“BEHOLD, I THOUGHT”
By Wayne S. Walker
In 2 Kings chapter 5, the Syrian general Naaman, a leper, was sent to the prophet Elisha of Israel for healing. The command of Elisha to the diseased Syrian general, as given through his messenger, was to “go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (v. 10).
“But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage” (vs. 11-12).
Naaman thought that Elisha himself should come out. He thought that the man of God would put on a big show and use a lot of hocus-pocus. He thought that washing in the Jordan to cleanse leprosy was a ridiculous act. He thought that the rivers of Syria were better than those of Israel. He may even have thought that seven times were a few too many. His main problem is that HE thought.
Let’s make some applications. What must one do to be saved or have forgiveness of sins? “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38, NIV). But someone says, “I thought that faith alone saves a person.” Yes, we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1). But what about “faith only”? Listen to James 2:24. “Ye see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Faith must work through love (Galatians 5:6).
“But,” someone else replies, “I thought that a sinner is saved by repentance and prayer. My preacher told me to go down to the altar (or mourner’s bench) and pray for salvation till I prayed through.” Is that how Saul of Tarsus was saved? The Lord told him on the road to Damascus, “Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6). For three days he fasted and prayed (vs. 9-11). But he had still not been told what he must do. Then Jesus sent Ananias to tell him what to do. “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). And he did it (Acts 9:18). This he had to do to wash away his sins even after three days of repentance and prayer. And what He did to be saved is a pattern for us (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
Again one responds, “I thought that salvation came by confessing the Lord and accepting Him as my personal Savior.” Yes, we must confess Jesus (Matthew 10:32-33, Romans 10:9-10). But note what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:21. “Not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” How do we show our love for Christ and accept Him as Savior? By profession only? No. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Another answers, “But I thought that the Holy Spirit comes into the sinner’s heart and saves him.” Certainly the Spirit has a role in salvation (John 16:7-13). But did He save Cornelius directly and miraculously? In Acts 10 we learn that Cornelius was to send for Peter who would tell Him words by which he would be saved (vs. 1-6, 30-33; cf. 11:13-14). Peter came and began to preach to this Gentile and his family about Christ (vs. 34-43). Then the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard. But is this what saved them? Peter evidently didn’t think so, because he said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…” (vs. 47-48). These were the words by which Cornelius and his house were saved.
Naaman finally listened to his servants, decided to surrender his stubborn will, and “went down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child; and he was clean.” When Naaman did exactly as he was told, his leprosy left him and he was cleansed. The water itself did not cleanse him, nor did he earn his cleansing by dipping, but he had to obey God’s will to be clean. When a person today has completely obeyed from the heart the word of God, the result is that he or she will be made free from sin (Romans 6:17-18).
What Naaman thought did not matter with God; nor is He interested in what you and I think. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).