. Test the words of a prophet. See what happens.
These were servants who spoke the words that changed Naaman’s life--not his family, not a king, not even his officers...but plain, simple servants who obviously risked Naaman’s reaction to kindly speak up, with concern, and say something about prophets.
And Naaman heard them.
So “humbling himself, he went forth complying and lo! the blessing directly followed.” (Lorenzo Snow)
Therein lies another great spiritual truth in this story… “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)
Blessings are based on obedience…not timing!
Naaman walked away from a testimony of a living prophet unready, at that time, to obey and comply. Later, when he was finally ready, he returned and did what the prophet asked and the scriptures tell us "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean...and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel."(2 Kings 5:14-15) He still received the same promised blessing.
There are many Naaman’s in life. For a variety of reasons they walk away from the counsel of the Lord’s prophets. Yet, in time, when others say the right things to them, those words of the prophet will return to their minds. They will feel compelled to “wash and be clean” and, when they do they will receive the same promised blessing.
Yes, the blessing may come later in their life, and they will suffer in the meantime, but this one truth is clear and simple: the Lord’s blessings are based on obedience…not the clock.
Isn't that nice to know?