Sunday, November 13, 2016

[Matt's Messages] “No God in All the World Except in Israel”

“No God in All the World Except in Israel”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
November 13, 2016 :: 2 Kings 5:1-27

We’ve turned the corner from the first Book of Kings to the second Book of Kings. And we’ve turned the corner from the first major prophet in the Books of Kings, Elijah, to the second major prophet in the Books of Kings, Elisha.

But we have not been introduced to a second God.

It’s all been about the same God–Yahweh.

Yahweh is the God of 1 Kings, and He is the same God in 2 Kings. And He’s the same God forever.

He’s a God of Wonders. He’s is compassionate and powerful and generous.

Even though Israel’s kings have been dismal failures, two thumbs down, God has continued to graciously care for His people through His wonder-working prophet.

And in chapter 5, that prophet, Elisha, does yet another miracle that reveals the glory of Yahweh.

But this time, the miracle is done for someone who is...not a Jew.

Someone who is not from Israel at all.

Someone who, at least at the start of the story, does not yet even believe in the LORD!

And yet God shows his mercy and grace and power and glory to this man.

So that he proclaims the title of today’s message, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

And that’s the God that gets the glory.

Today, as we read this story, let’s see what it reveals about Who God truly is and what that means for us today.

The story in 2 Kings is very familiar to many. Other than the Elijah and the fiery chariot of chapter 2, this is probably the most familiar story in 2 Kings.

And for good reason. It’s a great little story. It’s really interesting and different, and it’s funny. There are so many humorous little twists and turns in these 27 verses. And it’s weird and strange like many of the other stories in the Books of Kings, so it keeps your interest the whole time.

Raise your hand if you already know this story.

I know you do, Wally. When Wally was a kid, his pastor, preached on this story and Wally still remembers the title, “Seven Ducks in a Muddy River,” right? Clever!

I remember Doreen Crandall of WTLR tell this story to our Kids for Christ at a Kick Off many years ago.

I remember our missionary Kim Cone preaching on this story a few different times when he was here.

And the president of Wheaton, Phillip Ryken, told this story to us at the last EFCA One national conference.

It’s a very familiar and beloved story to us.


It would not have been a beloved story for most Israelites.

In fact, it was more like a slap in the face.

You know why?

Because it was a story about how God was gracious to one of their enemies.

A man named “Naaman.”

Look at verse 1.

“Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.”

Now try to put yourself in the shoes of an ancient Israelite who is hearing this story for the first time.

Listen again to the first sentence.

“Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram.”

What would be your reaction if you were in the shoes of an ancient Israelite that hears that sentence?

“Boo! Hiss!” Right?

This is a bad guy.  We’ve already met this army of Aram. They are the enemies of Israel. Sometimes, Israel beats them. Sometimes, Israel loses to them.

And this guy is the current commander of the army.

And he’s big stuff back in Aram. Modern day Syria. Second sentence.

“He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded [his face was on the cover of Aram Today Magazine, he was a highly decorated general, had all the stars and bars. And so an Israelite had every reason to hate him. But catch where this goes! He was ‘highly regarded...”], because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram.”

Wait, what?

Who had given this guy victory?

The LORD? Yahweh? The God of Israel?!

Now, this does not mean that Naaman knew that Yahweh had given him victory or that he gave credit to Yahweh for his successes. It just means that the Bible knows where Naaman’s victories came from.

They were from the LORD.

Here’s point number (one of three) this morning.

The God of Israel is:


There is no God in all the world but the God of Israel, and He is sovereign.

He is in control.

He reigns and rules over all.

He is sovereign over even the victories of His people’s enemies.

And He uses them for His good purposes.

And one of the implications of that truth is that we shouldn’t get too saucy about our successes because they ultimately come, not from us, but from the LORD.

And on the flipside, we shouldn’t get too worried about our enemies’ victories either because they are in the hands of the LORD, as well. And He has good reasons for allowing them, in His wisdom.

Last sentence. “He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.”

And what do you say if you’re an Israelite?

“He’s got leprosy!

“He may be a winner, but he’s probably in pain all the time and he looks funny. Maybe he shouldn’t be on the cover of the magazine. His skin is all white and funny looking.

And he’s unclean. Uggh. He could never worship at the temple.

Not only is he a stinking Gentile, but he’s got a skin disease!”


That’s how an Israelite would feel about this story so far, right?

Well, there was at least one Israelite who didn’t feel that way.

Even though she might have had every reason to. V.2

“Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’”

This young girl demonstrates great faith and love.

We don’t know her name. But she’s a great example of both faith and love.

Imagine her life. She had been kidnaped by the Arameans.

Taken for a slave. Ripped away from her parents, from her homeland.

But here she is caring about her master, Naaman.

‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’”

Maybe Naaman was a good master. Maybe Mrs. Naaman was a good mistress easy to become endeared to.

I don’t know, but I do know that this little girl was not bitter about the hand that had been dealt to her. Instead, she showed love to the people around her.

She knew that the God of Israel was sovereign.

Not just over the big things like military victories, but over the relatively small things like the living situation of a little nameless slave girl.

Friends, the LORD is sovereign. So don’t get bitter.

You never know why the Lord may have you placed in a difficult situation.

You know that nothing “just so happens” right?

We says, “it just so happens that...” but there are no true accidents.

The world is broken, but it is not out of God’s control.

God is sovereign over victories and defeats.

Over wins and losses.

Over triumphs and kidnappings.

So don’t get saucy if you’re succeeding but also don’t get bitter if you are losing.

You never know why the Lord may have planned to put you in your situation.

You might even have leprosy so that you come to know God.

Or you might be forced into slavery so that you point others to God!

God is sovereign.

This little girl is a great example of faith. She knows the stories of the God of Wonders that we’ve been learning about in 2 Kings. She’s maybe heard of the healing of the water in Jericho, or the widow’s oil, or the Shunammite’s son, or the death in the pot that was no more, or the feeding of the hundred with the barley bread.

She knows that God is powerful and that He is doing miracles through Elisha. And she says, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’”

And Naaman hears about this and goes to the king with the news. V.4

“Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. ‘By all means, go,’ the king of Aram replied. ‘I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’ So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. [That is a fortune.] The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: ‘With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.’”

Now, this is curious.

Apparently, this is during a time of detente, a time of relative peace between the two nations. A cease-fire or a limited treaty.

And the king or Aram sent Naaman with a letter requesting that the king of Israel cure Naaman of his leprosy.

Now, again, how do you read this if you’re an ancient Israelite?

You might say, “Alright! Let’s see Elisha do it!”

But the letter doesn’t say anything about Elisha directly.

The king of Israel (probably Jehoram though it doesn’t say) is flabbergasted by the letter!  V.7

“As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, ‘Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!’”

See what I mean about this story being funny?

This is a thumbs-down king. And he’s just flabbergasted.

Who is he supposed to be contrasted with in this story?

The little girl, right?

She has no power, no social standing, and she’s not even in Israel, but she has faith.

He is the king! But he doesn’t even think about Elisha.

Poor guy. Thinks that the king of Aram is trying to make excuses for a fight.

Lucky for him, word reaches Elisha anyway. V.8

“When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: ‘Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.’ [Send him on down.] So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. [The motorcade pulls right up to the front door. Everybody gets out. Naaman walks up and knocks. But Elisha doesn’t answer it. I love it! V.10]

“Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’”

“Don’t stick around here. Go several miles away and take a bath, and all will be well. I don’t even need to stick my head out the door. Just go and do it. Okay? Go.”

Well, this doesn’t sit well with Naaman. V.11

“But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage.”

Here’s point number two.

The God of Israel is:


There is no God in all the world but the God of Israel, and He is particular.

What I mean is that God wants us to do things His way and no other way.

He’s particular about it.

God wants us to do things His way and no other way.

It’s not that He’s fussy. He’s holy.

It’s not that He hard to please. This request is not difficult or demanding. And we’re going to see that it’s completely and totally FREE.

But that doesn’t mean that it comes any which way.

It comes God’s way.

And that requires humility and faith.

This was offensive to Naaman.

He had a different idea of how He wanted God to work.

Have you ever had a different idea of how you wanted God to work?

How you expected God to work?

And He didn’t work that way?

I know I have.

I’ve been disappointed with God’s way. And I say that to my shame.

V.11 again.

“Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me [he’s used to be the one people come out to!] and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. [He wanted magic! He wanted hocus pocus. He wanted Benny Hinn.] Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?’ [Can’t I do it my way? With prestige!] So he turned and went off in a rage.”

I think he also expected to pay something for this great miracle.

That’s why he brought all of that money with him.

And Elisha wouldn’t even come to the door!

Have you ever felt like Naaman?

God’s way is counter-intuitive, surprising, and offensive to you?

It’s fundamentally humbling to do things God’s way.

So it takes humility and faith.

God is particular. He requires things to be done His way and only His way.

Salvation, for example.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Is that hard?


But it is particular.

God is inclusive in that everyone who comes to Him through Jesus will be saved.

But He is exclusive in that you must come through Jesus to get to Him.

You can’t come some other way.

You don’t call the shots.

The Lord calls the shots.

So humble yourself.

Is there another area, besides salvation where you need to humble yourself and begin to do things God’s particular way?

In your family?
At your work?
In your private life?

Humble yourself and do what God says.

Even if it doesn’t seem to add up at first.

He knows what He’s doing. He made the world in a particular way. And He wants His children to act in a particular way. To trust Him.

Humble yourself. Try it!

That’s what Naaman’s servants said to him. V.13

“Naaman's servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing [some difficult thing], would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!’ [It’s worth a try.]

So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times [1-2-3-4-5-6-7], as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”

Now if you are an ancient Israelite who is hearing this story for the first time, you’ve begun to root for Naaman and you’re really proud he listened to your Jewish prophet, Elisha, and got healed in your own river, Jordan, by your own God, the LORD.

And you love it when Naaman returns in verse 15.

“Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

There’s our title for today!

I wouldn’t say it that way. He’s a new believer, so he gets excused. He has much to learn.

The point is not that God is ONLY in Israel.

The point is that there is no other God than the God OF Israel.

Naaman will eventually learn that God is not limited to the boundaries of Israel.

But he knows now that the God of Israel is REAL and glorious and powerful and gracious even to a Gentile like him.

That’s number three, by the way.

The God of Israel is:


There is no God in all the world but the God of Israel, and He is gracious.

How gracious? He gives His best gifts out for FREE.

V.15 again.

“‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.’”

“Where do I pay?”

Like at the restaurant. “Do I pay you or at the counter?”

Neither. V.16

“The prophet answered, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.’ And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.”

The point is that this gift is free. It is gracious.

Naaman did not earn it and cannot pay for it.

No matter what he says.

“As surely as the LORD lives...I will not accept a thing.”

The LORD is gracious.


Salvation is a free gift. It does not come through our good works.

And we can’t even pay God back by doing good works!

Titus 3:5-6, “[He] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

That’s our God for you. He is so gracious.

You know why?

Well, it’s just the way He is.

But also because “the giver gets the glory.”  (A phrase from John Piper.)

If Naaman could boast that he paid enough to get healed, then Naaman would get he glory for his miracle.

But if Naaman couldn’t pay for it, then all the glory stays with God.

And God is jealous for His glory.

There is no God in all the world but the God of Israel, and He is gracious.

And He wants to be seen to be gracious, to be known to be gracious.

You must do things His way, but His way is FREE!

Naaman is overjoyed and you can tell that he’s beginning to “get it.” v.17

“‘If you will not [accept a gift],’ said Naaman, ‘please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD.

[If you won’t take a gift, please let me take a gift. A bunch of Israelite soil so that I can worship on Israelite soil back in my own homeland.

Now, I think that’s kind of superstitious. But he’s just been a believer for one day! And his instincts are right.

He is never again going to worship any other god but the God of Israel, Yahweh! V.18]

But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also–when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.’”

He’s not saying that he is planning to worship this false god, but that his work requires him to be present and respectful when his boss does.

But in his heart, he’s with the LORD. That’s great spiritual sensitivity for someone who was a pagan just yesterday! And it seems to be enough for now. V.19

“‘Go in peace,’ Elisha said.”

And I wish the story ended there.

Because we’ve already seen a God who is sovereign over the big and the small, the mighty and the powerless, a God who is particular and requires we humble ourselves and do things His way and only His way, a God who is gracious who gives away His mercies to those who do not deserve them and cannot pay for them.

But this story isn’t over.

And we can’t miss this last bit.

Because it’s really important to the Lord.

His grace is really important to the Lord.  V.19

“After Naaman had traveled some distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, ‘My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.’

So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. ‘Is everything all right?’ he asked.

‘Everything is all right,’ Gehazi answered. ‘My master sent me to say, 'Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.'’

‘By all means, take two talents,’ said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi.

When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left. Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha.

‘Where have you been, Gehazi?’ Elisha asked. ‘Your servant didn't go anywhere,’ Gehazi answered. But Elisha said to him, ‘Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants?

Naaman's leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.’ Then Gehazi went from Elisha's presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.”

Why is this story in your Bible?

Why isn’t there a happy ending to this story?

Well, for one, it’s true. This is what happened.

For two, it’s to show us that Gehazi won’t ever be the successor of Elisha like Elisha was for Elijah.

And third, it shows us the ugly sinfulness of greed and covetousness and lying and deception.

But why was the penalty so severe?

I think it was because Gehazi was perverting the grace of God.

His actions here sent the wrong message about how free God’s grace really is.

You know in the ancient world, there were these rules that govern hospitality. You would offer something several times. And it might get refused several times, but that was all show. It was all ritual.

Some places in the world are like that. My sister-in-law and her husband have been to Ireland a number of times. And they have to refuse something 3 times for it stick.

“No, thank you.”
“No, thank you.”
“No, thank you.”

They don’t believe you unless you say it three times.

What do you think Naaman might have thought when Gehazi showed up?

“Oh finally, we now know what the price really was.”

He said it was completely free, but that was just for show.

Gehazi was perverting the grace of God.

God’s gifts are not fee-based. That’s a lie.

And it’s a heresy.

When it comes to salvation, when Paul hears someone talking like you can earn your salvation, working towards it, he says that it is damnable heresy.

Don’t try to earn God’s favor or to distort His grace by extorting from others.

It doesn’t work that way.

And it angers our God.

Our God is a gracious God, and it’s dangerous to present Him as anything but.

God will not be mocked and He will not be used.

And He wants to be known as the abundantly merciful and gracious One who lavishes people with unmerited favor.

Did you see (in verse 20) how Gehazi thought that Elisha had let Naaman off too easy?

We can be like that, too. We can get mad about how gracious God is.

That’s what happened to the older brother right, in Jesus’ story about the prodigal son?

He got angry that God was gracious to the big sinner.

The people Jesus preached to Luke 4 felt the same way.

They didn’t like it that Jesus was saying that Gentiles who had not even been a part of the people of Israel were getting saved and experiencing God’s favor even passing over nice, religious, legalistic Jewish men and women.

He said, “And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed–only Naaman the Syrian.”

And they were furious when they heard that and tried to kill Jesus.

They didn’t succeed, but they tried.

Don’t get angry about God’s grace.

Receive it, humbly. And then pass it on.

Don’t be like Gehazi. Hoarding God’s grace and goodness.

Be like the little Jewish slave girl who knew that God was sovereign and He was good. And she wanted to share Him with others.

And be like Naaman who humbled himself and received the gift of God.

And trusted in the only God there truly is.

There is no God in the all the world, except the God of Israel, whose son is Jesus Christ.


Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders