The Bible says he was “a great man”, that he was “a mighty man of valor”. He was the commander of the army of the king of Syria. But for the many battles he had won, there was one in which he was perpetually on the losing side. Naaman was a leper. Couldn’t fight himself out of that one.
This morning I’m hovering over his story in 2 Kings 5. And what grabs me is that he was tripped up by the terms of salvation.
A Hebrew servant who was in service to Naaman’s wife informs her mistress that she thinks there’s a cure in Israel. If only Naaman were to see Elisha, “the prophet who is in Samaria” (v.3).
Having exhausted all traditional methods of treating his leprosy, he heads to Israel. Elisha gets word of his coming and sends a servant to prescribe the treatment that will rid Naaman of his leprosy.
And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”
(2Kings 5:10 ESV)
Sounds simple enough. Perhaps too good to be true, but hey, worth a shot. Or so you might think.
But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana 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.
(2Kings 5:11-12 ESV)
He was enraged! He was a man of position who deserved something much better than a mere messenger saying go wash in a foreign river. He didn’t like the terms of salvation from his leprosy.
But cooler heads persuade and prevail.
But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said 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.
(2Kings 5:13-14 ESV)
He wanted to be clean, but on his terms. He wanted victory over his rotting flesh, but in a way that seemed fitting for a man of his standing. But his servants cut to the chase, “Do you want to be clean or not? He’s told you how to be clean.” And Naaman, by the grace of God, in faith dips himself seven times in what God had determined would be a cleansing flow. He believed. He responded. He was clean.
How many get tripped up by the gospel because they don’t think it’s a fitting solution to their problems. Oh, they know they are broken, that their flesh is messed up, but to believe that cleansing comes through placing oneself beneath the shed blood of the risen Christ are terms they can’t — more accurately, won’t accept. But the bottom-line question remains. Do you want to be clean? Then, by faith, wash in the provision sent by a redeeming, renewing, regenerating God.
True of unbelievers? Yes, too often. True of believers? Unfortunately, also too often, I think. Not for our salvation from the penalty of sin, but for our sanctification, our on-going salvation from the power of sin. The terms of pursuing holiness something we think beneath us. And so we struggle with the remnants of rotting flesh rather than submitting to the messenger of the Spirit through God’s word as to how to be made whole.
How I need to bow in obedience to the terms of salvation.
For my continued cleansing. By His grace. For His glory.