30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
December 31, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
"Naaman, An Example of Obedience"
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine another truth of God's word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour, "Naaman, An Example of Obedience", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Also the apostle John warns us that we should "....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man may say about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God.
We call upon you again to forget the busy affairs of life, and to join us for a few moments of reflection and meditation. Since the only real source of spiritual enlightenment is the Bible, we appeal to its pages again today.
You may or may not have noticed the precision with which the Bible speaks: Its laws anticipate every possible relatlonship and experience of humankind; the Bible record of historical events provides a keen insight into the lives and characters of its actors. As we read, our minds are carried to many strange places; maybe into some ancient civilization, or perhaps into that land beyond the river where time shall be no more.
Many of you I am sure will recall the story of the Magic Carpet as related in the tale of the Arabian Nights. Although it was but six feet square it cost the enormous sum of forty purses of gold. But, it had a very rare and extraordinary quality; when its owner sat upon it, it transported him wherever he might wish. Your Bible is such a Magic Carpet. Seated in your easy chair with Bible in hand, you cease to be a mere person limited by space and time.
You ask to visit the tower of Babel. Immediately you are back on the plain of Shinar, watching the workmen who strive in vain to understand each other. Their language has been confused by an offended Diety. With other guests you sit at the feast of Belshazzar, and watch a thousand of his lords and ladies in revelry and drunkenness. With great wonder and amazement you gaze at the troubled face of the king as the fingers of a man's hand appear to write his doom upon the wall. How gripping the scene--how real the picture - "In that night was Belshazzar the King of the Chaldeans slain" (Daniel 5:30).
On that Magic Carpet you circumnavigate the globe and peer daringly beyond the dark valley and shadow of death. Ancient civilizations reveal their stories and great warriors parade in review, I'm sure you would be interested in the unusual manner in which the Lord selected an army for Gideon; from all the thousands available, only those who lapped water like a dog, three hundred in number, were chosen to attack the enemy, Thirteen times, you march with Israel around the city of Jericho. You may wish to put your fingers in your ears at the mighty blast of the trumpets of rams horns, or at the great shout of a united people. But the walls crumble and you rush with Israel to victory. If you wish, you may witness Canaan's conquest, the escapades of Samson the strong man; you may enjoy the wisdom of Solomon or stand with aesthetic rapture in the "New Jerusalem by the side of the pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 22:1). These Magic Carpet illustrations were adopted from the writings of Dr. Samuel Purvis.
But for today, you are invited to visit far off Syria, to be introduced to a military captain of a good reputation. Naaman is his name, and here is the beginning of his captivating story:
"Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman's wife. Then she said to her mistress, "If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy."
Every nation, great and small is proud of its military heritage and is rich in the tradition of its great and near great. Placards, markers and monuments have been set to the memory of those who have achieved and innumerable biographies have been written. More often the praise comes long after the hero is dead, but it appears that Naaman was an exception to the rule. White still in active service he was showered with praise and expressions of real appreciation. He had obtained the royal favor. The king had very graciously elevated his name to the rank befitting his achievements. He had the distinction of having saved his nation when it was in distress and danger of being overcome. He must have had a rare sense of proportion in judging matters of military strategy. His strength of mind and sturdiness of will enabled him to face danger courageously, by reason of which he attained recognition as "a mighty man of valor".
Seldom do you find a more lauditory statement than this brief, meaningful passage, yet like all true stories of human kind there was one danger that stood as a real threat to the health, happiness and life of this great man. As the story begins it seems that the author intends merely to recount his virtues, but very early he reverses his course and gives far more space to the description of his battle against disease.
There are some things that cannot be had for money and that cannot be obtained by influence. One of them is health, another is freedom from the ravages of sin. Regardless of the great accomplishments of Naaman, irrespective of how dearly he was loved by his family, or how ardent the admiration of his friends, "he was a leper." Far more is contained in these few words than we can comprehend unless we know something of the terrible disease. It meant but one thing: unless a cure could be had, and that quickly, he was doomed to a horrible and untimely death.
The almost casual manner in which this unpleasant fact is presented is somewhat startling. The terrible revelation is couched in a phrase, introduced by the simple conjunction "but", a word which marks opposition without emphasizing it. As we read we are impressed with the greatness of the man, then all too suddenly the shocking truth is revealed and it counteracts every mark of distinction. Naaman was captain of the host, "but"-. He was a great man with his master, "but"-.He was honourable, "but"--. He had brought deliverance to his country, "but"--. He was a mighty man in valor, "but"- HE WAS A LEPER.
The method used here to disclose the disagreeable fact of Naaman's illness is often employed to spice our conversation with something newsy or exciting. We can't get enough pleasure out of a story of worthy actions and comendable traits so when we make a complementary statement we very often destroy the whole affair by adding some derogatory remark introduced by the word "but". For example, you may have heard something like this: "She is a very attractive girl--but she wears such peculiar looking hats." We like our new preacher quite well--but he never knows when to close a sermon. The lady next door can certainly prepare a good dinner--but she talks too much. Mr. Blank has a wonderful personality, you'd like him I know--but he lies incessantly. So on and on we go.
It seems rather unfair in telling a story to always destroy the good with a sprinkle of bad. Come to think ot it, it isn't very becoming to build up a fine statement of affairs and then just "but it all down". Its best not to commend if you do it just to get an excuse to make a damaging statement. Nevertheless there are times when there is no choice; sometimes we are compelled to disclose such unpleasant facts. Especially is that true if as in the case of Naaman every act of life is influenced by an evil condition.
It is of utmost importance that we understand something about leprosy inasmuch as in the Bible it is presented as the symbol or type of sin. In order, therefore, that we better understand that which will destroy the soul, we shall recount some of the characteristics of this disease of the body.
Like all agencies which might be said to represent the forces of the devil, leprosy makes its attack in a rather subtle manner. Its first symptoms may be recognized in small spots which appear either in the palm of the hands or on the forehead. There are, allegedly two types of the disease. The average life of the victim in one case is nine years, while in the other it is eighteen and one-half years. This may account for the fact that Naaman retained his position even after he became affected. The progress and spread of the disease is remarkably slow. At first there is little or no discomfort, but the horror of the last months of life are beyond expression.
As time passes the small white spots begin to spread over a sizeable portion of the affected member. The flesh gradually decays and falls away until the bones of the fingers are laid bare. If the attack is about the face, it is quite possible that the flesh will be eaten away until the teeth literally fall out and the jawbone becomes uncoupled. It is little wonder that the unhappy victim should cover his horrid face and bowing at a respectful distance cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" Thus in misery and wretchedness his life must be spent in the unbearable presence of others like himself, confined to a leper colony until death is received as a welcome visitor.
The disease is incurable by man, however, medical science and students of sanitation have discovered that cleanliness is its strongest enemy and the most effective preventative. Leprosy is not necessarily contageous, although carelessness and continued association with the infection may result disastrously. It is my hope that one does shudder at this description, as only with such an impression will one appreciate the Bible doctrine that what leprosy will do to the body, sin will do to the soul.
Maybe this picture will cause us to see sin differently. Unless we, the victims, are able to recognize the danger we will be in a poor position to combat the evil and destruction which must follow.
Now in order to further the comparison, let us observe that as one can associate with lepers without contracting the disease, so one does not necessarily partake of the sins of the people with whom he comes in contact. Furthermore, as cleanliness of body and sanitation will protect against the one, so cleanliness of mind and spiritual development will prevent the other. Constant vigilance is necessary, however, for most of us haveseen a demonstration of the Bible principlethat "evil companionship corrupts good morals."
Did I not say that leprosy is incurable by man? With the same emphasis we are informed of the fact that "no man on earth" can forgive or take away sins.
Sin, too, is very subtle in its approach. We may suffer a slight uneasiness or discomfort of conscience but soon we laugh it away with "what's the harm anyway?" But the forces of evil are continually exercising the greatest care to lead us along, gradually, until our conscience is seared to insensibility. But the process of degeneration goes on until the victim cannot see himself as others see him.
Until one is able to realize that he is a sinner there is little that can be done in his behalf. If I could really convince you of the danger of your condition and truly persuade you to do exactly what the New Testament requires you could not lie down tonight without calling me or some other servant of the Lord who could assist you, as a penitent believer to be baptized into Christ. I cannot assist you in consummating your obedience by remote control, but I should be most happy to discuss the matter with you personally and assist you in doing everything the Lord requires.
Naaman was one who realized his condition. He knew full well that something had to be done. Under the sentence of death he clamoured for life, and as a drowning man grabs for a straw, he was willing to receive advice even from a most humble source. It was this attitude that prompted him to receive the suggestion of his wife's maid, which led him to the prophet who informed him of the necessary treatment. No haughty, military attitude here, but humility and sincerity of purpose.
So often, too, we fail to place the credit where it belongs. It isn't always the celebrated evangelist or religious worker who deserves the credit, but it may be some unnamed servant who points unmistakably to the way of salvation. It must seem strange to modern society that this young lady is not even identified. Today folks dedicate buildings, windows, books and various institutions to the memory of those whom they wish to honor, but God alone can call the roll of those whom hewill honor in eternity.
There are several strange facts incident to this story. So many Christians make little effort to serve the Lord if it is a little inconvenient but this little girl, though a captive in a strange land, remembered the God of her father and recommended him, without reserve, as the only source of help. Though it would seem presumptuous and perhaps prove embarrassing for her to undertake to advise the husband of her mistress, yet she bravely acknowledged her faith in God.
Her attitude is likewise commendable: she was not abrupt about it; she didn't want to boast; she didn't wish to appear forward so she spoke almost wistfully to her mistress and said, "If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy" (2 Kings 5:3). How often, without pretense or show, may one by righteous living or kindly words cause others to come to a knowledge of the truth. This servant of the Lord ranks well with Joseph in Egypt, or with Daniel in Babylon.
Again why would she be willing to favor the man who had so ruthlessly carried her away from her home. Herein may be seen the mark of a true servant of the Lord. Christ put it this way: "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matt 44-45).
But with all of her faith and courage it would have availed nothing without the willingness of Naaman to believe and observe her words. So he made immediate preparations to depart. Just like folks you have known may have hiked off to Florida, California or Arizona, so Naaman departed for Samaria in search of health.
Let's conclude this morning by reading, as Paul Harvey would say, the "rest of the story." Beginning in verse 4, let's read through verse 14."And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, "Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel." Then the king of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy. And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me." So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, "Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel." Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean." But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, "Indeed, I said to myself, '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 heal the leprosy.' "Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."
Friends, as we can see from this Bible story of Naaman, he was healed by the power and goodness of God only when he had done exactly what the prophet asked him to do, in the manner prescribed and in view of the purpose announced. This story is here to prove a point to each and every one of us and that is, we may have forgiveness of sins and peace which passes all understanding only by observing the same principles and Naaman did. Remember friends, Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." Are you ready to do the will of the Father today?
This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"