By Steve Curtis
“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scripture might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Paul’s statement to the Romans is as equally important to us today. Many great lessons can be learned from a study of the Old Testament and its characters.
One character who makes for such an interesting study is Naaman (2 Kgs. 5). Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, is described as being great. As for the character of Naaman, he was honorable and a mighty man of valor. However, there was one major flaw in the life of Naaman, something which neither his position nor his character could overcome. He was a leper.
Naaman Was A Leper
To understand how big a flaw this was, one must know something about leprosy. Leviticus 13 enlightens us. Here leprosy can be described as follows:
vv. 1-3 a swelling scab with a bright spot which was turned white and eaten into the flesh
v. 8 a disease which spreads over the body v. 10 has the appearance of raw flesh
v. 18 a sore described as a boil
vv. 42-44 causes hair to fall out
v. 8; 47-59 is contagious
No matter what position Naaman had achieved or would achieve, he had a dreaded disease. It would be comparable to someone in our society contracting AIDS. Ask anyone today if they would like to be C.E.O. of the largest business in America, but in order to take this position he would have to contract AIDS. How many people do you think would desire this office? How many people would want to be a commander of an army if it meant being a leper as well?
Like Leprosy, There Is No
Man-Made Cure For Sins
As we consider this man Naaman, what lessons can we learn from this story? First, the characteristics of leprosy can be related to those of sin. During the days of Naaman there was no man-made cure for leprosy. Neither the king of Syria nor the king of Israel could cure Naaman of his leprosy. He had to go to the prophet Elisha who told him what the will of God was (2 Kgs. 5:3-7).
Today, there are no man-made cures for sin. However, the sad thing is that there are those who believe in man-made cures. Many turn to the pope, priests, reverends, and preachers for their cure of sin, but the cure does not lie within man’s power.
Suppose some doctor has medicine which will destroy the AIDS virus and those tormented with this disease are searching for this medicine which will save their life. As they are searching, some man approaches them saying he is a doctor and he has the cure, the miracle medicine Ro1AIDS. How many suffering from this dreaded disease will be cured if they take this medicine? Sure, it might relieve them of their heartburn and gas, but they will still die from the effects of AIDS. Or, suppose another man comes along claiming to be a doctor and tells these people all they have to do to be cured from their deadly virus is to go to the pharmacy of their choice and select the medicine of their choice. Do you think many people will be cured from their AIDS obeying these instructions? This scenario fits a description of the religious world around us. Because of men like Billy Graham, many people are going to die in their sins, believing they have received a man-made cure for sin.
The cure for sin lies solely within the power of God. It is by the grace of God that men are saved (Eph. 2:8). Through God’s grace, Christ came to this world and shed his blood on the cross. Here is the cure, Christ’s blood. John says in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Both Leprosy and Sin Will Destroy The Body
Secondly, sin is just as loathsome and defiling as leprosy. It would be a horrible sight to see someone’s body being eaten away with leprosy. Just think how often we bathe, brush our teeth, put on deodorant, etc. Being Americans, we are basically a clean people. How many wives would be concerned if their husband failed to bathe for a week, or a month, or a year? Would parents be concerned if their children were not clean? Of course they would. Parents know that “cleanliness is next to godliness.” Why then do some ignore sin in their lives?
If the spiritual effects of sin could be seen, men would see just how loathsome (utterly disgusting) sin is. They would see sin eating away at their flesh and their soul and it would be avoided like we avoid contracting leprosy, AIDS, or any other disease. There are many who do not comprehend the filth of sin. Many simply ignore it. Others make “sport” of sin (Prov . 10:23). The word of God refers to these people as being foolish (Prov. 14:9). A fool does not respect anyone or anything, including God and sin. There is a reason why such a person is called a fool. One may choose to ignore sin, but when contaminated by it, ignorance will not rid the curse. Naaman could have tried to ignore his leprosy, but it would not have taken it away.
We know that coming into contact with the blood of an AIDS victim will threaten our life. We will take heed and will not ignore this fact because of the dire consequences it holds. Why then are some Christians today ignoring those things which, if we come in contact with them, will promote ungodliness, lead to sin, and destroy our spiritual well being? This attitude can be seen in different areas. One example is dancing.
Dancing seems to be harmless. Some refer to it as exercise. Others look at dancing as a social function which promotes friendship, acceptance, and memories to last a lifetime. This is Satan’s way of disguising his weapons. He hides the fact that dancing promotes wantonness, that is lasciviousness, a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19) He conceals the fact that sin will destroy the soul just as a disease destroys the body. Ask any honest, healthy teenage boy or any responsible parent what will be promoted when a young lady and a young man, enclosed in the arms of one another, move their bodies back and forth to the sway of music, in a dimly lit romantic atmosphere. Will it promote friendship? Will it promote acceptance among a peer group? Will it create memories to last a lifetime? The answer to these questions might be yes, but does that take away from the fact that dancing promotes ungodliness? No! Would the same boy avoid coming into contact with the AIDS virus or leprosy? Would the same parent ignore their son coming into contact with a deadly disease? Certain not. It is easy for them to see the dangers of life threatening diseases. Why is it not as easy for some to see that sin is a threat to their spiritual life?
The devil has many things in his arsenal of sin. Beware of his weapons which lure, entice, and disguise his death threat (Rom. 6:23). The lure of a “social” drink of intoxicants is only a temptation to sin (1 Pet. 4:3; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). Beware of “stylish” dress and mixed swimming which disguise the sin of immodesty, a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19). Beware of “petty” gambling, the office pools, the football cards, the lottery, all of which contaminate the soul and lead to death. As Naaman’s position and character did not bring him comfort for his leprosy, whatever benefit we obtain from participating in sin, whatever position we achieve in this life, and no matter how great our character is considered to be by men, these will not bring comfort to our soul for our sins (Prov. 13:15).
Like Naaman, We Must Overcome
Self To Obey God
When Naaman learned of the proper source for the cure of his leprosy, we can find another lesson. Naaman received the message from Elisha to go and dip in the Jordan seven times and his flesh would be restored (2 Kgs. 5:10). What were Naaman’s choices in this matter? He could either obey and follow instructions which would bring the cure, or he could follow his own ideas and still be a leper. At first, Naaman’s reaction was to follow his own desire. Notice 2 Kings 5:11, “Indeed, I said to myself . . . (Behold, I thought KJV).” Naaman thought he could do as he pleased, but he was wrong. He thought other rivers were just as good. If not better.
How many people make the choice Naaman made when it comes to obeying God? Behold, many people think the pope will tell them words by which they will be saved. Behold, many people think they have nothing to do to be saved, that somehow God will operate on them directly. Different people believe differently concerning what is necessary for salvation. Behold, what men think has no authority when it comes to religion (Prov. 14:12; Matt. 28:18).
As mentioned earlier, salvation from sin only comes through the blood of Christ (1 Jn. 1:7). Only when one comes in contact with the blood of Christ will he receive the cure for sin. This is the point of baptism (Rom. 6:4). Baptism is a watery burial into the death of Christ. It was at Christ’s death that his blood was shed, and when we are buried into his death, we contact his blood. In Naaman’s case, he could have chosen any number of rivers and number of times, but it was only when he dipped in the Jordan River seven times that his leprosy was cured and his skin cleansed. In man’s case, it is possible to choose any number of methods to receive “salvation,” but it is only when we are buried in water, contacting the blood of Christ, that we will receive the cure of sin and truly be cleansed.
The majority of you have already made the choice to obey God’s will concerning the subject of salvation. In order for us to grow, let us bring the application a little closer to home. Considering some things previously mentioned, suppose when it comes to social drinking of intoxicants (wine with meals, sipping at a social function, being in another country and “having” to drink alcohol, etc.), a person says, “Behold, I think . . .” Based upon his own reasoning, can a person come to a conclusion which will transform the social drinking intoxicants from a sin to a matter of judgment? Of course Satan will say, “Yes, he can.” He would have also told Naaman he could dip in any of the rivers. He will tell the alien sinner he can be baptized by sprinkling or pouring. Or, if the alien sinner does not like water at all, he can just accept Jesus as his personal Savior. The reason the devil will say yes is because he knows the alien sinner will still be lost. His weapon still has its force. The same goes for consumption of alcoholic beverages. You can call it “social drinking” or “sipping,” but the devil knows it is still drinking intoxicants, a sin. The only difference is that he has successfully concealed how loathsome it is.
The same holds true for all sin. Dancing can be called the prom, or exercise, or a social function, but it does not take away from the fact that it promotes ungodliness. Naaman had to realize the only cure for his leprosy was obedience to the will of God. Friends, when it comes to dancing, it is a sin. If a soul is contaminated with this sin, it will be destroyed as much as the body would be if it was contaminated with leprosy or AIDS. Do not let the devil hide the loathsomeness of sin. Recognize it by name and “avoid it like you would the plague.”
If Naaman would have failed to overcome his pride, he would have never received the cure for his leprosy. Pride goes before a fall (Prov. 16:18). Unless some learn to humble themselves, they are never going to rid themselves of the curse of sin.
Certainly we can all benefit from the study of the Old Testament (Rom. 15:4). Why not select one of your favorite characters and use him or her as an opportunity to grow personally or for a Bible study with your family?
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 16, p. 10-11
August 18, 1994