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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Wash and be Clean!
Text:2 Kings 5:1-19a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-03-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

 


        

 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
 “Wash and Be Clean!”
     2 Kings 5:1-19a
 
Naaman would be one of those people who would be so hard to buy a present for.  I’m sure you’ve encountered that at some point. Maybe you have a friend or family member who seems to have everything. At Christmas or their birthday, what can you possibly buy for them?
 
Naaman was like that. He had everything anyone could ever want. He had everything that those in the world value. He had a great job. Verse 1 tells us how Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Syria. Syria had a powerful army and Naaman was the chief commander.
 
Because of his position with the King of Syria, he also had prestige. Verse 1 goes on to say, He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded.  His high regard was due to the great success that he had as a military commander.  Verse 1 describes how through him the LORD had given victory to Syria. 
 
Furthermore, he had wealth. When Naaman left for Israel he took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing (5b). Yet, even though Naaman had all these blessings there was not a single person in Syria who would trade places with him.  For he also had leprosy. Verse 1 concludes: He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.
 
It wasn’t a minor skin disease, although many Bibles have footnotes explaining that the Hebrew word for leprosy covers a wide range of skin diseases.  But leprosy was a serious disease in every form. And there was no human cure.      
 
By God’s providence, into his life came this servant girl, who with a childlike faith, witnessed to him. She said to her mistress, who worked directly for Naaman, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (v. 3). And Naaman, to his credit, listened and with the king’s blessing he left for Israel.
 
Unfortunately, in the process of seeking the cure, Naaman made a number of mistakes: First, he thought he could buy the cure.  Did you notice the value of the gifts he brought to Elisha, as recorded in verse 5?  He had ten suits, and these weren’t just any suits. These were special. They were expensive suits of great quality, carefully tailored and expertly crafted from the finest materials available.
 
The silver was also special. 750 pounds of pure silver. There were no impurities mixed in. It was the purest of the pure. And then, in case that wasn’t enough to buy the cure, he had gold, 150 pounds of solid gold. Back then gold was weighed and valued differently than today, but by today’s standards the 150 pounds of gold would be worth well over two million dollars. If a cure could be bought, Naaman had the resources and the money to buy it.
 
A second mistake that Naaman made is that he also tried to be cleansed from his terminal disease through influence. He got a letter from the king of Syria, addressed to the king of Israel. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy” (v. 6).
 
He may have thought: “If the gold and silver aren’t enough to impress the prophet, I’ll bring a letter from the king of Syria to the king of Israel. Then I will have even more influence with this prophet, Elisha. Both the money and the letter from the king will be enough to lead to my cleansing, my healing cure.”
 
Naaman’s third mistake is that he took great offense when Elisha sent out his servant, telling him to wash seven times in the Jordan River.  In verse 12 he exclaimed, “Are not Abana and Phar-par, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?”  So he turned and went off in a rage.
   
Enter more servants. They bring him to his senses. Verse 13: Naaman’s servants went to 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’!” Naaman, dipped himself in the river seven times; he was cleansed and cured. He praised God and left rejoicing in the God of Israel.
 
Quite a story, isn’t it?  But how does it relate to us?

One application is that all humanity is infected with a terminal condition far worse than Naaman’s leprosy.  It is far worse than the coronavirus, Covid 19.  No matter what blessings you and I may have in life - wealth, success, prestige - we are all infected with the terminal condition of sin. Romans 3:23: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:10: There is no one righteous, no not one.
 
And we are not just terminally ill. In the words of Ephesians 2:1 we are dead in our sins and trespasses. Spiritually, apart from faith in Christ, we are dead and by nature, Ephesians 2:3 tells us, we are objects of God’s righteous and proper wrath.
 
Naaman’s leprosy points us to the terrible, terminal condition of every human being. We are sinners, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Physical death. Spiritual death. Eternal death, which is eternal separation from the love of God in the torment of hell.
 
While that is the bad news there is also the good news of the gospel. There is a cure for sin, but it is only found in the cleansing that comes when we believe in Jesus alone for our salvation. The gospel is as simple as Elisha’s servant’s command to Naaman “Wash and be cleansed.”  The message is “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Yet so many millions of people today stumble for the same reasons Naaman did. Naaman’s reaction to being cleansed in the Jordan River is very similar to the response of countless millions to the gospel message. So many reject the cleansing from sin through faith in Jesus Christ. For them, Christ is “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do (1 Peter 2:8).

Stumbling Blocks
 
Naaman had his silver and gold, and those ten fine suits from Syria. But they could not buy his cleansing.  They could not purchase a cure for his terminal disease. For the cleansing was freely given. There was no way to buy that cleansing from leprosy.
 
Yet many today are no different than Naaman. In essence, they say the same thing to the Lord. “Accept me for my works.  Accept me because I’m a good person. Accept me on the basis of who I am and all the good things I have done.” Yet, as Isaiah 64:6 says, All of us have become as one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf; and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.
 
Another way that Naaman sought to be cleansed from leprosy was through the letter from the king. He figured it would add a little extra weight to the gifts of gold, silver and the ten exquisite suits. And in much the same way, many people today think they can be accepted by God because of their association with others. They say, in effect, “Lord, here’s my letter of membership in the local church. I’ve been a member all my life.  Lord, here’s my baptismal certificate. And, Lord, my father and mother believed in You. You cleansed them, cleanse me because I grew up under their care.”
 
As we look at Naaman’s futile effort to use influence to be cleansed we are reminded that we can have all the right connections, be from a godly family and active in a Bible-believing church, yet not have cleansing from our sin.
 
Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and do many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”  (Matthew 7:22-23).
 
A third stumbling stone for many people, when it comes to the cleansing power of Jesus Christ for sin, is rooted in their pride. Pride keeps many from confessing their sin. They may confess that they have sins and “short-comings,” but they don’t acknowledge the heinous nature of their sins. They take sin lightly, so that they have a better self-image, even though they admit to some short-comings. They are offended by the cross and are too proud to be washed and cleansed by Jesus’ blood.
 
Naaman also had a problem with pride. He knew he had leprosy, but he didn’t want to submit to God’s way of cleansing.  In verse 9 and 10 we read: So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
 
At that point Naaman’s pride was bruised.  His ego was deflated.  He wasn’t receiving the recognition that someone of his stature expected.  Elisha didn’t even come and greet him; he sent a lowly servant instead.
 
Verse 11and 12 describe how Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?”  So he turned and went off in a rage.
 
In John Bunyan’s classic book, Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan uses the names of his characters to effectively portray what they are really like.  Christian is the main character, but those who have read the book will remember the descriptive names of people like Pliable, Obstinate, Goodwill, Simple, and Sloth, along with many others.
 
One of the many characters is named “Mr. Loathe to Stoop.”  He was loath to stoop before the Lord.  When Mr. Loathe to Stoop came across Immanuel he wanted Immanuel - the Lord - to recognize him for his superior character and for his dignity. That is why Bunyan aptly named him “Mr. Loathe to Stoop.”
 
Apparently he had many relatives because so many people today, in their pride, are loathe to stoop before Immanuel – the crucified and risen Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords before whom, on the last day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord of all (Philippians 2:9-11).
 
A fourth stumbling block to Naaman, which is still a stumbling block for many people today, is the simplicity of salvation. Millions of people today refuse to believe that cleansing can be as simple as believing in Jesus alone for salvation from sin. They want to be accepted because of their works, their association with others, their superior character and dignity. They might give lip service to faith in Jesus, but they want to add their works.
 
By contrast, many others believe that their sins are too great to be forgiven simply by believing in Christ. To their credit, they see the enormity of their sin, but they seem to forget these comforting words of Jesus: In Matthew 9:12 Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Luke 19:10 records Him saying: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  And in Luke 5:32 Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
 
But instead of listening to those words of assurance and comfort, those words of mercy and grace from the sympathetic High Priest and Redeemer, many people listen to the Accuser who constantly whispers, “Why would God accept you?  Look at all the sinful thoughts and deeds you have! God would never let you into His kingdom.” And he takes his magnifying glass over each one of your sins, magnifying them as large as possible before your eyes.
 
Although there are so many stumbling blocks, each complicated by our sin, the work of salvation is put before us so simply, just as the work of cleansing was put before Naaman so simply.  In John 6:28 the people came to Jesus and asked, “What must we do to do the work that God requires?” Like Naaman, they probably expected a complicated and expensive procedure. Perhaps they expected a long list of do’s and don’ts. They were familiar with the Pharisees, the religious leaders of their day. The Pharisees had over 600 different commandments that they lived by. Consequently, the people may have thought that Jesus would have even more rules, more stipulations to “do the work that God requires." 
 
But in John 6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One whom He has sent.” 
 
Cleansing Through Saving Faith in Christ Alone
 
Cleansing comes through saving faith in Christ alone. His cleansing power cannot be bought. His cleansing isn’t given to us because we know the right people or have membership in the right church. It is so simple that many stumble, not wanting to admit that cleansing from sin - our salvation - is all of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ: faith in His perfect life imputed  (credited) to us, faith in His sacrificial death to cover our sins, and faith in His glorious resurrection for our justification.
 
As the hymn writer, Horatius Bonar, put it:
 
Thy grace alone, O God,
To me can pardon speak;
Thy pow’r alone, O Son of God,
Can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save thine,
No other blood will do;
No strength, save that which is divine,
Can bear me safely through.  (Not What My Hands Have Done, v. 3).
 
There is no other place of cleansing.  It is only found through faith in Christ.  His cleansing power is prefigured, anticipated and typified throughout the Old Testament.  Christ is the central focal point of all Scripture, as He Himself told His disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). 
  
Just as Naaman was cleansed of leprosy by obeying the word of God, so we are cleansed from sin by obeying the words of Jesus, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One whom He has sent.”
 
However, true saving faith in Christ is not a mere mental assent that Jesus existed, suffered, died, and rose again. True saving faith has three elements. There is an intellectual element, an emotional element and a volitional element to true saving faith. There must be an intellectual knowledge concerning who Jesus Christ is. That is why we tell others about Jesus. Without a knowledge of who He is, and without a knowledge of who we are as sinners, there can be no salvation.
 
But to have an intellectual knowledge of who Christ is, is not the same as having true saving faith. There are many people who know all the biblical facts concerning Jesus Christ. They know their Bible and they know their doctrine. The teaching of the catechism, confessions and canons may be in their mind, but it must also be in the heart. That is the emotional element of true saving faith.
 
And when we have a knowledge of the Lord, not only in our head, but also in our heart, it gives us a proper emotion of love for Christ who has cleansed us. The emotional aspect of true saving faith gives us an ever deeper love for the Father who gave us His eternal Son to be our Savior and Lord. And from the heart we have a deep appreciation and love for the Holy Spirit, who regenerates God’s people, granting us the gift of true saving faith as we are spiritually born from above.
 
And that emotion, springing from the knowledge of Christ’s cleansing work, affects our will, our volition; it affects the way we live our lives. We see that in this passage, both in the life of Naaman, and the servant girl who witnessed to him. The unnamed servant girl, who told Naaman’s wife about Elisha, had true saving faith. She knew who had the cleansing power. That knowledge wasn’t just in her head, but in her heart. Her love for the Lord shone through the garments of captivity and adversity. And because she had faith, with a knowledge of the Lord’s cleansing power in her head and in her heart, she had a desire – her volition and will to witness to the great power of God’s redeeming love and cleansing power.
 
And the same was true for Naaman. After being cleansed, this commander of the Syrian army lived not in reliance on his military might and prestige. He no longer lived in reliance on his wealth. Instead, we can be assured that he lived with a childlike faith. He now had the same saving faith as the young girl who had witnessed to him.
 
From this point forward his life would be lived for the Lord. We see him express great remorse that in his service in Damascus he would bow in the Temple of Rimmon. We see him take soil from Israel, as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, so that he would never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.
 
You see, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s power, Naaman came to have a childlike faith in the eternal Christ, who is foreshadowed and typified throughout the Old Testament.
 
The greatest question that any of us can ever answer is, “Do you and do I have that same childlike faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?” And having that faith, do we witness to others as the servant girl witnessed to Naaman?
 
In Matthew 18:1-4 we read how the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
 
May you and I, by God’s grace and enabling Spirit, have that childlike faith in Jesus Christ alone, this afternoon and always! Amen.
 
 
                                                    - bulletin outline -
 
 
But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it?
Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”  - 2 Kings 5:13

                                                “Wash and Be Clean!”
                                                      2 Kings 5:1-19a

I.   Naaman had everything anyone could ever want, but he also had leprosy (1b) 
       1) He sought the cure monetarily (5) and through influence with the king (4-6)
 
 

       2) He was deeply offended by the cure offered by Elisha (9-12)
 
 
 
II.  All humanity is infected with a disease far worse than leprosy, for the wages of
       sin is death and all have sinned (Rom. 3:10, 23; Eph. 2:1-3). Many stumble for the
       same reasons Naaman did, as they:
         1) Try to buy salvation with works (5; Isaiah 64:6)
 
 
 
         2) Want acceptance by God through their association with others or through
               the church (5-6; Matthew 7:22-23)
 
 
 
         3) Are offended by the cross and are too proud to be washed and cleansed by
              Jesus’ blood (9-12; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 28-31)
 
 
 
          4) Refuse to believe that cleansing can be as simple as believing in Jesus alone
              for salvation (13; John 6:28-29)
 
 
 
III. The only way to be cleansed from sin is through saving faith in Jesus Christ (Acts
       4:12; 16:30-31). We need, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, a childlike faith in
       Him alone (3, 14; Matthew 18:1-4)
 
 
 
 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Ted Gray

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