Naaman, the Syrian

Naaman is the person on the other side of the graciousness of his wife’s servant girl, which we discussed several posts ago.  The story is in 2 Kings 5:1-18.  Scripture paints quite a picture of him.

He seems to have been a lot less willing to receive a blessing than she had been to give it.  Or perhaps it was because he thought the God of Israel, or at least His prophet, was like Burger King:  you got it your way.  Lotta people just like him today.  Turned out he was wrong.

1.  He got the message wrong, vs. 3-5.

The servant girl pointed him to the prophet in Samaria, v. 3.  Naaman went to his own king, and told him what the girl had said, v. 4.  Scripture does say that he told the king what the girl had said.  But the king got it wrong, because he was going to send an embassy to the king of Israel.  Granted, we don’t know all that was involved in this.  Perhaps it was something of a matter of diplomacy.  After all, Syria and Israel were enemies.  (Things haven’t changed much, have they?).

Furthermore, the message to Israel’s king was wrong, as if Israel’s king could heal Naaman.  That’s not what the girl said.  Naaman was to go to the prophet in Samaria.  But the king didn’t mention that.

There are a lot of people today who believe that the answer to our problems is political.  Just get the right people in office and that will take care of it.  However, our problems aren’t political.  They’re not even economic or environmental.  Those problems are the result of our real problem, which is spiritual and moral.  We’ve told God that we’ll do things our way for the last 60 or so years in this country.  God said, “Let’s see how that works out for you.”

I don’t agree with those Christians who can’t be bothered to get involved, even to so much as vote.  But any “solution” that doesn’t deal with the root problem in our society is just a band-aid on a deadly cancer.

The king sent Naaman with an embassy to the king of Samaria, with an expensive gift.  But the things of God aren’t for sale.  A wing for a children’s hospital, large sums spent to better the poor of the world – these might be needful in their place, but they have no spiritual effect, except to make things worse for us, because we tend to trust them instead of God.  Massive amounts of money given to missions might be needful, but what is the mission?

And the king of Samaria got it wrong, too.  He was concerned that his enemy was picking a fight.  It apparently never occurred to him to seek out “the prophet in Samaria” for help.

2.  He got the method wrong.

When Namaan finally got to the prophet, he expected a show.  He thought, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over place, and heal the leprosy,” v. 11.

He was furious when the prophet merely sent him a message to go wash in the Jordan seven times, v. 10.  Elisha couldn’t even be bothered to deliver the message in person.  This also made Naaman mad.

He wanted to know why the rivers of his native country weren’t good enough.  I’ve never seen the Jordan River, but I’ve heard that, as rivers go, it isn’t all that impressive.  And I certainly know nothing of the rivers Naaman mentioned.  But Naaman wanted to do things his way.

The Gospel message, in effect, is “Wash in the blood of the Lamb, and be clean.”  Cf. Revelation 1:5.  This doesn’t mean literally, but is a figure of speech.  It means to trust in the Lord’s death for sin and sinners.  It means to put our faith in Him and what He did on the Cross.

Today is Good Friday.  A lot of people will do the things they do on this day without stopping to consider what the day means.  It’s the day the Lord Jesus was put on a Roman cross.  It’s the day that He became the only sacrifice for sin that is successful.  It’s the day that God marked, “PAID” to the sin debt of believers.

Yet a lot of people want to know why their own “rivers” aren’t good enough.  They look to the river of good works, or or some rite or ceremony.  Their mom or grandma or father was a Christian.  They belong to the church.

Etc., etc.

But there’s only one “river” that can cleanse from sin:  the river of blood the Lord shed for sinners on the Cross.  He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.  Our times, all about “diversity” and “pluralism,” don’t like what they call such bigotry.  But it’s still true that “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13, 14.

There only ever has been, and ever will, one way of salvation.

3.  He did get what he was looking for.

It’s a good thing that his servants were wiser than he was.  He was willing to do some great, heroic act to be healed.  His servants wanted to know then, why he wouldn’t just “wash and be clean?” v. 13.

It’s pretty much always been true that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

And it’s still true that the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 1 Corinthians 1:18.

But there are some who, wiser than the intelligentsia of the world, will come to that river and wash in it and be clean.

Naaman was finally willing to do it God’s way.

He wasn’t just healed of his disease.  Scripture says that his flesh was restored like that of a little child and he was clean, v. 14, emphasis added.  Now, here was a man probably in his forties or fifties, a man who’d led a hard life, much of it outdoors and much of it in battle.  He probably bore the scars and evidence of that life.  I don’t want to read into it more than the Scripture says, but it’s possible that those were all gone and his skin was as soft as a little child’s.

He got more than he expected.

Likewise, for those who wash in the river of the blood of the Lamb, we get more than we expected.

Now that doesn’t mean health and wealth and all the stuff prosperity preachers preach.  I believe it’s very likely, considering the way things have gone recently, that it will soon cost to be a faithful Christian.  It already does in a large part of the world.

Things I would never have believed possible not all that long ago are happening, and they’re not going to go away.

But neither is God.

There is coming a time when, as Peter put it, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, or, is at home, 2 Peter 3:13.

I have very little hope for this present world.

My hope is in God.

 

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