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’!” (2 Kings 5:13)
Prior to Elijah’s being taken to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha was determined to follow him, no matter what. He asked to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, which Elijah called “a difficult thing.” A double portion of an inheritance was the portion that was given to the firstborn, so that Elisha’s receiving a double portion of Elijah’s spirit would indicate that he was Elijah’s true successor. He would be the prophet to carry on Elijah’s ministry. This position came with some extraordinary privileges (such as performing miracles and receiving the word of the Lord) and responsibilities (like standing boldly for God through persecution and continually calling the wicked to repentance). Think of all that Elijah had been through. Elisha would have to follow him completely to show that he could carry on such an audacious calling.
Are we willing to follow God completely and no matter what?
Or do we just say we will follow him—while still wanting to do things our own way? How badly do we want his Spirit? Reflect on how far Naaman the Syrian had to go in order to be healed: he had to follow completely, even when God’s instructions made no sense to him.
“He had to follow completely, even when God’s instructions made no sense to him.”
Consider Naaman. Naaman was an esteemed army commander who had leprosy. He went to Elisha’s house to be healed of his affliction. He showed up with horses and chariots and with gold and silver that would be valued today at more than $4 million! 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” (2 Kings 5:10). Naaman got angry at the prophet’s instruction because he had anticipated that the man of God would come out, call on the name of the Lord, wave his hand over Naaman’s diseased skin, and miraculously heal him. What value was there in washing in the water, and why had he even come all this way? The water in his own hometown was better than the water in the Jordan River.
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’!” (2 Kings 5:13). So he did, and he was healed. What if he had washed somewhere else? What if he had washed fewer times? Would he have been healed if he hadn’t followed all the way? No. That was not the word of the prophet. That was not the word of the Lord.
Naaman had to follow fully to be healed. Elisha had to follow fully to receive a double portion of the Spirit. Again, are we willing to follow God completely?
“Naaman had to follow fully to be healed. Elisha had to follow fully to receive a double portion of the Spirit.”
Scripture tells us a way to be healed and to receive the Holy Spirit. Sometimes people will get angry about it, want something different, criticize the method, and presume to know a better way. But God spelled it out in his Word (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:41, 1 Cor. 12:12-13, Rom. 6:1-7, Gal. 3:27). Despite clear and repeated instructions, churches and denominations still argue over the timing, the method, the purpose, and the necessity of baptism.
This used to really strike me: On the day of Pentecost, described in Acts 2, when Peter delivered the first Gospel sermon, his hearers were cut to the heart and asked what their response to the message should be. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). No one argued, refused, or contended that “God wouldn’t ask me to do that.” Reading the Old Testament helps us understand why they gladly accepted his word and followed his instruction. Throughout their entire history, ceremonial cleansing had been an essential religious rite. It made sense. (It just didn’t make sense at first to Naaman because he was a Syrian, not an Israelite.)
As time is passing—a couple of thousand years since the day of Pentecost when the church was unleashed on the world—and as new doctrines are formulated, the simplicity and cohesiveness of God’s Word can get lost or buried. It’s not convenient to baptize large numbers of people (though the apostles baptized 3,000+ on the day of Pentecost), so some decided, let’s just ask people to raise their hands and their cleansing can be granted that way. Once I even heard a preacher giving an invitation telling people that if they wanted to receive Christ as Savior, to simply look him (the preacher) in the eyes. Kudos to these leaders for wanting to bring people to Jesus, but I think that our seeking to reinvent the way to Jesus is a bit like Naaman expecting some particular phraseology or waving of the hands…when the word of the Lord was to be immersed.
“As new doctrines are formulated, the simplicity and cohesiveness of God’s Word can get lost or buried.”
It’s still a directive today. Our baptism isn’t just a cleansing from sin. In baptism, we follow Christ fully, as Elisha followed Elijah. “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:3-4).
Excerpted from Tina Wilson’s 365-day chronological Bible study Step into Scripture: A Daily Journey to Understanding Your Bible.