Naaman the Leper; And the Washing of Water
Today we’re going to take a look at the story, of a man named Naaman, who was afflicted with the disease of leprosy. The story is found in 2 Kings, chapter 5, verses 1 thru 14. And after we read the story, we’ll make application to some new testament verses. And so let me read to you the story, and of course you’re invited to follow along in your own bibles if you’d like.
2 Kings 5, verses 1 thru 14..
“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians, on one of their raids, had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress; I wish that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy. So Naaman went in and told HIS lord; (in other words, he told the king) Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
“When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and asked, “Am I God, killing and giving life, that this man expects me to cure a leper? Surely you can see that he is seeking a quarrel with me! Now when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king: “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let the man come to me, and he will know, that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house.”
“Then Elisha sent him a messenger, who said, “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored, and you will be clean. But Naaman was angry, and went away saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.”
I’d like to stop here and consider a phrase that Naaman used. Naaman thought the prophet would come out and stand, and “call upon the name of the Lord”. In other words, Naaman thought that Elisha would call upon the power and authority of God, to heel his leprosy. It’s interesting that the old Hebrew word here that’s translated as “name” is most often translated in other verses, as “renown”. Call upon the “renown” of the Lord! And what is it, that the Lord God is “known” or “renown” for? Isn’t it His unparalleled power and authority?
Consider these words from 1 Chronicles 29, verse 11; “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty; For all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.” That’s the “renown” of the Lord God!
But getting back to our text, Naaman had his own ideas on how his situation should be handled, and when it didn’t line up with the plan of God, he got angry. And you might say, he stormed out of there! Listen to what Naaman said, in verse 12.. “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better, than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.” He stormed out of there! He must have thought that his preconceived notions were better than God’s way.
You know, a lot of people today treat the bible that way. When they read something that doesn’t match up with their preconceived notions of the way religion ought to be, they turn their backs on the teachings of God, and they turn to the teachings of man, and the creeds of man. But that’s simple unbelief at work. It’s opposition to God, instead of submission to God. And opposition to God, is the very “spirit” of satan. But James 4:7 exhorts us.. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, (resist that spirit of opposition) and “that spirit” will flee from you.” Resist the spirit, and the attitude, of opposing God’s word, and simply submit to it. Obey it! “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (Verse 8)
The Power of God
But another problem that Naaman was having, was that he thought somehow it was the water, that was going to wash away his leprosy. That’s why he said; “Aren’t the waters of Damascus, better, than all the waters of Israel?” But the fact is, it wasn’t about the water! It was simply about obeying God. A river of water can’t cure leprosy, not even an ocean of water can do that. But God can!
Washing in the river was purely symbolic. But the fact is, that if Naaman was willing to wash seven times, in the river Jordan, just like the word of God had told him to do, then he would come out of that water pure and clean! Not because there’s some sort of “magic” in the water, but because there’s power and authority in God’s word! That’s where the “magic” is! It’s in the power of God!
So let’s see what happened with Naaman. Here’s what it says in 2 Kings 5, verse 13; (“Remember, Naaman had just stormed off angrily) But verse 13 says; “Naaman’s servants, however, approached him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, Wash and be cleansed?” We all should have a servant like that. Someone to help straighten us out, when we’re about to go astray.
Listen to verse 14; “So Naaman went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored and became like that of a little child, and he was clean.”
If there were only one lesson that we learned from this story, it would have to be this.. Just have faith in the word of God, and simply do what He tells you to do. Isn’t that simple? Naaman could have remained stubborn and refused to obey, but then he would have simply remained in his diseased condition; And so it’s a good thing he had a change of heart. Actually what Naaman did, was to repent of his stubbornness. He repented of his opposition to God. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need to do.
Cleansing of the Flesh vs Cleansing of the Soul
Now, in the case of Naaman, the washing that he was told to do, was indeed for the cleansing of the flesh, wasn’t it? It was to cleanse him of his fleshly disease. And even though it wasn’t the water, that had the power to cleanse him, (it was God who cleansed him) he still had to go and wash in that water, or remain diseased. It was that simple.
And you know, that is exactly the way it is with God’s command for us to be baptized in water. Acts 22;16 is a good verse to cite here. It says; “And now, why do you delay? (in other words, what is there to wait for?) Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of Jesus Christ.”
God hasn’t told us to “wash seven times”, but rather, God has told us to be immersed in water, once, to symbolize your spiritual death to sin, and the burial of your old sinful self, and your resurrection, and spiritual “re-birth”. Romans 6:3 & 4 details the process. And it tells us that the process, symbolizes the very death, and burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of God.. “Do you not know, that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism, into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
And we’re told in verse 5; “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” How do you become united with Christ? How do you “put on Christ”, as Galatians 3:27 says? You do it through baptism.
There’s a lot of similarities between what Naaman was told to do, and what we’re told to do today. But the biggest difference, is the fact that Naaman’s washing was for the cleansing of his flesh; While our washing in baptism, is for the cleansing of the soul! And I’d like to use 1 Peter 3:20 & 21 to help illustrate that fact.
In those two verses, God is making a comparison, between how Noah and his family, were “saved through water”, and how we today, are “saved through water”.
In 1 Peter 3, verse 20, the scripture says.. “..God waited patiently in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built, in which a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water.” You see, God USED water, just like He USED the ark, to save Noah and his family; But quite literally, it wasn’t the water OR the ark, that saved those eight people, it was God Himself who actually did the saving, wasn’t it?
It’s a lot like how God USED water, to cleanse Naaman’s leprosy; It wasn’t the water that cleansed Naaman. It was God who did the cleansing. The water was simply symbolic of the cleansing that God was doing. And it was a matter of whether or not Naaman would obey the command from God to cleanse himself in the Jordan river.
But think again, about 1 Peter 3, verse 20; About how Noah and his family were “saved through water”. You’ve got that in your mind right? Well, listen now to verse 21; “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you.” In other words, just like God used water, in the physical saving of Noah, God also uses water, in the spiritual saving of us today. But now listen to the second half of verse 21.. Speaking of our baptism.. “..Not the removal of the dirt from the flesh, (it’s not a physical cleansing, like Naaman’s cleansing was) ..but (rather) an appeal of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Naaman’s washing was for the removal of a disease of the flesh. But our washing in baptism is for the removal of a disease of the soul! And when we obey the command of God to be baptized in water, we are making.. “an appeal of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Calling on God
What does that mean? “An appeal of a good conscience toward God.” Our conscience refers to our sense of morals, the conviction in our hearts, and the acknowledgment of knowing right from wrong. So then, what would you think a “good conscience” would be? What do the scriptures say about who and what is “good”? Well, Jesus said in Luke 18:19; “..No one is good, except God alone.” That being the case, wouldn’t a “good conscience” have to be a conscience which has been taught by God? In other words, by God’s word?
Simply put, “a good conscience” obeys the word of God. It’s as simple as that. A conscience that has been shaped by the word of God, is what motivates us to DO what the Lord has told us to do. Jesus asked the question, in Luke 6:46; “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say.” In other words, how can you “call on the Lord”, and how can you “appeal to the Lord”, without doing what He says? To put it bluntly, you can’t!
Allow me to point out what I think is an important similarity, between this verse, and Acts 22:16, which I spoke about earlier. This verse (1 Peter 3:21) says that our baptism, is not for any physical benefits, but that instead, it’s “an appeal toward God.” Now what exactly are you doing, when you make an “appeal” to God? Well, you’re “calling on God” to grant you a particular blessing, are you not?
If I may answer my own question.. Yes you are. You are calling on the Lord, and making an appeal, for a certain blessing. And in the case of baptism, you are making an appeal to God, to forgive your sins, just like He promised He would.
Now, consider again Acts 22:16; Listen again to what that verse says; “And now why do you delay? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name, (in other words, calling on the authority) of Jesus Christ.” We are “calling on the Lord’s authority” to do what? To do exactly what He promised He would do; That is.. Forgive our sins, to add us to the kingdom of Christ, and to grant to us the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven, if we will simply remain faithful all the days of our lives.
But once again, it’s not the water that removes our sins, it’s God who does it. But He only does it, when we obey His commands.
You can be saved through baptism today, if you believe in God and in Jesus as the Christ; And if you are willing confess that faith; And if you will truly repent of your sins; Then, you can be baptized and have those sins washed away, calling on God to cleanse you, and to add you to His one body, which is His kingdom.
And so.. “..why do you delay? (There’s nothing to wait for) Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the authority of Jesus Christ.”
The water is ready, are I’m sure God is ready; Are you ready?