The Humility of Naaman

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2 Ki. 5:14

This is the story of Naaman.

But first… There is a popular story from one of the tribes in our country about a certain elderly man. The story goes that one day, as this man was out herding his cattle in the fields, one of his cows gave birth to a calf. By the time he was ready to take his cattle back home, the new-born calf was strong enough to stand on its own and move about.

The man began walking his cattle home; but now the cow and her young calf would not move from the place they were. The mother’s attention was fixated entirely on her calf, while the calf was entangled about his mother’s legs seeking for her teat. The result was that, as the man tried to shoo both the cow and her calf home, they instead kept turning about in circles.

The man got angry and he began to beat the cow with his herding stick. He kept on beating her mercilessly. By this time, the rest of the herd had put a considerable distance between themselves and the man and his cow. His got more exasperated and he beat the cow even more ruthlessly.

At about that time, a small boy who was about twelve years old came upon the old man punishing his cow. The man was beating the poor beast as if he was on the warpath. The boy observed him for a while. Then he walked up to him and said,

“Excuse me, Sir. Please, Sir, if you would take the calf and carry him in your arms, the mother will follow along.”

The man considered the distance the rest of the herd had moved on and made up his mind. Without further ado, he took the new-born calf in his arms and, to his surprise, the minute he began walking away, the cow swiftly followed along, mooing loudly.

When the man reached home, everyone in his household was surprised to hear him complaining loudly that he could not allow himself to be shamed by a little boy. He kept repeating these words over and over again. As he spoke, he moved about in fast, furious motions, and it was clear to everyone that something deeply unsettling had happened to him. Of course, with the disposition that he was in at that particular moment, no one dared ask him what had befallen him. All they knew was that the father of the house was breathing murder.

Soon afterwards, his lifeless body was found dangling on a rope from one of the trees in his compound. The man, in a blind rage, had gone off and hanged himself.

Later, after the facts had been gathered together, it emerged that the man had hanged himself simply because a small boy had “taught” him how to do something right. This elderly man decided he could not live with such an affront to his pride and he took his own life.

In 2 Kings chapter 5 we read about Naaman, a captain of the Syrian army. The Bible declares about Naaman that he 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.” (2 Ki. 5:2)

Notice that Naaman had achieved his many victories by the hand of the LORD. That little fact is central to our lesson here. But, as we shall see later, though it be of the Lord, it is not the doing that is important with God; rather, it is the attitude of our hearts.

Although Naaman was a great and mighty warrior, yet he was a leper. Despite all his victories and all his glory, Naaman had no joy in his life. So he went down to Israel for he had heard that he could receive healing of his leprosy there. But he was a proud man and when he arrived in Israel he met with a series of events that progressively undermined his pride. The final insult was when the Israelite prophet, Elisha, instructed him to go dip himself in the muddy waters of the Jordan seven times and he would be healed. Naaman decided he had had enough and he turned to go back home.

But praise God, Naaman had servants who truly loved him. They came up to him and besought him, saying:

“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?” (v.13)

At which Naaman hearkened to them.

“Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

I have heard songs sang saying, “Speak, Lord! Speak, Lord”, etc., meaning those singing them are ready to obey God at the touch of a button. This imaginary readiness comes about because people have a romantic view of God and of His calling.

But there is nothing romantic about the call of God upon one’s life. The call of God to obey Him is one of the most difficult things in our lives, simply because it of necessity touches our pride. We are born with the seed of pride in us.  It is good and OK to sing out our eagerness to obey God, but remember the devil also sang (as all angels do); but still he allowed pride tot come into his heart, and he ultimately rebelled against God.

Moreover, according to the lesson that we learn in the story of Naaman, you can do many extraordinary things for the Lord but still be proud. That is why there are many men of God who do miracles and wonders in Jesus’ name, but they have pride in their hearts and are burdened with sin in their hearts. Jesus said of these people that He will tell them on the last day:

“I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Mat. 7:23)

It is not the doing; rather, it is the attitude of our hearts that is important with God. God had to heal Naaman of his pride first before He would heal his body.

The Bible says in Romans 8:7:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

Pride breeds anger and every other work of the flesh and it is incapable of doing the will of God. Ultimately, it brings death upon its bearer.

That is why we need to crucify the flesh, or the carnal mind. Without crucifying our flesh we cannot truly obey, or please God.

No man got to learn this lesson first-hand than Naaman himself. He had set out to ‘obey’ God on his own terms, where his pride would remain untouched. But God brutally turned the tables on him, and he was left to decide whether he would obey God on God’s terms or not. His healing lay in that single fact. He had to choose between nursing his pride or rejecting it and receiving the healing for his body.

That was under the old covenant. Under the new, the gospel has to do with the healing of our souls. We therefore have to choose between defending our pride and receiving God’s eternal life.

Ultimately, Naaman’s spiritual legacy lay, not in the many victories that he won on the battle field (although it was the LORD Himself who wrought these victories through him). Rather, he will be remembered in eternity on account of his conversion through humbling himself.

“15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel… thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. 18 In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing. 19 And he said unto him, Go in peace.” (2 Ki. 5:15-19)

[Below: Obedience is key to receiving eternal life]

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