2 Kings 5:13 (NIV) Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “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’!”
Surely it can’t be that easy. There must be something else I need to do. Naaman struggles with what we all struggle with…we are bent on trying to save ourselves.
If Elisha had told him to go back to Syria on his hands and knees, one hundred and fifty miles, he would have done it and thought it was all right,(1). If Elisha had to travel long and far for a special remedy that is derived from an endangered plant that only grows in the mountains of some distant land he would have done it. Why? Because it would have made sense to him. But, because the remedy seemed too simple, he gets angry and almost leaves without being healed. We do the same thing.
How often do people walk out of the church thinking, It can’t be that simple. We can handle checklist morality. It makes sense to us. It is something measurable. It is something that enables us to trust in our logic rather than in His grace. But we forget that His thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. ( Isaiah 55:8 NIV). That’s why we always try to put a “but” at the end of Ephesians 2:8–9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. There is no “but” at the end of this statement. However, we like Naaman love to come back with what makes sense to us. If I want something good I have to work hard for it, because anything that comes easy can’t be that good: Faith apart from works is dead, (James 2:26 ESV).
James is simply reminding us that a faith that does not produce an outcropping of obedience and good works is dead. But he is not saying that we make our faith alive by doing works. Works are proof that it is alive. I am obedient to God because of an experience with His grace, not in order to obtain grace. If that was the case it wouldn’t be grace. However, that is how we often approach God. We are just like Naaman. Give us a set of rules to follow, a diet to adhere to, a dress code to wear. (all important things, but none of which save you) We want God to pat us on the back as we step into heaven, with Him saying “thanks for being better than that other person.” We want to have something to do with our salvation. We don’t like the idea that when it comes to being saved we can’t do anything but accept His gift of grace and be forgiven. All we can do is step into the water and be cleansed.
It took a servant to speak the logic that this great leader could not comprehend. It must be why people in third-world countries are so much quicker to accept the message of Grace. They have no illusions of grandeur. They have no bloated ego. The world has stripped them of those illusions. They have no doubt they need a savior. What about you? “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’!” What can it hurt. He steps into the water. He dips seven times. He comes out the seventh time clean.
I find it interesting that it took a servant to give Naaman just enough faith to step into the water. However, isn’t that the way God has always done it. God always works through the people the world has discarded. David, Rahab, Jacob, Israel, fisherman, tax collectors, servants. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (1 Corinthians 1:27 ESV). The gift of God’s grace may not make sense to us. It may bring us to the edge of an insignificant river called Jordan where we can’t help but think…that’s it? It brings us to the brink of a decision: We can trust the words of a servant or our own logic.
Centuries later someone else dipped in the river Jordan. Jesus Christ, he who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6–7 ESV) He was baptized before entering into active ministry. It wasn’t because he needed cleansing, but because we do.
You see, it did take good works to save you, just not your good works. It took an incredible sacrifice to heal you, just not your sacrifice. Someone did have to crawl on his hands and knees, just not you. Jesus did. He did it for you. So that the the King of the universe who became a servant, might look at us, as the servant did Naaman, and say: ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” It’s when we step into his river of Grace that we will come out clean and our natural response will be good works. We will declare as Namaan did “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” (2 Kings 5:15 ESV). We will give God the only present He has ever really wanted from us…our hearts. And because we have given him our hearts, He has our allegiance. When we experience His Grace, He regains the rightful place in our hearts. You no longer have other gods before Him.
Your standing on the edge of the Jordan…what will you do? Will you let His amazing grace flow over you? Today, step into the water with him. ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”
(1) Dwight Lyman Moody. “Men of the Bible.” iBooks.
Copyright 2012 Richie Halversen