I am what most people call geographically challenged. Five minutes and I will get lost. It has gotten better with GPS. But, still, I am one of those people in the parking lot scratching their head because they can’t find their car. And, sometimes my walk with God is a lot like that—complicated and all religiousy when it doesn’t need to be. If you’re like me, at times crashing under the sheer weight of all you think God needs you to be, please take a look at the story of Naaman.
Naaman is one of those Old Testament folks I forget I know until I read 2 Kings. His story is woven into the life of Elisha the prophet, and I’m drawn to it for several reasons. First, because he is relatable–flawed, hopeful, and then transformed by the power of God. I wanted to break up his story into two posts. The first one deals with his healing.
Naaman was coated in leprosy, yet still commanded an army. He was married, and had servants. And, as it turns out, some leverage with his boss, the king of Aram. All Naaman had to do was ask, and the king allowed him to travel with gifts to seek healing from the prophet in nearby Israel.
Naaman didn’t know God yet. He thought he would have to bribe God. To bargain with Him. To prove himself worthy of healing.
After all, accepting healing just because God was willing to give it, that’s way too complicated, right?
Not so. The prophet Elisha’s instructions in 2 Kings 5:10 was for Naaman to go bathe in the Jordan and he would be restored.
Naaman’s reaction isn’t entirely unreasonable. He’s mad. He lugged a fortune in silver, gold, and clothing, brought chariots, horses, traveled, spoke with the king. And then, this prophet doesn’t even speak with him directly? There were rivers in his own country! What’s so special about the Jordan? (vs. 11-12)
Judging by all he brought, Naaman wanted to earn his healing. He wanted some elaborate scheme. And he probably would have gone home covered in leprous sores if his servants hadn’t talked some sense into him. Wasn’t it worth a try? In v. 13 they asked “If the prophet had commanded something difficult, would you not have done it?” Naaman was a warrior. He expected a battle, not a bath. And I can see the eye rolling, and eventual giving up. Fine, what do I have to lose?
He had to start washing seven times. Seven means completely. In the River Jordan. Because the man of God told him to do it. Not even because Naaman believed in this God from another country. Can you imagine? Going into the Jordan covered in sores, and seeing the skin that was once decaying, turn smooth–the cells regenerating? Then, in the reflection, all you see is skin described like that “of a young boy” (v.14)? No wonder Naaman could hardly contain his gratitude to God. What he wanted to be so complicated, what he wanted to control, was as simple as, humble obedience.
God doesn’t want complicated. You want to win a battle and prove yourself to me? Nope. Go take a long bath. Strip yourself of all your worldly armor. You want to buy my healing? Nope again. Leave it all at the river banks. Instead, give me your years and years of sores and infection. Your death. Your decay. I’ll do something that money can’t purchase. I am the LORD. It’s not that complicated.
I get that humble obedience is not easy for most people. But it’s not God who makes it hard. It’s actually for our benefit. I have a feeling if it were so easy, Naaman wouldn’t have had to completely wash himself seven times. But, when he did, complete healing happened. And, even better, wholehearted desire to follow God rose up in Naaman.
Generations later, a scene at the Jordan River became a significant turning point for all human history. The same river that healed Naaman now bore witness to Jesus Christ’ baptism, the One Who heals us when we wash ourselves completely in Him.
How do you complicate your relationship with God? Instead of humble obedience, I do what? For me, I get busy being a good little Christian and act like I can earn my way into God’s grace. I make my relationship with God very intellectual because I control reading theology. I can also pat myself on the back when I do good deeds. It’s as if I expect God to allow me to be the one person in all of time to love, think, and earn her keep. How exhausting and complicated.
Take it from Naaman. Lay down your armor. Humble yourself before God. Give Him every thing that has made you sore or broken. Naaman finally gave up his status and his need to control. He went ahead and jumped headfirst into the Jordan.
God is God. We are not. It’s not that complicated until we make it that way.