Right Through The River
by Kristen Schiffman
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2 Kings 5:10-11
Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean."
But Naaman was furious 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 wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.'
There is a famous Irish novelist who is quoted as saying, “The wrong way always seems the more reasonable.” I happen to agree with him daily as I look at the bookmark in my Bible that is home to his quote. I’ve been wondering what it is about wrong that always seems so right?
I remember being on class retreat in which we, the students, in order to form a more perfect classroom (forgive me for borrowing from the constitution as inspiration) were asked to go out into the wilderness and get lost. We were given the compass, map, partner (and camp leader who stayed back at a distance watching his or her assigned team) that would make the exercise possible. It was exhilarating, chilly, time consuming, tiring, fun, terrifying and remarkable all at the same time.
After hiking through the forest, for what felt like 12 hours, my partner and I came to river that was running through our piece of Find Your Way Home Land. Dan and I were rather certain the counselors would not have us wade across this icy, fast paced waterway so we began to explore our other options.
Ok, I still don’t like the tool entitled, “Compass”. What good does knowing we are indeed going north matter if the only way to continue on is to swim across a raging river? How is the compass going to help us then? Does it suddenly sprout wings and fly us home?
The map wasn’t much help either. The map told the truth: Looks like you guys are about to get wet. Dan and I still, even with a compass and map urging us on, could not understand how this was remotely realistic. So, we decided it wasn’t and we ventured outside the guidance we had been given; looking for another way.
We did not find one. All of our Other Ways turned out to be dead-ends or they sent us south. Not one was sending us in the right direction, not one was a pathway back to camp and S’mores.
At this point I did what any normal, teenaged girl would do. I began to primp and fix my hair; if I was going to wade across the river I was at least going to look good doing it. Dan was not as willing to jump into the h20 as I – this was what sparked his let’s-jump-on-the-rocks-across-the-raging-rapidly-moving-river plan. I nearly broke my ankle. Dan ended up soaked. But we made it home.
I wonder had we not accepted the least-reasonable plan how long we would have had to wander and aimlessly walk before the counselors stepped in and demanded we get going and get drenched!
Naaman, a 2 Kings chapter 5 personality, was a man both Dan and I could’ve gotten along with really well. He wasn’t into the this-way-reasonable path. Quick recap: Naaman was a man suffering from a severe skin disease. He was a general under the army of King Aram and even with his skin condition he is recorded as a man of serious importance to his master. He was important because through him God made sure King Aram was given victory. The Bible tells us Naaman was ‘truly a great man, but afflicted with a grievous skin disease’.
You must see where this is going. Naaman gets wind that there is a man who can heal him of his skin situation and so he makes his way to his friend, the king, and asks if it would be ok if he went on a road trip. King Aram gives him the go ahead, with a letter of introduction to the King of Israel to help Naaman out and so ‘he went off, taking with him about 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold and ten sets of clothes.’
2 Kings 5:6 is priceless: “Naaman delivered the letter to the king of Israel. The letter read, ‘When you get this letter, you'll know that I've personally sent my servant Naaman to you; heal him of his skin disease.’”
Talk about a serious request! The King of Israel basically freaked out after reading this letter, asking if King Aram was looking to pick a fight because, of course, how could a normal man ever heal someone of a skin-stripping disease.
Enter Elisha. Prophet of the Living God. Elisha tells the King of Israel to send Naaman his way. Naaman hops on his horse, arriving in style at the door of Elisha. And in true to his fashion Elisha says, “Go to the River Jordan and immerse yourself seven times. Your skin will be healed and you’ll be good as new.”
Check out verse 11 of this chapter! “Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of Israel’s rivers. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.’ He stomped off, mad as a hornet.”
Stick with me, verses 13 and 14 are priceless. “But his servants caught up with him and said, "Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn't you have done it? So why not this simple 'wash and be clean'?" So he did it. He went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, following the orders of the Holy Man. His skin was healed; it was like the skin of a little baby. He was as good as new.”
I wonder if there is a little Naaman in you. I love that line: If the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?
All throughout the word of God we see the following themes: Believe and be saved. Repent and be pardoned. Wash and be cleaned.
It doesn’t take a tight rope walk, while balancing a plate on our nose, which holds a piece of double chocolate layer cake we had to bake ourselves before hand, in a kitchen covered in glass, blue glass imported from France…and so on and so forth.
Romans 10:8-19 could not spell it out more clearly for us if its author tried “…the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Simple this salvation. Believe and be saved. Repent and be pardoned. Wash and be clean. What do we do when we are convinced we cannot be healed unless we do something in order to prove our worthiness of Christ’s gift of forgiveness?
I pray for us right now. That the ‘Naaman’ in us would not hold us back from the life Christ offers. I pray that we would not be held captive by our thoughts of grandeur. That we would not box God into the realm of ‘Only Gargantuan”. May our hearts not be hardened so that they are convinced Christ is only within displays that require a ‘show’. Christ’s ministry here on earth was not one of ‘on tour’ exhibits. He went where there were people. And where there are people, there are serious issues.
Skin diseases. Broken hearts. Empty pockets. Dashed dreams.
King David of the Bible, after having an affair with a married woman and proceeding to have her husband killed, speaks in a prayer to the Lord, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Dan and I learned during our wilderness trek that the only way home to our camp was through the river. Naaman learned it as well. I wonder tonight if you will join us. It seems so simple to sinners. Too simple, really. So we say it is impossible. Couldn’t be true. An idea for the simple minded.
Take it from someone who has waded across, is wet up to her chest and knows about sin all too well: Wash and be clean. Life-giving salvation. It really is simple as that.
Scripture borrowed from the NIV.
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