Naaman’s story in 2 Kings chapter 5 is intriguing. We can learn many things from it, but I want to focus on what we can learn about obedience in particular. Sometimes, what God requires of us seems irrelevant to what we desire to accomplish. When we think so, it’s easy for us to choose not to obey Him. A principle, however, we need to realize is that God requires us to stay obedient to Him, trusting God in that He accomplishes His plans through our obedience. In other words, it is God who accomplishes a work, and that it is through our obedience. Therefore, even when what God wants us to obey seems so irrelevant to what we desire to accomplish, we have to obey Him. Without a proper understanding of this principle, one may disobey God. Naaman’s story illustrates this.
Naaman was a leper and went to the prophet Elisha for healing. Elisha instructed Naaman to “Go and wash seven times in Jordan river” (v. 10). It was totally different from what Naaman was expecting (v. 11). Elisha’s remedy seemed to him insignificant and irrelevant to the healing of his serious disease. He was offended and was about to ignore the word of the man of God (vs. 11-12). Fortunately, however, he had good servants, who loved him and told him the truth consistently. He changed his mind and obeyed the word, and no doubt, leprosy left him immediately his skin becoming as clean as a baby’s (v. 13-14).
Leprosy was an incurable disease in those days. Being one of the most powerful men in the world couldn’t help him with his dilemma. That was why he ended up coming to the aid of God. However extraordinary the problem was, what God required Naaman to obey was so ordinary a thing that it never looked relevant to solving the problem. This is the pitfall, which many fall into, and fail to obey God. They think it has to be a mighty thing that they have to do, but God requires of us small obedience. It is because it is not what we do but what He does that accomplishes the work. Generally speaking, what we have to do is walking in light bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and God accomplishes great mighty works through us, the church.
The principle we affirm by Naaman’s story is that God accomplishes His will through our obedience, and we have to obey Him even when what God commands us to do may look in our eyes irrelevant to what we endeavor to accomplish. We can find the scriptures throughout the Bible, which teach the principle. Washing in a river to cure leprosy may seem rather relevant than some other biblical cases. For example, what about the commandment to walk around a fort seven days and shout against it on the last day? Does it seem reasonable to follow these instructions in order to destroy a heavily armed fortress? Yet, it worked as evidenced by the Israelites conquest of Jericho (Joshua 6)! What about God’s command for His people to stay calm while their enemy and his soldiers marching close to them? Staying calm does not sound like an effective strategy in such a threatening situation. Yet, it worked for the Israelites when they found themselves on the shores of the Red Sea (Exodus 14)!
The knowledge of the principle gives us, workers in His kingdom, relief from anxiety to accomplish His will assigned to us. For example, even when we help our unbelieving friends to be saved, we don’t have to worry to devise mighty things that seem relevant to the work, as if it is us who accomplishes the work. Besides doing things that we have to do in the strength that God supplies, the most important thing God requires us to do is to stay obedient to His words and trust that He will accomplish His will. It’s the same idea that Paul associated with evangelism when he said, “We plant and water, but God gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:8). I am not saying that staying obedient to God is easy, but it must be easier than accomplishing the works.
Now, consider how the principle relates to salvation. God instructs us to be baptized in water in order to have our sins forgiven (Acts 2:38). Some people fail to obey the gospel, thinking water baptism is not relevant to salvation. Their thought is just like Naaman’s initial thought about washing in the river. They don’t have a proper understanding of the principle. Even for salvation what he requires us to do is small obedience, that is to be baptized in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. In reality, there are many people who don’t understand this simple but truthful principle. So, we should not grow tired of telling people the truth just as Naaman’s servants did for him. Who knows if the next person with whom we will talk is a Naaman, who will change his or her mind and obey the gospel?