Sunday Sermon: ‘Clean!’

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One of the amazing things about the Bible is that it puts us all on the same level. It doesn’t matter to the Bible if you are rich or poor, young or old, important or insignificant. The Bible sees everyone through the eyes of God and therefore it reveals to us who we really are.

There’s an interesting story in the Old Testament about a proud man who had to be humbled. God struck him down so that He could lift him up.

2 Kings 5:1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.

Leprosy, as many of you know, is a terrible disease and it seems that during the days of the Bible, so many people suffered from it. It was an infectious skin disease that destroyed body tissue and often left the victim deformed. It attacked certain parts of the nervous system and body parts such as hands, feet and the face. There was often a twisting of limbs and tumor-like growths. There are many other things that could be said to help describe the disease of leprosy, but perhaps worst of all was that leprosy was highly contagious. That meant that those who contracted it were forced away from the rest of society and had to live in leper colonies. Some have described those having leprosy as the ‘living dead.’

Naaman was the captain of Syria’s army and therefore second only to the king. He had risen to this place of prominence because of his military valor. The Bible says that he was ‘honorable’ which probably means that he was well decorated as a soldier. He had everything going for him except one thing. Naaman was a leper. His power and position hadn’t kept him from contracting this terrible disease for which there was no known cure. There was no special herb or spice in the middle east that could heal Naaman. The philosophers of Greece and Rome had no words of wisdom to take his sickness away. The magicians down in Egypt couldn’t conjure up a healing potion. Naaman was hopelessly doomed. He was brought to the lowest stage of life. But in this low position, God was able to begin a plan to help Naaman and God’s plan started with the counsel of a child.

It’s been said that a man is never so tall as when he stoops to help a child. For Naaman, a man was never so fortunate as when he listened to the advice of a child.

2 Kings 5:2 And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. 4 And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.

I’m sure her parents must have been destroyed when their little daughter had been so cruelly snatched away. How could God allow something like this to happen? Why would God allow something like this to happen? Yet little did they know that God had a very special plan for how He would use this young girl’s life. God was going to use her to tell the world that there is a God in heaven who can and will help each of us here on earth.

When Naaman’s wife told him what this young girl had said, Naaman was so desperate for help that he quickly went to his king and asked for permission to go and find this prophet.

5 And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.

In today’s market, that was nearly 1/4 of a million dollars in silver and over 2 million dollars in gold. An enormous amount of money which illustrates how desperate Naaman was to find a cure.

Naaman went straight to the king of Israel in order to find the prophet. Perhaps he thought that such a man would surely hold a high position in Israel’s kingdom, or perhaps he thought that a man of his own importance would cause such a prophet to come to him.

2 Kings 5:6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying , Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. 7 And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. 8 And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.

The prophet’s name was Elisha which means ‘God is Salvation.’ Because God was in all of this, He revealed to Elisha that Naaman would be coming and therefore Elisha sent word for Naaman to come to where he was staying.

2 Kings 5:9 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. 11 But Naaman was wroth, 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 strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

Naaman was still struggling with his pride and couldn’t understand why the prophet didn’t come outside to see him. Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “Naaman wished to be treated like a great man that happened to be a leper; Elisha treated him like a leper that happened to be a great man.” You see, according to the Bible, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. There is no one too high or important to not need God’s salvation, nor no one too low to not be able to receive it.

Naaman was angry that the prophet didn’t come out to greet him and give him personal attention. Even more he was angry that he was told to go and wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. All of this was an insult to his dignity and that’s exactly why God did it. God was humbling Naaman so that He could help him.

2 Kings 5:12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.

God had put Naaman between a rock and a hard place. Either he would humble himself and do what God’s man had said, or else go home die as a leper. Naaman was tempted to go home. Pride and prejudice was about to take over when one of his servants wisely stepped in and said to him –

2 Kings 5:13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

‘My lord, if he had asked for all of the gold and silver, would you not have given it to him in order to be made well? If he had asked for the sacrifice of 1,000 animals, yea 10,000 animals, would you not have done so? Who are you to debate ‘how’ God will make you clean, just as long as God will make you clean?

2 Kings 5:14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God…

Is seven a magical number? Seven is a symbolic number in the Bible. It speaks of completion or perfection and is always associated with the work of God. I wonder what it was like as ol’ Naaman dipped down in that muddy river. Perhaps he did the first time and looked at his leprosy with anger. Then after the second, third and fourth times, his anger began to give way to fear. Again he went down and again and after six times there was still no cure. Perhaps by now there a feeling of panic sweeping over his body. “Was he only fooling himself? Could even this radical Jewish prophet cure him? Did the God of Israel care about a Syrian soldier?” Then he went down one more time.

2 Kings 4:14 … and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

What a joyous moment that must have been. The God of heaven had been gracious to him.

Conclusion

The story of Naaman is a great story, but it’s more than a story. It actually happened and it illustrates for us an important truth. Leprosy is a symbol of sin. There is no human cure for sin. Money can remove us and pride can’t ignore it. The Bible says –

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned , and come short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

But the Bible also says in Romans 6:23 “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Naaman is representative of us all. We all have been contaminated with the disease of sin. Yet there is a place of cure that is so simple, that even a child can understand it. That place is where “God is salvation.” The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus is God’s place of divine healing and His cleansing power is in His blood. There’s an old song that the church often sings.

What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Have you been washed in the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? Christ will wash you today and make you white as snow. For help, click on: ‘How to Become a Christian.’

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