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When Sickness Strikes

 

2 Kings 5:1-5, 8-16
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, Aug. 19

 

Illness can drain us not just physically, but spiritually. Prolonged or terminal illnesses can rob us of hope and drive us into despair. Man’s ability to heal is limited, but God’s is not. Our lesson reminds us that God is greater than our illnesses, and that He offers help to those who come to Him in faith. God does not always heal people of their illnesses, but He promises sustaining grace to help those afflicted face their situations with His strength.

 

Sickness can strike anyone - 2 Kings 5:1-5

Naaman is introduced as the picture of success, a successful military leader and a brave warrior who was highly regarded by his king. We are even told that it was the Lord who had given Naaman his victories, which included a victory over the nation of Israel in which King Ahab was killed. The biblical writer wanted his readers to see that this was a man on whom God’s hand rested. Yet in spite of God’s pleasure in him, Naaman had contracted leprosy.*

Naaman’s wife had a servant girl who had been captured in a raid in Israel. She tells her mistress of a prophet in Israel that could cure the Syrian commander. In spite of her captivity, she was not bitter, but shared with her captors what she knew about the Lord. The contrast between the servant and the master is striking. He is an Aramean while she is an Israelite. He is the commander of the King’s army while she is just a “young girl.” He has the favor of the King, while she waits on his wife. And yet this “young girl” possesses the knowledge that will lead to her master’s healing.

Sometimes we may be tempted to interpret illness as a sign of God’s displeasure. Except certain specific situations, that understanding is not supported by God’s word. Illness can strike the godly and the godless equally. When it does, we need to look to God for help and support.

 

God’s ways are not always understood - 2 Kings 5:8-12

Verses 6-7 have almost a comical flavor to them. Following standard protocol, the king of Syria sent a letter with Naaman to the king of Israel asking for Naaman to be cured. He did not realize that unlike the other nations around them, Israel’s true prophets were neither paid by the king nor under his authority. The Israelite king’s despair reflected an understanding of Deut. 32:39 where God declared that healing and life and death were in His hands.

Elisha sent word for Naaman to be brought to him. His statement that “he will know there is a prophet in Israel” is equivalent to saying “there is a God in Israel.” Naaman had brought rich gifts for the prophet and expected to be treated with the deference to which he was accustomed.

Naaman is angered and insulted by Elisha’s refusal to speak with him directly and by the method of his cure. The impressive letter from the King and the expensive gifts lose their value before the simple command to wash himself in the Jordan. Because of his hurt pride, Naaman becomes an obstacle to his own healing.

Like Naaman, we often hope for God to deal with us in dramatic and spectacular ways. In the end, healing for Naaman was a simple thing. The key to Naaman’s healing was faith and trust: faith in God and trust in His word. God often does not act in the way we expect, and sometimes in ways we cannot understand. We pray for healing, and when God does not respond as we think He should, our faith falters.

We cannot buy God’s favor by offering Him extravagant promises either. Whether God answers our prayers for healing as we would like, or if He chooses other ways to respond, He is still the same gracious, sovereign God who sent His Son to the cross for our sins. God’s response to our prayers does not change His character as a loving, caring, compassionate, healing God. Even when we don’t understand, we need to exercise faith and trust.

 

God’s grace available - 2 Kings 5:13-16

Once more, Naaman’s servants came to his rescue. They responded to their master’s hurt pride with common sense. When Naaman humbled himself to obey the word of the Lord, he was healed. Obedience is a simple thing – like washing in the Jordan – but sometimes it is hard for us to follow through on God’s word. With obedience comes healing and transformation.

Naaman’s conversion elicits a confession on his part: No other gods exist other than the Lord, because only the Lord can heal. His words closely mirror those of Elisha in v. 8. Whereas Naaman first went to Elisha with the arrogance of a conqueror, he returned with the humility of a servant.

God’s grace is available to us through faith and trust in Him. Whether God heals or bestows strength to face the trials of illness, we can with the apostle Paul claim the promise that God’s grace will be sufficient to meet our every need.