The Sinner and His Mistakes
Read 2 Kings 5:1-19
A courageous man—a successful general—a pleasant friend is the brief but comprehensive character of Naaman. Possessed of abilities and qualifications many might well envy—covered with honours from his king and country, the land of Syria rang with plaudits as victory after victory was added to his roll of glory.
Yet, spite of the favour of the king—spite of the applause of his admiring countrymen—beneath the general’s uniform glittering with the decorations of valour, the humbling truth was known in the heart of Naaman, so pithily expressed in Scripture, “But he was a leper.” He was painfully conscious that he was a dying man—that the loathsome leprosy had numbered his days.
Leprosy in Scripture is a type of SIN. It entirely baffled medical skill. The man least affected was as surely marked for death as the far-gone victim. The only difference in their cases was time. If strength held out till the leprosy had worked its way through the system—till there was nothing more to work at, then the leper was pronounced by the priest clean. Sometimes God specially stayed the disease.
Family ties were broken by it—the leper must shun the habitations of men. The running stream must not quench his burning thirst. The stagnant pool must allay that. The freshening breeze must not pass from him to the unwary traveller, so that contagion might not be carried on the wind. His duty was to call, often alas! in sad sepulchral tones, “Unclean, unclean, unclean” (Lev. 13).
What a picture of you, dear unsaved reader!
The leper felt the disease, for he had to leave the clean to die alone. You are a moral leper amidst moral lepers. Hence the sad condition is not so keenly felt; though alas! moral leprosy—sinfulness—is far worse than the physical. The one brings death to the body—the other, judgment to the soul. God grant your eyes may be opened to the truth of your lost, hopeless, hell-bound condition. It is appointed unto men once to die, but “after death the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:28).
Thank God, there is a remedy for your case—a cure for your disease. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from ALL sin” (1 John 1:7). And “the Lord . . . is not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
Let us see what mistakes Naaman made as he sought to be cleansed, for the mistakes he made are those the sinner makes in seeking salvation.
A little captive maid knows the power of God is with the prophet in Samaria. She longs for the restoration of her kind and noble master. Perhaps with many a tremor and fear, she expressed an ardent desire to her mistress that her master might visit the prophet.
The king hears of it, and so desires the cure of his valued and successful general, that with his own royal hands he writes a letter to the King of Israel. Naaman sets off on his journey, and number one mistake is made. He goes to He goes to the king not the prophet—he tries earthly power not divine. The king is useless and gets alarmed.
Is this mistake not often repeated in the history of the anxious soul? How many thousands seek the intercession of a priest with some legendary saint! How many rest satisfied with following man’s way of obtaining salvation instead of trusting Christ! Then, dear reader, go not to man as thy resource but to God. Hear what He says of Jesus—“There is NONE OTHER NAME under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The prophet hears of the sad dilemma the king is in, and sends for Naaman, and now the leper makes his second mistake. He tries
THE WRONG POWER.
He, no doubt, knew well the power of the golden key. Perhaps he thought it well-nigh omnipotent. But he has to learn that God’s blessing is not to be bought. He brings ten talents of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. At the very lowest computation these were worth £15,000. What a physician’s fee! His presents are not accepted. How could they be!
But let us bring the moral out of the dim historic past into the living present. How many thousands of today, in these lands of gospel light, are seeking to buy God’s salvation?
Spite of the fact that the Scripture declares God’s salvation is “without money, and without price”—spite of the fact that it took nothing short of the death of Jesus on Calvary’s cross to pay the ransom price, men insult God by bringing their money of good works to buy salvation. What stupendous folly!
A gentleman has lately reared a handsome church costing thousands of pounds. The townspeople are saying, “What a heavy fire premium.” Oh! sinner, if it took such untold agony and suffering to atone for sin at the cross—if it took the shedding of such precious blood, how all men’s works and gifts will be utterly condemned at that last, great day! But mark, “the gospel of Christ . . . is THE POWER OF GOD unto salvation, to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16).
Naaman goes down to the house of Elisha in great state. He fancied his power and position would call forth respect and deference at the hands of God’s prophet. But NO. A simple, plain message is sent down to him, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.”
This simple plan arouses the great man’s anger, and in his wrath he speaks aloud. He had beforehand settled in his mind the way of blessing. He makes his third mistake in thinking of
THE WRONG PLAN.
Naaman soliloquises thus—“Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.” The Psalmist well said, “I hate thoughts, but . . . I hope in thy word.” God said, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts . . . for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”
How like the sinner! How often he has his own useless plan. The anxious soul, often expects some great revulsion of feelings—some striking dream—some sudden flash of light in the soul. As the prophet sent a simple message, “Go and wash;” so God sends thee a simple message, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Said a lady to the preacher at the close of the gospel meeting, “Have I to be saved in the same way as my coachman?” “Exactly,” answered the preacher. “Then I prefer not to be saved,” was the awful answer, as she swept out of the room on her proud way to hell.
Now Naaman makes his fourth mistake. He thinks of
THE WRONG PLACE.
The prophet said, “Go and wash in Jordan.” He thinks of the little, muddy, rocky stream with disdain. His mind travels to the broad stately rivers of his own country—“Abana and Pharpar”—flowing through Syria’s capital. “May I not wash in them, and be clean?” is his indignant question. “So he turned, and went away in a rage.”
Do not sinners of the present day strive to find cleansing in earth’s—Morality and Religion? Millions are busy washing in these streams now. They think an outward observance of religion—a moral, blameless life will atone for the past; will give them the necessary cleansing they require for God’s holy presence. Nay, the Scripture declares—“Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). “God requireth that which is past” (Eccl. 3:15).
Just as the broad Damascene rivers rise in the mountains—pursue their steady way through Syria’s capital—flow into the desert and lose themselves there and find not their way to the sea; so man’s streams rise on man’s elevations—flow through this poor scene—are lost in the desert of man’s imaginations, and pass not into eternity.
Naaman might have washed his leprous skin in his own rivers, and would be no whit cleaner; nor will the sinner be any cleaner in God’s sight by all his fruitless attempts of man’s cleansing. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from ALL sin” (1 John 1:7).
Now, the servants affectionately gather round their master and reason with him. “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it,” say they.
Yes! there was the point. If it had taken great courage—involved great expenditure—caused immense pain, Naaman would gladly have undertaken the terrible task of self-cleansing; but because the plan was so simple, it rouses his anger and excites his contempt. Is this not like the sinner?
At last Naaman begins the journey of blessing—the going DOWN. “How much rather then,” had said his servants, “when he saith to thee, Wash and be clean?”
He weighs the advice of his servants. The force and propriety of it is seen by him. He betakes himself to Jordan. He enters the flowing stream a poor, dying, loathsome leper. He dips himself in the water according to God’s command once and comes up a leper. He repeats this, and time after time comes up still the poor leper. At last down he goes for the seventh time and the waters flow over the leper, but, blessed be God, he comes up the cleansed—with his flesh like the flesh of a little child—not one taint of disease about him. Jordan’s stream contained such marvellous efficacy because it was God’s place—the dipping seven times, the plan—His word, the power.
Then Naaman says, “Behold, now I KNOW” (v. 15). His thoughts had fled—had given place to certainty and assurance. So, dear uncleansed reader, you must come to what God says, if you want cleansing and to know it surely.
Jordan is a type or figure of the death of Christ; and as Naaman was cleansed by washing therein, so you may know what it is to be cleansed from all your sins by trusting Christ—accepting His death as that which gives you life—His blood being known by you as that which cleanseth you from ALL SIN (1 John 1:5).
As Naaman dipped himself in Jordan seven times (seven means perfection in Scripture); so you must honestly and thoroughly own that you are utterly hopeless in yourself, and take home to yourself all the value of the person and work of Christ.
Then, dear reader, avoid Naaman’s four mistakes, and take God at His word, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Through this man (Jesus) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:38-39).
In India at this present moment there lives a modern Naaman in the person of a rajah of great state and importance. The loathsome leprosy has manifested itself in his forehead, and to hide it from his subjects he has placed a large, sparkling jewel over the tell-tale spot. How like the sinner, who endeavours to hide his condition from his friends and neighbours. God can see through all subterfuges and shams. We earnestly urge you to be right with God. Have it all out with Him in the day of His grace.
There is a book being sold on our railway bookstalls entitled, “Letters from Hell.” I am informed that the writer makes the most crying sin in hell to be “hypocrisy.” No! dear reader, all shams will be eternally displaced by the heavy hand of God in judgment for eternal realities. My longing desire is that you may know the cleansing value of the precious blood of Jesus. May God grant it, for Christ’s sake! AMEN.
The Gospel Messenger 1890, p. 212