We have here the cure of Naaman’s leprosy.
I. The short and plain direction which the prophet gave him, with assurance of success. Naaman designed to do honour to Elisha when he came in his chariot, and with all his retinue, to Elisha’s door, 2 Kgs. 5:9. Those that showed little respect to prophets at other times were very complaisant to them when they needed them. He attended at Elisha’s door as a beggar for an alms. Those that would be cleansed from the spiritual leprosy must wait at Wisdom’s gate, and watch at the posts of her doors. Naaman expected to have his compliment returned, but Elisha gave him his answer without any formality, would not go to the door to him, lest he should seem too much pleased with the honour done him, but sent a messenger to him, saying, Go wash in Jordan seven times, and promising him that if he did so his disease should be cured. The promise was express: Thou shalt be clean. The method prescribed was plain: Go wash in Jordan. This was not intended as any means of the cure; for, though cold bathing is recommended by many as a very wholesome thing, yet some think that in the case of a leprosy it was rather hurtful. But it was intended as a sign of the cure, and a trial of his obedience. Those that will be helped of God must do as they are bidden. But why did Elisha send a messenger to him with these directions? 1. Because he had retired, at this time, for devotion, was intent upon his prayers for the cure, and would not be diverted; or, 2. Because he knew Naaman to be a proud man, and he would let him know that before the great God all men stand upon the same level.
II. Naaman’s disgust at the method prescribed, because it was not what he expected. Two things disgusted him:—
1. That Elisha, as he thought, put a slight upon his person, in sending him orders by a servant, and not coming to him himself, 2 Kgs. 5:11. Being big with the expectation of a cure, he had been fancying how this cure would be wrought, and the scheme he had laid was this: “He will surely come out to me, that is the least he can do to me, a peer of Syria, to me that have come to him in all this state, to me that have so often been victorious over Israel. He will stand, and call on the name of his God, and name me in his prayer, and then he will wave his hand over the place, and so effect the cure.” And, because the thing was not done just thus, he fell into a passion, forgetting, (1.) That he was a leper, and the law of Moses, which Elisha would religiously observe, shut lepers out from society—a leper, and therefore he ought not to insist upon the punctilios of honor. Note, Many have hearts unhumbled under humbling providences; see Num. 12:14. (2.) That he was a petitioner, suing for a favour which he could not demand; and beggars must not be choosers, patients must not prescribe to their physicians. See in Naaman the folly of pride. A cure will not content him unless he be cured with ceremony, with a great deal of pomp and parade; he scorns to be healed, unless he be humoured.
2. That Elisha, as he thought, put a slight upon his country. He took it hard that he must be sent to wash in Jordan, a river of Israel, when he thought Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel. How magnificently does he speak of these two rivers that watered Damascus, which soon after fell into one, called by geographers Chrysoroas—the golden stream! How scornfully does he speak of all the waters of Israel, though God had called the land of Israel the glory of all lands, and particularly for its brooks of water! Deut. 8:7. So common it is for God and man to differ in their judgments. How slightly does he speak of the prophet’s directions! May I not wash in them and be clean? He might wash in them and be clean from dirt, but not wash in them and be clean from leprosy. He was angry that the prophet bade him wash and be clean; he thought that the prophet must do all and was not pleased that he was bidden to do any thing,—or he thought this too cheap, too plain, too common a thing for so great a man to be cured by,—or he did not believe it would at all effect the cure, or, if it would, what medicinal virtue was there in Jordan more than in the rivers of Damascus? But he did not consider, (1.) That Jordan belonged to Israel’s God, from whom he was to expect the cure, and not from the gods of Damascus; it watered the Lord’s land, the holy land, and, in a miraculous cure, relation to God was much more considerable than the depth of the channel or the beauty of the stream. (2.) That Jordan had more than once before this obeyed the commands of omnipotence. It had of old yielded a passage to Israel, and of late to Elijah and Elisha, and therefore was fitter for such a purpose than those rivers which had only observed the common law of their creation, and had never been thus distinguished; but, above all, (3.) Jordan was the river appointed, and, if he expected a cure from the divine power, he ought to acquiesce in the divine will, without asking why or wherefore. Note, It is common for those that are wise in their own conceit to look with contempt on the dictates and prescriptions of divine wisdom and to prefer their own fancies before them; those that are for establishing their own righteousness will not submit to the righteousness of God, Rom. 10:3. Naaman talked himself into such a heat (as passionate men usually do) that he turned away from the prophet’s door in a rage, ready to swear he would never have any thing more to say to Elisha; and who then would be the loser? Note, Those that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercies. Jonah 2:8. Proud men are the worst enemies to themselves and forego their own redemption.
III. The modest advice which his servants gave him, to observe the prophet’s prescriptions, with a tacit reproof of his resentments, 2 Kgs. 5:13. Though at other times they kept their distance, and now saw him in a passion, yet, knowing him to be a man that would hear reason at any time, and from any body (a good character of great men, and a very rare one), they drew near, and made bold to argue the matter a little with him. They had conceived a great opinion of the prophet (having, perhaps, heard more of him from the common people, whom they had conversed with, than Naaman had heard from the king and courtiers, whom he had conversed with), and therefore begged of him to consider: “If the prophet had bidden thee to do some great thing, had ordered thee into a tedious course of physic, or to submit to some painful operation, blistering, or cupping, or salivating, Wouldst thou not have done it? No doubt thou wouldst. And wilt thou not submit to so easy a method as this, Wash and be clean?” Observe, 1. His own servants gave him this reproof and counsel, which was no more disparagement to him than that he had intelligence of one that could cure him from his wife’s maid, 2 Kgs. 5:3. Note, It is a great mercy to have those about us that will be free with us, and faithfully tell us of our faults and follies, though they be our inferiors. Masters must be willing to hear reason from their servants, Job 31:13, 14. As we should be deaf to the counsel of the ungodly, though given by the greatest and most venerable names, so we should have our ear open to good advice, though brought us by those who are much below us: no matter who speaks, if the thing be well said. 2. The reproof was very modest and respectful. They call him Father; for servants must honour and obey their masters with a kind of filial affection. In giving reproof or counsel we must make it appear that it comes from love and true honour, and that we intend, not reproach, but reformation. 3. It was very rational and considerate. If the rude and unthinking servants had stirred up their master’s angry resentment, and offered to avenge his quarrel upon the prophet, who (he thought) affronted him, how mischievous would the consequences have been! Fire from heaven, probably, upon them all! But they, to our great surprise, took the prophet’s part. Elisha, though it is likely he perceived that what he had said had put Naaman out of humour, did not care to pacify him: it was at his peril if he persisted in his wrath. But his servants were made use of by Providence to reduce him to temper. They reasoned with him, (1.) From his earnest desire of a cure: Wouldst thou not do any thing? Note, When diseased sinners come to this, that they are content to do any thing, to submit to any thing, to part with any thing, for a cure, then, and not till then, there begin to be some hopes of them. Then they will take Christ on his own terms when they are made willing to have Christ upon any terms. (2.) From the easiness of the method prescribed: “It is but, Wash and be clean. It is but trying; the experiment is cheap and easy, it can do no hurt, but may do good.” Note, the methods prescribed for the healing of the leprosy of sin are so plain that we are utterly inexcusable if we do not observe them. It is but, “Believe, and be saved”—“Repent, and be pardoned”—“Wash, and be clean.”
IV. The cure effected, in the use of the means prescribed, 2 Kgs. 5:14. Naaman, upon second thoughts, yielded to make the experiment, yet, it should seem, with no great faith and resolution; for, whereas the prophet bade him wash in Jordan seven times, he did but dip himself so many times, as lightly as he could. However God was pleased so far to honour himself and his word as to make that effectual. His flesh came again, like the flesh of a child. to his great surprise and joy. This men get by yielding to the will of God, by attending to his institutions. His being cleansed by washing put an honour on the law for cleansing lepers. God will magnify his word above all his name.
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