God's Powerful Prophets: Elisha

Elisha Sermon Notes

Elisha

Sunday August 14th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

2 Kings 5:1-27

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the danger of pride and greed. (Feel) Love, humility and grace.  (Do) Repent of the pride and greed in our lives.

Introduction: We are in the midst of exploring four key men in God’s plan for redeeming mankind; they were all prophets. Our first two prophets are Elijah and Elisha, and we looked at Elijah last week. Our second two will be Jeremiah and Ezekiel. God used each of these men in powerful and unique ways.

What is a prophet? He was a man chosen by God to bring repentance and change. He did that by:

1.          Revealing to the world who God was and what he was like. (Deut. 5:4-10)

2.          Calling God’s people to love and obey him. (2 Chr. 24:19)

3.          Warning of divine judgment upon sin both on a personal and national level. (Jer. 36:30-31)

4.          Foretelling certain future events, especially as related to the coming of the Messiah. (Jer. 30:1-3, Is. 9:6)

A prophet’s job was to tell God’s people the truth about God and their sin, to clearly reveal the sins needing to be repented of and the truths that needed to be remembered. Sometimes, a prophetic word is exactly what we need to hear. People can become forgetful, rebellious, complacent, preoccupied, stubborn, busy and just plain disobedient. A prophet’s job was to wake people up and turn their hearts away from sin towards God. The Hebrew word for prophet is “naw-bi.” The root of that word means “to be open or hollow” and was used to describe the hollow part of a flute[1]. The idea is that a prophet’s mouth was to be hollow so that it would speak God’s words into the world.

Background Review: This morning we will be looking at Elisha (approx. 892–832 BCE). Turn in your Bible to 2 Kings 5:1-27. While you are turning, let’s set the table for where we are in time. King David followed Yahweh and handed the kingdom to Solomon. Solomon’s son Rehoboam oppressed the people and the kingdom split into two: Judah and Benjamin to the south and the other 10 tribes to the north. Elijah showed up on the scene 58 years later. Seven kings had reigned in Israel and all of them were evil, worshipping idols. As we saw last week, God used Elijah to change that. This week we are going to look at Elijah’s successor Elisha.

Elisha shows up not long after our story last week. Elijah is hiding in a cave from the wrath of Queen Jezebel after defeating all of her Baal false-prophets. He expresses his loneliness as a servant of the Lord, and God responds by telling him to get up, anoint several kings, and call Elisha as his successor. Elisha, completely unaware of this plan, was plowing his field one day when Elijah passed by and threw his cloak on his shoulders (1 Kgs 19:19).[2] From that day on, Elisha followed Elijah until the Lord took him. The Bible tells us that Elisha had a “double portion” of the Spirit of God that Elijah had on him. Read 1-2 Kings sometime and see some of the great things that he did. We are going to see how God’s Powerful Prophet’s worked this morning by taking a close look at Elisha’s interaction with an army commander named Naaman.

2 Kings 5:1–27 (NLT)

The king of Aram (modern day Syria) had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

The biblical word “leprosy” was used to describe many incurable, contagious skin diseases. The book of Leviticus actually gives detailed instructions on how Israel was to deal with these diseases, some of which were highly contagious. Before antibiotics and anti-fungal medicines, it was important to quarantine people with skin infections. Think about some of the diseases that show skin symptoms. Of course there is leprosy, but also small pox, measles, plague, herpes, gangrene. All of these are dangerous and in biblical times often meant a lonely, slow, and painful death. Naaman had one of these diseases.

2 At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. (This young girl, we will find out later, was an Israelite.) 3 One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”  

Notice the graciousness of this little girl. She was a “captive.” You know what that is a nice way of saying? She was ripped away from her family and she was now a slave. Yet she was still gracious to her captor.

4 So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. 5 “Go and visit the prophet,” the king of Aram told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.” So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver ($245,000), 150 pounds of gold ($3,250,000), and ten sets of clothing.

Naaman was not holding back; this was an extraordinary amount of money. If anyone could buy their health, it was Naaman. What he did not know was that prophets did not work for money. 

 6 The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”

This was a legitimate thought—Israel and Aram had fought many battles against each other. 

 8 But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”

What the king saw as a problem, Elisha saw as an opportunity to witness to an important leader of another nation.

 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

So Naaman is probably the wealthiest man anyone in Israel had ever seen and he is standing with millions of dollars worth of gifts at Elisha’s door, and Elisha won’t even talk with him. This would be rude today, but in the Eastern world if someone showed up to your door, you would feed and welcome them. Elisha sends a messenger.

Naaman’s Pride

11 But Naaman became angry and went away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord (YHWH) his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.  

Elisha was not being rude; he was being like Jesus and getting straight to Naaman’s spiritual issue: pride. Naaman thought his power, wealth, and position could buy him his health from a prophet of God. But God and his prophet were not as concerned about Naaman’s health as they were his heart. He needed humility as much as he needed healing.

13 …His officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’ ”

What happens next is one of the greatest Gentile conversions in the entire Bible![3]

14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed! 15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” 16 But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord (YHWH) lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused.

No longer proud, Naaman proclaims his faith in Yahweh and wants to show his appreciation through a gift. Elisha refuses the gift, not because it was inappropriate, but because of Naaman’s pride. Elisha wants Naaman to understand the grace of God. Naaman asked and obeyed in faith and by faith he was healed and accepted by God—Elisha did not want Naaman to miss that. We too are accepted by God by faith. We don’t have to earn it, pay for it or even work hard for it. When we lose our pride and turn and seek the Lord by faith, we will be healed and accepted just like Naaman. But unfortunately that is not the end of the story.

Gehazi’s Greed

So Naaman started home again. 20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, said to himself, “My master should not have let this Aramean get away without accepting any of his gifts. As surely as the Lord lives, I will chase after him and get something from him.”

We get a glimpse into Gehazi’s thoughts, and what we hear is a mind filled with greed. 

21 So Gehazi set off after Naaman. When Naaman saw Gehazi running after him, he climbed down from his chariot and went to meet him. “Is everything all right?” Naaman asked. 22 “Yes,” Gehazi said, “but my master has sent me to tell you that two young prophets from the hill country of Ephraim have just arrived. He would like 75 pounds of silver and two sets of clothing to give to them.”  

Gehazi is asking for about $25,000 worth of goods, a small amount compared to what Naaman was willing to give. But his greed is more than just covetousness, it has turned to lying and manipulation. Gehazi boldly creates a story to manipulate Naaman in his generosity. Naaman’s newly redeemed heart is glad to pay it.

23 “By all means, take twice as much silver,” Naaman insisted. He gave him two sets of clothing, tied up the money in two bags, and sent two of his servants to carry the gifts for Gehazi. 24 But when they arrived at the citadel, Gehazi took the gifts from the servants and sent the men back. Then he went and hid the gifts inside the house.

Gehazi ends up with over $50,000 worth of goods and 150 pounds of silver that he has to hide. This had to have been a lot of work.

25 When he went in to his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” “I haven’t been anywhere,” he replied. (should be “he lied.”) 26 But Elisha asked him, “Don’t you realize that I was there in spirit when Naaman stepped down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to receive money and clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and cattle, and male and female servants? 27 Because you have done this, you and your descendants will suffer from Naaman’s leprosy forever.” When Gehazi left the room, he was covered with leprosy; his skin was white as snow.

Namaan gave up his pride, by faith following YHWH, and he leaves blessed. Gehazi, on the other hand, gave up YHWH and followed his greed. So what do we take from this?

1.          The grace of God cannot be bought with gold, power or position. We must come to God by faith and faith alone.

2.          Power or position or silver and gold can actually be a hindrance to following God.

3.          Two of the easiest ways for people to miss God’s blessing are:

(a) Pride—Naaman almost rejected God because of his pride

(b) Covetousness—Gehazi’s covetous heart wanted gold more than he wanted God. We have to ask ourselves: Are we unwilling to do easy things that God is asking us to do? Well, that’s pride. Are we chasing after money and stuff—is our life a marathon of getting more? That’s covetousness.

 

[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 612.

[2] Amy Balogh, “Elisha the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[3] Some others would be Rahabin Josh 2:9–13, Ruth in Ruth 1:16–18, The sailors in Jonah 1:16; 3:6–10