Jan. 11, 2017

The Clash Between Pride and Humility

II Kings 5: 1-19

 

II Kings 5:1

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.

 1 Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, was highly respected and esteemed by the king of Syria, because through Naaman the Lord had given victory to the Syrian forces. He was a great soldier, but he suffered from a dreaded skin disease.

Notice the description of this man called Naaman. He was a military leader. He is described as great and honorable, a man of exemplary courage and bravery. We are told that he was married and seemingly enjoys a prosperous lifestyle. However, at the end of that grand portrait is a statement that none of those  accolades can overcome: he is a leper.

In the bible days there was more than one kind of leprosy. Naaman had the less severe type of the disease. So Naaman was not banned from mingling with society like the leprosy that is spoken of more often. But he still carried the stigma of the affliction of an incurable and painful disease. Leprosy is infectious and is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact. It causes skin lesions and may also affect nerves and muscles.

2In one of their raids against Israel, the Syrians had carried off a little Israelite girl, who became a servant of Naaman's wife.3One day she said to her mistress, “I wish that my master could go to the prophet who lives in Samaria! He would cure him of his disease.”4When Naaman heard of this, he went to the king and told him what the girl had said.5The king said, “Go to the king of Israel and take this letter to him.”

So Naaman set out, taking thirty thousand pieces of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of fine clothes.6The letter that he took read: “This letter will introduce my officer Naaman. I want you to cure him of his disease.”

7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and exclaimed, “How can the king of Syria expect me to cure this man? Does he think that I am God, with the power of life and death? It's plain that he is trying to start a quarrel with me!”

8When the prophet Elisha heard what had happened, he sent word to the king: “Why are you so upset? Send the man to me, and I'll show him that there is a prophet in Israel!”

9So Naaman went with his horses and chariot and stopped at the entrance to Elisha's house.10Elisha sent a servant out to tell him to go and wash himself seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be completely cured of his disease.11But Naaman left in a rage, saying, “I thought that he would at least come out to me, pray to the Lord his God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and cure me!12Besides, aren't the rivers Abana and Pharpar, back in Damascus, better than any river in Israel? I could have washed in them and been cured!”

13His servants went up to him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. Now why can't you just wash yourself, as he said, and be cured?”14So Naaman went down to the Jordan, dipped himself in it seven times, as Elisha had instructed, and he was completely cured. His flesh became firm and healthy like that of a child.15He returned to Elisha with all his men and said, “Now I know that there is no god but the God of Israel; so please, sir, accept a gift from me.”

16Elisha answered, “By the living Lord, whom I serve, I swear that I will not accept a gift.”

Naaman insisted that he accept it, but he would not.17So Naaman said, “If you won't accept my gift, then let me have two mule-loads of earth to take home with me, because from now on I will not offer sacrifices or burnt offerings to any god except the Lord.18So I hope that the Lord will forgive me when I accompany my king to the temple of Rimmon, the god of Syria, and worship him. Surely the Lord will forgive me!”

19“Go in peace,” Elisha said. And Naaman left.

As the story progresses, we continue to see the expression of two extremes: pride and humility. Although Naaman appears to be a likable fellow (the young girl who has been captured, removed from her homeland and enslaved has a desire to see him healed) he is full of pride. However, in hopes of ridding himself of the plague of leprosy, he humbles himself and takes heed to the voice of the young maid. By the path that Naaman takes, it is clear that he has little experience with humility. He goes to the king, obtains an official letter, carries with him silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, garments and servants on the journey. Naaman is living high in his own mind. But God is about to show Naaman the value of living on God's level.

 Throughout the story pride continues to butt heads with humility. The king of Israel is distraught over the letter and the request to heal this great warrior of  the dreaded disease. But the prophet Elisha intervenes and settles the king's nerves.

Pride produces panic when it sees it cannot perform or accomplish the expected task. That is why so many executives have committed suicide when their finances failed and they didn't see a solution to the dilemma. While pride produces panic, humility or living on God's level, produces peace. While the king of Israel is distraught, Elisha is peaceful and confident. His confidence is in the God that he serves.

Naaman is summoned to the prophet and expects a spectacular display of power. Naaman's background is war. He understands conquering and victory. What he doesn't understand is that God's ways are not our ways. Elisha deals with Naaman in a manner that Naaman believes is disrespectful and doesn't honor him like he supposes he should be honored. Elisha doesn't greet him face-to-face, doesn't invite him in for tea, he doesn't even rise from his seat to go to the door. Elisha just sends word to Naaman with instructions to go wash or dip in the muddy Jordan river seven times.

Again there is a clash between pride and humility. Namaan goes away in a huff, in a rage because of the simplicity of the message. To his credit, when the servants who accompanied him on the trip implore him to follow the prophet's advice, he listens. Naaman is healed and a valuable lesson is learned.

 Proverbs 16:18

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

I Peter 5:5

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

 James 4:6

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

 

Naaman almost let pride rob him of the blessings of God. He nearly allowed stinkin thinkin swollen in his mind and heart, to cause him to live the balance of his days in a painful and diseased condition.

God's way is easy and it is simple. "Living On God's Level" means to live in the hollow of humility. It is a valley, a place of safety. The valley is a protected place. It is the place where God's Word has settled and taken root. All the richness of the soil is found in the valley. As soil is rained upon, the rich nutrients often cascade toward the valley. In the valley there is opportunity for growth and maturity. The valley is undisturbed by the high winds of pride and presumption. Settle in with the Father and live on His level. It is a land flowing in peace and simplicity. Amen.