“So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:14).
A proud man, Naaman had it all. As a man of war, victorious. As a servant to his king, pleasing. As to honor, held in high esteem. But this proud Syrian general was unclean with leprosy.
Graciously, a slave girl he’d captured from Israel told him of Elisha. The prophet could heal him, she posited.
So Naaman went, but Elisha violated his expectations. Elisha would not come out, but sent his servant. Elisha would not make a spectacle, but quietly gave instructions. Elisha would not wave his magic wand, but told him to dip in the Jordan River seven times.
This infuriated Naaman. He had not, after-all, traveled all this way just to be given the cold shoulder by this so called prophet. Naaman out.
But his servants pointed out the bottom line of Elisha’s directive. If followed, he’d be clean. Wasn’t that the point? The means might humiliate the man, but the end was worth it. Cleanness would come. Wasn’t that worth a little humiliation?
It seems the prophet’s process was Naaman’s need. He had no humility, no brokenness. Dipping seven times in the Jordan was a humbling act for him, and he needed a humbling act. Naaman was a proud man with proud accomplishments. He was armed with gold and goods to purchase a healing. But God would not respond to Naaman’s works. He looked for Naaman’s humility.
Are not God’s men today in the same place? We want healing from spiritual leprosy. We long to be radically and permanently changed. We want to see real cleanness come over us.
Perhaps, if we cannot find cleanness, we are taking issue with God's process. Maybe we’ve wanted the magic of a special church event to categorically shift us. Maybe we’ve wanted a spiritual leader to speak a fresh word into our lives, altering us permanently. Maybe we’ve been unwilling to dip in the Jordan, unwilling to do the humble work Christ promises will lead to cleanness. Perhaps we’ve thought we deserve all this because of our greatness or what we can offer to God.
Here are seven humbling acts for a man of God. Counterintuitive, they lead to life. Consider them like the muddy waters of the Jordan River for all Naamans today.
When we repent we bring joy to heaven (Luke 15). To turn from our error, admitting our wrong in the process, is life giving. Repentance is not a negative word. It is not a practice to be avoided. God sees our sin. Lack of repentance does not shield Him from the truth. He knows. Might as well get on with it and confess our sin to Him and others, turning from our error. Otherwise, we live a lie and the saga continues. When we practice repentance, we are cleansed from folly.
God knew Israel would be tempted to make their hearts their Bible (see Number 20:39). This temptation still exists. Our thoughts and feelings often carry stronger authority than Scripture does. This might not be our theological position. Theologically we likely admit God is numero uno. But functionally the Scripture must have the authority over our lives. When we love Scripture, we are cleansed from the untruth our hearts cultivate.
This is hard work for many of us men. Fixers by nature, we want to do, to be men of action, rather than listen. It is humbling work for us to train our minds towards sympathy, listening, and caring. But the more we go here the more God can open our hearts to the world around us. Listen, hear, ask. When we listen, we are cleansed of incorrect perspectives.
Society is built on proper submission. The believing man submits to God, his spiritual leadership, governmental authorities, employers, to other believers, and his own spouse. We are called to come under. Christ willingly came under the Father. This didn’t make Him lesser than the Father, for they are eternally coequal. But His submission made Him our hero. Perhaps your submission will do something similar for the people in your life. When we submit to the appropriate people and institutions, we are cleansed of pride.
To serve others is a humbling work. We decrease, elevating their needs and desires above our own. But this is the path to greatness, Christ taught — “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43). Find ways to serve others. Serving combats our problem with pride. When we serve, we are cleansed of self-centeredness.
Generosity is an excellent path to self-abasement. In it, men release their bread to God’s kingdom and to those in need. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). When we give we make friends in eternity (Luke 16:9). But our hearts are changed, for our hearts follow our treasure (Matthew 6:21). When generous, we are cleansed of covetousness and greed.
Honesty is a requirement of the Christian life. Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Men of God are to be sincere, without wax, able to measure up to the heat of the sun. We must be honest about our deficiencies, telling others of them, working hard to overcome. Secret sin should stay secret no longer. When honest, we are cleansed of darkness.
As with many things in the Christian life, the way forward is so often backward. This was the case for Naaman. Do the humiliating thing. Dip in that Jordan. For the modern man of God, the same is still true. There is no river, but there are many humble acts that lead to the cleansing of God.
The cleansing is not a payment, for we could never earn it. But as we move, the Spirit meets us and works within us. It is grace. It is mercy. It is God lifting up the humble. Just as the power of God was released on Naaman, so the power of God is released on us. Let us move counterintuitively — opposite our impressions — and watch God do the real work!