Sabbath School commentary for discussion on Sabbath, July 18, 2015
Our saviour’s miracles were intended for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, yet one, like a crumb, fell from the table to a woman of Canaan; so this one miracle Elisha wrought for Naaman, a Syrian; for God does good to all, and will have all men to be saved. Here is,
I. The great affliction Naaman was under, in the midst of all his honours, 2 Kgs. 5:1. He was a great man, in a great place; not only rich and raised, but particularly happy for two things:—1. That he had been very serviceable to his country. God made him so: By him the Lord had often given deliverance to Syria, success in their wars even with Israel. The preservation and prosperity even of those that do not know God and serve him must be ascribed to him, for he is the Saviour of all men, but especially of those that believe. Let Israel know that when the Syrians prevailed it was from the Lord. 2. That he was very acceptable to his prince, was his favourite, and prime-minister of state; so great was he, so high, so honourable, and a mighty man of valour; but he was a leper, was under that loathsome disease, which made him a burden to himself. Note, (1.) No man’s greatness, or honour, or interest, or valour, or victory, can set him out of the reach of the sorest calamities of human life; there is many a sickly crazy body under rich and gay clothing. (2.) Every man has some but or other in his character, something that blemishes and diminishes him, some allay to his grandeur, some damp to his joy; he may be very happy, very good, yet, in something or other, not so good as he should be nor so happy as he would be. Naaman was a great as the world could make him, and yet (as Bishop Hall expresses it) the basest slave in Syria would not change skins with him.
II. The notice that was given him of Elisha’s power, by a little maid that waited on his lady, 2 Kgs. 5:2, 3. This maid was, by birth, an Israelite, providentially carried captive into Syria, and there preferred into Naaman’s family, where she published Elisha’s fame to the honour of Israel and Israel’s God. The unhappy dispersing of the people of God has sometimes proved the happy occasion of the diffusion of the knowledge of God, Acts 8:4. This little maid, 1. As became a true-born Israelite, consulted the honour of her country, and could give an account, though but a girl, of the famous prophet they had among them. Children should betimes acquaint themselves with the wondrous works of God, that, wherever they go, they may have them to talk of. See Ps. 8:2. 2. As became a good servant, she desired the health and welfare of her master, though she was a captive, a servant by force; much more should servants of choice seek their masters’ good. The Jews in Babylon were to seek the peace of the land of their captivity. Jer. 29:7.Elisha had not cleansed any leper in Israel (Luke 4:27), yet this little maid, from the other miracles he had wrought, inferred that he could cure her master, and from his common beneficence inferred that he would do it, though he was a Syrian. Servants may be blessings to the families where they are, by telling what they know of the glory of God and the honour of his prophets.
III. The application which the king of Syria hereupon made to the king of Israel on Naaman’s behalf. Naaman took notice of the intelligence, though given by a simple maid, and did not despise it for the sake of her meanness, when it tended to his bodily health. He did not say, “The girl talks like a fool; how can any prophet of Israel do that for me which all the physicians of Syria have attempted in vain?” Though he neither loved nor honoured the Jewish nation, yet, if one of that nation can but cure him of his leprosy, he will thankfully acknowledge the obligation. O that those who are spiritually diseased would hearken thus readily to the tidings brought them of the great Physician! See what Naaman did upon this little hint. 1. He would not send for the prophet to come to him, but such honour would he pay to one that had so much of a divine power with him as to be able to cure diseases that he would go to him himself, though he himself was sickly, unfit for society, the journey long, and the country an enemy’s; princes, he thinks, must stoop to prophets when they need them. 2. He would not go incognito—in disguise, though his errand proclaimed his loathsome disease, but went in state, and with a great retinue, to do the more honour to the prophet. 3. He would not go empty-handed, but took with him gold, silver, and raiment, to present to his physician. Those that have wealth, and want health show which they reckon the more valuable blessing; what will they not give for ease, and strength, and soundness of body? 4. He would not go without a letter to the king of Israel from the king his master, who did himself earnestly desire his recovery. He knows not where in Samaria to find this wonder-working prophet, but takes it for granted the king knows where to find him; and, to engage the prophet to do his utmost for Naaman, he will go to him supported with the interest of two kings. If the king of Syria must entreat his help, he hopes the king of Israel, being his liege-lord, may command it. The gifts of the subject must all be (he thinks) for the service and honour of the prince, and therefore he desires the king that he would recover the leper (2 Kgs. 5:6), taking it for granted that there was a greater intimacy between the king and the prophet than really there was.
IV. The alarm this gave to the king of Israel, 2 Kgs. 5:7. He apprehended there was in this letter, 1. A great affront upon God, and therefore he rent his clothes, according to the custom of the Jews when they heard or read that which they thought blasphemous; and what less could it be than to attribute to him a divine power? “Am I a God, to kill whom I will, and make alive whom I will? No, I pretend not to such an authority.” Nebuchadnezzar did, as we find, Dan. 5:19. “Am I a God, to kill with a word, and make alive with a word? No, I pretend not to such a power;” thus this great man, this bad man, is made to own that he is but a man. Why did he not, with this consideration, correct himself for his idolatry, and reason thus:—Shall I worship those as gods that can neither kill nor make alive, cando neither good nor evil? 2. A bad design upon himself. He appeals to those about him for this: “See how he seeketh a quarrel against me; he requires me to recover the leper, and if I do not, though I cannot, he will make that a pretence to wage war with me,” which he suspects the rather because Naaman is his general. Had he rightly understood the meaning of the letter, that when the king wrote to him to recover the leper he meant that he would take care he might be recovered, he would not have been in this fright. Note, We often create a great deal of uneasiness to ourselves by misinterpreting the words and actions of others that are well intended: it is charity to ourselves to think no evil. If he had bethought himself of Elisha, and his power, he would easily have understood the letter, and have known what he had to do; but he is put into this confusion by making himself a stranger to the prophet: the captive maid had him more in her thoughts than the king had.
V. The proffer which Elisha made of his services. He was willing to do anything to make his prince easy, though he was neglected and his former good services were forgotten by him. Hearing on which occasion the king had rent his clothes, he sent to him to let him know that if his patient would come to him he should not lose his labour (2 Kgs. 5:8): He shall know that there is a prophet in Israel (and it were sad with Israel if there were not), that there is a prophet in Israel who can do that which the king of Israel dares not attempt, which the prophets of Syria cannot pretend to. It was not for his own honour, but for the honour of God, that he coveted to make them all know that there was a prophet in Israel, though obscure and overlooked.