The story of the servant girl and Naaman in 2 Kings 5 is particularly important to me. A few years ago, my mentor and friend Bill Dennison wrote a sermon* about this story when I was feeling altogether LOW. When I needed Bill in my life, God brought me Bill. And Bill taught me how to read the Bible.
Bill’s Naaman sermon makes close connections between Elijah and John the Baptist, which planted some seeds in my mind that are still coming into flower. But I was excited to see something today that I hadn’t fully appreciated before – Elisha as a type of Christ.
This morning, I was reading 2 Kings, after Elijah’s ascension in chapter 2. I kept thinking to myself, WOW, the miracles are really popping up right and left in quick succession! Elisha isn’t pulling any punches! So many parallels with Jesus’s parables and miracles! I couldn’t keep up, all the pages flipping back and forth.
Widow’s oil here, loaves and fishes there.
Elisha pouring water on Elijah’s hands here, Jesus washing disciples’ feet there.
Elisha throwing salt into a spring here, Jesus saying we are the salt of the earth there.
I could go on and on. The pages are just packed.
And it’s no wonder! After Elijah and Elisha cross the Jordan together,
Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”2 Kings 2:9-10
He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.”
By the time we get to Naaman, we are primed for the power of the gospel. And re-reading Bill’s Naaman sermon this afternoon made me so HAPPY again. God is pointing us to the faith of the slave girl who violates Levitical law, embodying kingdom faith, taking Naaman to Elisha and by Elisha to Christ!
And what is the result? The leprous flesh of Naaman – a well-respected, high ranking Gentile army commander – is restored “like the flesh of a little child.” He too, like all believers, grasps the kingdom of Jesus Christ with child-like faith. And he receives the kingdom’s blessing.
But Elisha’s servant Gehazi is another matter. When Naaman offers Elisha a present for healing him, Elisha adamantly refuses, even when Naaman presses him.
“As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.”2 Kings 5:16, see also Genesis 14:21-24
All Elisha will consent to is that Naaman be given “two mules’ load of earth” for an altar so Naaman can follow his salvation with worship and sacrifice to God (Ex. 20:24). But Gehazi isn’t too sure about that. As he sees it, Elisha has given Naaman a free pass. And Gehazi’s eye wanders. Just look how he contradicts his master,
As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.2 Kings 5:20b
So Gehazi secretly doubles back and takes two talents of silver and two changes of clothes from Naaman. He even tells Naaman that Elisha has sent him! Ack! And then, in a final betrayal, he lies to Elisha about it (v. 25).
But Elisha knows. His heart has even gone back with Gehazi. And here we come to the end of Naaman’s story and also of Gehazi’s. The consequences Gehazi faces are an outward sign of his lack of faith in the FREE offer of salvation (Rom. 6:23, 2 Cor. 9:15, Eph. 2:8). Naaman was set free from leprosy, but now leprosy will be Gehazi’s master.
Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.2 Kings 5:27
Jesus too heals a leper during his ministry (Matt 8:1-4). And Jesus too takes no payment for offering this man the outward sign of his inner faith, a transformation from death to life.
But Jesus does tell the man to offer a testimony of his freedom to the priests, in accordance with Levitical law. Two birds, one killed and one set free (Lev. 14:5-7).
*You can listen to Bill Dennison’s sermon here. Scroll down to “A Young Girl’s Faith (Luke 4:16-30; 2 Kings :1-14).”