Naaman at the Jordan
George Everard, 1884
Very frequently in Holy Scripture, do we get glimpses of the River of God's salvation. In the Psalms and in the Prophets, we have frequent allusions to it. No less do we find it in the historical books. In Genesis we gather instruction from the windings of the river which went forth from Eden. In Exodus we have the river flowing from the rock in Horeb, and following Israel through the wilderness. And later down the stream of time, we find, in the Book of Kings, at least, very profitable illustrations of the preciousness of the river, and of the means by which the soul partakes of the benefit it brings. The story of Naaman at the Jordan is one of these. It gives us a lifelike picture of a sinner's salvation, and the way in which it is obtained.
Let us glance for a while at the incident given to us, and then how it applies to the subject which we are treating.
Jordan was but a little stream, as it made its way along its narrow, rocky, broken channel. It was nothing in comparison of the noble rivers that watered the plains of Damascus. Yet He who chooses the weak things and the lowly things to fulfill His mighty purposes of love — chose the Jordan to be the scene of a remarkable miracle. We have often heard the story, and we need but briefly to recall it to our memory.
Naaman was a great and honorable man — but he was a leper. Taught by the little captive maid, he came far to seek a cure. But when close at hand he nearly missed it. First he went to the wrong door. He brought the letter of the king of Syria to the king of Israel. But the king could give him no help. He could but rend his clothes and declare his inability to do anything that the king of Syria desired. By and by Elisha hears of it. He sends for the Syrian, and promises a cure.
And now we see Naaman failing again. He goes now to the right door, but he goes in the wrong spirit. With horses and chariot, as a great captain, he stood by Elisha's door, and looked for much honor to have been shown him. He had his own ideas of the way in which the cure was to be affected. He had expected that the prophet would at once come out to him, and by a word and a movement of his hand, the leprosy would be removed.
But in this again he receives a rude shock. A servant, not the prophet, comes to speak with him. Nor was the message one to his taste. It was a very humbling one. Naaman must lay aside his state and grandeur — he must leave his robes behind, and come forth from his chariot, and go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. But his pride rebels. He did not expect this. He despises Jordan, and has no wish to try its waters. Some other remedy would suit him better. So he turns and goes away in a rage.
But after all, he proves wiser in the end than at first. His servants are good counselors. They know their master's desire for healing. They know his readiness to give anything, or to do the hardest task, if only he might gain the benefit. So they gently reason with him, and persuade him to do the prophet's bidding. At length he yields. He takes off his outer apparel, he goes down to the Jordan, and seven times washes himself in the little stream.
He is abundantly rewarded. The plague is gone. Health is restored. His flesh is again as the flesh of a little child, and he is fully healed. Humbled and instructed, and filled with gratitude, he goes back to his country a worshiper of the God of Israel. To no other God but Jehovah, would he henceforth offer sacrifice and burnt-offering.
The whole story is full of the marrow of gospel truth. It tells of sin — and it tells of the perfect remedy provided for it.
"A leper!" A sinner! The one corresponds to the other. In several points we may easily trace the analogy. In leprosy there was defilement. The disease was loathsome and painful to a high degree. The face was often so marred, that its features could scarcely be discerned. After a while, wounds and bruises and putrefying sores covered the body.
Thus is sin above all things defiling to the soul. "How filthy and abominable is man!" "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags."
Evil lusts and passions,
malice and envy,
intemperance and licentiousness,
selfishness and self-will,
the spirit of pride and worldliness and covetousness,
an unloving and ungrateful heart toward the Great Father who has made and provides for us
— how these things defile the soul made in His own image, and whose highest joy and privilege it ought to be to love and serve Him perpetually!
In the leprosy there was constant progress of the disease. It rapidly spread and increased. That which was at first but a single spot, before long caused the decay of the part on which it appeared. It passed from limb to limb, until the whole body was affected by it!
Thus sin advances and grows. The act of sin becomes the habit of sin. The habit soon becomes a second nature. One sin leads on to another, and this to some further evil. The conscience becomes hardened. The will is more set on that which is contrary to God's law. The one who at first yields with reluctance to temptation — becomes in turn the tempter of others. By and by every better feeling, every striving of the Spirit, is quenched. Thus it happens that" wicked men and seducers wax worse and worse." They go to greater lengths than formerly. They sin on without compunction and without restraint.
Another point is important. By the Levitical law the leper was separated from others. He must dwell alone. Even king Uzziah, when smitten with the disease, lived apart from others. He who had the disease, even in its hidden form, was shut out from the temple and the synagogue.
Just so does sin separate. The sinner cannot have fellowship with a holy God, with the holy angels, or with the true saints of the Most High. A man yet in his sin, unpardoned, unchanged — cannot be at home among those who fear and love God. He cannot offer true worship. In eternity, the separation will be final and complete. Far from the better Home, far from the heavenly City — he will be compelled to share the abode of darkness and despair. He must obey the solemn command, "Then He will say to those on His left: Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" Matthew 25:41
Then we must remember leprosy had its outcome in death. No human power could provide a cure. It passed from one stage to another, until a painful death usually closed the leper's course.
Thus, too, with sin. "The soul that sins — it shall die." "Sin when it is finished, brings forth death." "The wages of sin is death" — and it is an undying death. It is not annihilation. It is not an eternal sleep. It is "the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched." It is the soul wrapped in the winding sheet of its own sins — to be forever its sorrow and its torment. Alas, for him who dies in sin! Alas, for him who rejects the mercy that alone can save! "It would have been better for that man, if he had never been born!"
But there is a River of healing and salvation. There is a stream to which you can go and be cleansed and forgiven, yes, and be made perfectly whole. Despised and scorned by many, like the Jordan by Naaman, yet there is a river of mercy and grace by which you may be rid of every plague-spot of evil, and be made fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.
Beware of going to the wrong door. You must not place confidence in anyone, but the true Prophet, Jesus. You must not go to self, or Moses, or trust in your privileges or Church membership. You must go to Christ and hearken to His voice, and meekly obey His life-giving precepts.
Beware also of going in a wrong spirit. You must lay aside all pride and prejudice. You must cast away all confidence in your own ideas about religion, and simply abide in the teaching of Christ. You must utterly renounce your own good works, and right feelings, and moral character — as any ground of acceptance. Come down from your high chariot. Throw away your garments of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. Go and plunge into the precious flood which burst forth from your Redeemer's side! Go near in humility and faith. "Wash, and be clean!"
It is no great thing or hard thing the Lord bids you do.
Only acknowledge your iniquity.
Only confess before Him the evil that is in you.
Only plead the blood shed for sinners on the cross.
Come thus, and you shall assuredly be cleansed and forgiven and saved.
"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Your cross I cling;
Naked, come to You for dress,
Helpless, look to You for grace.
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die!"
Some years ago I remember hearing the story of his conversion from the lips of a young man. His regiment was stationed at a town or village in North India. He had long been accustomed to read the Scriptures, and the more he read, the more he was troubled in the remembrance of his sin. But he heard of a faithful missionary living some sixty miles distant, who was ever ready to counsel and help any who sought his aid. So he mounted his horse and rode over hill and dale until he reached the missionary's lonely bungalow. He told the cause of his anxiety, and was pointed to a well-known text (1 John 1:7), "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin."
"Is that all?" was the question put.
"Yes, that is all; you have only to trust simply in the blood of Christ, and you shall be forgiven."
The message was enough. The young man found what he had long wanted. He rode back to his station, all the way rejoicing in the Savior's atoning blood.
One other thought you must not forget. "Wash seven times." Go again and again to the same precious blood. You need daily cleansing, daily forgiveness. Faults and failings and shortcomings and neglects, as well as greater sins, continually are apt to turn us aside, and whenever there is the very least deviation from the right path, there needs pardoning mercy. And it is ever to be found in the Savior's blood. It is always at hand, and never can we seek it in vain.