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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on June 12, 2016 under 2016 |

Message preached Sunday, June 12, 2016 from 2 Kings 5:1-19

Theme: God can use us to guide people to Himself at the turning-points of faith.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

This morning, I’d like to share with you from a passage in the Old Testament that teaches us an important lesson about the gracious work of God in drawing people into a relationship with Himself. And what’s more, it teaches us something about how you and I can be a part of that work.

It has to do with what we might call the “turning-points” in someone’s life—specifically, those turning-points by which God leads them, through some important events or challenges or crises of life, to turn to Him and seek Him. If you were to look back on your own journey toward Him, fellow Christian, you’ll find that this was true. Some event or some series of events, at key points along the way, were used by Him to turn you around and cause you to seek Him. I believe those turning-point experiences are from Him and are under His providence. I praise God for how He used them in my life. I’m here today—a follower of His Son Jesus Christ—because of them.

But what’s more, God not only provides those turning-point experiences; but He also provides certain people who came along at the right time in the midst of those turning-points. In my own experience, God has used those providentially-sent individuals to steer me in the right direction—at just the right time—so that I ended up looking toward Him, or doing what He wanted me to do; and in such a way as to lead me ultimately to a saving faith in Jesus. I’m sure you can say the same.

I like to refer to those providential people as “God’s appointed guides” at the turning-points of our faith journey. And one of the important lessons to be learned from this morning’s passage is that you and I—as followers of Jesus—can be used by God to be one of those “guides” to someone else.

The story that illustrates this to us is found in the fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of 2 Kings. Let’s turn there together and learn about how God can use us to be someone else’s “guides at the turning-points of life.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; this is a story that comes at a very troubled time in the history of God’s people. It’s at a time when the Tribes of Israel had been divided into two main groups. The children of Abraham were a divided kingdom—with the people in the south being called the kingdom of Judah, and the people in the north being referred to as the Tribes of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judah had remained relatively faithful to the God of Israel; but not perfectly so. It had some kings who were godly; but it also had some kings along the way who were ungodly. The northern kingdom of Israel, however, did not remain faithful to God at all. And throughout its history, it had nothing but ungodly kings who led their people into idolatry and sin. The story of 2 Kings 5 has, as its context, the events of the ungodly northern kingdom.

And yet, God did not leave Himself without a witness to the ungodly northern kingdom. One of the remarkable things about the northern kingdom of Israel during this particular time was that God had given it the ministry of two outstanding prophets of God—in fact, two of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament era. One was Elijah; and the other was his successor Elisha. By this point of the story, Elijah had already been taken up to heaven to God; and the ‘mantel’ of his ministry had already fallen upon his young successor Elisha.

There are many other people who show up in the story of this chapter. But the main star of the story—the person who is being led on a journey of faith toward God—was a man named Naaman. He was a man from the neighboring nation of Syria.

Verse one tells us;

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria (v. 1a).

This was truly a great man. The word that is used for “honorable” can be translated “esteemed”. He was a well respected, honored, trusted, very accomplished military leader—serving faithfully under the leadership of the king of the Syrian people. By his hand, the Lord had allowed the people of Syria to gain victory over their enemies—and even, to some degree, to make successful raids against the disobedient people of the northern kingdom of Israel. From a military standpoint, his was a story of great success.

But his was also a story of personal tragedy. Look at what it goes on to say at the end of verse 1;

He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper (v. 1b).

This is stated in the original language in such a way as to emphasize the contrast. He was a mighty man of valor … and also a leper. He had—somehow—contracted the dreaded disease of leprosy. According to the Law of God given through Moses, such a man—if he had been Jewish—would have been required to be an outcast from his people. In the Gentile land of Syria, however, this apparently wasn’t the case. Such an esteemed man was allowed to hold his high and official post under the king, and was permitted to continue to serve. But he was a leper. He had a disease that would eventually sap away his strength and his health, and that would destroy his outward appearance, and that would eventually take his life.

What a crisis this must have been for him and his family—and even for his king. I suspect that many people are awakened to a search for God through just such a tragic and frightening blow to their health and longevity; don’t you?

It was just this very tragedy that God used to graciously awaken this Gentile man Naaman to his need, and to lead him toward Himself. And it’s here that I’d like to suggest that we find:



Verse 2 goes on to tell us a little background information—and how that background information impacted Naaman;

And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife (v. 2).

What a remarkable young girl this must have been. She had been captured and taken from her people, and made a slave of a foreign master. And yet, she remained faithful to God—and even had a heart of love for her master in his need. She must have thought much and prayed much about him.

Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy” (v. 3).

That prophet, of course, was Elisha. No doubt, this young girl had heard the stories of how the mantel of God’s calling upon Elijah had now fallen upon his successor Elisha. And no doubt, she also had heard about the miraculous things that God had done through Elisha. We read about those things in the previous few chapters of 2 Kings—such things as how Elijah provided an unending supply of oil to a poor widow; or how he raised the son of the Shunammite woman from the dead, or how he multiplied a small amount of food to feed a hundred men. Surely, she thought, he could heal a man of leprosy. Surely, God could use him to heal her mistress’ husband.

So; she became bold and told her mistress about the prophet of the God of Israel, and of how she longed for him to go to this prophet. He could heal her master. Word of her longing came to Naaman; and in verses 4-5, we’re told,

And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.” Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel” (vv. 4-5a).

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; there’s a bit of a debate among Bible scholars over who exactly was the king of Israel at this time. But there’s one thing we can be sure of—he was not a man who had been faithful to God. His reception of this strange request from the Syrian king would not have been met with reverence or delight. But Naaman would not have known this. He would have thought that the king of Israel would believe in the prophet that God had sent him; and he would even have believed that the prophet would have been under the direct supervision of the king. He would have thought that he could purchase the services of the prophet by offering payment to the king himself. Verses 5-6 go on to say;

So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said,

Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy (vv. 5b-6).

This was a substantial gift! But the unbelieving king of Israel reacted to the letter with great suspicion.

And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me” (vv. 7-8).

Now; Naaman was somewhat mistaken in all this. The prophet of God, of course, wasn’t under the supervision of the king. In fact, the prophet often showed up to rebuke the king for his wickedness. But the king of Israel was also greatly mistaken in thinking that such power from God did not exist. He was demonstrating that he was not a man of reverence toward God.

So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (v. 8).

And the king of Israel did so. What an opportunity it came to be! And this leads us to another important moment in Naaman’s journey toward God …



Naaman had already been led, by this terrible crisis in his life, to seek out the God of Israel. But that fledgling faith of his was about to be tested in the way that the fledgling faith of so many people is tested—by the need to do exactly what God says.

May I stop for a moment and ask you to reflect on that? Many times, as people inch their way toward God, they encounter the commands that God gives in His word. And also many times, those commands don’t make sense to the fleshly impulses of those who might be seeking after Him. Those commands stand in stark contrast to the ways of this world, or to the appeals of human reason, or to the cravings of the flesh. Such ‘seekers’ often find that God surprises them—or perhaps, in some way, disappoints their expectations. That puts them at a very important fork in the road. Will they go further through obedience? Or will they give up and turn away? Many times—without a wise Christian to guide them along—they turn away; and an opportunity to make a decisive step of faith is lost.

That was the challenge in the case of Naaman. The Bible goes on to tell us in verses 9-12;

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the 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 (vv. 9-12).

Whether or not he would actually have tried to go to one of those other rivers in the far north of his homeland is hard to say. And many historians have pointed out, by the way, that Naamam was correct; that those rivers were far clearer and far more attractive to dip into than the Jordan! In any case, he turned away in anger and frustration; and he was about to head back home all leprous and unhealed—giving up on his search for God’s help.

I believe, personally, that the reason Elisha didn’t come out to him at that time was in order to put him to this test of obedience. And it seems that Naaman was about to fail the test. But that’s when his servants stepped in at a crucial moment. They served as important guides at yet another turning-point. Verse 13 says;

And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (v. 13).

And I believe they were right; don’t you? If the prophet of God had asked Naaman to do some tremendous feat of heroism, or to pay a huge amount of money, or make some laborious pilgrimage to the far side of the earth, he would have done it. But instead, Elisha told him to do something simple—something that seemed almost ridiculously little. He just needed to wash seven times in the nearby Jordan River.

By the way; you recognize something special about that number ‘seven’, don’t you? The number seven is often an important indicator of a special work of God. This truly was, then, a test of the obedience in faith. And it must have been that his wise servants successfully appealed to him. We’re told;

So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (v. 14).

What a victory—both of faith and obedience!

* * * * * * * * * *

And this leads us to consider …



Naaman was clearly a transformed man from then on—not only on the outside of his flesh, but also on the inside in his being. The Bible tells us;

And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant” (v. 15).

Think of that! This mighty Gentile general now came humbly to the prophet of God to proclaim his faith in the God of Israel as the one and only true God. He even offered to give the prophet a great gift in gratitude.

But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused (v. 16).

I believe this was because Elisha didn’t want Naaman to think that the power of God could be bought. Nor, I believe, did he want Naaman to make any mistake in thinking the power for such a great healing was found in himself. He wanted Naaman to turn the full attention of his faith to God alone.

And yet, Naaman found other ways to demonstrate that he was now truly a follower of the God of Israel.

So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord” (v. 17).

Naaman was now so devoted to the God of Israel that he didn’t even want to try to worship God on the foreign dirt of his own homeland. He wanted to worship the God of Israel on good ol’ authentic Israel soil! That might seem a little strange to you and me. It may have sprung from his mistaken idea that the God of Israel was restricted only to Israel itself. But it nevertheless does demonstrate that he had a genuinely transformed heart.

And he added one more request—this one with respect to his own king;

Yet in this thing may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord please pardon your servant in this thing. “ Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a short distance (vv. 18-19).

This might seem at first sight to be a big compromise on the part of Naaman. He wanted to be allowed to continue the tradition he had of being his king’s physical ‘support person’ when he went into the temple of a false god. But it may be that Naaman had a noble motive. Perhaps it was that, just as some others came along at the right time in his life and were guides in their God-appointed positions of life at the major turning-points of Naaman’s life, he hoped that he could be that same kind of guide to his king. And without necessarily giving approval to the worship of a false god, it seems that Elisha gave a blessing to the request of Naaman.

And if that’s so, then it’s just one more indication of a transformed life! He now wanted to introduce his king to the God of Israel—just as someone had done for him. What a story! What a God of grace we serve! What a providential God—who leads us, in such remarkable ways, through the turning-points of life to Himself!

* * * * * * * * * *

But Naaman himself isn’t the person that I believe we have the most to learn from. Rather, it’s …



Consider first that young slave girl from Israel—the one who served in Naaman’s home. I believe she is an example to us of how we can set someone in the direction of faith at an important turning-point in their lives.

God, in His providence, placed her in a remarkable position—one in which she could bring the influence of the Lord upon her master. And think of it! It was through here being captured and having been made a slave! The Lord had used a hard event to bring her where He wanted her to be. But she still followed the God of Israel in her unique and trying circumstances. And she had a genuine heart of love for her master. Didn’t her words to her mistress almost sound like they could be interpreted as a kind of prayer?—“If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”

God used her—in a very simple way—to turn Naaman’s attention to God in the midst of his need. And I believe that there are many occasions that we can be used by God in just the same way in the midst of our own circumstances of life. The example of this girl teaches us that God can use a wise word from us—at just the right time—to turn someone’s attention to Him.

And consider secondly the servants of Naaman—who stopped him from turning away from the command of the prophet. I believe they were an example to us of how we can encourage someone—who might be at a crisis point of faith, and who might be frustrated or disappointed with the commands of God—into the direction of obedience at an important turning-point of their lives.

God placed those servants there, next to Naaman and at the home of the prophet Elisha, in order to bear another kind of important influence in his life. They too must have had a love for their master. And weren’t their words to him wise? They didn’t rebuke him. They didn’t tell him what to do. They simply calmed him in his frustration, and appealed to his sense of reason. Perhaps it was only one of them in particular who took the lead; but we’re told that they said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

God also used them—in another very simple way—to encourage Naaman to take the necessary step of obedience in his journey of faith toward God. And I again wonder if there aren’t many ways that you and I can be used in the same way in someone else’s life. Can it be that a well-placed reminder to someone of what God has said in His word—and an encouragement to rise up and do it—might be just the thing that God uses to seal their hearts with Him?

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; we should always remember that we aren’t just ordinary people. We are God’s redeemed people; and He has great purpose for our being in this world. We should never think that there is anything about our lives that is mundane or unimportant. God can use us—in simple ways—to accomplish great things in the lives of others to lead them to His saving grace.

And may I close with just a couple of verses from the New Testament that might help us to be more available to God to be His “guides” in the important turning-points of other people’s lives? One has to do with our own attitude of readiness; and is found in 1 Peter 3:15. The apostle reminds us:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear … (1 Peter 3:15).

Everyday that we go out the door to the tasks of this world—and indeed, every moment of that day—we should renew our availability to the Lord, and set Him as first in our hearts and lives. And then, we should be ready to be used by Him. He’ll place us where we need to be.

And then, another verse has to do with our motive of love. In James 5:19-20, Pastor James wrote;

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).

What a privilege it is to be a “guide” at the turning-point in someone else’s journey of faith! We will be forever grateful for the opportunity, if we are faithful in it! May God make us such guides to His glory!

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