Washed in the Blood of the Lamb
July 20th, 1969 @ 10:50 AM
2 Kings 5:1-14
WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Kings 5:1-14
7-20-69 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And now that Lee Roy is in Old Mexico, I have got plenty of time to preach. And the sermon is entitled Washed in the Blood of the Lamb. It is the kind of a sermon that I love to preach. First of all, it is an exposition. I have a passage of Scripture, and the message will be just following that passage out of God’s Book. Another thing, it is a type, it is something that happened in the Old Testament that is a harbinger, a picture of some great spiritual dramatic redemptive truth in the New Testament. And last, it is the gospel itself. This is the good news. When a man preaches the gospel, if he preaches the gospel this is what he preaches. Now if you will turn in your Bible to the Book of 2 Kings, 2 Kings chapter 5, you can follow the message easily. And you who did not bring your Bible; why didn’t you bring your Bible, Henry? Why didn’t you bring your Bible? I thought you were my best Bible scholar. [Answer from audience] Well, my preachers say you have got it memorized, you know, you brought your New Testament; now that won’t do! You’ve got to bring your Bible to church.
Second Kings chapter 5, now I am going to read it. Would you like to read it with me? An English professor said this is the best short story in human literature. And it is the most dramatic. So turn your Bibles to 2 Kings chapter 5; we will read together the first fourteen verses. And if your neighbor does not have your Bible, share it with him and let us all of us read it out loud together. One of the most remarkable stories in the English language; all right, let us read it together:
Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper.
Now the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.
And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.
And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.
And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.
And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.
And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
And servants came near, and said unto him, My master, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again unto him like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
[2 Kings 5:1-14]
In any nation – almost without exception – their greatest heroes are military generals: Alexander the Great, Pompey, Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Wellington, Nelson, Washington, U. S. Grant, Eisenhower. All of you remember Eisenhower, even our little fellows; why, to say something against Eisenhower would have been disrespectful to the American flag. All of our nations have their great military heroes, and there’s no hero like a military hero.
Now Syria had its great hero; his name was Naaman. He was popular with the king because he never lost a battle. And he was popular with the people because he was the very incarnation of victory and conquest: Naaman. But the Bible says he is a leper. Now, there is nothing rude in the Word of God in its attitude about Naaman; the Bible is not seeking to belittle him. Rather, the Bible has every consideration for the man. He, the Bible says, was a great man; he was an honorable man, he was a mighty man, he was a valorous man, the Book says so. But the Bible is also honest; which many of our biographers are not. He was a leper [2 Kings 5:1]. He was an honorable man, but he also was an honorable leper. He was a great man, but he was a great leper. He was a valorous man, but he was a valorous leper. He was a most sociable man, but he was a social leper. He was a refined man, but he was a refined leper. He was a wealthy man, but he was a wealthy leper. A great man, an honorable man, a mighty man, and a valorous man, but he was a leper.
Now, the next verse introduces to us a humble little girl, a slave girl [2 Kings 5:2]. She’s not even named; she is one of those multitudes in that day who was taken captive and sold into slavery. But the Bible says, never despise the day of small things [Zechariah 4:10]. Sometimes a giant oak will grow out of a little acorn. Sometimes a great event will come to pass through something seemingly inconsequential. Sometimes a vast door will turn upon small hinges. And it was so here, this entire story swings upon a seemingly inconsequential little observation made by that girl. I want you to look at that child for just a moment, this little maid who waited on Naaman’s wife. The Book says that there were Syrians that had gone out by companies, just a brigand, a bunch of bandits, and somewhere in Israel they had seized, they had attacked a village, and had seized this little girl, and taken her and sold her into slavery [2 Kings 5:2]. Can you imagine the horror and the terror that seized the heart of that little child, when these rough brigands captured her and took her away from her father, and mother, and her home, and deported her to a strange land and a strange people with a strange tongue, and sold her into slavery? Why, you can just close your eyes and see the horror of that terrible providence. But I say, let’s look at that child.
She must have been a remarkable little girl. For one thing, when she was taken away and sold into slavery, she was so fine, and so nice, and so gracious, and so well mannered, that she was chosen to live in the home of the great military hero and to wait upon Mrs. Naaman herself [2 Kings 5:2]. That’s one thing about her. A second thing about her: she was a courageous child; she just was as perky as she could be, and she sought to make the place where she was a happier, sweeter, brighter, sunshinier place in which to live. Another thing about that child, though she was a slave, she was a captive and was waiting as a piece of chattel property upon those who lived in that house, yet she had no ill will toward them at all. She wished for her captor’s health, and healing, and happiness, and prosperity [2 Kings 5:3]. Another thing about that child: she was away from home and in a strange land, but she remembered the God of her father and mother. And she kept that faith taught her by her godly parents; she remembered the Lord, and she remembered that prophet in Samaria, in whose hands God had laid the power to heal; the miracle working hands of Elisha. And though she was far away and in a heathen land, she still believed that that same Lord God who exhibited His strength and His might through the hands of Elisha, could even heal a pagan and ruthless enemy of her people, if only he could be introduced to the man of God [2 Kings 5:3]. I’m just saying that that little girl surely, surely reflects the fine godly home in which she was reared.
Well, Jehoram – Jehoram who was the king of Israel – when the king of Syria sent to him Naaman with a letter asking the king to heal him, Jehoram rent his garments in twain, in significance of the utter unimaginable request that was made of him and said, "Look, this means war. Who can heal a man of his leprosy but Almighty God? And am I God to heal or to make alive?" [2 Kings 5:5-7]. I can understand the king of Syria, when word came to him what that little girl had said. Why, naturally he took it to the king, to Jehoram. You have an illustration of that in the introduction to the life of Christ, when the wise men came from the East and said, "We have seen His star, and there is a King born to the Jews, where is He?" [Matthew 2:2]. You know where they went to ask that question, to find out? They went to the court of King Herod, naturally [Matthew 2:3]. Well, that’s what the king of Syria did: he just naturally went to the king of Israel, to Jehoram himself, and said, "Word has come to me that there is a great healer, so I have sent my man to you to have him healed" [2 Kings 5:5-6].
Well, this is a case where governments, and counselors, and kings, and parliaments, and judges, and legislators, and congressmen are helpless. They do pretty well with some things, sometimes, but when it comes to the great and fundamental issues of life, kings, and presidents, and parliaments, and legislators, and counselors are like so many globs of mud and just as helpless as a piece of stone. And it was here, it was here. Actually, men are helpless before the great issues of life. They just are, you can’t do anything about it. They can think, or hope, they could speculate, and philosophize, but they are helpless; so it was here.
Well, this king of Israel made two mistakes. One, he misinterpreted the intent of the king of Syria. It wasn’t war, not at all. So many times do we misread the motives that lie back of what people do. We think, "Oh, so and so!" When actually, it isn’t that way at all. Well, this King Jehoram misinterpreted altogether the motives that lay back of the king of Syria. And the second thing was, the counselors pointed out to him, "It isn’t you. The letter isn’t actually addressed to you. What the king of Syria is seeking, he’s seeking Elisha the man of God." So they told Elisha, "This great general from Syria has come here to be healed of his leprosy. What shall we do?" And Elisha returned word, "Send him to me, and he shall know that there is a God that can heal" [2 Kings 5:8].
Well, Naaman came. And he came with his horses, and the Hebrew word is plural, "and he came with his chariot" [2 Kings 5:9]. The great retinue; he came with his ten talents of silver, and with his six thousand pieces of gold, and with his many changes of raiment [2 Kings 5:5]; he was a great general, even though he was a great leper. So he came and stood with his retinue at the door, at the humble cottage of the house of Elisha [2 Kings 5:9]. And he was expecting some dramatic, histrionic incantation. Ah! He had it all thought out, and as he stood there in tremendous expectancy as befits his station in life, the world’s greatest then known military hero, he had the insult of his life; his pride was punctured and he was hurt down to his deepest soul. Elisha did not even come out to look at him, imagine that! Not even going to the door to see Napoleon, or Caesar, or Alexander the Great; just imagine that. He didn’t even come out to see him. But he sent him word, and his word was an insult, "Go down to the muddy waters of the Jordan," and that’s the muddiest river in the world because it has a descent beyond any river I know of, "Go down there and dip yourself seven times, and you will be healed" [2 Kings 5:9-10].
Well, what about that? Was Elisha inconsiderate and insulting? No, not at all. There’s a reason for that. One, this man Naaman was a pagan, he was a heathen; and religion to him, all he’d known about it was hocus-pocus, it was magic, and it was always some kind of exorcism or incantation or a thousand other things that go on in those heathen temples. That’s his idea of religion and of God. And Elisha effaced himself, put himself out, didn’t even appear, for this is of God. Elisha looked upon himself as just an echo, he just delivered the message; it was God who was to be exalted [2 Kings 5:10]. All right, second: Naaman was accustomed to the fawning sycophantic bowing of the people before him. Wherever he went, he was the greatest man in Syria, and he was proud of it and knew it and loved it. There’s hardly any man in the world that does not love the fawning compliments of those who will give them to him. You can turn the head of any man. And the greater the man, the more subject he is to flattery. Naaman was that. And then, when Elisha said to him, "You just go wash, and you will be healed," oh! it struck him at an angle of incidence that turned him into a rage [2 Kings 5:10-11]. He was a great leper, not an ordinary one; and a great leper demanded some kind of a tremendous elaboration. Just to go down to a muddy creek and wash was not in keeping with the dignity of his station.
Well, let’s look at this man, Naaman. "Naaman was wroth, and turned and went away in a rage. And he said, "Behold, I thought," [2 Kings 5:11]. Now I want you to apply that to your life. Take anybody outside of Jesus, any of them, just stop a fellow on the street, go up there in that bank building, there in that office building, go anywhere you want to, take any specimen you like, and they will all answer the same way, each one of them has his preconceived ideas about how to be saved. He’s got his own ideas; every one of them will tell them to you if you’ll ask him. "Now I think this way. That preacher may think that way, and the Bible may think this way, God may think some other way, but I think this way"; and they’ve all got their preconceived ideas, and Naaman had his. And Naaman said, "Behold, I thought," now he had his own idea how he ought to be saved.
Another thing about him: he said, "I thought surely he will come out to me" [2 Kings 5:11]. That’s a big "me," "He will surely come out to me." For Naaman had persuaded himself fully that the means and the resources of his salvation and of his healing were in his own hands. And he came prepared for it. You know how much ten talents of silver is? A talent is a weight; and a weight of talent is how much a big strong man can carry. He came with all the silver – pure bullion – that ten strong men could carry. Not only that, but he had six thousand pieces of gold [2 Kings 5:5]. The Lord only knows how much that is, beside all the other things. He came there with hundreds of thousands of dollars. For he had it, and he had the persuasion also that the means of his healing were in his own resources; he could do it himself.
Now I want to point out to you that that is the fallible answer to man’s problems ever since there has been a human race. And it is so today more than any other time in the human race. Men are persuaded that they can answer their own problems, and they can save themselves, and they say it now, in no uncertain terms. The educators say it, and the scientists say it, and the philosophers say it, and the speculators say it, and the economists say it, and the politicians say it, and the governmental officials say it, everybody says it with increasing vociferousness: "Our problems are man-made and man can answer them. We have the resources ourselves." We’ve always been that way, with an increasing crescendo emphasizing it. It was so in the days of the Renaissance, it was so in the days of scholasticism, it was so in the days of education, it was so in the days of science, and it is so today in this age of technology; what we are able to do.
Now, I’m not denying that the achievements of mortal man are astonishing and startling. We can build buildings higher than the pyramids. Why, you have one proposed here in Dallas higher than the Eiffel Tower itself. And we’re just proliferating that all around; it’s just nothing for men to do that. We can swim through the sea better than a fish. We can fly through the air better than a bird. We can swiftly move on the ground beyond the sweetest horse, beyond the fleetest horse. I’ve got my Kentuckyana mixed up in me, where they have the prettiest horses and the fastest women, I got it all mixed up. But however our technological advance, and however our scientific discoveries, there is something that has got hold of the whole human race, and it won’t let go. We’re all lepers; we’re all sinners [Romans 3:23].
Today, there are three Americans up there close to the moon and two of those Americans are going to walk on the surface of the moon. What a tremendous, unimaginable achievement! But when that man puts his foot down on the moon, he’s going to be a sinner man. And when he lifts up his foot and puts the other foot down on the moon, he’s still going to be a sinner man. And when he gets back into that module and comes back to the United States, he’s coming back here to die. We don’t change. We’re all like Naaman: we may be honorable, but we’re honorable lepers. We may be technologically miracles, but we are technological miraculous lepers. We may be valorous, and brave, and courageous, but we are just valorous, brave, and courageous lepers. There is something that has got hold of humanity, and it is an affliction that decimates and degrades us all. We are sinners and dying in our sins [Romans 3:23; 6:23]. Just like Naaman.
"I thought," he said, "he will surely come out to me" [2 Kings 5:11]. And when a man thinks of his salvation, he always does it in terms of where he is the hero. Now I don’t mean to be blasphemous, and I don’t mean to deprecate a marvelous experience, but I want to share with you a judgment that I have regarding these unusual and marvelous experiences that I hear preachers and people tell. You listen to them and without exception, without exception, when a man will tell a marvelous experience of conversion, or a glorious experience of his call to preach, almost always he’ll be the hero of it. It centers around him, he. Oh! And the more he tells the story, the more he magnifies himself in it. Well, God just doesn’t do that: "My glory will I not share with another [Isaiah 42:8]. A man made out of dust and ashes [Genesis 18:27], and a worm of the earth" [Job 25:6]. It is God who saves, and it is God who is to be glorified [Ephesians 3:21]. And when a man thinks of his salvation and of his call to the ministry or of his ministry in any other field, where he magnifies himself, he is just that much away from the true Spirit of God and the blessedness of Jesus. "I thought, behold, he will surely come out to me, and he will stand and call on the name of his Lord God, and he will strike his hand on me on the place of that running, leprous, cankerous sore" [2 Kings 5:11]. Ah! What he had thought for, for himself!
And now, about going down to that dirty Jordan, "Are not Abana and Pharpar," Have you seen Abana and Pharpar, those rivers in Damascus? They are as clear as crystal. They look like melted ice and snow. They run out of those high Lebanese mountains, a beautiful crystal stream. And they divide; one is the Pharpar, which is the southern, the larger one is the Abana which runs right through the heart of Damascus, right through the middle of the city. And that water is pure, and cold, and crystal clear; it is beautiful water. The Abana and the Pharpar rivers, flowing through the desert, for it’s sheer desert, making Syria, making Damascus. "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" [2 Kings 5:12]. And the Jordan is about the muddiest creek you’ll ever see in your life. The descent of the Jordan is tremendous. Oh! The rate, it – Jordan means "descender," and that water rushes down – it gathers all the silt, and mud, and dirt with it, and it’s just as muddy as it can be. "Are not Abana and Pharpar better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and then be clean?" [2 Kings 5:12]. But what does the Bible say? "Salvation is of the Syrians?" Does it say that? "Salvation is of the Arabians?" Does it say that? "Salvation is of the Americans?" Does it say that? Of the Turks? Of the English? No, sir! The Bible says, "Salvation is of the Jews" [John 4:22]. And if we’re going to be saved, we got to go down to those Israelitich waters and bathe.
Well, "I’ll not do it. I had rather die a leper than to go down there to that muddy Jordan and wash and be saved and be clean. I’ll not do it." For you see, Naaman was not only a leper in his body, but he was a leper also in his heart and in his spirit; he was proud and lifted up. He was a great, honorable, valorous man, and he knew it. So in a rage, the Bible says, he took his horses and wheeled them toward Damascus [2 Kings 5:12]. And I can just see the dust fly as that retinue of chariots follows behind him, and he’s driving furiously to the capital city of Syria, a leper. And while he is holding the reigns of those fiery steeds in his hands, returning back home in his pride, insulted, hurt, wounded in his soul, going back a leper, I can just see one of those servants putting his hand on the double fists that hold those reigns, and asking that simple and humble question: "My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, wouldest thou not have done it? [2 Kings 5:13]. If the prophet had said, ‘You’ve got a million dollars here, go back home and bring me ten million, and I’ll heal you of your leprosy,’ wouldn’t you have gone back home and done your best to conscript out of the country all of the affluence and all of the wealth of the nation, wouldn’t you – and bring it back, if he’d asked you for ten million dollars instead of one million? Or if he’d said to you, ‘You go out here and conquer all of Arabia,’ wouldn’t you have tried to do it in order to be clean? How much rather then, when the prophet says, ‘Wash, and be clean, wash and be clean’?" [2 Kings 5:13].
I can just see those arms that are steel bands, I can see Naaman as he pulls back on those reigns, "Whoa, whoa, whoa." He pulls up those fiery steeds and he turns them around; he turns them around. Now that’s repentance. And he turned them around. That’s repentance: when a man’s going this way, and he turns around and goes the other way, that’s repentance. When he changes his mind and his attitude and his walk and his going, that’s repentance. He swung those steeds around, and went down into that Jordan core, into that deep valley; drew up by the side of that muddy river, crawled out of his glistening golden chariot, and went down into that water one time, two times, five times, six times, six and seven-eighths time. And after he’s been down there six and seven-eighths times, he was only just a little wetter. But when he went down the seventh time and came up, he looked at himself. "Look! Look!" Why, I can just see him standing there in the middle of that river calling out to all around him, "Look, look, look, look!" The Book says, "And his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" [2 Kings 5:14]. He was healed, he was well, he was saved.
Our highest duty is to listen to God. Our highest commitment is to do God’s bidding. God’s bidding is always simple and possible; He never asks of us what we cannot give. What God says to us is to look and live [John 3:14-15], to wash and be clean [Revelation 7:14], to believe and to be saved [Acts 16:30-31]. You know the old divines had a name for that: they called it "recumbency." Recumbency; that was their name for leaning on the Lord, believing in the Lord, humbling yourself before the Lord – recumbency – trusting in the Lord.
Well, there’s no other way. Because I’m not smart enough, nor is any man; and I’m not strong enough, nor is any man; I have to turn to God. Why, I can’t forgive sins, nor can anyone. And I can’t wash the stain of leprosy out of my soul, nor can anyone. It’s looking to God; I must look if I’m to be saved [Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14-15].
A man had a dream and he was watching the folks – God’s redeemed – go into glory. And there was a company, [he] asked who they were. "Why those are the prophets of the Old Testament."
He wasn’t a prophet, and he looked and there was a band going in, "And who are they?" "Those are the disciples, the apostles of the Lord." And he wasn’t an apostle.
And he looked, and there was a band, a throng, "Who are they?" "These are the martyrs of Christ who laid down their lives for the faith." And he wasn’t a martyr.
And he looked, and there was a throng that no man could number [Revelation 7:9]. And he said, "Who are they?" And the elder replied, "These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:14]. And he said, "I can enter in with them."
That is the gospel, that’s it. Ah! But these moderns and these theologians; and they say, "That’s a religion of gore, it’s a religion of blood, it’s a religion of shambles, it’s a religion of slaughter house." Did you know, in most of the Christian hymnbooks, they have purged out all the songs about the blood? All of them, it offends their aesthetic sensibilities. Such blood, and gore, and cross, and death, and suffering, shouldn’t fall upon cultural ears; that’s what they say. But when time comes to die, human speculations and man-made philosophies are rather broken reeds to lean upon. When time comes for me to die, I want you to read me the old story. Quote again the old texts, and sing once more the old song. That was the one they were singing when I gave my heart to the Lord: "There’s a fountain filled with blood." And the next stanza, "The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day." And the next stanza, "Dear dying Lamb, Thy flowing wounds shall never cease to supply that saving grace." And the last stanza, "Till this stammering tongue shall cease its attempt to glorify Thee in the grave."
If I had to buy it, I might not have the money. There are a lot of us that’d be too poor. And if I had to work for it, I might not be able to achieve what God could demand. If I had to be handsome enough, I’m afraid I’d be too ugly. If I had to be good enough, I’m afraid I’m too bad. If I had to live long enough, I might die before the time. But when He says, "Just look and live [John 3:14-15], just wash and be clean [Revelation 7:14], just believe and be saved" [Acts 16:30-31]; I did that, and you can. God saved me; He will save you [Luke 19:10; Romans 10:9-13]. You just try it and see. Look, wash, believe, come [Revelation 22:17].
In a moment we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, in the balcony round, somebody you; on this lower floor, a family you; into this aisle and down here to the front, "Here I come, pastor, here I am. I make it this morning. I’m going to look to Jesus. I’m going to trust in the Lord." Make the decision now. Do it now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, you stand up coming. Into that aisle, and down here by me, "Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children; all of us are coming today." A couple you, or just you, do it now. On the first note of that first stanza come, and God attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.