The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 16
The Prophet Series: Elisha part 16
2KI 5:10-16 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." But Naaman was furious and went away and said, "Behold, I 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 the place, and cure the leper.' "Are not Abanah and 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. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, "Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now." But he said, "As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing." And he urged him to take it, but he refused.
For all of Naaman's faults there must have been something about him, other than his bravery on the battlefield, that made his household and his soldiers desire his well being. The little Jewish girl in his home desired his healing as did this servant. If he was only a tyrant they would have desired his death as quickly as possible. As Naaman walks away in rage, his servant was not afraid to come near and speak cordially to him with wisdom and compassion.
This shows us how quickly our whole life can turn due to one event. If Naaman walks away in his continued rage, he is not cleansed and will not ever come to know Yavah Elohim. One kind word from a person can be the difference between life and death. This is a marvelous thing, but we know that God is fully in control, and He sends people into our lives to speak to us and serve us though we are so unworthy of it. God knows what we will choose, and He only has to send one person at the proper time in order to reveal that choice.
Grace supplies what cannot be attained in any other way. God does not give to us what could have been had from someone else. We must remember this when we are in the service of God and serving another. God is using us. We are the vessel of honor in the Potter's hands. There will always be the temptation to take some credit for the good you do, but there is no need for it. The Spirit of God is within you, leading you, crying out within your heart, convincing you that you are a child of God and a fellow heir with Christ, so that you will act in love and sacrifice. Grace was given through you in the service of another - no need to let the right hand know what the left is doing. Give no thought to yourself, and just do as He shows you and empowers you to do. Don't become a spectator of your own life, admiring it as a fan in the bleachers. Forget yourself completely and be who you are now as a believer, which for you is now the most normal life. To admire yourself performing God's good work to another would be akin to admiring how you brush your teeth. This is now you. This is now normal.
If Naaman had rejected his servant's reasoning and gone back to Damascus, who would be to blame? Certainly it would not have been God's fault. Everything was provided for Naaman's healing. The instructions were not what he imagined, but none the less, all he had to do was put faith in them. Similarly, God is not to blame for the person who walks away from His gospel without faith. Christ has died for all. All have been given the olive branch of reconciliation through faith in Christ. God offers complete cleansing if a person will accept Jesus as their Savior, but if the sinner walks away in pride and disbelief, and walks headlong into judgment and destruction, then he will only have himself to blame. As Jesus before Jerusalem, we should all weep for them, for God takes no pleasure in it.
EZE 18:30-32 "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct," declares the Lord God. "Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord God. "Therefore, repent and live."
Angels sing songs of joy when one sinner repents. We are not told how they react when a sinner remains in unbelief, but we would assume it would be as God's.
Notice that the servant speaks to Naaman kindly and wisely, but confidently. There is no sternness or bitterness in his words. Certainly, a servant wouldn't talk to his master in such a way, but that doesn't detract from the point that if we ever find ourselves in the same position, called to reprove, we are commanded to do so with gentleness and wisdom.
The servant understands the mindset of the great warrior, which is the same in most men. If Elisha had asked him to do something great, then he would have, motivated by his pride and more comfortable with exceeding effort. As we stated in the last blog, the ease of the gospel constitutes its greatest difficulty. Religions ask people to go through elaborate rituals, or to jump through numerous hoops consisting of good works, and all of this is quite easy to obtain as would a new exercise regimen. The gospel requires only faith, and humanity finds this extraordinarily hard.
The servant's a-fortiori reasoning breaks through Naaman's rage. If he was willing to do something great, why not take a dip in the Jordan. The logic is too simple and too plain. He goes.
We can imagine that every so often while he was on the way to the Jordan, he might have said to himself, "This is stupid. This is a waste of time. I might as well go home." How often we are on the way to doing the will of God and such temptations come upon us. It would be terrible to listen to that voice and turn back. If you have determined that such a thing is God's will, then the reasonings that pop up in your soul must all be set aside. Keep going! Keep taking the next step! That's all you have to do. You might think of all kinds of reasons after you have set upon the journey, but none of them have any merit if the path you are on is God's will. Don't lose your faith to a human argument. They do not have remotely the same value. Reach forward to the upward call and forget the downward ones.
On the shore of the Jordan, as its cool, clean waters slid by to his right, for they flow south, Naaman the leper must have wondered about all that transpired to bring him to the spot. Leprosy was incurable, and so it was thought to be a curse by Jews and Gentiles alike. Naaman would have assumed that his Syrian gods cursed him with it, and so a cure from the God of Israel would have great significance in showing that He was the one true God above all others. Well, he came all this way, he might as well go in.
But we remember that he has to go in and come out seven times. We understand the significance of the number seven in reference to God's perfection, though Naaman may not know this, or care. We wonder what would go through his mind as he went in once, then twice, then three times, etc. Did he feel like a fool? Was this a joke played upon him by his enemies the Jews? Were they all back at the palace laughing at him, and wondering how they got him to do it? Fourth time, fifth time… "should I go one more?" One wonders at his anticipation and anxiety level after the sixth time. One more dip - "will I really be cured?"
Naaman comes out of the Jordan the seventh time and his skin is as clear, clean, and soft as a baby's. The rush of truth to his mind that this reality must have conjured was truly something to behold. Yavah, and only Yavah can make a man clean, by faith and not by works lest any man, Jew or Gentile, may boast.
Only those who have passed from death to life could possibly know how he felt. We don't feel being saved, but we feel the effects of knowing that we now have eternal life. How amazing that truth is when it passes into our souls and we are without doubt. Naaman just has to see and feel his immediate cleansing. He passed from death to life, from despair in a certain ugly death to blessed life, from bondage to freedom.
Some have taken this to be an indication of salvation by water baptism, which it is nothing of the kind. Naaman is not a saved man just because he went into the Jordan, nor because he is healed of leprosy. His salvation depends on faith in the same Savior as everyone else. It was clearly apparent to Naaman that Yavah was God and Naaman turned to Yavah Elohim in faith.
Elisha is sure that now, Naaman would not misinterpret his presence and meets him freely as a fellow believer in the God of Israel. Elisha had been preaching the gospel in all the land for years. How he had wished that every Israelite would have burst out in child-like faith as the Syrian did.
2KI 5:15 When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, "Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now."
He clearly confesses, not that he accepts that there is a God in Israel, but that he believes that the Elohim of Israel is the only true and living God. If Elisha is a picture of Christ, and he is, then Naaman is a picture of the Gentiles who would be brought into all the blessings of God.
Naaman is no longer in front of Elisha's home with horses and chariots in a show of strength, rather, he addresses himself as Elisha's servant. His salvation has changed him, humbled him, and removed from him all the baggage of self-proclaimed strength and pride. What joy this must have been to Elisha. That day was worth all of his toil, sacrifice, hardship, and work for the gospel of Christ.
When the believer realizes just how free and clean he has been made by Christ, his heart is filled with gratitude. True gratitude is never silent, and gratitude to God reaches out to others. The alabaster box filled the house with its fragrance, the entire price of all the land was laid at the apostle's feet, Onesiphorus lovingly searched high and low among the prisoners of Rome for the captive Paul, the Macedonians abounded in giving out of their poverty. In like manner, Naaman offers his gift to the prophet. There would be nothing wrong with this if it would not be construed by all of Syria as the price of the warrior's healing, and so it must be rejected. However, the gratitude of Naaman is not silent.
We have seen Elisha takes gifts from those who were truly grateful, as in the Shunammite woman, and no doubt Naaman has that same pure heart, but for the reason of the gospel of grace, it cannot be accepted. None of us should give or accept any gift that is given grudgingly, boastfully, proudly, and as bestowing favor rather than receiving favor for the act of giving. As God said to Israel when they offered their sacrifices in this way, "Bring your worthless offerings no longer," ISA 1:13.
Elisha and Naaman couldn't have been any more unlike each other before that day, and now they have something eternally in common. They are both, Jew and Gentile, beneficiaries of the grace of God. In heaven, we will have the privilege of having both of them relate the events of that day in greater detail. How many such stories will we pine for in our eternity in heaven?
All praise to the grace of God,