Bible Readings for October 24th
We first read of Israel’s battles with Syria during the reign of King David (cf. 2 Sam. 8, 10), but these conflicts escalate significantly during the reign of King Ahab (cf. 1 Kgs. 20, 22). In 2 Kings 5, we meet Naaman, the mighty commander of Syria’s army—the man who had gained the favor of his king “because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria” (2 Kgs. 5:1). Despite Naaman’s greatness, he nevertheless suffers from leprosy (2 Kgs. 5:1), and in order for God to heal him, Naaman must be humbled in two major ways.
First, Naaman must humble himself by listening to the advice of an Israelite slave girl whom Naaman had carried off from Israel during one his raids (2 Kgs. 5:2). The girl tells Naaman’s wife, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kgs. 5:3). What would an Israelite slave girl know that a mighty Syrian military commander would not? Nevertheless, Naaman follows the girl’s suggestion.
Second, Naaman must humble himself when he finally meets with Elisha, because the prophet instructs him to do something mortifying: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean” (2 Kgs. 5:10). At first, Naaman refuses the thought of washing in the filthy Jordan River until his servants ask, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kgs. 5:13). And when Naaman humbles himself to do what Elisha tells him to do, his flesh is restored (2 Kgs. 5:14). What a marvelous picture of the gospel—a sin-sick man humbling himself to be washed clean at the word of God!
But the story doesn’t quite end there. Although Elisha refuses to receive any payment from Naaman for the healing that God has provided, Elisha’s servant Gehazi lies both to Naaman (2 Kgs. 5:22) and then to Elisha (2 Kgs. 5:25) to take for himself the reward. Heartbroken, Elisha tells Gehazi, “Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever” (2 Kgs. 5:27).
This story announces both the hope and the warning of the gospel. On the one hand, the gospel proclaims that all those who humble themselves to be washed with the blood of Jesus through faith will find themselves baptized clean from the defilements of sin, just as Naaman himself was washed clean. On the other hand, the gospel also warns any who would seek to use the great news of Jesus as an instrument for personal gain. Reject any temptation to seek after petty desires for personal enrichment and instead embrace the cleanness that Jesus offers in the gospel.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.