"Am I God?"
2 Kings 5.7
I recently preached on 2 Kings 5 and experienced the common frustration of having so much more to lay before the congregation than I had time for. One thing in particular was the response of the Israelite king to the king of Aram's request that he should help Naaman (the Aramean commander) get healing from his leprosy.
Aram was the enemy of Israel and was enjoying a period of success in its battles against God people, so when the king of Israel receives the request he becomes very anxious indeed. He is anxious because he thinks that healing someone from leprosy is the equivalent of raising someone from the dead. As a result he thinks that the king of is using the letter as a 'cunning plan' to engineer a pretext for attacking Israel, "See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me" v.7. Perhaps he can imagine the response of the king of Aram, "That terrible king of Israel - he insulted the great nation of Aram, by not healing my commander, so we must attack."
At one level you can understand his fears - even the tearing of the clothes. What is strange though is that he so nearly gets the right answer. His first question, when he receives the request is: "Am I God?" His answer to the question though is despair. So close, yet so far. His real answer should have been, "Am I God? No, but I know the one who is." In fact this is in effect Elisha's point v.8.
So what blinded the king? I think it is because he was so practical. It's a common fault of the Old Testament kings: David counting his army; Jeroboam building a more convenient worship centre, so that his people will not defect to the Southern kingdom; Ahaz seeking alliances with other nations rather than Yahweh. This king, so wrapped up in the geopolitics of the region that he does not lift his eyes to heaven.
Sometimes you see this in the church family. There is a command from God's word, which seems incredibly challenging, so we will say, "Oh, but we need to be practical". Someone will suggest that we give more of our money away, but we will say, "Oh, but we need to be practical". Some new venture will arise that seems too hard for us, so we will say, "Oh, but we need to be practical". After a while we stop needing God at all, because we are so good at being practical. But then something hits us, like a hurricane on a still day, and our practical strength is no good. Then we will find ourselves tearing our clothes out, because it is no longer our habit to do the impractical thing of trusting in the Living God.