Spiritual Blindness

Posted: June 3, 2010 in 2 Kings

2 Kings 5-6, “Spiritual Blindness”
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Ever meet someone who is legally blind? Many people can see perfectly fine with very strong prescription lenses, but can barely see their hand in front of their face without their glasses. That’s the way a lot of people are spiritually. They may have some sort of general awareness that God exists, but they couldn’t begin to tell you the 1st thing about Him. Or even in Christians, we get so into our own little “routines” & our own little “bubbles” that we (in essence) become blind to the things God is doing right around us. That’s not how God would want us to be…our blindness needs to be removed!

Thus far in 2 Kings, we’ve seen Elisha perform a lot of miracles. He has advised kings going into battle, multiplied oil for a widow, raised the dead, and pulled poison out of stew for prophets. In Ch 5-6, we see this continue – with a common thread of his interaction with the Syrians (Arameans) throughout. At times the Syrians are spiritually blind; at other times is the Samarians (Israelites). In all cases, people are presented with the opportunity to humble themselves before the Lord & rely upon God with their spiritual eyes open in simple faith.

2 Kings 5 (NKJV)
1 Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.

A. Note how Naaman gained his military victory: by the Lord. Would the Lord actually give the victory to someone who routinely fought against Israel? Why not? (1) We don’t know if Naaman’s battle was actually against Israel at the time… (2) God is God. He can give victory to whomever He so chooses. … Sometimes He allowed Israel to experience defeat simply because that was the appropriate punishment for Israel’s own disobedience (as we’ll see later)…

B. Naaman was “great & honorable,” but he was also a leper. [] It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ we are in the sight of the world; outside of Jesus Christ, sin taints everything.
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2 And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”

A. Great illustration of the first being last & the last being first (Mk 9:35). Imagine the Chief Commander of the Syrian army being given advice from a Samarian servant girl… Yet this servant girl possessed something greater than the military might of Naaman: knowledge of the One True God…

B. Also a great illustration of Romans 8:28 in action. Obviously it was not a desirable thing to be taken captive & made to serve as a slave in Syria. Yet this is exactly what God used to impact the life (and faith) of the Syrian commander…
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4 And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.” 5 Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.

A. Permission from the king to go. Naaman was prepared to pay handsomely for his healing (some estimate its worth at over $1M!), and the king of Syria expected a full healing…
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7 And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.”

A. The 1st reaction of the king of Israel? Despair! With his eyes completely focused upon himself & not upon the Lord, the king whines, complains, and despairs that he’s going to get killed. King of Syria seems to have more faith! Israel’s king seems to live in his flesh; not in faith…

B. On one hand, he’s right: the king did not have the power to do anything here – only God did. But the king forgot that it was God he served! Instead of panicking, he should have hit his knees in prayer. …
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8 So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

A. Elisha affirms the same thing (albeit much more calmly). It wasn’t the king’s job to heal Naaman. All the king needed to do was to point Naaman to God through the prophet…

B. Likewise when it comes to evangelism. Often we’ll get frustrated at the lack of conversions, and we wonder what we need to do to see people be “healed” from the sickness of sin. The simple answer is: WE can’t do anything! GOD is the one that brings healing & eternal salvation. Our job is simply to be witnesses – to point people to God through Jesus Christ. …
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9 Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.

A. Naaman seemingly felt insulted on a couple of levels. 1st, the little prophet of Israel didn’t come out & personally meet with the high & mighty commander of Syria…stemming from his pride… 2nd, the instructions Elisha gave seemed so minor & petty: just go down to the dirty river & dip yourself in 7 times…stemming from false expectations…

B. We need to keep in mind that unmet expectations do not equal unanswered prayer. So often we come to God with our own expectations of how WE think things ought to work out, and we pray accordingly. And when they don’t work out that way, we assume that either God didn’t hear us, or God didn’t care. Not true! Sometimes God works in precisely OPPOSITE of our expectations – and it turns out to be wonderful! Peter expected that there was no way the Messiah could suffer and die, and actually attempted to rebuke Jesus for suggesting so (Mt 16:22); but it’s because the Messiah DID suffer & die that our salvation was purchased. … Praise God for our unmet expectations!
__a. What kind of expectations do we bring to God? What kind of mold do we expect God to fit into that would please us, rather than seek the will & glory of God?
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13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

A. Again, the mighty Naaman is being schooled by his servants. His servant points out his pride on the issue… How bad is pride? Bad enough to almost miss out on a miracle!

B. After Naaman humbled himself & followed the word of God on God’s terms, God healed him. And what a healing! This was complete restoration – to the point of innocence (his flesh was like “a little child”).
__a. That’s exactly what happens to us in our salvation! Our leprous sin is not only taken from us, but we are given a new nature & our restoration is absolutely total in the sight of God! …
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15 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.

A. The proper response to the work of God? Worship of God. Naaman was thankful & wanted to demonstrate his faith in the only way he knew how…
__a. How do we demonstrate our praise to God? … Do we even stop to give Him the praise for what He’s done? Not everyone does (the 10 lepers – Lk 17:12-19)…only 1 of the 10 returned. Don’t forget to give God the praise! Lift up your voice in prayer – tell others in testimony – demonstrate your thankfulness in myriads of ways…God is worthy of our thanks!

B. Why didn’t Elisha take the money? (1) Because it wasn’t Elisha who did the work – all Elisha did was to act as the faithful messenger of God. God was the one who did the healing. …We want to be careful to give ALL the glory to God! [Peter & John] (2) Because salvation (which is what is represented here) is a free gift! It cannot be purchased by gold or silver or anything. Although the gift has already been given, Elisha wants to ensure that there’s no thought at all of it being purchased by Naaman.
__a. Keep in mind that salvation is not for sale; it has already been purchased by Jesus Christ. When the wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus for our sin, He paid the debt you & I could never pay – we were “redeemed” from slavery to sin, and the purchase price was none other than the precious blood of the Son of God. Thus salvation is a free gift; but it’s certainly not cheap!
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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.

A. The healing wasn’t a temporary experience for Naaman; this was a total life change for him. He wasn’t about to go back to Syria & continue worshipping false gods…he wanted to do whatever it took to remain pure & faithful to the one true God. In his mind, this included taking back the very dirt of Israel in order to engage in personal worship. A bit superstitious perhaps, but a wonderful beginning to a life of faith in God. Even when Naaman would have obligations to be in the pagan temple, he wouldn’t break his vow to the Lord – he was willing to make a complete break with the past.

B. Do we make this same type of break with our past? Or do we leave up bridges to the people we were prior to Christ? … If Jesus is not only THE Lord, but YOUR Lord, there ought to be no ties back to your old master… …
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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.”

A. Did Gehazi get jealous? That God would heal a Gentile Syrian…
B. Gehazi definitely got greedy. He saw how much money his master turned away, and he figured he should be able to get in on the action. (1 Tim 6:3 – the love of money)…
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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.

A. Tells Naaman an outright lie…

B. Naaman might suspect something was going on, but he was willing to trust & be generous. He gave Gehazi much more than what he requested…

C. Gehazi does something here far too common today: he fleeced the flock of God…took advantage of the generosity of the Lord’s people. …
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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.”

A. Another outright lie…
B. Wasted opportunity for repentance.
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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.

A. Very ironic! The Gentile who humbled himself before God was cleansed of his leprosy. The Israelite who was the assistant to the prophet of God was given leprosy in his sin…

B. In essence, the inward state of Gehazi’s heart was made visible on his outward flesh…
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2 Kings 6 (NKJV)
1 And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us. 2 Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.” So he answered, “Go.” 3 Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” 4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.

A. Change of scenery – almost to the mundane. A local prophet school was growing & needed a new place to stay. They received Elisha’s permission to build & started to work…
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5 But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” 6 So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. 7 Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

A. I love this! Typically we think of miracles as only occurring in big & dramatic circumstances: the dead are raised to life – fire comes down from heaven to consume the enemy – armies of angels appear in battle, etc. In comparison, this is so minor it’s almost funny. One of the prophets loses an ax head in the river…the equivalent of busting up a borrowed chainsaw. … Yet even in THIS situation, we see a miracle! The axhead floats…

B. God is God. God is God over huge circumstances & overwhelming situations – and God is God in the little stuff as well. …
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8 Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying, “My camp will be in such and such a place.” 9 And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.” 10 Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice.

A. Elisha warned the king against the Syrian attacks…

B. What makes this so interesting is the country making war: Syria. In Ch 5 we saw God giving Syria victory in battle; here we see God working against Syria. … God can cause defeat just as easily as He can grant victory. …
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11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him.” And it was told him, saying, “Surely he is in Dothan.”

A. King of Syria was looking for a traitor…but it was Elisha that knew the plans.

B. Speaks of the omniscience of God. There is nothing God does not know…
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14 Therefore he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

A. Syria sent an army of raiders to go pick up one man. A bit of overkill! … Definitely overwhelming odds from a human point of view.

B. It was overwhelming odds from a spiritual point of view as well; only in the opposite direction! It didn’t matter how many soldiers came after Elisha, they would have been outnumbered by Almighty God! …
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17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

A. Can you imagine the scene? The same sort of chariots of fire that were present when Elijah was raptured to heaven are surrounding Elisha along with some kind of spiritual horses & presumably an army of angelic beings ready to do battle!

B. Get a little insight to the spiritual battle going on all around us. Scripture tells us very clearly that we don’t wrestle against flesh & blood, but against powers & principalities (Eph 6:12). Angels and demons do most definitely exist & from what little we know of them, we know they are constantly engaged in battle. [Daniel & the angel…Dan 10:13]

C. We need to have our eyes open to the spiritual battle around us! … That’s not to say that we should look for a demon behind every bush – but we do need to be aware that these things exist & are constantly moving & engaging. The way we take part is through prayer… …
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18 So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

A. Quite a bit of irony. The spiritual eyes of the young man were opened; the physical eyes of the Syrian raiders were closed. …
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19 Now Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” But he led them to Samaria. 20 So it was, when they had come to Samaria, that Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and there they were, inside Samaria!

A. Pretty savvy tactic. Elisha doesn’t do any physical harm to the Syrians (aside from blindness – which was temporary); he just deceives them into following him straight into the heart of the camp of the army of Israel! Like leading a burglar by the hand to the police station.
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21 Now when the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” 22 But he answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those whom you have taken captive with your sword and your bow? Set food and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” 23 Then he prepared a great feast for them; and after they ate and drank, he sent them away and they went to their master. So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel.

A. Mercy! Once disarmed, there was no reason to harm the raiders…obviously they weren’t going to be able to touch Elisha without God’s permission…

B. Why ought we show mercy? Because we have been shown much mercy! … We serve a merciful God…
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24 And it happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria. 25 And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged it until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver.

A. The raiders may have stopped coming into Israel, but Ben-Hadad & the army didn’t. They besieged Samaria & set up a blockade, forcing a famine & hyper-inflation on to the people. The donkey’s head (not exactly the most desirable cut of meat!) went for ~2 lbs of silver; a ½ pint of seeds (normally given to feed animals) went for ~2 oz of silver. People were forced to result to awful things simply to survive. See vs. 26…
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26 Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” 27 And he said, “If the LORD does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?” 28 Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.”

A. Words fail to describe the awfulness. When mothers result to cannibalizing their children for food, things are beyond “bad”…things are abhorrent. …

B. As awful as this is, this was exactly the sort of thing prophesied by God through Moses. Deuteronomy 28:52-53 (52) “They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you. (53) You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. [] …. The bottom line is that Israel brought this upon themselves! They abandoned God, forsook the Law, and brought the curses God had warned them about.
__a. God is absolutely faithful to His word…ALL of it. When God says He is merciful, we rejoice in His mercy. But when He says that we will reap what we sow, we try to re-interpret what God said… Take God at His word. What He says, He will do. …
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30 Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes; and as he passed by on the wall, the people looked, and there underneath he had sackcloth on his body. 31 Then he said, “God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today!”

A. The king responded two ways. (1) With mourning, which was appropriate… (2) By shifting the blame, which was wrong. He blamed Elisha rather than their own apostasy. …
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32 But Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. And the king sent a man ahead of him, but before the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, “Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent someone to take away my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?” 33 And while he was still talking with them, there was the messenger, coming down to him; and then the king said, “Surely this calamity is from the LORD; why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”

A. Kind of hard to take someone by surprise when that person is informed by the omniscient God. 🙂 Elisha knew the trap was coming & deflected his arrest. …

B. Meanwhile the king continues to show his lack of faith. He understands that the Lord allowed this siege to take place, but he’s willing to abandon the Lord because of it.
__a. Knowing about the Lord & having faith in the Lord are not the same thing.

Conclusion:
Gotta leave off there…nothing like a good cliffhanger.  God WILL act, and the immensity of His grace will be in proportion to the tragedy that Israel currently faces…truly amazing!

• Naaman was blind…until he humbled himself before the Lord & was immersed in the grace of God.
• Gehazi was blind due to his own greed – and suffered the consequence of sin
• Elisha’s helper was blind until his eyes were opened by God to see the wonders of God around him
• The Syrian raiders were literally blinded by the work of God until He demonstrated His mercy
• The king of Israel? He remained blinded to the work of God – preferring to roll in his own flesh.

All of us likely know people that fit each example – perhaps we fit one of them personally. There are some (like the king) who stubbornly refuse to see the work of God around them, even when they are confronted with inescapable evidence. There are some who just don’t know better (like the Syrians) who are temporarily blinded due to sin, and others (like Gehazi) who experience ongoing consequence of sin due to their blindness. Yet there are still others who have their blindness removed by the grace of God. Whether in our initial salvation (like Naaman) in which we are cleansed, or in our ongoing walk with Christ as our eyes are continually opened to the work of God around us.

That’s where we want to be…not to be blinded, but seeing. We serve a God who specializes in giving sight to the blind – may we continually seek Him, and ask Him to reveal the areas in which we are blind (either knowingly or not) in order that we may see Jesus.

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