"Naaman" or "Dipping"
The moving picture shows are all the rage. But before a mile of film ever danced through the white light and showed upon the screen, God had made reel after reel of real men and set their record down so that you could see it any time of day or night for less than a nickel.
Now God gives a perfect picture of any man’s life when He does the recording. He gives a whole picture; that is, inside and outside. He throws the light into the heart and there you see it just as it is.
Remember! There isn’t a man in the universe that won’t get the spotlight of God thrown full blaze on his heart some day. God will take the lid off and we’ll all have a look.
The leading character on the film today is Naaman.
Elisha is there also playing second fiddle to God, and refuses to pay for even that part when Naaman offers it to him.
But wait until pay day in glory. Elisha’s envelope will bulge big. God’s high salaried men all play second fiddle.
The first view is Naaman at home—well thought of by the King. Greatly esteemed. That’s a splendid start. Well thought of by men means that the man has gone along worthily according to the standard of his fellows. A nice letter of recommendation this, from his last place of employment.
But above this is the statement: “Naaman was honorable.” Not only approved, but the folks took their hats off to him; and if he had lived in our time they would have presented him with a gold-headed cane and allowed him to wear a plug hat, and bow to the crowd on both sides of the street as his carriage followed the band.
Still more honor is added to our hero. He returns from battle beneath the victor’s arch—the leader of the conquering Syrian army. You see, he gets the medals and the wreaths beside all the shouts and flying flags.
Then, to make the crown on his brow complete, there is added this: “He also was a mighty man in valor.” You see he wasn’t the kind that yelled “Go on boys, and fight!” It was: “Come on boys! I’ll lead the way.”
But stop! Get everything quiet for awhile. Muffle the drum. Pull down the flapping flags; hush the voices of the shouters, and listen! This last cannot be left out. You must hear it ALL. God shows it all. Are you listening? NAAMAN WAS A LEPER!
Horrible disclosure! Leprosy! God’s type of sin!
Here! Get a man quickly to go before Naaman and cry out to warn the people not to touch him for fear the disease might spread. Tell him to go ahead of Naaman crying, “Unclean! Unclean! Naaman is unclean! Great Naaman is unclean! GREAT Naaman, HONORABLE Naaman, VICTORIOUS Naaman, VALIANT Naaman, is unclean. HE IS A LEPER!
How my heart sinks within me at the picture. What joy to Naaman in all the shouts of men, when he knows he is a leper?
Listen! You are a born sinner. God says, “We have all sinned.” Yes, the nice folks, the folks that are not nice. “We all,” God says, “like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned EVERYONE to his own way.”
Sin! Sin! Oh, you deadly enemy of man! Your wages is death—dark, awful death; and the wages must be paid. Your home is Hell. Your father is the devil. And you have fastened your deadly clutch on young lives and old. ALL have sinned. Unclean! Unclean! Passions, worldly pleasures, lusts, greed, reeking habits, hate, envy, lies, trying to wrap a hiding cloak of respectability about them. But God sees and calls it all Leprosy—Sin. And the wages: Death.
The rattle of dishes; the music of the orchestra; the bows and smiles; the medals; the clothes; the singing; the applause, will not hide it—nor cure it. It is there. Drink will not drown it. What will take it away?
The jails rattle their bars together, crying it aloud. “Sin! Leprosy!” The institutions crowded with children cast aside, cry to Heaven. The asylums join the din. It will not be drowned. Sin! Leprosy! And the end is DEATH.
But is there no cure?
Yes, thank God! Listen to this! “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him and saith: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the World.”
Jesus has paid the wages, by His death.
Light travels 185,000 miles a second. If a star of the sixth magnitude was destroyed today, we could continue to see its light for 120 years, for that’s how long it takes that light to come to us at the above rate.
If a star still farther removed, of the twelfth magnitude, were destroyed today, its light would continue to come to us for 3,500 years.
Now: The light that comes to my eye tonight from that star is 3,500 years old, and if that light carried a picture of what was going on when that light started out on its long journey, the scenes that would reach my eye tonight would be 3,500 years old.
And yet, it would seem to me to be happening before my very eyes.
If a man had been committing a crime 3,500 years ago, when that light started, I would be standing here 3,500 years after, looking at that crime.
There is a spot somewhere out in the vastness of space where you could go in a moment of time and see everything that had ever been done on the Earth. God could put the judgment throne there in a second and you’d be compelled to see yourself and all your acts; and you could not turn your eyes away. There the ones to be judged would have to see their sin before them and no one would have to say a word of witness. The deeds done in the body would be flashed before that great multiplied host, and there could be no argument.
That, of course, is only speculation, but I tell you it is very important that a man think on the record he is making, and the sins which must be shown up, if he refuses to have them blotted out by Jesus’ death. How awful will the damnation of the soul be which refuses the free washing offered in Christ’s blood.
Now, Naaman had some good friends who knew of his leprosy, and there was talk going around as to what could be done for him. It doesn’t take long for the sinner to find Jesus, if he will listen to Calvary’s story; but true repentance really comes when the sinner finds that Christ has already paid his debt and is waiting for him to accept payment. The moment a man sees that Christ loved him enough to die for him, it will break his heart.
I have known some sinners that went everywhere trying to find relief and none came, because they did not know, or did not want to believe that Jesus had already made the relief, and had loved them so much that He paid the death price and canceled their debt. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.”
Now, no relief could be found for Naaman in his own country. But some glad news reached him through a little Jewish slave girl. She declared there was a prophet of the living God in Samaria that could heal him of his leprosy.
I was preaching on the street at noon one day and a beautiful young woman came through the crowd and spoke to me.
She said: “Mr. Rader, I don’t know you, but I know Jesus. I work in one of the offices in the city. Would you mind coming up to the office to see my employer?”
I said, “What do you want me to see him about?”
She said, “I want you to talk to him about his sin. He promised me today that he would talk with you if I could get you to come, but he said you wouldn’t come. I told him you would.”
I said, “Well, I’ll come up.”
So I went up into the splendid suite of offices.
I walked right past the girl into the man’s room where she pointed. “How do you do, Mr. Rader?” he said, getting up quickly. “Just have a seat.”
Then he sat down and for a while looked out of the window.
I didn’t say a word. (When Jesus is talking to a fellow you had better not say very much.) He was looking at his own leprosy.
Presently he said to me: “Mr. Rader, I have found out that I am a lost sinner. I feel it. I know it. I am a drinking man. I am all kinds of a wicked man. I’ve made money, and all that, but that’s not all, is it? You see this office—you know who I am.” (Yes, he also was a man of valor.) “But,” he said, “How can I get rid of the past?”
I said: “How did you ever come to think about it in the first place?”
And he said, “That girl out there: Until she came, I didn’t give a rap. She hasn’t been here long. She found out that I was one of the sportiest men in town, after she had been here a week or so. She heard about the automobile trips, the dinners, the Country Club and the roadhouses; and this, that and the other thing, and she began to wonder whether she ought to stay here or not.
“She told me she prayed about it and God let her feel this was just the place for her.
“One morning I didn’t show up at the office until nearly noon. She had some phone calls that put her wise to the trouble.
“For some strange reason I hated to have her know, though to others I had become indifferent.
“I came past her hurriedly as I entered and said, ‘Good morning,’ in a deep, gruff voice, and walked into the room with that dark brown taste in my mouth and a great big head. I thought I had scared her away.
“But when she came back from lunch she came into my room and looked at me with her sweet smile and said, ‘Say! You are not happy, are you?’
“I looked up at her and said: ‘How do you know I’m not happy?’
“‘Why,’ she said, ‘I know you are not happy, because I have a lot of happiness in my heart and I know what it feels like. And I just wanted to tell you what will make you sing from morning to night. I have Jesus in my heart.’
“I said: ‘Is that what makes you hum all the time?’
“‘Yes,’ she said, ‘He keeps me happy all the time.’
“‘Oh, I don’t want to hear anything about religion,’ I yelled.
“Her reply was very tender. ‘I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about Jesus Christ, and He loved you enough to die and pay the penalty of death for your sin. He has done it. Isn’t that a great love?’
“‘Well, I said, ‘I’m traveling the road with the rest of the boys.’
“‘But,’ she said, ‘God is running the world—not the boys.’
“The next morning when she came in I said: ‘Well, little preacher, go to it.’
“She replied, ‘I’m not going to preach to you. I just wanted to tell you that Jesus loves you. He alone cleanses from sin. I’d be a poor one, wouldn’t I, if I took your money and wrote your letters and then didn’t tell you where you could find a good thing. So I have told you about it.”
He came down to the street corner and heard me one day and said to the girl: “Now, if you’ll get that fellow to come up here I’ll be willing to talk to him.”
So right there in the office, upon his knees that afternoon, he believed that the debt was all paid and arose praising God for Christ who had washed him from sins in His precious blood.
I called up one of the department stores, where a newly converted friend of mine had charge and said to him, “Come on over!” And I told him where to come; and he came over, walked into the office; looked at the man and said: “You don’t mean to tell me it’s you that has come to believe the old truth?” “I’m the guy,” was the reply.
And they both gave each other a warm handshake while I stood by and thanked God.
Then he turned around to me and said, “Do you know—this fellow, you’ve called as your friend, used to be one of my old pals until he was converted.
“When he got his eyes opened the crowd lost a good fellow, but they were all glad of the step he had taken; and now that we both see it, I think it’s up to us to go out and tell the rest of the fellows.”
Then he stepped to the door and called in the girl. Her eyes were filled with tears of joy and she wouldn’t take any credit for her part (another second fiddler), though he told her it was her story that made the opening. God used a simple young woman in his salvation, just as he used the little slave girl to direct Naaman to the prophet Elisha for healing.
I’ve told this story simply to show you that God uses very small things to get the sinner headed toward the cleansing fountain.
Now, Naaman’s king wrote a letter to the king of Elisha’s country and with great pomp and plenty of supplies and money, Naaman went on his journey to the great Elisha; for the slave girl had said, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria, for he would recover him of his leprosy.”
My friends, Naaman’s money was useless. There is no way you can pay. You can have it for nothing. Believe it. Christ has paid it. Jesus has paid your penalty for sin and offers you life as a gift.
Long trip for Naaman, but he finally reached the right place with his horses and chariots and stood outside of Elisha’s door. He had his mind all made up as to how he wanted Elisha to act.
He said to himself: “I’ll stand here in my splendor and make a hit with that old prophet and he will do the business. And I’ll pay him handsomely for it, too.”
Now, Elisha didn’t have much of this world’s goods. He didn’t have a great big palace, but just a common, ordinary place. But he had the power from God that could do the business for Naaman. He didn’t have to put on a “front.” Naaman had a great front, but remember, he was a leper.
So he stood: his fine chariots, his prancing horses; their circus harness all sparkling in the splendor of that Samarian sun; their bits chafing and their fine tails and manes whipped about in the excitement, for excitement was running high.
There was great expectation. But why didn’t Elisha come forth?
Elisha didn’t even have to look out. God told him all about it before Naaman arrived. He didn’t have to peep out between the curtains. He just said to one of his men: “What do you think of the parade? Look at the way he is coming to be healed. What do you think of a leper with his nose up high in the air? He needs to come down out of that great chariot of pride—down where a leper belongs, and send out his S.O.S. to God. His victories have spoiled him for doing business with God. He’ll have to see that this isn’t his fight, but that another is fighting for him.”
So Elisha sends out a simple message and that by a simple messenger: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times.”
Naaman nearly fell out of his chariot at the short, snappy command. Naaman thought Elisha would come out himself, with a long robe, a great procession beating their chests and singing, “Naaman, great Naaman, Captain of the Host of the King of Syria. We bow ourselves before thee and give thee, thou mighty man, this hard and great thing to do. Only thou, thou mighty man, canst do what is asked by Elisha.”
But instead comes Elisha’s message. Never even comes out himself to give Naaman the “once over.”
Naaman wondered what in the world was the matter, but Elisha’s words were straight to the point: “God and wash in the Jordan seven times. Take a dip, Naamnan. Take a dip, dip, dip, a dip, dip, dip, and then a dip.”
“How rude! What fanaticism! How useless! Silly! Why, I ask, why?”
Howl on, Naaman. You could have howled just as much and stayed at home.
That’s how most of these sinners act. They forget that they are lepers and talk back to the very Christ who is offending them the only way out. Did you hear me? I said the ONLY way out. Go on, Naaman, argue, but dipping is your only remedy.
Naaman shoved his right hand into the bosom of his “Prince Albert”; stretched his long leprous arm in gestures fierce, and started his philosophical argument, crying: “Are not Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean? The idea of telling me, Naaman, to dip in the dirty old Jordan.”
I have seen a lot of honorable of earth, the cultured, the refined lepers that were just like Naaman. My! How they would stick up their noses when you told them their good works would never save them. Their proud hearts wanted to work it out, and not believe that another’s merits and death had done the work and their part was but to believe in His great sin-cancelling work on Calvary.
They do hate to dip. They are built on the giraffe order, and have eaten high-brow hay from philosophy’s top shelf so long that they can’t take a simple, short, sweet command from God and believe.
Elisha knew that Naaman was used to giving orders and tried him out at his own job to show him that there was another Commanderabove him.
So Naaman began to puff and howl. “The very idea, that little bit of a hidden old prophet telling me to dip. This is no way to treat a man that wants to be cured of leprosy.”
And he started to take his little chariot parade away to another street.
There is one door through which we all have to come, and that’s by the plain door of belief, where we see we can do nothing to get rid of sin; that He has done it all Himself for us—for us.
So many of us want our own character, our own goodness, or our good efforts to take us through. But it’s His spotlessness, offered in death for payment that does the cleansing.
No, my friends, the only thing that will take you through is to go out and sing:
“Oh, now I see the crimson wave,
The fountain deep and wide,
Jesus, my Lord, mighty to save,
My Jesus crucified.
The cleansing stream I see, I see;
I plunge and Oh it cleanses me;
Oh, praise the Lord it cleanses me
It cleanses me, yes, cleanses me.”
Oh, see Jesus suffering on the cross to pay for it all and with tears and a broken heart say: “Lord, I don’t see how you could love a poor sinner so, but you do, and I am clean, through your work on Calvary.”
How I love to see people who say: “Lord, I’ll take this just as you tell it to me; I’m willing to believe the glad story of the cross. I’ll take your precious, priceless gift, just as you give it.”
I imagine Elisha said, as he heard Naaman orate and sputter: “My, he’s putting up a great argument, but his gestures are made with leprous hands and his words have the rasp of a leprous tongue.”
Oh, my friends I tried to get in another way, but I had to dip deep down—clear under past all self-effort. I had to go down like God wanted me to go down, and give Christ all the credit for His work, before I could ever come up and look Him and the world in the face and say, “I’m clean.”
Say! But I’m glad I did. If ever a fellow needed a dip, I did.
I know that Elisha was God’s prophet by the way he worked. God always works the same way. It’s down first and then up. Reckon yourself to be dead unto sin and then alive unto Christ. Not accepting God’s word was the first step into sin and accepting his provision and way is the glad step out of sin.
When Naaman had right-about-faced, forward-marched a block or so, and cried “Halt” to his little chariot parade, one of his servants came up to him and said: “Let’s be reasonable. Get off that high horse for a minute. You have the leprosy, haven’t you?”
“And you came all the way over here to be healed, didn’t you?”
“Now, if this prophet had told you to do something hard, Naaman, you would have undertaken it, wouldn’t you? You would have strapped on your armor and said: ‘Come on, men, we’ll do it!’”
“Well, then, how much more ought you to do a little thing, since the power is in the God of the prophet and not in you. Why not obey? The prophet says: ‘Wash and be clean.’ That’s easy. Go to it, Naaman.”
Naaman began to scratch his head and say: “I guess you have it about right, my friend. I thought a specially printed program, a banquet and some after-dinner speeches and a regular reception was in order. But you’re right. I’ll do what he says. Elisha’s the master of the ceremonies.”
Now, you know, and I know, from our experiences that human nature will go to any lengths in decorating, but backs up fast on the dipping. They’ll even suffer to gain merit; but will die before they’ll admit their own inability to save themselves.
Some men think that if they join some lodge, that is going to take them to heaven; and if they will ride the goat, pay for the drinks, pay for the lunch, go into the parade, buy a new suit, and do all sorts of things like that, but they won’t do a simple little thing that God tells them to do.
Men, we’ll do anything before we’ll dip, but dip we must.
If you say to folks, “Come into the church, put on your best bib, pay for a nice pew, meet some nice people, hear some nice music, listen to a nice sermon,” many of them jump to do that. But when it comes to getting down and saying “I was lost, but Jesus found me; found the sheep that went astray,” they cry: “I am not a sheep; I never went astray.”
If they don’t dip (that is, take the cleansing provided by Christ), I don’t care where they sit or what they join, the sin’s still there—the leprosy sticks.
The last film shows Naaman humbly walking into the Jordon and dipping seven times as the prophet commanded.
And when he had dipped the seventh time “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
Isn’t that a great picture? Loathsome leprosy when he went down. Child flesh, pink, clean, child flesh when he came up.
Friends, listen to me! Come on, let’s dip right now, and be clean!
Give me a company of people who can arise each of them in their place and truthfully say, “Praise God, I’m clean through the washing of Christ’s precious blood”; and I’ll show you the happiest company of people on Earth. I’ll show you a company of people that have heaven on Earth.
Naaman knew he was clean and it was joy unspeakable. He had washed. His reproach was gone. Great Naaman, Honorable Naaman, Valiant Naaman was also CLEAN Naaman. Flesh like the flesh of a little child.
He has nothing to say against the Jordan River now. It’s a lovely old river, a dear old river. He could sing now:
“Abana is lovely and Pharpar, too,
Other great rivers are pleasant to view,
And other great rivers may look good to you,
But give me the Jordon for mine.”
He hurried back to Elisha in gratitude and tried to pay the old prophet: but Elisha was not in the world for gold.
Here’s a great lesson for the prophets of our day who fuss so much about the salary and the comforts.
Naaman makes a queer request. He asks the prophet for two mule loads of dirt.
My father was a Methodist missionary to Wyoming in the early days, and coming upon three men of the open as he traveled, he persuaded them to get out of their saddles and listen while he preached.
A big cotton-wood tree was close and under this tree with uncovered heads these men of the stretching prairies listened to the gospel.
One of them, a Mr. Ellsworth, believed the glad story. He had been a rough man, deep in sin, but that day beneath the old cotton-wood tree, humbly kneeling, he saw that Christ took all his sins. Light hearted and happy he rode on his way.
Six months afterward he sent for his old mother and wife (they had been left in the east), and built them a cozy home.
I went with my father some time later into this section, and to Ellsworth’s home. There we were greeted by Ellsworth and a great crowd of his neighbors. They had gathered to hear father preach. They had come from far and near in wagons and on horseback. Some had even walked long distances, and they came prepared to stay until the week of preaching services ended.
One day standing in the bay window filled with flowers, father found Ellsworth at the close of the service. The big, warm tears were flowing down his tanned cheeks. There had been many tears that afternoon and great joy, for other sinners had bowed at Jesus’ feet and had gone home washed and clean—rangers and cattle men by profession, clean sons of God now through Christ’s blood.
“What’s the matter, Ellsworth?” father asked. Ellsworth was too full for words. He just gathered up the dirt—a handful at a time from the flower box, and let it fall back through his fingers. At intervals through his tears he would look down at the dirt. Finally he said: “Remember the old cotton-wood tree, Brother Rader, where I first saw Christ? Bless God, I love that spot. It means joy, peace, heaven, this home, wife, mother and my Lord Jesus to me. I was on my road to hell when you stopped me there that day, Brother Rader. Often I had refused the gospel. There was hate in my heart and if you hadn’t stopped me, God knows I’d be a murderer today. The hate was hot in my breast, but Christ took it all away. You wonder why I am playing with this dirt, Brother Rader?” he asked. “Yes,” father said, “you’re digging a hole in the flower box.”
“I own this dirt,” he replied. “This is the dirt that came from under that tree where you pointed me to Calvary. I saw the Light on this dirt. Listen, Brother Rader! I was saved kneeling on this dirt. I went and got a load and filled these boxes and planted flowers in it. Do you blame me? Say, do you?”
I like the theory that explains Naaman’s two mule loads of dirt that same way. I like to think that he told Elisha he had to go into a heathen temple to worship with the king, but he wanted to put this dirt in some spot in the temple so he could get on it and remember the day that his flesh became like a little child’s.
Say, won’t you make this the hour when you’ll take the cleansing from all your sins? Say to yourself as you come, “Death is the end of sin, and Christ has taken death for me. I have a little manhood left and I cannot let Him go to the cross for me and ever turn Him down. No, never.”
That’s right. Come on, let’s dip! What do you say?
“Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.”
He took your place when He died. Believe it. That’s how you get into the cleansing stream.
Naaman believed and stepped in. Will you?