2 Kings 5:18-19
In this thing the LORD pardon your servant, that when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand…
Naaman returned to Elisha; full of gratitude and generous recognition of his own error and Elisha's successful power, he and all his company came and stood before He paid a willing and a grateful homage to the God of the conquered Israelites, and like Saul of old, with the same generosity and openness and natural disposition, he was compelled at once upon conviction to own the errors of the past, and to declare his firm intention of reformation for the future. His next act was the offering a gift to Elisha; free and generous in heart, he noticed the poverty of the prophet, and he wished to relieve it. On the refusal, Naaman put forward the request to be permitted to have two mules' burden of earth: for, said he, "thy servant shall henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord." This request is based on the old impression that the Syrian earth was sacred, as especially belonging to the land that God had blessed. Of course he might have taken as much as he pleased, but the gift of the prophet, in Naaman's eyes, consecrated the burden. He probably intended to raise an altar in his own land, on which to sacrifice to the true God, from an impression of the high sanctity of the country in which Elisha ministered, and the healing Jordan flowed. It is a singular circumstance that there was a strong impression amongst the heathen nations that earth conveyed a sanctifying influence. The Mahometans value the smallest modicum of earth from Mecca; and the Jews themselves have so high a veneration for the earth of Palestine, that they count it their highest privilege to be carried from the land of their sojourn to be laid in the dust of their fathers. If this is impossible, their custom is to have small portions of the sacred earth, which is placed under the head of the corpse. This m the case at this day among the Jews in England, so that earth is brought over in quantities continually to be laid in and consecrate their graves. Elisha seemed to imply that Naaman might do as he wished, and take what he would. Are we right in dissembling our real opinions and faith in God in deference to the opinions of another, even though he be our superior and master? Is the permission of Elisha to extend to all cases of difficulty such as the one in which Naaman was placed? or is there some exceptional condition in the position of the Syrian, which excepts the applicability of his case to our own? But we must find the solution to this difficulty in the peculiar kind of difficulty which Naaman represents, and for that purpose we must look back to the traits which I have mentioned. We have seen throughout that there was a consistency as well as a peculiarity in his condition. He was like thousands around us — honest in heart and in intention; earnest-minded and desirous to do their duty; nevertheless, as being in the position of recent converts or of young beginners in religion, such men are placed in positions of difficulty and peril: everything depends on the sincerity and integrity of their purpose and the simplicity of their mind. These were determined in the case of Naaman by certain traits of character. The disposition must be tried by the standard of these traits before the conduct of the individual can be included within the limitations to which Elisha's permission was granted. Here lies the point of the question. Once sufficiently show that the character be exactly that of the Syrian captain — so simple, so sincere, so little open to second motive, so fresh and earnest in its efforts to know and serve God, and Elisha's permission takes effect. If God be satisfied with the integrity of our purpose, if with a full and fair opportunity of knowing our character, a religious teacher grant us a permission to act as Naaman wished to act, we are safe in doing it; but where such conditions do not exist, we take that permission to the peril of our souls. But I will take some cases in order to illustrate more clearly my meaning. A young person in the bosom of a family, whose parents have called forth from him deep sentiments of respect and affection, has a strong conviction that a certain course of conduct, hitherto pursued under the sanction and wish of those parents, is wrong, and can only be persevered in to the danger of the soul, and at the expense of duty to God. It may be that a certain circle of society in which such a man has hitherto moved bears to him an irreligious aspect; or an amusement has been indulged in which appears in a more than doubtful character. It is difficult, in such cases, for a young person to appear to set himself up as a teacher by breaking away from what his parents have hitherto esteemed harmless. May he continue the suspected practice in deference to the wish of the parent, and despite the violation of his own sense of right? or is he bound at once to denounce the practice, and virtually those who defend it, by suddenly giving it up? Where there is an entire simplicity and honesty of heart in such a person towards God, may we not feel that, in deference to Elisha's permission, he had better still pursue the suspected course? And may we not feel that where a religious adviser can discover such traits of simplicity as the prophet might have done in the Syrian, that he may grant the permission to succumb externally to the prejudices and mistaken notions of others who stand in the relationship of authority. And that for many reasons, partly lest vanity or an over-strong expression of egotism be developed in the young; partly lest sincere intention, though mistaken judgment, might be so hindered in such a manner as to cheek religion or improvement in the character altogether. If, however, there be a swerve from perfect integrity of purpose, such advice would be out of place. Our own infirm nature and the world outside us offer so many temptations for lowering the standard of truth, that we should live in continual anxiety lest the conditions laid down above be not applicable to our case. Then the bowing in the house of Rimmon would simply be an attempt to serve God and Mammon.
Parallel VersesKJV: In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.
WEB: In this thing may Yahweh pardon your servan: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon. When I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, may Yahweh pardon your servant in this thing."