Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy. And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.” So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (2 Kings 5:6-8)
The Folly Of The Ignorant King
In the days of Syria long ago, a great man commanded the army for the Syrian king who was a leper. As a Gentile, he was not accorded the demands of the Law of Moses. Leprosy was a horrible disease that meant certain death. There was no cure and eventually the victim would die in a slow, painful way. There are many characters in the story of Naaman such as the little maiden girl who told Naaman’s wife there was a prophet in Israel that could heal her husband. Elisha was the prophet who had a servant, Gehazi, who would be the final part of the story. When Naaman refused to do what the prophet told him to do the servants of Naaman play a vital role in bringing him to the Jordan River. One character that stands out is the king of Israel, Jehoram (or Joram), son of Ahab and Jezebel.
Naaman received permission from his king to travel to Israel seeking the prophet. A letter is transcribed to the king of Israel with the reason of the commander’s visit. It would seem the letter was not directed at the king but rather suggesting the king would know the name of the prophet and would send Naaman to him. What happens is very unexpected. Naaman delivers the letter to Jehoram and the king of Israel panics. He believes that a ruse is being conducted and cannot believe that the king of Syria thinks he could heal Naaman of leprosy. Tearing his clothes, the king of Israel is desperate to know the intentions of the Syrian commander. Sadly, the king of Israel does not know or does not believe there is anyone in Israel that can perform miracles.
Elisha had followed in the steps of his mentor, Elijah. The prophet had performed numerous miracles prior to the story of Naaman. Early in the reign of Jehoram, he had been summoned by the king at the bequest of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to find out if their war against Moab would be successful. Israel and Judah defeat Moab by the hand of the Lord. The heart of Jehoram was still wicked denying the power of the prophet. Elisha raises from the dead the son of the Shunammite woman but this seems to mean nothing to the king. Elisha shows the power of God in other miracles but the king pays no attention. When Naaman arrives seeking a cure for leprosy, the king is oblivious to existence of Elisha.
A wicked heart will blind a man to the clear demonstration of truth. There was ample proof a prophet lived in Israel but the king would not believe. Hearing of the Syrian commander’s request, Elisha told him to come and he would cure him. Elisha wanted the king to know for sure a prophet was in Israel. While no miracle is of any small significance, curing leprosy was an incredible demonstration of the power of God. It would seem likely the king of Israel would have heard of Naaman’s healing but it did not change his heart. Elisha showed the power of God later by saving Israel from the whole Syrian army but this had no effect on Jehoram. The king of Israel would later die by the hand of Jehu, who shot him in the back piercing his heart.
No one will stand before the Lord guiltless. The power of God is witnessed every day through the hand of creation. Ignorance will not be accepted in final judgment as the word of the Lord has been declared among all men. Many ‘kings of Israel’ do not know there is a God in the world who testifies to His majesty and power. Jesus would later remark there were many lepers in the days of Elijah but only one cleansed – and he was a Gentile. The power of the Lord God is seen every day and untold multitudes die without Him. Like the king of Israel, they deny the power of God. And that is a sad story.
When men should that “God is dead,” this can only mean that He is not in the place where they are looking for Him. (W. A. Visser ‘T Hooft, quoted in New York Times, December 20, 1965)