Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Intro: his book The Faith of the Outsider; Exclusion and Inclusion in the Biblical Story (2005) the Old Testament scholar Frank Spina describes what he calls the insider-outsider dynamic of the Bible.
- In the Old Testament, Israel alone is God’s elect people: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). Israel is not only God’s special insider community; as Spina notes, “it is the only insider community.” All other nations need not apply.
- Similarly, in the New Testament the early Christians proclaimed that “no one comes to the Father except through Jesus” (John 14:6).
- But this insider-outsider element includes a universal scope. When God chose only Abraham, He promised to bless all nations through him. The preaching of the exclusive group known as “the church” invited the whole world to be saved.
- When we read the Bible carefully we notice how often it features prominent outsiders. This inclusion of outsider stories, Spina argues, is “neither incidental nor haphazard in the biblical witness.” These outsider stories often include a significant plot reversal in which the ostensible insider is cast in a negative light and the outsider is portrayed as superior in virtue or faith. In his book Spina lists 7 of these stories. (Rahab, Jonah, Ruth, Samaritan Woman of John 4, etc.) 2 Kings 5 makes his list.
I. Outsider – Insider: This is a role reversal.
A. Naaman epitomizes the quintessential outsider for several reasons.
- He was a pagan Syrian military officer
- a major enemy of Israel.
- The text indicates that: “by him the Lord had given victory to Syria”. God gave victory to Israel’s enemy through a pagan officer? Yes.
- Naaman had leprosy. Religiously, among the Israelites, he was unclean. Socially he was an outcast. People with such “impurities” were stigmatized in every way.
1. After Naaman is instructed by the prophet ELISHA to wash in the Jordan River 7 times, he is incensed. However he finally reconsiders and obeys. He is miraculously cleansed. His response tells of a change of allegiance by Naaman: 2 Kings 5:15-19 – 5 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. 18 Yet in this thing may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon — when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord please pardon your servant in this thing.” 19 Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a short distance.
2. Naaman seems to be truly converted to the One true God of Israel. He even recognizes the coming conflict this will cause as he serves his Syrian master. He will have to go into the Temple of Rimmon and assist in his worship. He asks for forgiveness ahead of time. The outsider becomes an insider.
But the story does not end there. Read 2 Kings 5:20-27 – 20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” 21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?” 22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.'” 23 So Naaman said, “Please, take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and handed them to two of his servants; and they carried them on ahead of him. 24 When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed. 25 Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, “Where did you go, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.” 26 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow.
B. Gehazi is the insider – He is an Israelite, in the covenant.
- Elisha’s faithful servant. There was no one closer to the prophet that this man.
- He was there when Elisha performed his miracles (raising the widow’s son)
- He was even utilized by Elisha in the miracles. (the Shunamite’s son – 2 Kings 4:29)
- He witnessed God’s protection over Elisha, and those who were helpful to Elisha (Shunamite woman).
- But in the end, he was the leper, on the outside.
II. What Do We Learn in the Legacy of Gehazi?
A. Gehazi was not like his master. Consider the stark contrast between the selflessness of Elisha and the covetousness of Gehazi. We hardly know which to admire most – Elijah as he courageously confronts the prophets of Baal; or Elisha, as in sincere forgetfulness of self he refuses the general’s tempting gift. Elisha’s may have proved the harder and therefore more heroic deed.
1. The foremost man in all Syria except its king, comes to him to be healed of his leprosy. He heals his disease and converts his mind. Who among us would not be tempted to take the credit, or at least take the money? Especially when Naaman insists. His answer – (2 Kings 5:16) “As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” He is a man of principle. He wanted God to get the credit and to be blameless before others.
2. But Gehazi was not like this. He was angry that Elisha had refused the gift. When Elisha is out of sight, he runs after Naaman. 2 Kings 5:20 – But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” Notice the similar words of commitment used by Gehazi – “as the Lord lives” Gehazi was also a determined, principled man! His principle was himself.
3. Elisha was an honest man, but Gehazi is a liar. He is not ashamed to lie to Naaman in order to serve his greed.
a. In fact, he involves Elisha in the lie and makes Naaman believe the Elisha had changed his mind – (v. 22) “My master has sent me” – he used his spiritual position for material gain. He even lies to Elisha in attempt to cover his greed and sin
b. Those who are not like their master will eventually become outsiders. Their heart will betray them. Their master knows who they really are. Pulpit commentary says… Elisha was probably no more deceived in the character of Gehazi than Jesus was in the character of Judas, who was secretly “a thief,” and “had the bag, and bare what was put therein”.
B. Covetousness is a sin among insiders, as well as outsiders. Jesus often warned his disciples about the danger of covetousness. Luke 12:15– And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness,* for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
1. When God called on Moses to appoint leaders in Israel to help him with judging the people, he called on him to select men who “hated covetousness” (Ex. 18:21)
2. Paul calls covetousness idolatry in Col. 3:5 – How we act toward the things in our life is as central as the God we claim to worship.
3. Hebrews tells us the presence of discontent is a sign of a covetous spirit, because contentment through a living faith in God is the cure. Heb 13:5-6 – Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” This though makes Naaman’s response to Gehazi interesting. When Naaman saw the opportunity to repay Elisha, he said to Gehazi, “Be content, take two talents.” (v. 23, KJV) If there was anything Gehazi was not going to be it was content.
4. It is significant to notice that the most horrendous and tragic betrayal of all time was committed out of greed by one in the inner circle. Judas is a poster child for the danger of greed among us.
5. Covetous people see abundant generosity as absurd. Gehazi could not understand why his master would refuse Naaman’s gift. Judas could not understand why Jesus would allow someone to pour expensive ointment on his feet. Ananias and Sapphira could not understand why people would give all the money to the apostles. There is always a compromise for them.
C. Sins of the heart cannot be hidden. They will be revealed and punished. We cannot help but notice that Gehazi attempts to hide his actions from his master.
- What was he thinking? Would you try to hide something form a man who could raise the dead? (Wait a minute, I try to hide things from God.)
1. Gehazi’s hypocrisy. (v. 25) He went calmly in, and stood before his master, as if nothing had happened. Is this the first time he had acted hypocritically? But there comes a point when men’s sins find them out.
2. Elisha’s challenge. What had happened had not been “hid” from Elisha. The Lord had showed it to him. His heart had gone with Gehazi, and he had seen Naaman turning from his chariot to meet him. He now challenged him with his conduct.
a. falsehood exposed: Gehazi answered boldly to the question, “Where did you go, Gehazi?” He said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.” (5:25) Elisha was not searching for information. He knew. He was searching for a penitent confession.
• We can imagine the servant’s conscience-stricken look and speechless confusion when Gehazi realized Elisha knew what he had done. Do you know that sinking feeling? You tried to hide it, but now you know they know. Let sinners consider how they will face the disclosures of the judgment-day, and what they will answer
• Romans 2:16 – 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
• Colossians 3:25 – 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
b. Hearts exposed: Look closer at Elisha’s words in vs. 26- They reveal two hearts – The master and the disobedient servant. 2 Kings 5:26 – 6 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?
• “Did not my heart go with you” – I saw everything and it broke my heart to see it. It breaks God’s heart to see us attempt to deceive Him.
• Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, – In connection with a work of God so great Gehazi’s mind was focused on these things that had no value. These were the things Gehazi intended to purchase with his money. His mind was running out in grand plans of what he would do with his treasures. What impresses us? What do we want?
3. God’s Judgment: By a just retribution, the leprosy of Naaman, which had been taken from him from miracle, is now by miracle given to Gehazi and his seed forever. The Pulpit Commentary states… There is a symmetry – a relation of fitness – often observable in God’s retributions.
a. What good would this treasure be to him now? Men foolishly barter away their salvation and position on the inside for a mess of stew.
b. Covetousness in the heart is already a leprosy. The outward leprosy, in Gehazi’s case, was but the external sign of what internally already existed.
Conclusion: Truly being on the inside is more than association, or even activity. It is a matter of what is truly on the inside of us. It is a matter of the heart. It is defined in our obedience. In your heart will you put God first and obey Him?