To the Gentiles foolishness
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness
The next type deals with a Gentile. It is the story of Naaman and his cleansing from leprosy. In it we learn that salvation is open to all who believe, and that we must come God’s way.
Naaman the Leper
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. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover ( =restore, destroy, take away) him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, 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 strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash , and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped (=baptised) himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
The facts about Naaman are straightforward enough. One of Syria’s great men was a leper. A little Jewish maid, who had been taken captive, suggested that he go to Israel and seek healing. Naaman naturally went to the king of Israel who took exception to the idea that he could heal the man.
Naaman ended up going to Elisha, who told him to wash himself in the river Jordan seven times. At this Naaman was angry. He thought Elisha would do some special ceremony, and in any case the rivers in Syria are far better than the Jordan. But his servant persuaded him to wash in the Jordan. Naaman did so and was cleansed. As a follow up Naaman went and offered money to the prophet, but Elisha refused. This was a free gift from God!
In scripture leprosy is a picture of sin. In those days leprosy was incurable, and the Levitical laws on leprosy were very strict indeed (Lev.13). Despite his claim to fame, wealth and position Naaman was a leper. No amount of wealth, power or influence could alter that fact.
All have sinned
This a picture of our spiritual state.(Leprosy being a type – in the metaphorical sense – of sin). Scripture reveals that we are all sinners by nature and practice (see Rom. Ch.1-3). It doesn’t matter what position we have in life, what wealth we have accrued or fame obtained. Nothing can alter the fact that we are all members of a fallen race. Using previous terminology we are born into Adam. We can not do anything about it.
A little maid then spoke up and pointed him to the prophet in Samaria. He was the only hope for this wretched man. For humans too, there is only one hope of being cleansed from the leprosy of sin, and that is the man Christ Jesus. Only in Christ is salvation to be found.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
The pride of life
Let us now consider Namaan’s response. That he was seeking healing of that there is no doubt. He petitioned the King of Israel, thinking he could help. When, eventually, he reached Elisha’s place he was indignant at his response. The prophet would not come out and do some special ceremony! Instead Elisha instructed him to go and wash seven times in the Jordan. This further angered Naaman. He would have gone home unhealed had it not been for one of his servants, who intervened and persuaded him to submit himself to the command.
Let us consider each step in turn, and we will first note that each response of Namaan was because of either pride or ignorance. But because he was genuinely seeking, God provided the way of healing for him (Lk.11:9-13). When he humbled himself and submitted to God’s way Naaman was healed.
Namaan’s first effort was to write to the king of Israel. This is natural thinking. But his idea was soon put down! The king took it as a pretext that Syria was trying to find a reason for war between the two peoples.
The natural thinking of obtaining salvation is no better. The philosopher’s thoughts of self-salvation in some form is of no avail. The human heart knows deep down there is something wrong with its condition, and will go to any lengths to either stifle that conviction, or find some way of rescue. Without God it will lead to disaster. For there is no way of salvation outside of Jesus Christ. Other attempts will lead to deception of some description.
Naaman eventually found his way to Elisha. But the prophet sent messengers and gave him instructions for him to wash in the Jordan. To this Naaman was indignant, for he thought that Elisha would have come and done some spectacular sign in order for his healing. But to wash in the Jordan Naaman took exception. His pride got the better of him. He would have missed out on healing had it not been for one of his servants.
Naaman at first wanted to take control and be healed according to his own thinking. To him the whole episode was foolishness. He wanted Elisha to do a ceremony, he preferred to wash in the rivers of his own choice. But Jordan? It was foolish, his home rivers were better!
How often people miss out on the salvation of God? They find that God’s ways are not according to their own ideas. We must abandon our own ideas, thoughts, and ways submitting ourselves to God’s way. If not then there is no hope of salvation whatever.
Cleansed by baptism
Finally after being persuaded by his servants, Naaman humbled himself and obeyed the word of God. He went and washed himself seven times in the river Jordan, and was healed.
The symbolism is the same as we have previously encountered. Not only do we have Naaman dipping (= baptising) but it was in the same river that Israel, Elijah and Elisha had crossed, we considered in the previous types! The typology is quite clear and without any doubt. As seen in a previous article new birth is described as a washing of regeneration. This healing is another picture of new birth. The body of sin is crucified (typified by Naaman dipping himself in Jordan), and being raised in newness of life (as when Naaman came up and had flesh as a little child). See also Mtt.18:2-4.
It also shows that this salvation is not exclusive for the Jews. Naaman was a Gentile and he was not turned away. Salvation is open to all who call upon the name of the Lord. There is no difference/ distinction between Jew or Gentile in these things Rom. 10:12-13.
God’s wisdom greater than man’s foolishness
Naaman sought to be healed by his own wisdom. First by approaching the king of Israel and then by thinking the prophet would do some great sign, and finally by obeying only if he could wash in the rivers of Syria. That is of his choice.
The first attempt can be excused as ignorance. The others can not be because he was wanting healing on his own terms rather than by the revealed Word of God.
He wanted Elisha to come out and do some act. We recall the words of Jesus to the nobleman: except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe Jn.4:48. To Naaman washing in the Jordan was the last straw! This was too much for his pride. It was foolishness, not the way he expected.
It was not until his servants counselled him that Naaman agreed and submitted to the righteousness of God and not that of his own.
Before anyone can put their trust in Christ, they must abandon all hope in anything else to save them. By trusting in ones own wisdom there will be conflict: the war between wanting to be free from sin but not being able to increases. Paul’s testimony of his unregenerated state in Rom.7:7-13 illustrates this. Until there is total abandonment to God’s way this conflict will continue.
Fallen humans will always try to find their own way of salvation. As we have already considered, the Greek philosophers and the Gnostics were trying to find salvation by their own rational ideas or religious dogma. Anything but the way of God. This may be wisdom in man’s eyes but is utter foolishness in God’s.
To men God’s way of the cross is foolishness. By rejecting it one has no alternative than to make up some other way, which is no way at all except to eternal destruction.
And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus ( ie. Elisha) the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
In the story of Naaman we have seen that God’s salvation is not confined to the Jews, but Gentiles are included if they come His way. We saw that God’s ways to the human mind are foolishness. But in order to be saved we must abandon our own wisdom and humble ourselves to God’s way. There is only one way to come, and that’s the way of the cross.