Arrogance is one of those gifts that keeps on giving, as I have mentioned here from time to time. We all are capable of thinking that we might know something more than we actually do. Occasionally, some of us think better of ourselves than we ought. Such things are common.
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 he was a leper.
As Naaman had a dreaded and feared disease, it didn’t much matter what accolades had been heaped at his feet, or that he was the Commander in Chief of Syria. He was still a leper. If you read carefully you’ll note that God Almighty had allowed Naaman’s success in order to bring Israel down a notch or two.
When he through fate (or was it by the hand of God?) came into contact with that Israelite maiden who suggested that if he only knew of Elisha that he could be healed, he then came down off his high horse just long enough to go to Israel seeking out the prophet. But he didn’t like the prescription; and as he was a Gentile, Elisha had refused to let him in through the door, or to speak to him directly. So, with the putdown and all that came along with it, he was aggravated enough to throw out the prophet of God’s recommendation on the cure.
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.
Arrogance will get you every time. The only thing that turned Naaman around was a casual remark by his servant who 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’?”
Apparently he held the servant in high regard. He went and did exactly as he had been bidden and came up out of that inferior water altogether free of disease. Do you suppose he would have come up clean without going down to the Jordan, or by dipping himself either less or more than seven times? He came away from this a believer in The Lord of Hosts.
Paul went to Damascus with letters allowing him to arrest and carry back to Jerusalem any Jewish converts to Christianity who may have fled there from Judea. He too was sure that he had it right and was justified in what he was doing. He believed that he was the right guy for the job. Apparently nobody else even applied. And if you don’t believe that he was every bit a religious zealot and filled up to the top and overflowing with his own brand of arrogance; then I suggest that you should study the record again.
He believed in himself and in who he was; similarly to Commander Naaman. Yet, both of them were altogether wrong and turned out to be heading off in the wrong direction, absolutely contrary to what God would have. The reasons were different; but the output was the same. Naaman was high and mighty and no believer in God. Paul was a believer in himself and holding onto the dead form of religion of his fathers – no matter what.
Naaman acted sensibly when it was pointed out to him that he was making a mountain out of a molehill; and that’s called prudence (or is it erring on the side of safety?). But Paul would never have relented. He turned only when the choices were limited down to one. He was completely convinced that he was right and there was no reason at all to listen to anything contrary. So, it seems Naaman had less attitude than Paul.
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Arrogance is overbearing pride. Pride goes before destruction, or so said the writer of the Proverbs. I guess overbearing pride gets you there quicker.
Are you like Naaman: detached from what God has told all of us to do in order to be pleasing to him? Do you reject the counsel of God? Will you not have it His Way? Is the water in your private Damascus superior to those where you have been told (figuratively) to go and wash and be clean?
He has told you to repent and be immersed and to be freed from your sin, “calling upon the name of the Lord.” Perhaps like Paul you have been dyed and steeped in your own religion so much so that you are blind and cannot see the city walls in front of you. Do you need to read The Instructions? Does it matter to your eternal salvation what you do? Did it matter what Naaman did to be freed? Did Paul reject either The Lord or his prophet Ananias?
If we humble ourselves before God and do what he has bidden us, we will be saved. Or we can set our feet in arrogance and never look to see what’s in the water. The decision is ours to make.
“Then one, Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, `Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, `The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
(Acts 22: 12 – 16)