[This chapter is based on 2 Kings 5.]
"Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a
great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had
given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he
was a leper."
Ben-hadad, king of Syria, had defeated the armies of Israel in the
battle which resulted in the death of Ahab. Since that time the Syrians
had maintained against Israel a constant border warfare, and in one of
their raids they had carried away a little maid who, in the land of her
captivity, "waited on Naaman's wife." A slave, far from her
home, this little maid was nevertheless one of God's witnesses,
unconsciously fulfilling the purpose for which God had chosen Israel as
His people. As she ministered in that heathen home, her sympathies were
aroused in behalf of her master; and, remembering the wonderful miracles
of healing wrought through Elisha, she said to her mistress, "Would
God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would
recover him of his leprosy." She knew that the power of Heaven was
with Elisha, and she believed that by this power Naaman could be healed.
The conduct of the captive maid, the way that she bore herself in
that heathen home, is a strong witness to the power of early home
training. There is no higher trust than that committed to fathers and
mothers in the care and training of their children. Parents have to do
with the very foundations of habit and character. By their example and
teaching the future of their children is largely decided.
Happy are the parents whose lives are a true reflection of the
divine, so that the promises and commands of God awaken in the child
gratitude and reverence; the parents whose tenderness and justice and
long-suffering interpret to the child the love and justice and
long-suffering of God, and who by teaching the child to love and trust
and obey them, are teaching him to love and trust and obey his Father in
heaven. Parents who impart to the child such a gift have endowed him
with a treasure more precious than the wealth of all the ages, a
treasure as enduring as eternity.
We know not in what line our children may be called to serve. They
may spend their lives within the circle of the home; they may engage in
life's common vocations, or go as teachers of the gospel to heathen
lands; but all are alike called to be missionaries for God, ministers of
mercy to the world. They are to obtain an education that will help them
to stand by the side of Christ in unselfish service.
The parents of that Hebrew maid, as they taught her of God, did not
know the destiny that would be hers. But they were faithful to their
trust; and in the home of the captain of the Syrian host, their child
bore witness to the God whom she had learned to honor.
Naaman heard of the words that the maid had spoken to her mistress;
and, obtaining permission from the king, he went forth to seek healing,
taking with him "ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of
gold, and ten changes of raiment." He also carried a letter from
the king of Syria to the king of Israel, in which was written the
message, "Behold, I have . . . sent Naaman my servant to thee, that
thou mayest recover him of his leprosy." 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 doth send unto me to recover a man of
his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a
quarrel against me."
Tidings of the matter reached Elisha, and he sent word to the king,
saying, "Wherefore has thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to
me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel."
"So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood
at the door of the house of Elisha." Through a messenger the
prophet bade him, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh
shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean."
Naaman had expected to see some wonderful manifestation of power from
heaven. "I thought," he said, "he will surely come out to
me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his
hand over the place, and recover the leper." When told to wash in
the Jordan, his pride was touched, and in mortification and
disappointment he exclaimed, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of
Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them,
and be clean?" "So he turned and went away in a rage."
The proud spirit of Naaman rebelled against following the course
outlined by Elisha. The rivers mentioned by the Syrian captain were
beautified by surrounding groves, and many flocked to the banks of these
pleasant streams to worship their idol gods. It would have cost Naaman
no great humiliation of soul to descend into one of those streams. But
it was only through following the specific directions of the prophet
that he could find healing. Willing obedience alone would bring the
Naaman's servants entreated him to carry out Elisha's directions:
"If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing," they urged,
"wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he
saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?" The faith of Naaman was being
tested, while pride struggled for the mastery. But faith conquered, and
the haughty Syrian yielded his pride of heart and bowed in submission to
the revealed will of Jehovah. Seven times he dipped himself in Jordan,
"according to the saying of the man of God." And his faith was
honored; "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little
child, and he was clean."
Gratefully "he returned to the man of God, he and all his
company," with the acknowledgment, "Behold, now I know that
there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel."
In accordance with the custom of the times, Naaman now asked Elisha
to accept a costly present. But the prophet refused. It was not for him
to take payment for a blessing that God had in mercy bestowed. "As
the Lord liveth," he said, "I will receive none." The
Syrian "urged him to take it; but he refused.
"And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to
thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth
offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the
Lord. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master
goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my
hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in
the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.
"And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a
Gehazi, Elisha's servant, had had opportunity during the years to
develop the spirit of self-denial characterizing his master's lifework.
It had been his privilege to become a noble standard-bearer in the army
of the Lord. The best gifts of Heaven had long been within his reach;
yet, turning from these, he had coveted instead the base alloy of
worldly wealth. And now the hidden longings of his avaricious spirit led
him to yield to an overmastering temptation. "Behold," he
reasoned within himself, "my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian,
in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but . . . I will
run after him, and take somewhat of him." And thus it came about
that in secrecy "Gehazi followed after Naaman."
When Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the
chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? And he said, All is
well." Then Gehazi uttered a deliberate lie. "My master,"
he said, "hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to
me from Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give
them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of
garments." To the request Naaman gladly acceded, pressing upon
Gehazi two talents of silver instead of one, "with two changes of
garments," and commissioning servants to bear the treasure back.
As Gehazi neared Elisha's home, he dismissed the servants and placed
the silver and the garments in hiding. This accomplished, "he went
in, and stood before his master;" and, to shield himself from
censure, he uttered a second lie. In response to the inquiry of the
prophet, "Whence comest thou?" Gehazi answered, "Thy
servant went no whither."
Then came the stern denunciation, showing that Elisha knew all.
"Went not mine heart with thee," he asked, "when the man
turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive
money, and to receive garments, and olive yards, and vineyards, and
sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy
therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed
forever." Swift was the retribution that overtook the guilty man.
He went out from Elisha's presence "a leper as white as snow."
Solemn are the lessons taught by this experience of one to whom had
been given high and holy privileges. The course of Gehazi was such as to
place a stumbling block in the pathway of Naaman, upon whose mind had
broken a wonderful light, and who was favorably disposed toward the
service of the living God. For the deception practiced by Gehazi there
could be pleaded no excuse. To the day of his death he remained a leper,
cursed of God and shunned by his fellow men.
"A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh
lies shall not escape." Proverbs 19:5. Men may think to hide their
evil deeds from human eyes, but they cannot deceive God. "All
things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to
do." Heb. 4:13. Gehazi thought to deceive Elisha, but God revealed
to His prophet the words that Gehazi had spoken to Naaman, and every
detail of the scene between the two men.
Truth is of God; deception in all its myriad forms is of Satan, and
whoever in any way departs from the straight line of truth is betraying
himself into the power of the wicked one. Those who have learned of
Christ will "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of
darkness." Ephesians 5:11. In speech, as in life, they will be
simple, straightforward, and true, for they are preparing for the
fellowship of those holy ones in whose mouth is found no guile. See
Centuries after Naaman returned to his Syrian home, healed in body
and converted in spirit, his wonderful faith was referred to and
commended by the Saviour as an object lesson for all who claim to serve
God. "Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the
prophet," the Saviour declared; "and none of them was
cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian." Luke 4:27. God passed over the
many lepers in Israel because their unbelief closed the door of good to
them. A heathen nobleman who had been true to his convictions of right,
and who felt his need of help, was in the sight of God more worthy of
His blessing than were the afflicted in Israel, who had slighted and
despised their God-given privileges. God works for those who appreciate
His favors and respond to the light given them from heaven.
Today in every land there are those who are honest in heart, and upon
these the light of heaven is shining. If they continue faithful in
following that which they understand to be duty, they will be given
increased light, until, like Naaman of old, they will be constrained to
acknowledge that "there is no God in all the earth," save the
living God, the Creator.
To every sincere soul "that walketh in darkness, and hath no
light," is given the invitation, "Let him trust in the name of
the Lord, and stay upon his God." "For since the beginning of
the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the
eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth
for Him. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness,
those that remember Thee in Thy ways." Isaiah 50:10; 64:4, 5.
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