In Psalm 27 we read that King David considered it his principal joy to be able to gaze on the beauty of God in the tabernacle where the artifacts symbolizing God’s intervention on behalf of His people were kept. Today we have a place just as beautiful and amazing to go to; we have His Word in its fullness, and His Holy Spirit dwelling within us to speak to our hearts personally.
Each time you read a Bible passage, things old and new can be discovered. Here’s one example of a Bible account that I reflected on:
The story of Naaman, in 2 Kings chapter 5, is about the captain of the Syrian army who had success, position, wealth, and high esteem. But he also had leprosy, which isolated him and caused the position that he had worked so long to attain to fade and lose its value.
His wife had a young Hebrew slave girl who mentions to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”1
Naaman goes to the king of Syria, explaining why he wishes to see the prophet in Samaria. The king of Syria then sends him on his way, along with a letter to the king of Israel to explain why Naaman is passing through his country.
Naaman sets out to find Elisha in Samaria, prepared to pay a large sum of money and hopefully have a glorious healing event. He expected the king of Israel to command Elisha to cure him, and that surely the God of Israel would grant the petition upon seeing the large payment and recognizing Naaman’s importance on the social ladder.
But when Naaman and his company finally arrive at Elisha’s house, a servant comes out to meet him instead of the prophet, and the servant tells him to go to the Jordan River and wash seven times. To Naaman, this is an insult, and he leaves angry. But one of his own servants, who had come on the journey, suggests that he at least try to comply and see if it might work. Naaman calms down, humbles himself, heads to the Jordan River where he dips seven times, and is marvelously healed!
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller tells us that this well-known Bible story is full of meaningful lessons for our contemporary society. Individual success, high achievement, position, and economic status are instilled by our culture as top priorities—all the things Naaman had going for him. Naaman had done well for himself. He thought he should use his special connections and his wealth to approach Elisha and the Hebrew God. But he found out that the true God of the universe is “not an extension of culture, but a transformer of culture, not a controllable but a sovereign Lord … whose salvation cannot be earned, only received.”2
Like Naaman, we may also hold the subtle desire of wanting God to put on some great show for us when we seek Him for answers to our fervent prayers. He will sometimes do astounding things, but not always. As this story brings out, He will often request that we do the simple, humble thing. Naaman was told to “go wash,” and at first that felt like an insult to him, an affront to his pride and status. Today we’re told to wash ourselves in the water of God’s Word.3
When we return again and again to His Word, it becomes our main joy and our priority, just as gazing on God’s beauty and meditating on who He is and what He does was so important to King David. When we go through hardship, when we stumble along our walk of life, when we suffer great disappointment, this is the one recourse that comes through for us over and over again to sustain us.
When Naaman did go down to the Jordan and washed himself “according to the saying of the man of God … his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” And Jesus tells us, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” His Word cleanses and regenerates our spirits. And through the years, as we gaze more deeply and come to enjoy it more fully and understand it more completely, our assurance and faith gradually grow stronger. This simple thing, going to God’s Word, changes our motivations, our identity, our views, and our actions.