I am preparing to teach the Word of God to my Sunday School class this coming Sunday. Over the past 2 weeks, we have looked at the humble shepherd boy David and then the mighty King David. It was neat to see how God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud. David received God’s grace. Along the way, David got proud. God had to humble him. We saw King David humble himself and repent before God and before all of humanity. God forgave David and restored him, but, the consequences remained with David for the rest of his life.
In this lesson, we are going to learn about honesty and integrity. When we accepted the Gospel, God’s grace to us, we are transformed from the inside out. God cleanses us of our sins and gives us a new heart and a new life. This transformation is seen in our honesty and integrity. Without God, even when people are honest, they are so out of selfish desires. Without God, people can show signs of integrity, but, when given the chance, integrity is quickly set aside. This passage that we are going to study, II Kings 5, shows us how we receive the grace of God, how we are changed by God, how this transformation manifests itself in honesty and integrity, and finally, how people without God cannot walk in honesty and integrity.
Naaman was far from God when he is introduced to us in the story. He is a powerful man. It seems that he has it all. There is a problem though, because Naaman has leprosy. This is a terrible disease. The nerve endings close to the skin die and the person suffering from this disease loses feeling. The flesh begins to rot on the bone and falls off. Many times, the sick person will rub certain areas of the body, like the bottom of the feet or palms of the hands, up against something and not even realize that they are doing it. This will cause the skin and muscle to peel away to the bone. On top of this, Naaman does not know the One True God. He worships idols and false gods like all of the people of his day who were not of the nation of Israel. There was no hope for this man, in this life, or, in the next to come. He was separated from God.
God is good and He is always seeking to connect with people. Naaman’s people had done some raiding in the land of Israel. They took a little girl captive to be a slave. As the Apostle Paul tells us in the Romans 8:28, God works all things for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes. God used this evil that happened to the girl. He turned it into good. The little girl did not lose hope while enslaved. She remembered her God. She saw Naaman and felt compassion on him. She let Naaman know about the God of Israel, the fact that He wants to connect with people and what He can do to a lost person’s hopelessness. This little girl, even though in a difficult situation, walked in honesty and integrity because she knew her God.
Naaman hears the good news about the fact that there may be a cure in Israel for his disease. He is not thinking about Jehovah-rapha, the Great Healer, but, he is on a path to meet Him. When Naaman meets Elisha in Israel, Elisha gives Naaman a task. The task is simply to go and wash in the Jordan river. This does not make sense to Naaman. There are better waters in Damascus to wash in if that is all it took to cure leprosy. Naaman asks for a task to complete in order to attain favor from God. Believing was just too simple. Naaman was used to working to accomplish something. Finally, Naaman submitted to God’s plan, as strange and as simple as it sounded and he was healed. Naaman’s outward healing was a symbol of the inward healing that takes place when we believe God and accept His gift of salvation. It is difficult for us to comprehend. We want to do something to attain our salvation. The problem is, we cannot do anything. We receive what God offers. We come to God on His terms, not our own terms. We see a change in Naaman. He has an attitude of gratitude. He wants to pay Elisha for what God did. Elisha wisely refuses the gifts because God is the One who did the work and He deserves the credit. Elisha taught Naaman a great lesson that day. You cannot pay for salvation. Some try to pay for it to attain it. That does not work. Others try to repay God for what He did, as if anything we give to God can repay Him for His gift of salvation. We see honesty and integrity in Elisha because he had genuine faith in God. Elisha and the little slave girl are both positive examples in this story. Neeman is an example of someone connecting with God and being transformed. There is one more character in this passage. He is used as a negative example. Let’s see what we can learn about Gehazi.
This man pretended to walk with God. He knew the lingo. He knew how to put on a front. In his heart, he did not walk in honesty and integrity. He claimed to know God and have genuine faith, but, his faith was not sincere. He had faith like James talks about the demons having, it is there but it is dead and useless. Gehazi saw what had happened to Naaman. He also witnessed the offering of gifts to Elisha and the fact that Elisha refused those gifts. Gehazi made a plan in his heart to attain that treasure for himself. Gehazi had an idol in his life that separated him from God. Because of that separation, Gehazi could not walk in honesty and integrity. In his plan, he tricked Naaman into giving the treasure to him. He lied to Naaman. When Gehazi was confronted by Elisha, he tried to lie again but Elisha knew what had happened. Gehazi had a chance to confess and repent but he chose to lie instead and try to cover up his sin. That is the natural reaction of all of us. We do not want to admit what we have done. We want to try and cover up our actions and avoid the consequences. This is totally against the will of God. The Lord tells us in I John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, if we agree with God that we made a mistake and sinned, that He is faithful and just, not only to forgive us, but also to cleanse us of all of our unrighteousness. That is what Gehazi should have done. He chose not to confess. As a result, he was cursed with the leprosy that Naaman had. The consequences were passed on to his family as well.
Are you a person of genuine faith? Does your faith produce honesty and integrity in you? Are you seeking to share that faith with the hopeless people around you? How do you respond when you are confronted with your sin? Do you try to shift the blame or cover up what you did, or, do you confess and repent, receiving God’s forgiveness and allowing Him to cleanse you? May the Lord help us have genuine faith in Him that produces honesty and integrity in our daily lives!