2 Kings 5:11-12
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand…
The great man and all his cortege are kept outside, and God's servant will not even come out, but sends the message, "Go and wash in Jordan." That un-courtly reception is no piece of vulgar arrogance, like the pride of a pope that keeps an emperor standing in the snow in the castle yard for three days, before he will absolve him. It is the wise dealing of that Divine Word. With soldier-like quickness of temper and pride, he flashes all at once into a blaze. The characteristics which offended Naaman, are the characteristics of God's cure for the leprosy of our spirits. They are its glory even though men may stumble at them. Look at them as brought out here.
I. Note then, what in this man's eyes was a fault,-what, to clearer vision, is a glory — THE UTTER INDIFFERENCE OF THE GOSPEL TO ALL DISTINCTIONS AMONG MEN. The community in the sickness of sin destroys all distinctions. There is a prince lying on that bed; there a stable-boy on that. They are ill of the same disease,, which affects the man, not his office. They need the same treatment, and — thank God! — they get it from Him who is no respecter of persons. Such treatment is true to the fact of man's condition. For it is a fact that we are all alike in sin. In us all there has been and is a voluntary divergence and deflection from the line of right, which darkens a man's soul. "All the world is guilty before God"! You cannot refute, and you will not mend that old saying about man's condition. Let me put it into plain English. Whether do you think it matters most in your relation to God — yours and mine — that we are sinners or that we are cultivated people? Whether do you think it matters most that our hearts have started aside from Him and our hands have done evil, or that we can read Latin and Greek books and are scholars? There is something for you. If the distinctions on which you pride yourselves are worth anything, they will help you to apprehend and profit by God's gift. For this treatment of all men as alike sinners, is the precursor of as universal a mercy. All are alike in two facts — that we have sinned, and that Christ has died for us. And, therefore, some men turn away from it. There is the narrow gate! Plenty of room for you — no room for the load of adventitious distinctions that you carry upon your shoulders. And so "he turned, and went away in a rage"! And let me remind you how this superb indifference of the Gospel to all these distinctions of man from man, is its true glory, and has wrought wonderful things. The Gospel came into a world all swathed in ligatures, all cleft into classes, parted from one another by deep gulfs which there was no bridging, where nations frowned at one another from their battlements, and caste and class and race and culture rent men apart from their fellows, and nothing but the grip of an iron hand and the false unity of conquest held them together. The Gospel, the true democracy, came and struck the bonds from the slave, taught the sentiment of fraternity, gave a new word and a new thought to the languages of earth — "humanity" — made men and women equal possessors of an equal grace! "He turned and went away in a rage"! And the world turns, and will yet do so in all its peoples and classes — no longer parted, but blended in one faith and one Lord, to Him who is the equal Saviour to the whole race of men.
II. We may draw from these words an illustration of what I venture to call THE NAKED SIMPLICITY OF GOD'S GOSPEL. He said, "Behold, I thought he will come, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and so by all that ceremonial he will recover the leper." And what does he get instead of all this? "Go and wash and be clean." It was very like a heathen, accustomed to muttered spells and magical incantations, whose whole religion clung close to the low levels of earth, whose gods and whose worship, whose hopes and whose fears were alike material, to crave for some external ritual of cleansing. It was very like a man to long for something visible and tangible for his wavering confidence to lay hold upon — some fixed point belonging to solid earth to which he might fasten the filmy frailty of his faith. It was very like God to contradict the desire and to give him instead — only a promise to grasp, and a command to obey, which was chiefly a test of his obedience, since common sense told him that water could not wash away the eating evil, and national pride rebelled against the pre-eminence of the river of Israel. The like apparent antagonism between men's wishes and God's ways meets us in the Gospel — and the like correspondence between God's ways and men's real wants. Christianity comes to us — or rather instead of that abstract word let us say Christ, who is Christianity, comes to us — trusting wholly and only to spiritual remedies. He, too, says "wash and be clean." The one power that cleanses is His blood for pardon, His spirit for holiness. The one condition of receiving these is simple faith in Him; all externals are nothing. And so people feel out of their element in a region thus purely spiritual and immaterial. The heathenism which is in all of us, the sense.bound materialism which sways us all, lays hold of the pure Gospel which Christ wrought and gives, and reforms it by tacking on to it an incongruous and heterogeneous appendage of rites and ceremonies, and by investing the simple ordinances which He enjoined with mysterious power.
III. Then, there is connected with this consideration, and yet somewhat distinct from it, the other, THE UTTER REJECTION BY THE GOSPEL OF ALL OUR CO-OPERATION IN OUR OWN CLEANSING. The words of Naaman himself do not explicitly contain his refusal to do what was required, on the ground that it was so small a thing. But that was evidently in his mind, as well as the other grounds of offence; and it comes out distinctly in the common-sense remonstrance by which his servants brought their irascible master to reason, Men would be a great deal more willing to accept God's way of salvation if it gave them some share in their own salvation. But its characteristic is that it will have none of our work — not even so much as this man had to do in his healing. The Gospel rejects our co-operation just because it demands our faith. For what is faith? Is not an essential part of it the consciousness that we can do nothing, the forsaking and going out of ourselves, accompanying the flight to Him? The under side of faith is self-abnegation; the upper side is confidence in Christ. In like manner, remember that the same principle is further established because our faith is not the means of our cure, but only the bringing of our sickness into contact with the means. God's love in Christ, Christ's perfect work of reconciliation, Christ's Spirit poured out — these be the energies that heal; our faith is but lifting the eyelid that the light may fill the eye, but opening the door that the physician may enter. And, therefore, because there is not a crevice in the whole process where self-trust can creep through, because from beginning to end God is all and man nought, our hearts rebel, We do not like to be paupers.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, 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.
WEB: But Naaman was angry, and went away, and said, "Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leper.'