Elijah and Elisha 22
Elijah and Elisha 22.
I generally preach for around 40 minutes; about 35 minutes in I am getting around to making my big point. Today, I am going to make the big point first, then you can sleep through the next 35 minutes of padding. Here it is: [P] [James 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”] We now come to a well-known and well-loved story; you will recall it from your Sunday-school days. Like all stories of Elisha, it is a story about salvation [P]. It says in: [Ephesians 2:8–9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.] Twice in James 4:6 we read that “grace is given”. Salvation is by grace. WE NEED GRACE! Grace is given, but only to the humble; boasting, pride is excluded. Humility is the prerequisite for receiving the grace that God gives; it is essential for salvation. This is a delightful story and with great significance – I am sure that I cannot do it justice – it is the story of Naaman, found in 2 Kings chapter 5 [P]. Now, as we read through the account together, I want you to take special note of two contrasting things: 1/ the great, the mighty, the exalted, the proud; and 2/ the exact opposite the humble, the lowly, the insignificant. Because the theme of this contrast between pride and humility runs all through this story that we know so well: [2 Kings 5:1–14 Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, [P] (Syria, the country to the north – Israel’s enemy!) was a great man with his master, and highly respected, (why? How had he come to this prominence and power?) because by him יהוה had given victory to Aram. (It was יהוה’s doing! He, in His sovereignty, had brought this man to this place. Israel was being defeated because יהוה was empowering their enemies to do it!) The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. [P] (He had a problem! Great man though he was; this is something that he totally could not deal with! He had no solution. He had a terminal disease that he could do nothing about.) Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; [P] (notice, in this story, the interplay between the great and the insignificant, between pride and humility – it runs right the way through) and she waited on Naaman’s wife. [P] (He was a man, a commander; she was female, small, a slave, she served – she was nothing, nobody, beneath even noticing. But where does the deliverance come from?) She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” (it is the power of witness! You don’t have to be great or significant, but you can testify to the reality, the truth, that you know. Here she was, with every reason to resent her situation: taken away captive, subject to slavery, far from home and family – yet she showed love for her mistress and master. She could have rejoiced that he was suffering: serve him right for all the suffering he had caused her and her people. But no, she was concerned for him. Her desire was for him to be well. She knew the way for him to be saved, delivered from his disease. There is a world out there dying from the terminal disease of sin – and we know where to go to be healed! We may be little and nobodies, but we can share the word that can bring life!) Naaman went in and told his master, [P] saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.” (great and mighty man that he was, he listened to the voice of a little girl, a slave, a captive, a foreigner. I guess when you are desperate you will cling to that which you would normally not take any notice of. But he doesn’t say, “I have heard that there is a prophet in Israel”. He acknowledges that it is the testimony of “the girl from the land of Israel”) Then the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” (you deal with the mighty, the important, the head of the nation) He departed [P] and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes. (You use power (a letter from the king) influence, wealth – these are the means men use to get what they want – but, actually, they accomplished nothing!) He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, “And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” (king to king, that is the way to get things done. Funny thing is that neither of these kings could do anything to resolve the situation) [P] When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.” (He just saw it as a diplomatic ruse to stir up trouble) It happened when Elisha the man of God heard [P] that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, (Elisha knew, Jesus knows) that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses [P] and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. [P] (just stood there, waiting be noticed, waiting to be attended to) Elisha sent a messenger to him, (here is this great man, used to being respected, obeyed, people cow-towing to him; but this prophet doesn’t even deign to come out to him! He just sent a servant! How humiliating, degrading, insulting!) saying, [P] “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” (here was the word that would bring him life! But Naaman rejected it because of the form in which it came. He almost missed out! How often we miss out on God’s message that can bring us life because of the messenger through whom he sends it. That Paul I find really irritating, who does he think he is pontificating up the front?) [P] But Naaman was furious [P] and went away [P] (he almost missed out on the blessing of God, having his dire need dealt with. Why? His pride was offended! He had a preconceived notion of how God had to do it – let me tell you, very seldom, if ever, does God act the way that I expect Him to!) and said, “Behold, I thought, [P] ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of יהוה his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? (funny, we can come up with a better solution, a better way, to God’s! We have our own ideas – but they are totally ineffective. They may be cleaner, nicer rivers, than the muddy Jordan; but they won’t do anything for his leprosy. And we have our means and methods – only problem is …they don’t work!) Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (Pride, superiority, arrogance, preconceived ideas – they block you receiving anything from God. The solution was so simple; but his pride prevented him from seeing it. We don’t want it to be easy, simple. We want it to be impressive, difficult to attain, deep to understand,) So he turned and went away in a rage. [P] (he almost missed it!) Then his servants came near and spoke to him [P] (once again, wisdom comes though the mouth of servants. Undoubtedly pride was a stumbling block for this great and important man. Yes, Naaman was proud; but he also had a streak of humility. He listened to the lowly – and it was his salvation! If he had stuck solely to his pride, he would have died a leper. But for a second time, he takes the advice of a nobody) and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? (we don’t balk at extreme demands of religion, we can then take pride in our religious devotion. But to accept the simple?! I have seen a woman crawling on her hands and knees up the steps to St Peters as an act of penance; trying to do something to pay for forgiveness. People don’t mind doing something hard; but cannot simply accept what is freely given to those who humbly confess their need.) How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (it is so easy – you just have to submit, to obey, to believe what God says and act in accordance with it! WHY DO WE FIND IT SO HARD?!!! It’s that “P” word again: PRIDE!) So he went down and dipped himself [P] seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; (you tell the story to little kids: “he dipped in once, was he clean? [P], the chorus comes back: “No!” He dipped in twice, was he clean?” [P] and you carry on until the seventh time: “was he clean?” Back comes the chorus: “Yes!!” [P] – unfortunately, you are not quite so responsive!) and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. [P]] His besetting, unsolvable problem was gone! Hallelujah! He was CLEAN! He simply humbled himself; believed the message from God, acted on it – and he was delivered from his leprosy. He was saved! Hallelujah! Remember, I said every Elisha story has salvation in it? Naaman is pre-eminently a story of salvation. Naaman was delivered from the disease of leprosy. In the Bible, leprosy is consistently a picture of sin. Elisha is a picture of Jesus. Did you notice the repeated mention of “clean”? – 4 times in the last 5 verses. Leprosy made you dirty, defiled. Sin makes us filthy, defiled, unfit for God’s holy and utterly pure presence. Through Jesus there is salvation from sin. A clear and simple picture of the salvation that there is in Jesus. Here is a man, Naaman, mighty, powerful, successful, important. He had got to the top of his profession, as a soldier he was successful, victory wherever he went. In every way his life was a success. But there was a “BUT” in his life: (v.1) [P] “BUT he was a leper”. He had this disease which excluded him from society, which was incurable, disfiguring – and there was nothing he could do about it! I am going to be extremely personal this morning: we all have a big “BUT”! [P] We may be fine, pleasant people BUT we are sinners! I had a friend, J.R., who had been inside, a tough guy, who was gloriously saved, and became as gentle as a lamb – he always used to say: “We all are suffering from a terminal disease!” He was referring to sin. We all without exception are sinners. We have this condition, that disfigures, that spreads, is incurable, cuts us off from fellowship, and is terminal, it results in death – and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it! Like Naaman, no matter how successful we are – we have a big problem that despite all our cleverness, wealth, success, we just cannot deal with. It spoils everything. To find that you had leprosy would be to have the bottom fall out your world – you are excluded from society, an outcast! You, could try to cover it up; but sooner or later it would be obvious. You cannot cover sin – you can put on a fine outward appearance that can fool me, but the sin is still there. The disease is still there and it will progress, its grip gets stronger. And the Bible is quite clear, that it is us ALL: [Romans 3:9–12 both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”] You may be a very nice person, pleasant, talented, successful, personable BUT you are a sinner. You need to be cleansed. There was mighty Naaman BUT he had this problem that he could not deal with – just like you and me. Proud Naaman! Or was he? Undoubtedly, he was proud, he was head of the army, had access to the king – he went to the top. He went to the king of Israel, he had riches, he had authority, he had power. A proud man. When Elisha didn’t come down to meet him, his pride was offended. He despised the dirty Jordan, was proud of Syria’s fine clean rivers. If we make up a story we tend to stereotype our characters: we have goodies and badies, proud and humble; but the Bible has real people. Yes, Naaman was proud, but also, he was humble – he was a mixture [P]. It would be unheard of for someone in his position to take notice of a captive, a slave, a woman, a mere child – but he did. Again, it was his servants who spoke to him about going off in high-dudgeon; and he listened to their rational advice. Naaman was sometimes proud, sometimes humble – he was not consistent, nor are we; but the story is consistent! Look! Every time he exhibits pride he is further from the grace he needs; and every time he humbles himself he is closer to the grace he needs. In the pride of his military prowess, he was a leper; but when he listened to the little maid the door was opened to the solution. When he went to the king, when he went with his letter of authority, with his riches, to the king of Israel; he was further from the solution. When he went to the prophet the way was humbling: the prophet didn’t even come down to him, sent a message to do some degrading thing of dunking in a muddy stream. Yet that humbling was the way of cleansing, of salvation, he was close to the answer. But, Naaman goes off in a huff, in pride; he speeds away from the solution. Yet, when he humbles himself to listen to a servant, he draws near to the solution. When he humbles himself and simply obeys, does what God tells him to; lays aside his opinions, his ideas, his standing, naked with his leprosy exposed there for all to see – our uncleanness, our sin out in the open – the humbling of confession. He found the grace he needed. Funny, isn’t it? We seldom confess our sins, well at least not publicly. Yet, the Bible says that that is the prerequisite for cleansing: [P] [1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.] Yes, I confess my sins to God; but, James says: [James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.] Confession is associated with healing. It is a humbling thing to confess our sin before others. I am extremely reticent to do it. I don’t want the depravity that is my heart to be known. I want to appear respectable, a good Christian. It is pride! Yet, this confession of sin is a consistent feature in revivals of the past. When John the Baptist came, preparing the way for Jesus, it says: [Matthew 3:6 they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.] I was baptized, but I never publicly confessed my sin; yet, in the early church: [Acts 19:18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.] The Psalmist said: [Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to יהוה”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.] All the time that I conceal my sin, pretend it isn’t there, deny I have a real problem; it is not going to be dealt with. Only when I confess my situation, my desperate need; will God do anything about it. It has to be brought to light: [Ephesians 5:11–14 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; …. all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”] Proverbs says: [Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.] We need compassion. I am a rebel, according to Jesus, in Matthew 5, I am both an adulterer and a murderer. It is a humbling thing to own up to what we actually are. [P] Every time Naaman acted in pride, he was further from salvation; every time he humbled himself, he was closer to salvation. The Bible’s record is that we are all sinners. We cannot do anything about it. We need to be saved. We don’t deserve to be – we all need grace – that which we do not deserve and cannot earn. We cannot earn it; but HUMILITY is the prerequisite for receiving it. The proud cannot receive grace, because they want to do it themselves! Grace is given – it cannot be earned, because then it ceases to be grace: [P] [James 4:6–7 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God.] We need to be saved from our sinfulness: [Psalm 149:4 For יהוה takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation.] Salvation come to the humble. The Good News, the Gospel, is for the humble: [Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord יהוה is upon me, because יהוה has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted (humble);] The world tells us that we need to assert ourselves, push and strive. What we really need is HUMILITY. That is what the Bible commands for all of us: [[1 Peter 5:5–7 All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.] But we have our own way, our own ideas, a way that is more appealing, our own more aesthetically pleasing ways: the rivers of Abanah and Pharpar. Not that foolish way of dipping in a muddy stream. Coming with letter of authority and riches – coming with our own efforts. The only trouble is that they don’t work. Jesus said: [Matthew 18:4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Mark 10:15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child (humbly) will not enter it at all.”] יהוה has so arranged things such that only the humble will receive. But boy, how I cling to my pride!! It is the greatest blockage to receiving the blessing of God! God’s way is effective, it works – it is not complicated. Our pride delights in deep theology, complex concepts, great profundity – but God’s way is so simple a child can get it: (verse 13): [P] simply “wash and be clean”. Naaman would have done great exploits in order to get cured. But to simply “wash and be clean” – it was so simple that he almost stumbled over it. Can I plead with you not to get too complicated in your faith? I have seen people totally lose their way getting involved in studies in Bible college. They get very learned; but somehow, they totally miss the point! Just “wash and be clean”. [1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.] Just humble confess and be clean. Cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness! Hallelujah! We don’t do it. God is faithful, God is righteous; He does it, He forgives us our sins! Bless His Name! It is so simple! So easy, that we miss it! Surely it can be that simple, that easy. Easy for us, not so easy for God – it took the sacrifice of His own Son! We come to Jesus to be washed and clean. The Psalmist cried: [Psalm 51:7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.] How do we wash and be cleansed?: [Revelation 7:14 These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.] [P] [1 John 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son is cleansing us from all sin.] There is cleansing in the blood of Jesus. There is also a cleansing through the word of God: [John 15:3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Ephesians 5:25–26 Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,] The word of God cleanses us; being clean we can then approach a holy and pure God: [Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.] However, the dipping in the Jordan, cannot help but remind us of baptism – that is where both John and Jesus baptized people. It is not a cleansing from literal dirt: [1 Peter 3:21 baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,] rather, baptism is a symbolizing of burial and resurrection – we die with Christ and are raised to newness of life. No longer I living but Christ in me, in the Person of His Holy Spirit: [Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, (we are not saved by our own deeds, which results in pride) but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration (made alive again) and renewing by the Holy Spirit, ] that is what makes us clean – the new life of Christ, the continual renewing by His Holy Spirit within us. We die with Christ, we are resurrected new creations! Hallelujah! The pure simplicity of it, is what is the obstacle. Just [P] “wash and be clean” – Naaman simply just had to do what the man of God said, it wasn’t hard. It wasn’t some great accomplishment that he could boast about. Simply wash: [John 9:1 As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. ….. John 9:6–7 He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. – he simply did what Jesus told him, to wash. And it worked, his life-long problem was resolved. But no, the religious could not accept it. They had to investigate, work it out theologically, make it complicated. So, they question the man as to what happened: John 9:11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” I just did what Jesus told me to, and it worked! But no, the Pharisees couldn’t accept it. It couldn’t be him, he was a sinner, Jesus broke the sabbath law – it couldn’t have happened. They investigate, ask the parents if he is their son – they can’t get around the fact that this man blind from birth can see. The evidence is staring them in the face but they still cannot accept it. They ask the man again: [John 9:15 Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”] It is so simple – but the clever theologians don’t get it. [P] Look, Bible colleges are full of men studying and investigating and missing the whole point! The Gospel is foolishness to the clever, too simple for them; so they stumble over it: [1 Corinthians 1:18–21 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” (that is pride) Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.] Salvation is what we need and it doesn’t come through study and clever theology, it comes by faith, to those who believe. [1 Corinthians 1:26–29 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; (not the proud but the lowly!) but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.] That is the Gospel, it is simple! I received it as a 3-year-old. [P] Its brilliance is that pride is excluded. We all need salvation, but pride will prevent you from receiving the grace you need; because God is utterly opposed to pride – He will not permit it. There was another leper, many years later; he came to Jesus: [Mark 1:40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him (that is humbly), and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”] There is no question about Jesus being able to cleanse, the question is: “Will He?”: [Mark 1:41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”] The Good News is that He is also willing. [P] If we humbly confess our sin, He is faithful and righteous and will make us clean.
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.