SERMON TITLE: 2 Kings: Wash and Be Clean
TEXT: 2 Kings 5:1-27 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re continuing our Finding Jesus series this weekend. This is a series where I introduce you to a book of the Bible that you may or may not be familiar with. So I’ll give you an overview of the book — followed by a closer look at a particular section of it. And then — and this is what I hope is most helpful — each week I’ll show you how to find the one story the whole Bible is telling — the story of Jesus — because the whole Bible is ultimately pointing us to him.
And in this iteration of our Finding Jesus series — we’re looking at the books in the Old Testament referred to as the history section. These books cover historical events of God’s people in the Old Testament. Some of the books cover hundreds of years while others cover a short period of time — but — together — they tell the history of God’s people. And — today — we’ll be looking at the book of Second Kings. So — if you have your Bible — please turn with me to Second Kings chapter five.
In previous weeks we’ve looked at Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, and First Kings and — by next week — we’ll finish Finding Jesus for this year. And — early next year — Lord willing — we’ll complete our journey through the entire Old Testament as we cover the three books that we’ll have yet to cover.
BACKGROUND OF SECOND KINGS
So — let’s take some time and get our bearings in the book of Second Kings — and I hope you’ll see that this is a book you’ll want to go read for yourself.
First, what do we know about Second Kings? We covered this last week — so I’ll do a brief recap for those who weren’t with us.
- Who’s the author? We don’t know.
- When was the book written? Most likely during the Babylonian exile — meaning some time after 561 BC.
- And what time period does the book cover? Roughly the years between 970 to 560 BC.
Now — this next part I repeat every week because it’s important for all of us to understand where we are in history and what’s happened leading up to the events in our book. God’s people — after being rescued out of their slavery in Egypt — are led by Moses to the border of the Promised Land. They sent spies into the land to check out their new home — but the majority of the spies gave a report that caused alarm among the people resulting in the Israelites distrusting that God would fulfill his promise to them. So — instead of entering into the Promised Land — the people wander in the wilderness for forty years until an entire generation dies. Moses — along with Joshua and Caleb — the two spies who trusted in God’s promise — arrive at the border of the Promised Land forty years later — this time with the next generation of Israelites. But Moses’ time on earth had come to an end — and God appoints Joshua to lead the Israelites.
Under Joshua’s leadership, the Israelites enter and conquer the Promised Land — which we looked at in the book named after Joshua. And — after Joshua — there was a brief period of time when the people faithfully served and worshiped God. But then we came to the book of Judges which contains the history of the people turning their backs on God — they commit apostasy again and again. Yet God — demonstrating his love and faithfulness to his people — raised up judges who act as saviors for his people. These judges deliver the people from the consequences of their rebellion as they turn the people back to God.
And — it’s during the time of the judges — that the story of Ruth takes place. A love story of an outsider welcomed into the family of God. And the book of Ruth ends by telling us that the son born to Ruth — will have a descendant who will be king of God’s people.
Back in the book of Judges there’s a recurring phrase — “in those days there was no king in Israel” — foreshadowing what comes in the books of First and Second Samuel — books that record the transition between the time of the people being led by judges to the time when they’re led by kings.
Samuel is a prophet who’s called by God to anoint the first king of Israel — his name is Saul. Things don’t go well for Saul — he’s a proud man who refuses to repent of his rebellion and sin so God removes his anointing from Saul and tells Samuel to go to the house of Jesse to anoint Israel’s next king — whose name is David. And the two books of Samuel record the lives of the first two kings of Israel — which leads us to the content of our book — Second Kings — and its companion — First Kings.
OVERVIEW OF SECOND KINGS
First Kings begins by covering the end of David’s life and then records the history of Solomon’s reign as king of Israel — Solomon is David’s son. Solomon ends up being the last king to reign over a unified nation because his son — Rehoboam — will make a foolish decision which results in a national split. The nation of Judah is formed with Jerusalem as its capital — Judah will have the descendants of David as king. The nation of Israel eventually adopts Samaria as its capital — and Israel will have a long list of evil kings.
We left off last week having mentioned that it’s during this time period when the role of the prophet becomes really important. There’ve been prophets before — but now they take on a much more prominent role. And we meet some of these prophets in the two books of the kings.
Now — you may be wondering, “What does a prophet do?” Well the main role of the prophet was to 1) Speak on behalf of God, 2) Make sure the king and the people remember the covenants, 3) Call out idolatry and injustice, and 4) Call the king and people to repentance. And it’s important to know that the prophets had the Law of God — meaning the writings of Moses — in mind as they fulfilled their role.
The two main prophets — that we encounter in the books of the kings — are Elijah and Elisha — and they serve in the northern kingdom — Israel. Remember Israel is the nation with only wicked kings — so not a fun place to work if you’re a prophet of God. You may be familiar with Elijah because of his encounter with king Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. The king and his wife led the people to commit gross idolatry — particularly the worship of the false god Baal. And — there’s an amazing encounter between Elijah and the prophets of Baal — where God rains down fire to prove that he is the true God and that Elijah is his prophet.
As Elijah’s time on earth comes to an end — he hands off his responsibilities to Elisha. I mentioned last week how this time period can be really confusing with all of the kings — the flip flopping back and forth between the two kingdoms — and so on. Well — to add to the confusion — these two prophets have very similar names and — most of the time — we can't tell if someone is saying EliJAH or EliSHA when we say their names.
Well — as EliJAH’s time is coming to an end — EliSHA asks for a blessing. In fact — he asks to have a double blessing of the anointing that EliJAH had as a prophet. And — as if to make it clear to us that Elisha did receive a double blessing — the author of the books of kings — records seven miraculous acts performed by the hands of Elijah and fourteen miraculous acts performed by Elisha. And now we’re through the first eight chapters of Second Kings.
In chapters nine through seventeen you’ll read about king after king, and conspiracy after conspiracy, and betrayal after betrayal in the northern kingdom of Israel — and the nation never recovers. Remember it’s only evil kings for Israel — which leads to the nation’s eventual defeat by the Assyrians — with some of the people being sent into exile while others remained in the land and intermarried with the foreign occupiers. But the northern kingdom is no more.
The final chapters of Second Kings — chapters eighteen through twenty-five — focus on the nation of Judah and its eventual demise. If you remember from last week — this nation does have some good kings — like Hezekiah and Josiah — but Judah has some horrific kings as well — like Manasseh — kings who lead the people to commit idolatry and even child sacrifice. There are other prophets during this time period — most notably the prophet Isaiah — and these prophets will also call the kings of Judah to repentance. Yet — though there were a few good kings — the evil kings eventually lead the nation so far from God that Judah too is conquered — this time it’s the Babylonians.
And our book ends with the people of God being led to Babylon where they will live in exile as the consequence of their sin and rebellion. And this all leads us — the readers — to wonder if this is it for God’s people. Have they finally gone so far that God is done with them? Have they finally exhausted his patience? Is it time for a do-over?
And — with that as a cliffhanger — we’ll turn to the passage we’ll be exploring more closely. Hopefully you’ve had time to find Second Kings chapter five — we’ll begin in verse one. And — at this point in history — we’re in Israel which has yet to be conquered by the Assyrians — just so we all know when and where this is taking place.
2 Kings 5:1–27 (ESV)
1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” 8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 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.” 11 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. 12 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. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.” But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” 21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” 22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. 24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. 25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.
WASH AND BE CLEAN
So there are a couple of individuals in our passage. You’ve got Naaman — a general in the army of the foreign nation who will eventually destroy the nation of Israel. There’s EliSHA — one of the prophets mentioned earlier. And — finally — there’s Gehazi — Elisha’s servant.
Now the story is pretty straightforward. Naaman has leprosy — and through an Israelite servant girl who works for his wife — he learns of a prophet in this servant girl’s homeland who can heal his disease. So Naaman tells his boss — the king of Syria — and the king sends a letter to the king of Israel basically saying, “Here’s payment for the healing of my servant Naaman.”
Now — I’m not sure if the Syrian king misunderstood the servant girl's instructions — she didn’t say the king of Israel could heal Naaman — she said a prophet in Israel could heal him — but regardless — the king of Israel is now in some serious hot water — thus he tears his clothes.
Now — you may be wondering, “Why did this disturb the king of Israel?” Well this greatly disturbed him because — one — he can’t cure people of leprosy — and two — remember this is Israel — all of the kings are evil and wicked — and that means prophets and kings aren’t best buds — so this request is basically a letter telling the king of Israel to ask his local pain in the neck prophet to do a miracle or “there will be trouble between our two nations.”
But Elisha hears about all of this and tells the king of Israel not to worry. “Tell the guy to come to me — everything’s gonna be OK.” So Naaman goes to Elisha and is seriously unimpressed. First off, Elisha doesn’t even come out to meet him — how rude! Then he passes on a message telling Naaman to go wash in the muddy, ugly Jordan River seven times — I mean — doesn’t Elisha know how nice the rivers are in Syria?
Well — after some wise advice from his servants — Naaman concedes — and he goes and washes in the Jordan River — and is healed of his leprosy. And it’s here that Naaman makes a profound statement of faith.
2 Kings 5:15b (NLT)
15b “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”
What a life changing moment for Naaman. He was unclean and now he’s clean. He had a death sentence — that’s what leprosy was — and now he’s been given new life. And this causes him to know that the God of Israel is the One true God — something the king and people of Israel had forgotten.
And it looks like we’re headed to a “and they all lived happily ever after” kind of ending. There’s the profound statement of faith by Naaman and Elisha refuses the gifts that Naaman offers to him and — instead — blesses him with the words, “Go in peace.”
And — none of this sits well with Elisha’s servant — Gehazi — who — thinking he was being sneaky — rushes after Naaman and makes up a story about Elisha changing his mind about the gifts. And — because of his greed — not only he — but his descendants — are cursed with leprosy.
Now let’s do what this series is all about — let’s find Jesus. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record a moment in Jesus’ life where he’s approached by someone with the same skin disease that Naaman had — leprosy. Here’s what we read in Matthew’s gospel.
Mark 1:40–45 (NLT)
40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” 45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.
According to a first century historian, someone with leprosy was considered a walking corpse — so curing someone with leprosy was the equivalent of raising them from the dead. And — if someone discovered they had the disease — they immediately became an outcast of society. They’d have to yell “Unclean, unclean, unclean” so people would know not to get near them because — to touch a leper — was to become unclean yourself — for that’s how leprosy spread — by touch. So lepers were kicked out of towns and villages — they were forced to live in desolate places — alone and away from all the clean people.
To make things worse, the disease was considered to be punishment from God because of a sin you had committed. So — not only was a person a physical outcast — they were a spiritual outcast as people would think, “I wonder what sin you did to deserve such a punishment?”
So when this leper came to Jesus — he’s breaking all kinds of rules. He comes into the city, which was a big no, no — but the leper ignores the rules and approaches Jesus and begs to be healed. And — in doing so — he puts Jesus — and everyone else in the area — at risk of getting the disease — of becoming unclean.
And what does Jesus do? Jesus doesn’t say, “Get away from me.” He doesn’t even just say, “Be clean.” What does Jesus do? He reaches out, touches the man, and then says, “Be clean.”
To touch a leper was to make yourself unclean — but not for Jesus. In touching the leper, Jesus made the unclean man clean. Jesus heals him — in a way — Jesus raises him from the dead.
But we’re told that Jesus “was moved with compassion.” And it was Jesus’ compassion — his love and affections for this man — that compelled him to reach out and touch this man and say, “Be clean.”
And — if you read the gospels — you’ll find Jesus — because of his compassion towards people — healing many who are sick through his touch. Jesus even said that he came to our world — not for those who think they’re healthy — but he came for those who know they’re sick and need someone who can heal them — he came for people who know they need to be made clean.
Naaman was made clean by washing in a river. Though he didn’t like what he was first told — eventually he took a prophet of God at his word and did what he was told — and he was healed and made clean. But this leper who came to Jesus — in fact — all who cry out, “Jesus, if you are willing, heal me and make me clean” — all who cry out to Jesus — including you — will know the compassion of him coming to them — touching them — washing them — and cleansing them from all their sin and and shame.
CONCLUSION: A MOST TIMELY MESSAGE
As you know, on Tuesday the citizens of our state will vote on whether or not to make abortion a constitutional right in Ohio. Abortion is an atrocious sin — a sin similar to what we read of in Israel and Judah’s past — where we sacrifice the lives of children on the altar of “so called” freedom. I say “so called” freedom because the freedom abortion promises ends up becoming a prison and enslavement like few other sins of our day. And I say this knowing that there are women among us who chose to abort a child and men among us who have forced a woman to have an abortion — I also know that there are women among us who were forced to have an abortion and men among us who did not want your child to be aborted. And — if this is you — I want you to know that just as Jesus was compassionate towards the man with leprosy — know that Jesus can heal you and make you clean. The scars of our sin — whether they are physical, relational, emotional, or spiritual — the scars may not go away fully in this life — but Jesus will reach out and touch you with his nail scarred hands — scars that are proof of his love for you — scars that prove the hope-giving words of “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
No condemnation — period. No condemnation — no matter our past — for those who are in Christ Jesus.
And we’re blessed to be able to vote on this matter. And — for followers of Jesus — there is no debate on this issue — there is no theological wiggle room — there is no pragmatic reasoning to be had. Jesus is the Lord of Life and Satan is the one who delights in murder and death. So — to follow Jesus — is to vote “no” on this proposed amendment — and to follow Jesus means we cannot sit idly by during this moment in our state’s history.
But — if I may ask — can we be compassionate voters? Something that concerns me is how we use a tone — with an issue like abortion — a tone that often lacks compassion towards those who carry the scars of this sin. I can’t imagine the internal struggle some will face as they go to the voting booth — to vote for life — while feeling like a hypocrite or — even worse — being told by someone that they are a hypocrite because abortion is part of their past. If this is you — I pray that you will remember the words “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christians — may our tone reflect this promise from God — no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus — just his compassion.
So vote no. But we vote without our hope being in politicians, the political process, and not even in how this vote goes. Jesus is for life — today — and he will be for life once all the votes are counted regardless of the outcome. And what I love about our church is that so many of you already know this. This is why so many of you showed up to support the Women’s Resource Center at their annual fundraiser back in August. Nearly thirty percent of those in attendance were from this church. Gateway — I’m so thankful for how you are making it obvious to our community that we are a church that is for life. And us — being for life — is why the elders blessed the Women’s Resource Center with a gift of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a little over a month ago. And — because we’re a church that is for life — your elders have set aside one hundred thousand dollars to fund scholarships for families in our church — or in an affiliated church — who adopt a child in Ohio.
So get out and vote — but just as importantly — let’s continue to demonstrate that we’re a church that is for life. Who among us will adopt a child? Who among us will come alongside our foster and adoptive families to be aunts, uncles, and grandparents? Who among us will volunteer at the Women's Resource Center, or City Mission, or Chopin Hall, or the many other partners we have here in Findlay who are helping our community be for life? Gateway the time is now. Jesus has placed us in this community to hear the cries of those who are desperate, who are hurting, who feel like an outcast, who think of themselves as being unclean — Jesus has placed us here and now so that we’d be moved by his compassion for them — Jesus has placed us here so we’d say, “I’m willing, Jesus, to bring your healing to those who are hurting — and to offer hope to those who are hopeless — to demonstrate your compassion to all people.” Let’s pray together.
Heavenly Father, you are the Creator of life. If not for you — none of us would exist. You breathed life into us when you created us — and by the power of your Spirit you breathe new life into all who believe in your Son. Father, you are life and you are for life — all life.
Spirit of God, you wash us with the Word — you wash us by applying the blood of Christ as the payment for our sins — you wash us and make us born again — not by giving us baby-like skin — like what happened to Naaman on the outside — but you give us new hearts — like you did in Naaman — evident by his profession of faith. Spirit, may you wash all who feel unclean — who feel untouchable — who look at their past and see sorrow and pain — either because of their own choice or because of the choice of someone else. Spirit you can do this — you’ve promised to do this washing — so wash your people — make us clean — make us pure.
And — Jesus — we can ask these requests in confidence because our hope is in you — the one who has demonstrated compassion towards us. For you are the one who reaches out to touch us with hands scarred by love — love that cost you your life — a life of infinite value — a life you chose to give so that we’d choose to be for life — and spread the hope found in the promise of “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” May more receive and respond to this promise. And we pray all of this in your name. Amen.
May you go washed and cleansed from all your sins — and freed from all condemnation — as you look to Jesus the Lord of life. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.