Overcoming pride


Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.“ (2 Kings 5:1-12)

One of the biggest hindrances in trusting in God and accepting his word is our own pride. Naaman was no exception. He had contracted leprosy or Hansen's disease. It is a chronic, contagious disease, affecting mainly the peripheral nerves. It also affects the skin, the muscles, eyebrows, eyes, bones, and internal organs. Leprosy cannot be faked. If you have seen it or got it, there is no mistake. Thankfully today, modern medicine can cure, alleviate and help the sufferers of this terrible condition.

In the Bible, those with leprosy were declared unclean. You couldn't associate or go near anyone due to it being highly contagious. You became an outcast to others, and to God. Naaman is a good example of how every person must approach God in order to be saved.

Naaman was an important man

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. (2 Kings 5:1) He was not just the General but the overall commander. His notoriety was that he won battles for his King. No doubt he thought it was his great power, his strength, his tactical ability and intellect that made him great.

Nevertheless, behind his victories, God was working unseen. Naaman was totally unaware that God was behind his successes, “The LORD had given him victory”. He didn’t know the first thing about the God of Israel for he was a Gentile. Instead, he worshipped the idols and gods of Aram (central Syria). Despite his background, God took an active interest in him and was beginning to draw Naaman to himself.

Naaman’s despair 

Leprosy must come as a shock to anyone. It's rather like being told you have cancer or Aids today. How do you tell your family and friends?  A great soldier and statesman one minute, a social outcast the next – it is a loathsome contagious disease. It was only because of his great importance, his usefulness to his King, that he was not ignored and treated as an outcast.

We are not told how he caught the disease. But we can say the hand of God was behind it. Sometimes God allows and sends us great trials in order to turn us around. To give us a shock. To cause us to think, to evaluate our lives in order to lead us back to him. No doubt because of his position and wealth he sought out many doctors, and possibly tried many remedies in order to get a cure, but there was none. His many gifts could not save him. He was powerless to save himself, and his condition is a picture of all of us.

Why? Like Naaman, by our own strength and ability, we cannot please God, or save ourselves. Sin, like leprosy, will not go away and it deadens our whole spiritual being. That is why the bible is full of stories like Naaman. A leper could not do anything to rid the disease or cleanse himself. So what could he do? Where could he go to be healed?

Naaman was given Hope

Naaman had many servants and slaves in his household. There was a particular slave girl captured from Israel who attended his wife. She told her mistress there was a great prophet in Israel who would be able to cure her master. Again we see God's hand behind it all, this was not mere chance. Has a Christian spoken to you, and told you the wonderful news of the gospel? That there is a saviour, who is able to rescue us from our sin? The prophet, whom the scriptures foretold, has come. The LORD Jesus Christ! This good news was then told to Naaman, and it galvanised him into action! There is someone who can cure me? Is it really possible? What would you do? He was desperate! Once he had a life. Now he had none as the effects of the disease started to bite.

Naaman's Pride  

When Naaman finally came to Elisha, the prophet didn’t come out to greet him or provide hospitality. Instead, Elisha sent his servant out with a particular message. Naaman thought he was doing Elisha a great honour when he came in his chariot, in full regalia along with his military escort! He was an important person in his own eyes! Naaman fully expected to have this compliment returned. He expected a warm welcome, hospitality! Instead, he was merely handed a written message which read “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”(2 Kings 5:9)

His anger soared! The seeming discourteous behaviour. He had put himself out to come all this way. He was the one who normally gave orders, and now he's been told to go off and wash? He bristled with anger and indignation! Yet within the message was a tremendous promise which he didn't hear because of his pride – you will be made clean.

He was expecting Elisha to tell him to go and perform some great feat or heroic exploit. Or he expected to pay him vast sums of money, bribes etc. to Elisha's God. Then he expected God would be pleased, and he would be cured. Yet all he was told was to go and wash in this river Jordan – isn't there better and bigger rivers than this back home? What has the rivers in Israel to offer me? However, the instructions given by God were designed to teach Naaman obedience and trust. Naaman's pride was in the way. He forgot that he was the leper, the one in need.

Are you like Naaman? 

Maybe you put up stumbling blocks coming to God. If God is real, if he exists, then why can't I see him? Or why can he not send an Angel, then I will believe? Some people expect something to happen, like an extraordinarily emotional experience of some kind. But until your pride is overcome, and you are humbled by God's word to you, then you too will go away angry. Uncured. Unsaved.

Or maybe you're expecting a more acceptable, palatable message. I expected to do some great feat myself! There must be something I can do to save myself?  Why trust in the words of Jesus? Surely there are other ways, better ways to get right with God?

Naaman didn’t see get to Elisha face to face. At first, you will not see Jesus, only his messenger. Jesus has given us his word, which tells us all we must do to be saved. The message of the bible will be difficult to understand and accept at first. The gospel message to us is the same, to “go and wash yourself” in the blood of Jesus. It doesn’t mean literally, but symbolically. Blood is always linked to the sacrifice for sins in the Old Testament. Jesus is the fulfilment of those animals sacrifices – they all pointed forward to him. “Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood”. (Hebrews 13:12)

Trust in Jesus and what his death accomplished. Believe in what he did on the cross. That there on Calvary, he took all your sin upon himself, there God punished him and unleashed the full fury of his wrath against his only son.

If you believe, if you trust in this cure God has provided you, then you will be spiritually washed and cleansed by Jesus' blood. The righteousness that is accredited to Jesus, will be accredited to you. So that in the sight of God, you are made clean and perfect - without sin. God will accept you into his own household, and put a ring on your finger, and a robe around you. No longer a leper in his sight, but now a son of the living God.

Pride must be overcome, yes, its hard, and you must take hold of and trust in God's remedy. Just being told about it wasn’t good enough. He had to go and do it. You must go and wash like Naaman, through faith. The reason why perhaps you are not a Christian now is that just like Naaman, it all seems far too simple. Is that all there is to it? There must be another way. Is there anger and frustration in your heart? The result is that you may go away. Perhaps to never hear the gospel again.

Naaman listens

His servants to their credit, try to dissuade him:

“My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (2 Kings 5:17)

They said just the right thing. He listened to their advice. He calmed down. Naaman was obviously a man who listened to reason and respected his servants. What of you? Are you willing to listen to the advice of Christian friends, and possibly relatives who have been praying for you? Will you see reason?

Naaman Humbled

Naaman considers the advice, and finally humbles himself to do as was asked. So he went and did as he was instructed. Even in this, he was tested by God, he had to perform seven washings. You can imagine, he goes in, washes and comes out, nothing has happened. He goes back in, washes and comes out. After the fifth time, is he going to carry on? I wonder what was going through his mind?  Especially after the sixth time! Doubts and fears - Will it work? This is stupid! But he carries on, what did he have to lose? Then finally, after the seventh time as promised, a tremendous miracle took place. The leper was cleansed! No doubt he came out smiling, and full of joy and laughter at his incredible recovery!

Seven times Naaman had to repeat the same process! It wasn't an instant cure. God was testing his resolve. God deals with us all exactly the same. Sometimes conversion takes time. God says, trust in me, believe! If it is said from your heart, then you will be accepted, God will hear – but he will test your faith!

In all this, we see what God wishes to see is our obedience to his word. Go wash and be clean. Will you not go to Christ? Believe and be saved, repent – turn from going your way, and turn to God, and you will receive mercy. Will you not pray to him and ask forgiveness? Lord forgive me a sinner! It is a hard thing to do because pride must be overcome.

Naaman was a changed man

His leprosy had left him completely. His skin became like that of a young boy. But the change went deeper. He went straight back to the prophet & confessed what had happened, but also now in his heart he believed that the God of Israel was the one true living God. An amazing turnaround and open confession. He now saw through the sham, and hypocrisy of the gentile gods, which were, in reality, no gods at all. Experience had rectified his mistake. He realised God was far bigger than him. The great mercy of God was shown to him of all people!

If you come to Christ, your life will be changed. You will be made clean, and Jesus will come and live in your heart through the Holy Spirit. You too will experience a new birth - joy and happiness. Naaman was a dead man walking, yet was given life, eternal life. You are spiritually dead, yet can be made alive through the washing in the blood of Christ. You will be given a new heart and new desires. You too will be changed and born again. Your own lips will confess in Jesus Christ, that he is Lord. Experience will rectify your thinking.

Naaman confesses his new found faith in God

After his healing, he did meet with Elisha. His confession to him, and to all his retinue who could hear was this, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. “ Israel - The church of Jesus Christ alone is where you will find God. There is no other way to God other than through the gospel message of his Son. God had saved his life. He was a changed man. What about you? Will pride turn you away, or will you heed God's way of salvation in Jesus Christ?  

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