Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2 Kings 4-5 That he may know there is a prophet in Israel

From 2 Kings 4-6

2 Ki 4.1-7; Jehoshaphat; Jehoram-Elisha; Elisha and the Widow’s Oil
2 Ki 4.8-17; Jehoshaphat; Jehoram-Elisha; Elisha and the Shunammite Woman
2 Ki 4.18-37; Jehoshaphat; Jehoram-Elisha; Elisha Raises the Shunammite’s Son
2 Ki 4.38-44; Jehoshaphat; Jehoram-Elisha; Elisha Purifies the Deadly Stew
2 Ki 5.1-14; Jehoshaphat; Jehoram-Elisha; Naaman Healed of Leprosy
2 Ki 5.15-27; Jehoshaphat; Jehoram-Elisha; Gehazi’s Greed and Punishment

Passage and Comments
The LORD works through Elisha a series of what appears to be random miracles. We need to keep in mind Israel is undergoing a famine. The ultimate source behind the famine is the LORD. The LORD is displeased with Israel and is sending them some covenant warnings (Dt 28.20-24,54-57).

Elisha is not supported by Israel, so commanded by the LORD he seeks the aid of a foreigner. A Shunammite woman. The Syrians hear about Elisha from one of their captives and one of them, a commander of their army, seeks his help.

5 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

Probably need to remember, the word rendered as ‘leper’ could signify any number of skin diseases. Not just Hansen's disease.

2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. (2 Ki 5:2–5)

A little girl they captured from Israel tells them. Its probable that they are on friendly terms even though she was taken from Israel. Since the Syrian king seems willing to send the letter to the king of Israel, they are probably at peace with one another. The king of Syria sends a considerable payment for the cure, he must value his commander. Both the king of Syria and Naaman believe Elisha can heal him.

6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” (2 Ki 5:6-7)

The king of Israel however takes it the wrong way and thinks the king of Syria is seeking to provoke him. Fortunately Elisha hears of it.

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (2 Ki 5:8)

When he does, he sends for Naaman so he can heal him and then show himself to be a prophet of the LORD. Elisha’s whole motive seems to be that he may know who and what he is.

9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” (2 Ki 5:9)

Elisha does not meet the Syrian in person. Its possible like the apostle Peter he believes he will become unclean if he does (Acts 10.28). Or maybe he simply fears for his life and is being careful. Elisha gives him some instructions which Naaman is to follow if he wants to be restored.

11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. (2 Ki 5:11-12)

It seems Naaman had expectations for what would happen and how he would be healed. He does not like that Elisha stayed indoors away from him and he wonders why one of his own local rivers was not good enough. Perhaps this would save him the trip or perhaps he resents the insinuation that the water bodies in Israel are better. Perhaps there are times when we put expectations on God when we should be listening to him instead.

13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Ki 5:13–14)
His servants had a bit more sense at the time than Naaman did and he washes. When he does he is restored as the man of God said he would. Naaman is grateful and tries to get Elisha to accept the gifts he brought. But Elisha only wanted him to recognise that he is a prophet of the LORD. Gehazi however intercepts Naaman on his way back to Syria and tell him a story how Elisha changed his mind. Gehazi takes the gifts for himself. When Elisha finds out he condemns Gehazi and he and his descendents become lepers like Naaman was.

Story of Israel
Moses was quite clear in Deuteronomy that prophets should be tested.

13 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Dt 13.1-5)

The primary test is to ensure he keeps the people faithful to the LORD and he does not turn them away to other gods. The trouble with Israel at this point is that they are rebelling from the LORD. Elisha has been unable to turn them back despite his judgments on them. None the less Elisha has proved himself as a prophet by his faithfulness to the LORD and the signs he has performed.

Story of Jesus
Just as Elisha’s performed miracles and these proved he was Israel’s prophet. In the gospel of John Jesus performs many signs. The seven signs he performs are:
Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11
Healing the royal official's son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-18
Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
Jesus' walk on water in John 6:16-24
Healing the man born blind in John 9:1-7
Raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

According to John, these signs that prove the Jesus is the Christ.

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (Jn 20:30–31)

According to Paul, the death and resurrection of Jesus prove he is the Christ.

17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:1–3)

Like Elisha, non-Jews (Naaman) and Jews can come to him to be healed.