Chapter 22 – The Offence of Faith

“And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times.” 2 Kings 5: 10.

The story of Naaman’s healing has at all times served as a striking illustration of the way of faith, with all the humbling, yea offensive, features that it has for the natural heart, of which Naaman himself is to us so clear an example.

The answer of Naaman when he received the message of the prophet — how entirely is it in accordance with the expectation of nature, which is so fain to see something, so fain to receive something in the shape of external ceremonies: “Behold, I thought, 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 recover the leper.” How completely emerges here the inclination of the seeker for healing, who would have a sensible, visible, impressive revelation of the Lord’s power; and who, when a servant is sent with the simple message of faith, turns away disappointed, as if this were no answer to his prayer.

And then the contents of the message — to wash in Jordan. If water could do it, were not the rivers of Damascus larger than the Jordan, were not their waters better than all the waters of Israel? He did not know that it was not the water, but the power of God through His word with the water. And in like manner the seeker for salvation cannot understand that it must just be faith by which he is to be cleansed. Are there not the waters of a deep and inward penitence, the streams of sincere humility, the loyalty of an inner love? Why is it, pray, that faith is to be named above these? How many there are that go and set their disposition before and above mere simple faith; as if God called not that which is weak and despised, and indeed nothing; as if He had not chosen faith as the way in which man, as capable of no achievement, was to receive everything out of free compassion.

But, more than all else, the washing seven times was sure to prove a stumbling-block, unless he had previously been taught to submit to the obedience of faith. If the waters were good, why was not one washing sufficient ? If the healing did not take place at the fifth or sixth time, why should it occur just at the seventh time? Reason was thoroughly entitled to inquire in this fashion. But faith cannot insist on an answer to these questions, and at the same time obeys “according to the word of the man of God.” This submission should become to us a very significant instance of the longsuffering of faith. It should remind us how faith is to hold out, although it sees not the least token of alteration or healing. It should teach us the lesson which is learned with so much difficulty that there must be a continual repetition of the act of faith, cleaving fast to the word of God, until He bestows the blessing.

O soul, seeking for salvation, learn here your way. It is with submission to that which does not appear to you the best means, which seems to you too small and trifling for such a great result, it is by the continuous repetition of what at the outset seems fruitless, that you are called on to persevere in faith. Pray, understand it, faith is God’s way. It was He that devised it, and not man. On this account it is a stumbling-block to every Naaman, until he learns, as one that is helpless, to bow beneath the word of God. Submit yourself to God and receive what He says, that “he that believeth shall be saved.” Go every day to the word and its streams of living water. Although it seems to you somewhat trifling to wash there, to plunge and bathe in it, to receive from it this or that promise, and to do the very same thing every day anew, without experiencing any healing, yet hold on. Persevere, and the blessed result shall be like that of Naaman. “His flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child,” he was as one born a second time, “and he was clean.” You also shall be born again by the living word, and be cleansed from your sin. It does not lie in you, nor even in the word regarded in itself, but in the faithfulness of God, who has said: “He that believeth shall not be ashamed.”