Who is your greatest hero? Which person do you most look up to? There was a BBC programme a few years ago now when the nation had to vote for the greatest Briton. Winston Churchill topped the list, followed by people like Princess Diana and William Shakespeare.
There’s no doubt who would have topped the poll of greatest Aramite, 300 year ago. Aram was a country north of Israel, near where Syria is today. And our Bible reading today says Aram’s great hero was an army commander called Naaman. He had led Aram’s army to great victories over its enemies (v.1) Even the king of Aram regarded Naaman as his hero. And he gave Naaman lots of money and lots of clothes for his efforts. So Naaman was successful, wealthy and well-regarded. A bit of a celebrity. And probably a bit big-headed and proud as a result. But he had a problem. He had leprosy – a nasty skin disease. His skin was spotty and sore – and he needed help. The trouble was, no one in Aram could help Naaman – not even the king. Only God could help. But God needed to humble him first!
- A Hero Humbled!
As we read today’s Bible story, we see that Naaman must have swallowed his pride and eaten humble pie lots of times. God wanted to teach Naaman to trust in him, not in his own treasure or talents.
For a start, as an army commander, Naaman was used to giving orders. But now he had to take advice from a Jewish servant girl. A little girl who told him to go to Israel to see Elisha – a powerful prophet of God, who could heal him.
So Naaman, the hero of Aram, has to pack his bags and travel to Israel – God’s promised land. The hero of Aram had to admit he needed help, and so he went to find Elisha, the hero of Israel.
Naaman was obviously expecting to find Elisha in Israel’s royal palace – but no. Wealthy Naaman, with all his money, clothes and chariots, is forced to go to the small, humble home of Elisha the prophet.
Things get worse for wealthy Naaman when he arrives at Elisha’s house. Elisha doesn’t spread out the red carpet for him when he arrives, he doesn’t even come out to greet him. Elisha simply sends out a messenger to met him. A messenger who tells him to go and wash himself in the Jordan seven times.
Now this really makes proud Naaman mad! He can’t believe that Elisha didn’t want to greet him, the great warrior of Aram, Syria’s most famous soldier. And he can’t believe that Elisha is sending him to wash in the Jordan river, when there are plenty of perfectly good rivers in his home city of Damascus!
Naaman’s pride meant he got pretty grumpy. He didn’t like being humbled. He didn’t like not being the boss. He didn’t like not being the one in control. We are often the same aren’t we? We like to be the boss of our own lives don’t we? We don’t always want to live God’s way. We don’t always want God to be in charge of our lives, especially when we would prefer to do something selfish or sinful.
- A Hero Healed!
Naaman nearly went off in a huff, but thankfully his servants persuaded him to stick around. Naaman was just humble enough to trust Elisha, and did take a dip in the river Jordan.
And as he washed himself for the seventh time, an amazing thing happened. His skin was cleansed of disease, and was made new. His spots disappeared straightaway – even Clearasil can’t manage that!
The hero had been healed – and Naaman knew who to thank for his healing. He knew that only the true God, the God of Israel could have cured him so completely. So he returns to Elisha to say thank you, and to tell him what he’d learnt. Listen to verse 15: “Now I know there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”
Naaman tried to offer a gift to Elisha, to pay him for his help. But Elisha would not accept it. God’s help can’t be bought. God’s grace is always free. Wonderfully, God had humbled and healed Naaman for free. Wonderfully, Naaman’s spots were now missing, gone for good.
- Our Hero Jesus: Who humbles and heals us!
Naaman needed to be humbled and healed by God. And so do we. Because Jesus said we all need to be humbled and healed by God, not just Naaman.
Jesus said we need to humbly accept that we have all sinned. We all try to run our lives without God, just like Naaman tried. We all suffer from pride. We all need God’s forgiveness for our sin.
We also need to be humble enough to receive God’s forgiveness as a free gift. Its not something we could ever earn or afford to buy. It’s a free gift we receive by faith. It’s a free gift we recieve by trusting God’s words, just like Naaman trusted God’s words.
And just as Naaman could only be healed by heading to the Jordan. We can only be healed by heading to Jesus. Only by asking Jesus can we recieve God’s forgiveness. Naaman needed to learn that there was only one river that would heal him. Our world needs to learn that only Jesus can save us – no other religion, philosophy or spirituality can truly help us.
Naaman was so thankful to God for the healing he received. But the healing God offers us through Jesus is even greater. Whoever we are, if we have faith in Jesus, then we have complete forgiveness for our sin. Our guilt is washed away, and we can have hope and purpose in life, instead of despair.
Best of all, Jesus will give us new bodies one day. Naaman was given new skin that would last a lifetime. But Jesus will give us new bodies in the world to come – new bodies that will endure for eternity!
As I finish this morning. We’ve seen that Naaman was a hero of Aram. A hero who needed to be humbled and healed. But Jesus should be our hero – a hero who wants to humble and heal us forever.