A few years ago there was another split in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. It was occasioned by the fact that the Chief Legal Officer of Great Britain, the man who holds the position we would call Attorney General, had a colleague die, a minister in the government, and as you would expect he went to the funeral. However, the funeral was a Roman Catholic Mass. A great many of his Free Presbyterian ministers and elders took umbrage at the fact that he had attended a Roman Catholic service. Those who were in favor of what he did divided from those who were against what he did in a church that was already way too small and became smaller still.
They should have read together 2 Kings 5! What Gehazi had done threatened to change the news that Naaman took home. There are various reasons for this particular punishment. Obviously it is important that Gehazi was to suffer from the same disease from which Naaman had just been healed. But it is also important to note that the judgment of the Lord upon this man and his descendants was the very punishment promised in the law of God and, in particular, in the second commandment, the commandment against idols. Gehazi was an idolater; money and status were his gods.
Now put yourself in the place of those who would have read Kings for the first time. They had been defeated by their enemies because Yahweh had handed them over to destruction on account of their sins. When they read this chapter the reversal it narrates would have hit them like a punch in the solar plexus.
Naaman was concerned to honor him in his life, but Gehazi was not.
You will perhaps better appreciate the wrench that an Israelite reader would feel reading this text if I were to remind you that Elisha assisting and blessing a Syrian general would be akin to an American pastor helping a British general during the Revolutionary War or, even better, akin to an oppressed Jew watching Jesus do wonderful things for Roman soldiers and centurions who were there to impose and keep upon them the crushing power of the Roman state.
Or an Israelite today who happened to be a Christian reaching out to Lebanese Palestinians and caring for them; very hard things to take. It would be more like a slap in the face and a reminder of how abjectly they had failed to be faithful to God. When a Syrian general knows better than an Israelite assistant to a prophet what it means to honor Yahweh, things have reached a pretty pass.
I am absolutely sure there were many Israelite readers of Kings who struggled to come to terms with what we have just read in 2 Kings 5!
This was far and away not their favorite passage in the book. What could be clearer? Naaman comes to Israel a leper, encounters the grace and power of the living Lord and leaves for home entirely healthy and, what is more, a new man in every way. Gehazi, who has been an Israelite from birth, who was the chief servant of Elisha, no less, and who had never had leprosy, becomes and remains a leper.
The Gentile is in covenant with the Lord and Israel is not! This account is as surely upsetting as an account of the Lord shaking the dust of his feet off against Israel as anything we read in the New Testament; at least to a Jewish reader of the Gospels. But it was imperative for the early reader of Kings, as it is for us today, to appreciate that this reversal was based on reality. Yahweh was not simply exchanging one people for another.
But the fact is, Naaman had become an Israelite in the true sense and Gehazi had become a Syrian in the true sense. There had been an exchange, a reversal, a switching of places. It had nothing to do with where the man lived or his nationality or his occupation. It had only to do with his heart and his behavior. As his remarks to the prophet indicate he knew he had Yahweh to thank for his healing, not Elisha himself.
He had become a theologically minded man, whose life and worship were now subject to what he knew of the one living and true God. A Syrian general who was now a son of Abraham! But compare him to Gehazi. Gehazi showed himself to be what Naaman had once been but was no more.
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When Naaman came to Israel he was a calculating man. He brought a huge some of money with him to buy his cure. But he was carrying all of it back to Syria with him, the gift having been free. He thinks the matter through. If he asks for too much, Naaman might get suspicious. So he instead of asking for all ten talents of silver, he asks for but two. Instead of all ten changes of clothes, he asks for only two and tells a story that cleverly masks his avarice behind a pretense of charity.
This is paganism pure and simple, the idea that one can manipulate the gods and secure a favorable result. Naaman has got shut of his idolatrous worldview; Gehazi, the Israelite, might as well be a Syrian. He believed what Naaman had once believed about Elisha but did no more. Why should I care about such a man as this, a foreigner, an enemy?
There was no truth — no love of the truth, no commitment to it — in this man either. Gehazi is a liar through and through. He lied to Naaman and he lied to Elisha. His was the art of the little lie and the big lie.
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He lied about his motives, he lied about what he did, and he told a second lie to cover the first. He was even an artful liar. Like Achan in Joshua 7 and Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 8 he sought to cash in on an act of God and so, as Joshua told Achan and as the apostles told Ananias and Sapphira, they lied not first, not ultimately, to men but to God.
There is here and emphatically so, as everywhere in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, a connection drawn between faith and conduct, between faith and holiness of life, between the knowledge of God and godly behavior. It is not enough that Gehazi is an Israelite; it is not enough that Naaman has confessed Yahweh as God. In each case the man demonstrates his spiritual and theological commitment by his actions, his behavior.
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But no body can tell, or even conjecture what was the shape of these cherubims. He also laid the floor of the temple with plates of gold. And he added doors to the gate of the temple, agreeable to the measure of the height of the wall, but in breadth twenty cubits: and on them he glewed gold plates. And, to say all in one word, he left no part of the temple, neither internal, nor external, but what was covered with gold.
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He also had curtains drawn over these doors; in like manner as they were drawn over the inner doors of the most holy place. But the porch of the temple had nothing of that sort.
Now Solomon sent for an artificer out of Tyre, whose name was Hiram. This man was skilful in all sorts of work: but his chief skill lay in working in gold, and silver, and brass: by whom were made all the mechanical works about the temple, according to the will of Solomon. Moreover, this Hiram made two [hollow] pillars: whose outsides were of brass, and the thickness of the brass was four fingers breadth: and the height of the pillars was eighteen cubits, and their circumference twelve cubits.
But there was cast with each of their chapiters lilly work that stood upon the pillar, and it was elevated five cubits: round about which there was net-work interwoven with small palms, made of brass, and covered the lilly work. To this also were hung two hundred pomegranates, in two rows: the one of these pillars he set at the entrance of the porch on the right hand, and called it Jachin ; and the other at the left hand, and called it Booz.
Solomon also cast a brasen sea, whose figure was that of an hemisphere: this brazen vessel was called a sea for its largeness: for the laver was ten foot in diameter, and cast of the thickness of a palm. Its middle part rested on a short pillar, that had ten spirals round it; and that pillar was a cubit in diameter.