Who is your greatest hero? Which person do you most look up to? There was a BBC programme a few years ago now when the nation had to vote for the greatest Briton. Winston Churchill topped the list, followed by people like Charles Darwin and William Shakespeare.
There’s no doubt who would have topped the poll of greatest Aramite, 300 year ago. Aram was a country north of Israel, near where Syria is today. And our Bible reading today says Aram’s great hero was a military commander called Naaman. He had led Aram’s army to great victories over its enemies in the ancient near east(v.1)
Naaman was successful, wealthy and well-regarded. And rather proud and self-important a result.
But he had a problem. He had leprosy – a dreadful skin disease with no known cure. Only God could help. His only hope lay in the Lord. But before he could heal him, God had to humble Naaman first!
A Hero Humbled!
You see, as we read today’s passage, we see that God wanted to teach Naaman to trust in him, not in his own treasure or talents.
For a start, as an army commander, Naaman was used to giving orders. But now he had to take advice from a Jewish servant girl. A little girl who told him to go to Israel to see Elisha – a powerful prophet of God. But from Naaman’s perspective he was a a resident of a rival regional power. It must have pained the hero of Aram to seek salvation from a foreigner. He had to be humble enough pack his bags and travel to Israel.
Naaman was obviously expecting to find Elisha in Israel’s royal palace – but no. Wealthy Naaman, with all his money, clothes and chariots, is forced to go to the small, modest home of Elisha the prophet.
Things get worse for wealthy Naaman when he arrives at Elisha’s house. Elisha doesn’t spread out the red carpet for him when he arrives, he doesn’t even come out to greet him. Elisha simply sends out a messenger to met him. A servant who tells Naaman to go and wash himself in the Jordan seven times.
Now this really makes proud Naaman mad! He can’t believe that Elisha didn’t want to greet him, the great warrior of Aram, Syria’s most famous soldier. And he can’t believe that Elisha is sending him to wash in the Jordan river, when there are plenty of perfectly good, clean rivers in his home city of Damascus!
Naaman’s pride meant he got rather riled. He didn’t like being humbled. He didn’t like not being the boss. He didn’t like not being the one in control.
Does that ring any bells for us? We are often the same aren’t we? We like to be the boss of our own lives don’t we? We don’t always want to live God’s way. We don’t always want God to be in charge of our lives, especially when we would prefer to do something sinful or self-indulgent.
A Hero Healed!
Naaman nearly went off in a huff, but thankfully his wise compatriots persuaded him to stick around. Naaman was just persuaded take a dip in the river Jordan. He was willing to be obedient to God’s Word and try what he had been told.
And as he washed himself for the seventh time, an amazing thing happened. Naaman’s skin was cleansed of disease, and was made new. We are to be in no doubt that a miracle had happened.
The hero had been healed – and Naaman knew who to thank for his healing. He knew that only the one true God, Elisha’s God could have cured him so completely. So he returns to Elisha to say thank you, and to tell him what he’d learnt. Verse 15 is a wonderful declaration of faith: “Now I know there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” Like any convert, Naaman had come to the glorious realisation that God is there, that God is good., and that God has the power to save.
Yet Naaman had had to humble himself to receive God’s grace. He had had to let go of his pride and self-sufficiency to make space in his life for God to give him what he needed.
Our Hero Jesus: Who humbles and heals us!
The New Testament says we too need to be humbled and healed by God, not just Naaman.
We all try to run our lives without God, just like Naaman tried to do. We all suffer from pride. We all need God’s forgiveness for our sin.
Every human being needs to be humble enough to receive God’s forgiveness as a free gift. Its not something we could ever earn or afford to buy. It’s a free gift we receive by trusting God’s words, just as Naaman trusted God’s words enough to wash in the Jordan.
And just as Naaman could only be healed by heading to the Jordan. We can only be healed by heading to Jesus. Only by asking Jesus can we receive God’s forgiveness and his gift of eternal life. Naaman needed to learn that there was only one river that would heal him. Our world needs to learn that only Jesus can save us from sin and death – no other religion, philosophy or spirituality can solve these two greatest problems.
Through Elisha’s ministry, Naaman was given new skin that would last a lifetime. But through the ministry of Jesus every Christian will be given a new bodies in the world to come – new flesh and bones that will endure for eternity!
One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Job chapter 19 verse 25. A verse that expresses our hope of physical resurrection with Christ. It says: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, in new flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
As I finish this morning. We’ve seen that Naaman was a hero of Aram, who needed to be humbled and healed. But Jesus should be our hero – a hero who wants to humble and heal us forever.
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