By Irvin Himmel
The lessons of the old Testament are for our learning (Rom. 15:4). A study of characters who lived in ages past can be both profitable and interesting. Naaman lived in the days of Elisha the prophet. His story is related in 2 Kings 5.
Naaman was captain of the Syrian army. Syria was Israel’s neighbor to the north. Although he was considered great, honorable, and mighty in valor or courage, Naaman was afflicted with a dreaded disease of leprosy.
The Syrians had gone oft in companies and raided the Israelites. In one of those hostile attacks they had captured a little maid. The girl became the servant of Naaman’s wife. One day she remarked that if he could he in Samaria with the prophet of God, Naaman could be healed of his leprosy.
In time, Naaman went into the land of Israel, and after some confusion he appeared before the prophet. When the Syrian arrived with horses and chariots, Elisha sent a messenger, saying, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” Naaman was full of anger and reacted according to the emotion that flooded his heart.
Despite his being noted for courage, Naaman lacked humility – a characteristic necessary for any man who seeks God’s blessing. Naaman was wroth because he expected the prophet to come out, stand, call on the name of the Lord, strike his hand over the place, and thus recover the leper. He said, “Behold, I thought. . .” His mistake was in supposing that God should operate according to Naaman’s plan. He expected show and ceremony.
Many people in our times are like Naaman in attitude. They expect God to conform to their plans. They stumble at His simple commands in their zeal for ceremony and elaborate schemes. They will either have their way about things or die and to go hell.
Naaman argued that if it was necessary to dip in a river he should at least be permitted to choose the river. After all, water is water, and Abana and Pharpar, rivers in his own country, appeared better and cleaner than the muddy Jordan. Overlooking the fact that the difference was in God’s choice in the matter, and ignoring the command given through the prophet by the messenger, “he turned arid went away in a rage.”
Before we become too harsh in censuring Naaman, let us ask ourselves if we have not acted in much the same way at times. The New Testament commands baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Has anyone ever scoffed at baptism and argued that it is non essential? The Bible calls baptism a burial followed by a resurrection. Has anyone ever chosen to ignore Romans 6:3-5 and Colossians 2:12, reasoning that sprinkling and pouring will suffice, and either would be much more convenient than immersion? Has anyone ever turned away, perhaps even in a rage, when it was insisted that God means exactly what the Bible says?
Naaman’s servants reasoned with him, reminding him that if he had been asked to do some great thing he would have complied. But think how simple and easy the command of God was! The mighty Syrian captain humbled himself and dipped seven times in Jordan, according to God’s will, “and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
The waters of Jordan did not cleanse Naaman. God did it. But God would not cleanse him until he obeyed. When a person is baptized today, the water does not remit his sins. It is God who forgives sins. But God has not promised remission of sins until one obeys in baptism. As God used water to test the faith of Naaman, water is used to test our faith now. How strong is your faith?
Let us learn from Naaman that it pays to comply with God’s requirements. Let us humble ourselves, trust and obey the Lord. Our eternal salvation is at stake.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 6, pp. 171-172
March 17, 1983