You Shall Be Clean
Even a brief reading of history and sociology reveals humanity’s inability to fix our broken world. Not so long ago, we were told that people did bad things because they were poor; if we dealt with the material need, then we would see better behavior. Now, in some of the world’s most affluent countries, some sociologists explain that greed, corruption, and murder are the result of having too much. Experts and world leaders stand before these external forces in bewilderment, looking for answers in all the wrong places.
Naaman had a condition that made him unhappy and was downright ugly to deal with. He had the resources to try any cure he wanted, and he presumably was prepared to go to any length. The problem was that he was looking in the wrong places. His status, wealth, and royal connections did not produce the remedy he desired, and in going to the king of Israel for relief, his request brought dismay; the king tore his clothes because he knew he could not help (2 Kings 5:7).
The king’s response was the same kind of reaction that many of our world leaders likely have as they travel the globe, seeking to do what they can in public service. Surely in the watches of the night, they must feel like tearing their clothes and saying, “How can I deal with this and make a difference? How can we bring peace? How can we bring a cure?”
What the king could not do, though, God’s prophet could. But the cure sounded offensive to the leper! Naaman was looking for something grand—something that would fit his lofty status and leave him with a bolstered sense of self-importance. He thought the cure should be less simple or more impressive. He regarded Elisha’s remedy as humiliating and ridiculous.
While actual leprosy has been largely eradicated, we all still live with that ugly, terminal condition called sin. Yet many are no more ready to listen to the cure than Naaman was. The message of Christ crucified as the only and sufficient remedy for our sin was “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23), and it is still those things to many today. Even believers are not immune to the temptation to think that when it comes to a cure for sin, we must do something.
We need daily to open our eyes to the remedy we need and to stoop down in humility, as Naaman eventually did (2 Kings 5:14). For it is the person who does that who can know that the words “You shall be clean” are a thing of the past, and who can rejoice that Jesus sees them and says, “You are clean” (John 13:10-11; 15:3). Do not look in the mirror and think that the cure is found in who you are or what you do; instead, look through the window of faith, see the cross, and know that He did it all.
Naaman Healed of Leprosy
1Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.1 2Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. 3She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels2 of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house. 10And 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.” 11But 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. 12Are not Abana3 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. 13But 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’?” 14So 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.
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