7 Surprised People in the Bible

 

 

The Hapless Gehazi

2 Kings 5:20 – 27 

 

2 Kings 5 is one of the most curious, interesting chapters in Hebrew history.  Although it deals with a very serious disease and sin, the story is told in a humorous way.  Which goes to prove something I’ve always suspected to be true: God has a sense of humor.  As they say, if you don’t believe God has a sense of humor, just look in the mirror.  It also gives us a little more insight to Elisha, the prophet, who was the successor to the great Elijah.  Elijah had a long, distinguished, and powerful career as a national prophet and leader of “the school of prophets.”  His time came to an end in 2 Kings 3, and his assistant, Elisha, took over.

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.  He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.  The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.   (2 Kings 2:11 – 15 | TNIV)

From this point on until his death well over half a century after, Elisha became the voice of the prophets in the land.  In some ways, his ministry was even more powerful than that of his mentor.  Still, Elijah was and remains a much revered figure in Jewish history.  In fact, he was thought so highly of that some people thought Jesus Christ was really the prophet Elijah come back in the flesh!  Even though they were wrong about that, God’s people do hold that the ministry of the great Elijah is far from over.  Writing some three centuries later, another prophet by the name of Malachi, mentions Elijah’s name:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.  He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”  (Malachi 4:5, 6 | TNIV)

But for now, the rugged Elisha takes center stage.  In 2 Kings 5 we see the tremendous spiritual power this man had.  It’s almost frightening.

Namaan

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.  (2 Kings 5:1 | TNIV)

Has any character in the Bible, who wasn’t a Jew, been given such great press?  Naaman, whose name means “pleasant,” was the leader of the great Syrian army.  He was a great military man, but also honorable, victorious, mighty, and a man covered in valor.  According to both the Bible and Jewish historian Josephus, because he was a man of such sterling character, God made him victorious over King Ahab, the thoroughly vile king of Israel.  And yet, in spite of all he had going for him, Naaman was man whose days were numbered.  Leprosy – or some dreadful skin disease – was eating him up from the inside out.  

It may surprise you to know that God has often used people who were not believers to accomplish His will on earth.  He used Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and even Alexander the Great.  God is sovereign.  He can do what He wants and He can use whomever He pleases to accomplish His purposes.  All the non-believers He used had particular skills and talents that were needed at that moment in history when God used them.  Such was the case with Naaman, the leper.

The fellow Namaan had many fine points; he had a lot to recommend him to be sure.  But he was a leper.  In the Bible, leprosy is not only a literal skin disease but it also a type of sin – something that is incurable by human standards.  Only God can cure sin and save the sinner.  Naaman was able to walk about society because he was able to cover up his leprosy, but his days were numbered.  People try to do that today with sin.  They walk around, covering it up and looking good, all they while their sin is eating them alive just as surely as Naaman’s skin disease was killing him a millimeter at time.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”. (2 Kings 5:2, 3 | TNIV)

You have to hand it to this servant girl.  We don’t know her name but she sure didn’t hide her light under a basket!  She wasn’t afraid to speak her faith.  And it’s a good thing too.  Namaan’s only hope was a miracle.  The fact that she was unashamed of her faith is remarkable enough, but there are two other remarkable things about this remarkable young lady.  First, even though she had been taken captive by Naaman, she actually wanted to help him live!  I think that testifies to his goodness as a person.  But she also knew all about Elisha, and that this prophet of God would help this pagan general.  And that testifies both to the prophet’s fame and his character.  God is certainly no respecter of persons and neither was His prophet, Elisha.

The healing

Through a convoluted series of events, the letter asking for a miracle finally reached the right person, Elisha. 

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”. (2 Kings 5:9, 10 | TNIV)

Naaman could have gone by himself to see Elisha, but he didn’t.  With great pomp and elegance, a great caravan led by the Naaman went right up to the prophet’s front door.  So unimpressed with this unnecessary display, Elisha chose to send a servant, probably Gehazi, to meet Naaman and give him some simple instructions.  You should ask yourself why the prophet didn’t want to meet this man personally.  It had nothing to do with the leprosy, but rather everything to do with perception.  Elisha would heal Naaman so that God would get the glory, not any man.  Not only that, read Naaman’s reaction to Elisha’s prescription:

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.  (2 Kings 5:11, 12 | TNIV)

Like a lot people who pray for God to meet some need, Naaman had his own idea of how it should be done.  Large swaths of the Christian church still think we have do things to guarantee salvation or the answer to some prayer.  But God does things in a simple way.  Nobody needs to try to impress God with pomp and ceremony.  Nobody has to suffer to receive their miracle.  Or pay for it.  Unfortunately, believers in need often approach God the way they think He wants them to and expect Him to answer their prayer the way think He should.  But it doesn’t work that way.  

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”  (2 Kings 5:13 | TNIV)

How lucky was this guy?  He was surrounded by people with common sense.  First the servant girl and now these servants.  But this verse tells us something very important.  His servants were smart; they knew their master (father) well.  He would have done a great thing to get his miracle, but God wanted him to do a very simple, humble thing.  That dipping ones’ self in the Jordan river seven times is simple.  But the Jordan River was a dirty river.  That was the humbling part.  Getting clean in muddy water didn’t make any sense and anybody watching Naaman would have thought he was a little off his rocker.  

But, in the end, Naaman relented and did what he was told.

So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.  (2 Kings 5:14 | TNIV)

A pagan is converted, a believer falls

Naaman, having been miraculously cured of his leprosy, was so overjoyed, he wanted to pay Elisha for the miracle.  Of course, because Elisha was a man of honor in addition to being a man of God, he refused the gift.  So Naaman asked the prophet for a gift.  

If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”  (2 Kings 5:17, 18 | TNIV)

The implication is that the Syrians would build some sort of private shrine for Yahweh in Damascus.  Now, that seems like an odd request, and to we modern believers who know better, it seems almost like a superstitious request.  But it showed just how much this fellow had changed.  He had just disparaged Israelite rivers but now he wanted a piece of Yahweh’s homeland in Damascus!  Not only that, he knew he’d be going into a pagan temple when he got home as part of his job and he knew that was wrong.  He asked for forgiveness in advance.  

We don’t know what became of Naaman, but we do know that thanks to God’s intervention, he became a believer in Yahweh.

Had the story ended here, it would have been the most happiest of endings.  But there is an epilogue involving Elisha’s servant, Gehazi.  

Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”  (2 Kings 5:20 | TNIV)

Gehazi watched the magnificent caravan disappear over the horizon, and along with it, all that treasure.  It must have driven him crazy, so he hatched a plan.

So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.  “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.’”  (2 Kings 5:21, 22 | TNIV)

Again, you can see Naaman’s character in that question.  But Gehazi’s lie was of monumental proportions:  Two broke seminary students needed some help.  Of course, Naaman was more than happy to donate double the amount Gehazi asked for.

There are plenty of Gehazi’s out there today, running essentially the same scam.  Just check out all the charities operating and compare how much money given actually gets out on the field versus how much goes toward so-called “operating expenses.”  

Oh, the irony

But, nobody “gets away it,” even though it may seem like they do.  All sinners will be exposed for what they are, either in this world or the next.  It will happen.  You can make book on that.  Gehazi got his comeuppance in this life, and in very short order.  

When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.  When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” “Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.  (2 Kings 5:24, 25 | TNIV)

So this guy was not only a schemer but a liar, too.  Like the boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar who exclaimed, “What?!?,” so Gehazi comes across as a sort of bumbling idiot.  The jig was up and he should have just come clean and taken his chances.  But he didn’t.  In an amazing display of a supernatural gift from God, Elisha called Gehazi out.

But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves?  Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.  (2 Kings 5:26, 27 | TNIV)

It may well be that Elisha was given a special gift of discernment whereby he could “read Gehazi’s mind” and discern the man’s heart.  The Douay Rheims Bible gives sheds a little light on what was in the servant’s mind:

But he said: Was not my heart present, when the man turned back from his chariot to meet thee? So now thou hast received money, and received garments, to buy olive yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants.  (2 Kings 5:26 | DRB)

Gehazi wanted the live the good life and he used a deceitful way to get it.  Deception never works out well in the end for the deceiver, and in this fellow’s case, the came fast.

Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.  (2 Kings 5:27 | TNIV)

What a sad end to a sad man.  But Gehazi wasn’t the last person who lived in the presence of God of godly men who would fall.  How about Judas?  He was just as enamored with worldliness and materialism.  One scholar points out a piece of stinging irony:

We see here a pagan who by an act of faith is cured of leprosy and an Israelite who by an act of dishonor is cursed with it.

There are few stories in the Bible that provide so many practical lessons for the believer as this one.  First, there is no way a sinner can impress God enough to save him.  For all his wealth and importance, Namaan had to humble himself before he could receive his miracle from God.

Second, Elisha was a straight shooter.  He knew his place in the Kingdom of God.  He was not priest of impressive credentials.  He knew he was simply God’s man for a time on earth.  God was the healer, not he.  All Elisha did was give simple instructions to Namaan.  In essence all he did was give Namaan the message from God.

You and I have essentially the same job as Elisha in that sense.  We are to give God’s message of hope and salvation to the lost.  That’s it.  We aren’t to engage in all kinds of histrionics in order to convince the skeptic.  God’s word is simple and ours on His behalf should be, also.  

Finally, as in the case of the hapless Gehazi, your sins will find you out.  It’s would serve you well to do your level best to live right because you can’t fool God.

 

 

 

 

 

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