Which is harder to do? To forgive someone who has hurt you deeply? Or to be the one who has to ask for forgiveness?
That’s a tough one, isn’t it? Both I think, are extremely difficult. Confessing our wrongs and asking for forgiveness does not come naturally to us. Nor does offering forgiveness when someone has wronged us. Both are difficult things to do.
And today, as we continue in our series – the Exploits of Elisha – we’re going to see just how difficult – yet also how rewarding it is to do both.
If you have your Bible or your ipad or your smart phone with you, turn with me to 2 Kings chapter 5.
2 Kings – chapter 5 – starting at verse 1.
The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.
2 At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. 3 One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”
2 Kings 5:1-3
So we begin our story with a few introductions. First of all we have Naaman, he’s the commander of the armies of Aram. Now Aram is an enemy of Isreal, yet God has been giving Naaman great success in his battles. At this time Israel isn’t really following God, so it seems that God has been helping their enemies. So because of the success that God has given him, Naaman is a bit of war hero. But, he has leprosy. And at this time in history, there was no cure for leprosy. In fact, effective cures for leprosy have only come out in the last 30-some years. If you’re not familiar with leprosy, it’s also called Hansen’s Disease. And I had thought of showing you a couple of pictures of people with leprosy just so you could get an idea of what leprosy is all about – but in the end I decided not to because the images of the disfigured people can be pretty disturbing. It’s a pretty horrible disease. So this is bad news for Naaman.
Also in our story is a little girl who remains un-named. As I mentioned, Aram is not really getting along with Israel right now. In fact, they’ve been sending raiding parties into Israel – stealing crops and livestock and taking captives. One of those captives was a little girl who was given to Naaman’s wife as a servant. Her situation kinda reminded me of Joseph. You remember how Joseph was sold as slave by his brothers and forced to be the servant of Potiphar in Egypt. This little girl is in a similar situation – though I imagine she was even younger than Joseph. But she too, is taken away from her family, forced to be a servant to Naaman’s wife.
But notice her attitude. Even though she is a captive in a foreign land, look what she says.
“I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”
That is incredible. What compassion! For all we know, Naaman might have very well even been the one to invade her country and take her from her home – away from her mom and dad and her family. At the very least, even if he wasn’t directly involved, we can assume that, as commander of the army, he was the guy responsible.
But incredibly, she’s not bitter towards Naaman. She doesn’t hold a grudge against him. She’s not secretly happy that he has this terrible disease. Instead, she wishes well upon him. She wishes he could be healed. What an example of true forgiveness!
Everyone of us here knows what its like to be hurt by someone. We know what it’s like to be wronged. And the temptation is there to become bitter. To hold a grudge. To have ill-will towards that person. To secretly wish that something bad would happen to them.
It’s hard to forgive. It goes against our human nature. But if we refuse to forgive – we’re the ones who are hurt the most. But you’ve probably heard the illustration that “Holding on to bitterness and unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” It doesn’t work that way. Unforgiveness only hurts the person who won’t forgive.
This little girl had it figured out. She wasn’t going to let the wrongs that happened to her destroy her life from the inside out. She chose instead to forgive. And we’ve got to do likewise. Colossians 3:13 says…
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
If we could go through every day with that verse running through our minds – if we would actually make allowance for each other’s faults – forgiving on the spot the people who offend us – I’m sure we would have so much more joy in our lives. Don’t let bitterness and unforgiveness rob you of your joy!
Well, this little girl certainly didn’t. She not only forgave Naaman, but she actually wanted good things to happen to him. So she told him about this prophet that she knew of back home – this man of God who did miracles. Maybe she was neighbors with that widow who had all those empty jars miraculously filled up with oil. Or perhaps her home was in Shunem and she was friends with that little boy that Elisha raised from the dead. The Bible doesn’t really say how she knew about Elisha – but somehow she did. And when Naaman heard that perhaps his leprosy could be cure – he went right to the king of Aram. Verse 4.
So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. 5 “Go and visit the prophet,” the king of Aram told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.” So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.”
2 Kings 5:4-6
Now keep in mind, this was all done because a little girl suggested that the prophet in Israel could heal lepers. They had no evidence that she was telling the truth. There was no record of any lepers ever being healed in Israel before. In fact, Luke 4:27 tells us that there were many lepers in Israel during Elisha’s time – but none of them were ever healed. So based purely on a little slave girl’s suggestion that it could be done, the king of Aram sends his top general to the king of Israel and says “Here’s my servant Namaan – heal him.”
Of course, when Naaman shows up in Israel with this letter, the King of Israel goes ballistic! Verse 7
When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”
2 Kings 5:7
I think that kinda says something about his faith in God. The little girl had faith that God could heal Naaman. Naaman had faith that God could heal him. Even the King of Aram had faith that God could heal Naaman. But the King of Israel? He had no such faith. Well, eventually, Elisha heard what was going on… Verse 8
But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”
So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”
2 Kings 5:8-10
Now you would think that this would cause Naaman to be deliriously happy. After all, its not everyday that you get told that your incurable disease would be cured! You would think that Naaman would be jumping with joy – but he wasn’t. Verse 11
“But Naaman became angry and stalked away.” 2 Kings 5:11
Hold the phone! What’s that all about? You’d kinda expect him to be happy that he was about to be healed, wouldn’t you? You’d expect him to be rushing off to the Jordan River so he could get himself dipped seven times and then be healed. But instead, Naaman gets angry and stalks away? What is going on here?! Well, look what he says…
“I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
2 Kings 5:11-12
Do you see what the issue is here? It’s pride. Plain and simple pride. Naaman was the top general of the armies of Aram. He expected people to show him respect. He expected people to stand in awe of him. When he went to Elisha to be healed, he expected some big ceremonious healing. He imagined Elisha coming out to meet him – perhaps bowing low before him. Then Elisha would wave his hand of the leprosy, pray a fantastic prayer to God, and poof! The leprosy would be gone. But that’s not what happened.
Elisha didn’t even come out of his house to meet him. He send a messenger to tell Naaman – go wash in the Jordan river and you’ll be clean. That just added insult to injury. The Jordan river was not a clean river. If you look up pictures on the internet, the Jordan river just a muddy little creek. If this was a Canadian setting, it would be like Naaman expected Elisha to tell him to go wash in Lake Louise, but instead he was told to go wash in that little canal that runs between Mirror and Alix.
So instead of embracing the hope that he could be healed of his leprosy, Naaman allowed his pride to keep him from the one thing that he wanted most.
And I’ll just bet that most of us can relate to that! How many times has your pride kept you from getting what you truly want? Let me explain.
We talked about forgiveness earlier – I think pride is probably the biggest barrier to forgiveness. And repentance for that matter. When you’ve had a conflict with someone – Maybe they’ve wronged you or you’ve wronged them – deep down I think most of us wish that the situation could be resolved. Its not fun to be in conflict with someone. We long to have things made right again.
But in order for that to happen, someone has to say “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Someone has to say “I forgive you. I’m not going to hold this against you any longer.” But our pride gets in the way. Our pride demands “You go first! You say you’re sorry and THEN I’ll forgive you.” Of course, the other person says the same thing and there is no forgiveness – no reconciliation. Your pride keeps you from what you really want the most.
Apologies are hard. Confessions are humbling. Our egos don’t like to admit that we were wrong. But it is so necessary that we do. Look at Psalm 32:1-5. This is David after he confessed his sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered.
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
If you’ve ever gone through the humbling experience of confessing your wrongs and asking someone to forgive you – then you’ve also experienced having that huge weight lifted off your shoulders. What a peace we find when we no longer have anything to hide. Our guilt is gone – forgiveness takes its place – and joy and peace flood in.
Not too long ago I had the unpleasant task of confessing one of my wrongs to my wife. And I tell ya, it’s humbling. It’s a difficult thing to do. I hate those conversations – but the result is sooo good. To lose that guilt – and replace it with peace and joy – and to have a restored relationship… It’s awesome!
And that kind of joy and restoration is just what Naaman experienced. Verse 13.
But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” 14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s, and he was healed!
2 Kings 5:13-14
Can you imagine what would have happened if Naaman had not humbled himself and gone and dipped in that Jordan River? Clearly nothing would have happened. He would have gone home miserable, angry, and still sick with leprosy.
But because he was able to get past his pride, and simply follow the instructions of Elisha – dipping himself seven times in the Jordan River – He was completely and totally healed of his disease. His skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child.
God totally healed Naaman, but only when he was able to get past his pride and humble himself before God.
And I wonder if we need to do likewise? We might not have to deal with leprosy, but I know there are people here who need some healing. I know that there are people here today that have been hurt. I know that there are people here today that have been the cause of hurt. There are people who need to forgive. And there are people who need to receive forgiveness. Just because we are Christians, doesn’t mean we’re perfect. (Not yet anyway.) We are an imperfect people – we make mistakes – we hurt each other. It happens. But what also needs to happen is forgiveness.
We read that verse in Colossians earlier:
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
That takes a certain amount of humility. It means you have to put your pride on the shelf. And that’s hard. I know.
Probably one of the hardest thing I’ve had to do in life is ask people for forgiveness when I’ve done wrong. I don’t like to admit that I do wrong. It’s not fun to confess your sin. You feel like a jerk. But when you do, the relief that comes is amazing! Forgiveness and freedom from guilt are soooo good!
It’s like removing a sliver. Have you ever had one of those deeply embedded slivers? It hurts, but digging it out is going to hurt a whole lot more! So what do you do? Do you just leave it there to fester? Or to do you endure the pain of digging it out so that you can actually have relief and start being healed?
James 5:16 says…
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16
When we push our pride out of the way – when we are willing to humble ourselves, confess to one another and ask for forgiveness – that’s when healing comes.
So I encourage you this morning, don’t let it fester.
If someone has wronged you, make allowance for their faults. Don’t hold onto that grudge. Offer them forgiveness instead. Its possible that they may never be sorry for what they did, but at least you’ve done your part. You’ve dug your sliver out and you can start to heal.
And if you’re on the other side of this equation, and you’re the one who is in the wrong. You’re the one who has done the hurt. Don’t let your pride get in the way. Humble yourself before God and before the other person – confess what you’ve done and ask for forgiveness. I know its hard, but the healing that comes confession & forgiveness is worth it. Will you resolve today make things right?
You know, a verse that always amazes me is Romans 5:8.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Way before we were ever sorry for our sins, Jesus Christ died on a cross so that we could have forgiveness. God didn’t wait for us to repent. He didn’t wait for us to confess. While we were still sinning against Him, he offered us complete and utter forgiveness.
If you’ve never accepted that forgiveness – why not do it today? God loves you like crazy and He wants to wipe your slate clean and give you brand new start.
And if you have accepted his forgiveness, then why don’t offer that same forgiveness to the people who have hurt you? Wipe their slate clean and give them a brand new start.
As Christ forgave you, likewise you must forgive them.
What a message! I’ve learned a lot about pride, unforgiving heart, how to be humble and obedience. ?