A week or two ago at Salem, Kelly and I’s home church here in Fargo, Pastor Glenn preached a powerful sermon from 2 Kings 5:1-14 – the story of Naaman’s healing from leprosy. You can watch or listen to the sermon here. I wanted to delve further into one of the points that Glen made during his sermon and apply it to our day-to-day relationship with God.
To set the scene, Naaman, a powerful, influential, and strong commander of the Syrian army discovers he has leprosy. He’s on the road to ostracism, slow and painful decay, and ultimately and inevitably death. Leprosy, in his day, has no cure and is highly contagious. No cure, that is, except for the miraculous healing that the God of Israel is able to do, as Naaman’s wife’s Israelite servant girl points out. Naaman heads to Israel with gifts from the Syrian king to demand that he be healed, ultimately meeting with a messenger from Elisha who tells him to go and wash in the Jordan river. Here’s the point in the story that I want us to zoom in on. It’s incredibly applicable to us today. In 2 Kings 5 we read,
And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. (5:10-12)
Naaman needs healing. He needs God’s intervention or he’ll die. But there’s a problem. Naaman has expectations of how God should do his intervening. If God’s actions don’t fit in Naaman’s box, he’s going to walk on, leprosy or not. God, however, wants to directly address Naaman’s issues and use his leprosy as a magnifying glass to reveal errors in his thinking. There are at least two issues that Naaman has with God’s method of healing as outlined by Elisha’s servant;
Issue 1: The person bringing the gift
Naaman is someone in a high position. He’s the commander of the army of one of the world’s superpowers. He’s expecting the top dog, Elisha himself, to come and speak to him face to face. Elisha, however, insults Naaman by sending a servant in his place, and Naaman doesn’t like the person bringing the gift. He doesn’t want to receive his healing from some second-rate servant. He wants it from the prophet himself. None of this second-hand crap.
How often we operate this way! We judge the quality of the gift based on the person who’s bringing it. We set our expectations for the quality of a sermon based on the appearance of the preacher. We expect the greatest financial support from those who are well dressed and clean cut. God, however, tends to use the most unlikely of candidates to do the greatest of things. He sends his greatest gifts through the most unexpected of sources.
Don’t prevent yourself from receiving a gift from God because you’ve discounted the person who is bringing it.
Issue 2: The method
Naaman wanted some show – some special treatment. He expected God’s healing to align with what he’d seen Syrian priests and magicians do. God, however, wants to knock down Naaman’s barriers. Wash in dirty water and be clean, Naaman. This isn’t going to be a magic show or the result of some mystical incantation.
We, like Naaman, have our expectations set for what God’s methods should be when he answers our prayers or fulfills our needs. The financial provision should come as a surprise generous gift from an anonymous donor rather than an extra side job. The beautiful romance that leads to a lasting marriage should come before we’re X years old. The healing or deliverance should be the product of one powerful explosion of the Spirit’s power rather than months or years of slow growth and restoration work.
Set aside your expectations for God’s methods. Jesus never heals the same thing the same way twice. Our God loves to do new and unexpected things. Open your eyes and be on the lookout for God’s miraculous intervention in the places where you previously least expected it.
Thankfully for Naaman his servants prevail upon him and he obeys, dipping himself in the Jordan river. He sets aside his expectations, obeys, and receiving the healing that he needed.
We serve a God who is more than able to meet every one of our needs – from miraculous bodily healing to spiritual freedom to financial and relational provision. He’s not only able, he is willing and eager to do so, as Jesus demonstrates when he responds to the beggar’s statement “If you are willing, Lord…” with the declaration, “I am willing. Be healed.” (Matthew 8:1-3)
The real question is whether or not we’re willing to receive what God is giving. Are we ready to set aside our expectations and receive God’s gift regardless of the deliverer or the method of delivery?
I certainly hope we are. Like Naaman we each are desperately in need of a miracle. Let’s be willing to receive, regardless of how our good God gives.