February 15, 2009: Have We Learned Anything in 2800 Years?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, how profound Your holy Word is! Every word is precious. Every sentence teaches us ageless truths about life and about You. May we truly read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest all those truths for our eternal salvation! Amen


TEXT: 2 Kings 5: 1-14

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

If I had a dime for all the times I’ve heard: “History repeats itself,” I’d be a very wealthy man! And yet, that age-old expression is true, isn’t it? Human history repeats itself year after year, century after century, millennium after millennium. It just goes to show what slow learners we really are. Yes, we’re extremely slow in grasping the truths of history because we’re prideful and arrogant. Each generation thinks they are smarter than the previous ones. Each generation believes in their own goodness and ability to sort out life’s troubles. Each generation thinks that they have the key to life. And this sort of arrogance causes us to repeat past mistakes and relearn—the hard way—life’s lessons.

Today’s Old Testament lesson teaches a lot of life lessons. I want to go through them as we ponder this over-arching question:



Now there are obvious lessons imbedded in this text.—Namely, being healthy is a great blessing and being wealthy cannot buy you health or happiness. I’m not going into detail on those truths. No, I want first examine this point: possession of Godly truth isn’t defined by age or status. Naaman lived about 2800 years ago. He was the commander of the vast army of the King of Aram, modern day Syria. From our lesson we learn that he was highly regarded, smart, rich, and courageous. He also had leprosy—that dread disease which we control today with antibiotics, but in those days, was non-curable. Leprosy was a wasting disease that caused skin to become necrotic, die, and drop off. It affected the nose, ears, hands, feet, legs etc. until finally the person died a horrible death. Yes, Naaman was living out his own death sentence and nothing could help.

Nothing except a little Hebrew slave girl who served his wife. Hearing of Naaman’s death sentence she went and told her mistress: “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” This little girl was a devote believer in the Triune God. She knew of Elisha the great prophet. She believed in miracles. She knew that eventually the promised Messiah, the Ultimate Miracle-Worker, would someday come to save her soul and cure her of sin and eternal death. And her faith prompted her confession.

Seldom do we expect to find young children teaching adults. But when it comes to Godly truth they’re really good at it! “Out of the mouths of infants and children” God is praised, as the Bible says. Children are great evangelists if we but listen to them. That’s because their faith isn’t unduly beat up by sin yet. Yes, how many children have ended up bringing their parents to Christ, thereby healing them of sin and death, too?


The 2nd lesson is: human riches may gain man’s attention, but not God’s—and thus they foster unintended consequences. Naaman was so valuable to the King of Aram that he assembled a hoard of wealth to be given to the Israelite king in order to buy Naaman’s cure. In today’s money that hoard was worth millions. The letter sent along read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

Now the King of Israel was in a pickle. He’s scared of his more powerful neighbor. He takes everything the wrong way. He tears his robes in anger over his predicament and says: “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

The rich hoard of loot was tempting. But the favor asked was impossible to achieve. And so inner turmoil and political turmoil ensued. Likewise, human beings cannot perform miracles all on their own. We may think power, wealth, and status earn us God’s favor. But, as the Bible says: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Likewise, King David said it so well in the Psalms: “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” From history we know that the King of Israel was at war with God Almighty. He wasn’t a believer. He took the weight of the world on his shoulders because he didn’t believe that God had already ordained to do it for him in Christ. And so he suffers internally.—All this because he failed to embrace the promised Messiah in humble faith.


The 3rd lesson is: God’s grace is always offered through humble means.The great prophet Elisha hears of all these doings in the palace. He sends word to the king to have Naaman come to him. Naaman arrives on his chariot in pomp and circumstance expecting a personal audience with the prophet. Instead, he got a servant who came out with this message: “Go, wash yourself 7 times in the Jordan river, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

It’s so simple, so humble, so common. Just wash yourself in the Jordan. Naaman gets angry and leaves in a huff. “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage.”

Today people expect the “wow” factor when it comes to God. They expect “shock and awe” when it comes to reforming their lives, healing their diseases, and cleansing them from the inner shame of sin. People expect pure showmanship to appeal to their emotions. But instead, God heals our souls and gives eternal life through simple, humble faith in Christ. He provides the forgiveness to us in the waters of baptism, the ordinary elements of bread and wine in communion, and in simple words of truth embedded in Scripture. All these elements can be easily ignored. After all, they are so common and simple. And yet the profundity and power of God is found really found in these humble means of His grace. And in that, they reflect His heart and this truth: Christ came in humbleness, in love, to save us and He meets and works His faith only in humble hearts because only they can truly receive it.


The final lesson is this: God uses humble people to convey His will and amazing things result. Naaman’s servants were all humble. In essence they were slaves. And yet, here they make better decisions than their exalted master. They come, calm him down, and tell him: Why not? What do you have to lose by going and bathing in the Jordan? So, Naaman goes to the Jordan, bathes 7 times and is miraculously cleansed! He listens to the poor and meek, the humble, puts his pride in his pocket and this miracle ensues! He’s given a new lease on life. His flesh is restored to that “like a young boy.”

History repeats itself because human pride never changes. It is the same generation after generation. But, God’s cure for it never changes either. Christ, God’s Son, has come! He has worked out the greatest of all miracles—paying for the sins of the world—on the cross. He has bestowed upon us saving faith via Word and sacrament. So, put your pride away and learn anew to recognize miracles—the chief one being: the salvation of your soul. Amen