In Romans 15:4 the apostle Paul says that the Old Testament was written for our learning. It is far too often the case that the Old Testament is used in storybook form and the implication of the teaching is never made to us today. It was written for our learning, not as a pretty story, but as very useful historic information. Have you considered the importance of the apostle Paul’s words? One of the very important learning opportunities comes from II Kings 5 in what is commonly referred to as the story of Naaman the leper. Obedience as God requires is actually defined in this great Bible account.
Naaman was a “great man,” the “captain of the host of the king of Syria.” He was an “honorable” man, and through him God gave deliverance to Syria. But the Bible records that he was a leper. Leprosy was a most dreaded and hideous disease of Bible times. It was a scourge on any infected family. Terrible indeed was one’s suffering with leprosy, and though Naaman was a great and powerful man, he could not do one iota to remove the disease from his body. I’m sure that he consulted the best physicians that Syria had to offer, but no relief was found. You know as I do that he had servants around the clock to do his bidding; yet he was a leper.
Fortunately, Naaman had a Hebrew maid assisting his wife. A maid who remains nameless through all Scriptures, she had the words of life for Naaman. She said, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy.” Life-saving words out of the mouth of a “little maid.” Though the Bible speaks of her as a “little maid” she stands as a giant because of her faith in God. Notice, dear friend! Her name was never called, yet she lives thousands of years later as a hero of the faith. She knew the power of God and where to find God’s prophet Elisha. Have you been paying attention lately? There are a lot of folks claiming to be spokesmen for God just as there were then; do you know where God’s true servant can be found? This little Hebrew maid did, and what an example she is to us. She spoke up though she was a maid. She was not afraid to point a Syrian in the direction of God’s prophet. How about you? What if the Lord’s church were full of individuals with the faith of this little maid? The world would notice the difference.
Well, the powerful Syrian tried what most all people in power try; he had the king make a request of the king of Israel. He even had great wealth available to pay for treatment, but neither would accomplish what he wished nor touch the power of the Lord. The King of Israel recognized this fact and rent his royal clothing over the request, but when word came to Elisha the prophet of God, he knew where the power was and what would be necessary for this Syrian captain to do for cleansing from the awful disease of leprosy. To make the situation even clearer, Elisha didn’t even go out to greet this great man of valor but sent a servant out with the instructions from the Lord. Certainly, Elisha failed in worldly protocol. Was he so backward that he failed to recognize how great Naaman was and the importance of foreign diplomacy? Or could it be that he was serving one higher than the heavens and he would not be distracted by the ways of man? Yes, I think the latter is it. Elisha was serving the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Naaman felt the pressure of being treated as a common man. Why, it probably hadn’t happened to him in years and he was “wroth,” but he had been given the truth. What would he do with it? The truth did not come to him as he had envisioned, and I suspect God’s word seldom ever does (Is. 55:8-9). It is the truth nonetheless, and everyone has the option of acting on it or not acting at all. The word of the Lord said for this great man to dip in the muddy Jordan River seven times and he would be made whole. It must have been that the Abana and Pharpar rivers were much more picturesque to the eye of man, but they did not figure into God’s plan on this occasion. Maybe the people of Israel were just waterdogs! Was the power in the water? No, but it took water to contact the power of God. Inconsistent reasoning? No, obedience required Naaman to get down in the water and dip seven times. When he obeyed God, he was made whole. In fact, his skin was restored to a better condition than it was to start with for it was “like unto the flesh of a little child.” When one believes the words of the Lord (Rom. 10:17), repents of every sin (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30), confesses Jesus Christ as Lord (Rom. 10:10), and is baptized in water (Heb. 10:22; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Gal. 3:27), then and only then has the heart and conscience been made clean through the body of Christ. There is power in the blood – the power of the Lord. It is contacted through the water just as the cleansing power of God was contacted in the waters of the river Jordan by Naaman by and through his obedience.
True obedience to God requires a man/woman to take God at His word. When people obey God to the best of their ability, they may put on the robe made white through the washing of the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14). No amount of money, power, prestige, or any earthly influence will wash one sin away. A letter from the President of the United States will have no effect on your standing with God. Why water baptism? Because that is what God said to do! Why not holy water, royal priestly robes and fancy titles? Because God said nothing about such in His word.
May God help us to have the heart of the “little maid” from Israel who stood as bold as a lion to proclaim the saving message of God even in a strange land.
-David Hill