“Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” (2 Kings 5:10)
I read the account of Naaman in the Bible the other day, and I think it has a number of applications for our lives. Naaman was a commander of the army of Syria - pretty much the highest-ranking officer. It is recorded that he was a "great man", "an honourable man in the eyes of his master", and "a mighty man of valour". In other words, he was very important and really close to the king, because through Naaman the Lord had given victory to Syria. However, Naaman also suffered from leprosy.
At this time Syria was a dominant nation in the Middle East and was often at war with the neighbouring country of Israel. On one of their raids the Syrians had taken an Israelite girl who later became maid to Naaman’s wife. One day this girl commented to her mistress: “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:3) Naaman’s wife told her husband, and he reported this to the king of Syria, obviously thinking it was worth a shot. The king told Naaman to go to Israel, and sent a letter with him to the king of Israel, requesting a cure for Naaman's leprosy.
So Naaman went to Elisha’s house with all his pomp and procession, only to be greeted by a messenger who said to him: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” (2 Kings 5:9) At this Naaman was deeply offended. After all, he was an important man, and this prophet of God wouldn’t even come to greet him personally and heal him. He said: “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?” (2 Kings 5:11-12)
You see, Elisha’s actions did not meet Naaman’s expectations. Naaman’s real problem wasn’t the outward rotting of leprosy, but rather the inward rotting of his heart due to pride. Despite his physical illness, Naaman was a man of great wealth, prestige, honour and power. He wanted Elisha to respond to this worldly success in an appropriate way. However, Elisha didn't even come out of his home to greet him, instead sending a messenger. Naaman's angry response reveals the condition of his heart.
Then Naaman's servants reminded him of the reason that he had come to Israel:
“My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13) Naaman had travelled miles to heal his leprosy and undoubtedly had tried every other cure in the book. He had sworn to do anything to heal his leprosy, no matter how hard. And here was this man of God telling him just to wash himself in a river.
But you see, the point is that Naaman had to get over his pride to do this. He had to humble himself before the almighty God, get down from his horse, walk to the river and wash.
Naaman followed Elisha's instructions, and the Bible says that when he did this, "his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." (2 Kings 5:14)
The truth of the matter is that we aren't that different from Naaman. Pride, according to some theologians, is the root of all sin. C.J. Mahaney says: "Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the stauts and position of God or refuse to ackowledge their dependence on Him." Charles Bridge says it is when we "contend for supremacy" with God.
Like Naaman, it is not our outward body that is the problem, but our inner being - our heart, which refuses to be humble before the almighty God. Pride can take many forms, but it has one goal: self-glorification. As long as we are building ourselves up, we will never seek God or give Him the glory that He alone deserves.
So the challenge today is to see yourself for who you are. We are wretched sinners according to God's law, and sin has rotted our insides just as leprosy had rotted Naaman's flesh. We are headed for death and hell, which is the just punishment for our sin. The Bible says: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
However, there is good news: if we humble ourselves, see our true state before an almighty and righteous God, and ask for His forgiveness, then God promises in His word that He will wash us with the blood of Jesus, which was shed for our sins. If we repent of our sins and ask God for forgiveness, He will make us clean, as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
Praise and glory and power and dominion be to the Lord our God forever!