The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 is probably my favorite story in the entire Old Testament. Not kidding. I love it more than David and Goliath, more than Daniel and the lion’s den, more than Jonah and the big fish. I love Naaman’s story because it is such a clear picture of the gospel. Through Naaman’s plight, we see (1) what makes us come to God, and (2) the only way we can come to God.
1. What Made Naaman Come to God (And What Makes Us Come to Him, Too)
Naaman is the ultimate insider—a general, a prime minister, a celebrity. But he has a leprous spot, which threatens to make him an ultimate outsider. In Naaman’s time, leprosy could put someone on the outside like nothing else could. It stripped a person of his strength, his beauty, and his community. It was a sentence of banishment and death.
Naaman’s spot of leprosy was a spot of death. But Naaman would never have found God if not for that spot. His spot of death became his portal of life.
We all come to a point in our lives when we realize that we have that spot of death, too—a need we can’t overcome in our marriage, a habit we can’t break, shame we can’t shake, unhappiness we can’t reverse. For many of us, that spot is exclusion: we desperately want to be in an inner ring, but we aren’t. And we think that if we could just get rid of this spot, we would be whole again. If we could just get inside the right ring, everything would be okay.
Ultimately, that spot on our souls is sin, and the ring we are excluded from is God’s fellowship. The lesser spots in your life may be there to point you to the greatest spot of all—the terminal condition of your soul.
2. How Naaman Came to God (And How We Must, Too)
Three features characterize Naaman’s approach to God. And without them, we will never draw near to him either.
First, a searching humility. Throughout his story, Naaman keeps trying to go to kings, but God keeps sending his messages through slaves—a Hebrew servant girl, Elisha’s assistant, Naaman’s personal servants. Naaman shows up in Israel with a mass of money and power, expecting a royal welcome. Instead, he is told to dip in a muddy creek.
Why? Because God wants to teach Naaman that he does not save through the strength of men. God saves by grace through faith. Salvation is not found in our ingenuity, or in our achievements, or in our education. It is found in a despised man we thought so little of that we crucified him.
The cross destroys our pride, because the cross reminds us that God’s verdict on our lives was death. The cross shows us that we are powerless to save ourselves. It drives us to the point of absolute humility. And like it was for Naaman, this is not a comfortable road to follow.
Second, a suffering servant. Most people miss this character in the story, but she is arguably the most important one—the Hebrew slave girl (2 Kings 5:2). This is a pre-teen girl who has been the victim of human trafficking, separated from her family (who may be dead), and made to serve her captor, Naaman.
Remarkably, though, this girl seems to have forgiven Naaman. When she learns of his leprosy, instead of reveling in his just desserts, she offers help. She was suffering because of his sin, and her suffering became his salvation.
The same is true of us. If we are saved, it will only be by a Suffering Servant. This girl was suffering involuntarily; but Jesus suffered voluntarily for us. She had been stripped from her parents; Jesus left his Father of his own accord. She was merely a girl; Jesus was a prince, the highest of rulers, who became a slave for us. She pointed Naaman to a river; Jesus spilled his blood to become the river that would wash away our sins.
This is the one who bore our sins and carried our sorrows; who was wounded for our transgressions; who was baptized, confessing my sins; who lived the life I should have lived; who prayed the prayers I should have prayed; and who died the death I had been condemned to die. His suffering became my salvation.
Third, a simple act of obedience. Naaman was healed by obeying Elisha’s strange command. It was simple, but even the simplest acts of obedience require us to lay our pride aside. Like Naaman, many of us would rather be called to something great. But God asks us to be obedient in seemingly small things: to be generous toward others, to share Christ with our neighbor, to forgive the family member who wronged us. We wrestle against God in this, not realizing that great blessings don’t always come from great acts. Great blessings come from obedience.
The smallest act of obedience yielded massive implications for Naaman. God has not changed: the greatest blessings in our lives will come from small acts of obedience.
For more, be sure to listen to the entire sermon here.