Levi Lusko - Clean Fill Wanted
So 2 Kings chapter 5, if you have a Bible, have a pen, have a notebook. I want to give to you a message that I'm calling "Clean Fill Wanted," "Clean Fill Wanted". this is a beautiful passage of Scripture, an amazing story. So drink it in as we go through these verses. It says:
"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 a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the hand of Israel. She waited on Naaman's wife. Then she said to her mistress, 'If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria, for he would heal him of his leprosy.' And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, 'Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.' Then the king", which, by the way, pro tip, men, Naaman basically boiled down everything the little girl told him by saying, "Thus and thus".
So when your wife catches you zoning out when she was telling you about her day, and she says, you listening? And you go, yes. And she says, what was I saying? Just say, "Thus and thus". I just like how everything this little girl told him, he just consolidated down to "thus and thus". He went into the king, goes, hey, you know that girl that works for my wife? Here's what she told me, thus and thus.
"Said the girl who is from the land of Israel. Then the king of Syria said, 'Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.' so he departed and took with him 10 talents of silver, 6,000 shekels of gold, and 10 changes of clothing. Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, 'Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.' And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, 'Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.' So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, 'Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.' Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, 'Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.' 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 then and be clean?' So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and 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"?' So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. And he returned to the man or God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him, and he said, 'Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.' But he said", Elisha did, "'As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.' And he urged him to take it, but he refused. So Naaman said, 'Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offerings or sacrifices to other gods, but to the Lord. Yet in this thing may the Lord pardon your servant; when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord please pardon your servant in this thing.' Then he said to him, 'Go in peace.' So he departed from him a short distance".
"Clean Fill Wanted", that was the subject of a question that was posed to Cecil Adams, who for 45 years worked for the Chicago Reader, a newspaper in Chicagoland, and you could write in, kind of like, Dear Abby, there was at that point, you could just write in any question you had. And this guy would take them and answer some of them in the newspaper. He did that for 45 years until the newspaper was sold, but I googled those three words, "clean fill wanted", and his answer to someone's question popped up on my screen as they have been all transported onto this website called the Straight Dope, because that was the name of the column, the Straight Dope. And I'm not going to read you his answer, but I love the question and the way it was posed, and I want to read it to you.
It says, "Dear Straight Dope, now and then I see curbside signs in front of people's homes in rural areas that read 'Clean fill wanted.' Now, what exactly is fill, how is it judged to be clean, and why can't the people who want it just go out and get some? Is there some other group of people driving around with a van full of fill, hoping desperately to be able to sell it somewhere"? And then he ends in a terribly cheesy way, "Please fill me in. Signed, Bob", and he identifies himself as a human, in case anybody was wondering.
Now in construction, and I did call a friend of mine who's a builder to make sure I understood exactly what this is going on so I could sound somewhat conversant in this when, you're building, you're having to dig out to prepare for the foundation, to prepare for the structure that's going to go up. So you have to dig down in order for the building to go up, and to do so produces a high amount of material, of clean fill that you've dug out in many instances. And so you've got to do something with it. And so you'll have truckload after truckload, trailer after trailer full of fill. And so what you have to do is, if you don't have any way to use it, you have to take it to a landfill or take it to somewhere where you can get rid of it. And to do so is to pay every single time you do that. As a construction company, you have to pay to get rid of all that fill.
Now, there's other people with the exact same problem in reverse. They've got a construction situation or a landscaping situation on a place they've purchased, and they have a hole that they need filled or they want to change the grade or level it in some way, and so they need fill. So you got one group who's going to have to pay money to get rid of perfectly good dirt, or the hole backwards, which is what dirt is that you pulled out, and the other people who are like, man, I desperately need some stuff to go in my big old hole. And so to put up the sign is to suggest that someone driving by with all this perfectly good dirt they're just going to go pay good money to get rid of is like, oh, I have dirt. You need dirt. Let's meet in the middle. You said clean fill wanted, I got clean fill I want to get rid of, and so here you go. Everybody wins.
And the reason I bring that up is because, as this story comes to a conclusion, we see Naaman riding off to Syria with two donkeys full of fill, two donkeys full of earth. He got permission from Elisha as he was preparing to leave the country to load up his F150s with loads full of fill, loads full of dirt, loads full of earth. That's his request as he leaves. Can I bring some dirt with me back to Syria? Now, we'll leave that there for a moment and also realize how pretty this story is written because it ends sort of where it begins. As Naaman's story starts, he's listening to a child. And as the story concludes, the text tells us his skin became like a child. But that's not the only thing that changed about Naaman. By the end of the story, there's a complete transformation that has taken place, and he's not only healed of his leprosy, which is what caused him to go to Israel, but he's also saved on the inside. This is a man who has become, in our language on the other side of the testamental divide from the Old to the New, who has been born again. He has put his faith in God.
And the text says he not only came out with his skin like a child, he became like a child himself on the inside, which is what Jesus said all of us must do to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must become like one of these little ones. He became childlike on the inside, saved inside and out. He was restored. But the only way to get there was for him to be able to be faced with a situation where he was offended, potentially, again and again and again and again. God insulted Naaman and insulted Naaman and insulted Naaman, and it was only by Naaman being unwilling to get offended, we talked last week about how you have to come to a place where you tap into God's blessings through not being easily offended. Why? Because the gospel is offensive.
Tim Keller put it this way, "The gospel is bitter on the outside but sweet on the inside". The gospel does not give us the opportunity or the luxury of feeling great about ourselves. It is not a compliment to suggest or insinuate that the only way we can be saved is someone coming to save us. It's to insinuate that we are helpless. And so that is the place that Naaman has to come to. This chapter, as we read these verses, is Naaman coming to the end of himself. It's God slowly but surely breaking him down. And at every level, there was the opportunity for him to get angry because the gospel's bitter outside. But if you can persist and not be offended by the gospel, then you can get to the sweet inside. That's a lot better, by the way, than what the devil offers. What the devil offers is sweet on the outside but deadly on the inside.
Now let's back up here and begin where the story begins, where Naaman is at a place where he has all that he could ever want but does not have what he needs. Naaman's story begins with him having all that he ever wanted but discovering the hard way it wasn't the one thing that he needed. Who is Naaman? He was essentially like the vice-president of his nation. He's the highest military commander in Syria. And later on, he uses the expression, I'm the one whose elbow the king leans on when he does his worshiping. So there's no one higher in the land, no one more trusted in the land. He has the ear of the king, the king's right-hand guy. That's who Naaman is. He's also successful as the general, and thus he was obviously celebrated. He went out and was conquering on the battlefields till he'd come back home and there'd be a parade for Naaman, and he was looked to like a Douglas MacArthur or like a Dwight D Eisenhower. He had incredible respect and all the trappings that would go with it as a military hero. But the text says, "But he was a leper".
So here's, on one hand, everything he ever wanted to do coming true, everything he could ever want. He's powerful, he's famous, obviously, his household had servants, so things are going, all the dreams that he had. He graduated from West Point. And all the things he ever sought out to do with his life, he's been able to accomplish. And it's intentionally ironic the way verse 1 ends. "He was a mighty man of valor, but a leper". In other words, wah-wah. When he just finally got his ducks in a row, and I'm sure there's some level on which you can relate, that you've accomplished this, you've accomplished this, you've accomplished this, and you've finally discovered all this, but then there was some chink in the armor. There was some way in which there was still some nagging emptiness for him. It showed up in the midst of what, when life became greater than he could ever have imagined, all of a sudden he has this terrible disease.
He has this problem. He has this condition which, in the Bible, was always fatal. It eventually claimed your life. But on the way there, you were horribly disfigured. And this began for him as a small spot. And at the point where he's getting healed here, it's still clearly very much something he could hide because he says later on, I thought Elisha would come out and wave his hand over the spot. That is to say, at this point, it was just a small little thing. It hadn't taken over his entire body yet. It was just this little thing. And so here he is one day, looking in the mirror, appreciating how good he looks in his uniform. And oh, what is that? What is that? He notices this little spot. He goes to get checked out. What does it show us? It shows us that in this world, all the things that we put on paper together that would make our lives perfect aren't going to be enough because eventually, ultimately, inevitably, mortality is going to rear its head.
Life on Earth was never meant to be able to satisfy deep down the questions that all of us ask, and that is what are we here for, where are we going, and what is going to happen to us when we die? It was at this point that Naaman began to wrestle with these questions, and he wasn't able to find solutions in his entire country of Syria. Nobody had better access to doctors than Naaman. No one had more wisdom that he could summon than Naaman. And none of the answers satisfied him. And as he looked around at his massive home, as he thought about all that he possessed, all the gold that was his, the fact that he had the king on speed dial, he realized that it couldn't prevent him from dying. And he wouldn't be able to take any of it with him.
The book of Proverbs says it this way. "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath". And as Naaman is wrestling with the idea that I'm going to be taking my last breath here. It seems like it's going to be this leprosy, but if it's not this, it's going to be something else. He realized everything he ever wanted wasn't, in fact, what he needed. But here's something cool. By the end of this story, Naaman's going to be able to look back on that horrible disease of leprosy as the greatest thing that ever happened to him. And so it often is. You might have looked at this leprosy if you were Naaman and going, this is from the enemy. This is from the devil. No, it was actually allowed by God as a gift, as that bitter outside of the gospel to get into the sweet inside of asking those difficult questions that he might not otherwise have wrestled with if it weren't for this terrible diagnosis. It was this that exposed the emptiness on the inside that was dulled by all the pleasures that his life was full of.
And many people, like Naaman, have in hindsight looked back upon crisis as their best friend, the wake-up call that woke them up to the reality that life is a vapor, here one moment and gone the next, and really an opportunity to prepare for eternal life. It was this that was a catalyst that caused him to be driven on a quest to find spiritual truth. And the Bible says that if we seek God, we will find him, for he is not far from any one of us. God only ever wounds us so that he might heal us. And it was this wounding of Naaman's pride and his health that caused him to lift his eyes up above the hills, and he eventually would see God. And on the journey, he found another thing that he thought to be inaccurate, and that was this. Naaman's story tells us he thought salvation could be purchased but discovered it can only be obtained through God freely giving it to us. Naaman thought salvation could be purchased.
So when he heard about this miracle worker in Israel, as he heard about this man of God, Elisha, doing incredible things, he goes to the king and gets permission from the king and gets a letter written to the king of Israel so he didn't provoke an international incident crossing the borders. And he loaded up his camels, he loaded up his donkey with an incredible amount of money. The text describes it for us, but let me just focus in on the gold, just the gold. If you ignore everything else he brought with him, he brought a sum of gold so staggering it's hard to get our heads around. The amount would be the equivalent to 600 years of pay for the average worker in that day, an unthinkable amount of money. But what does that show you that Naaman basically brought all this? What is someone willing to give for another year of their life? He's like, what good is all this money if I am not here, around to spend it?
So what would at one point have been the most important thing to him, now it's like, here, take it all, take it all, take it all. You can take anything I have. Just let me live. I'll be poor, that's fine, but let me live. And so he brings all of this gold, all of this treasure, thinking that he's going to be able to buy a cure. There's a man of God. He's doing great things in Israel. I want to go see him. And surely, the thinking is, if I give him all this money, surely he will end my misery. But the truth is salvation can't be purchased. It is the gift of God. You cannot buy from God salvation. Ephesians 2, verse 8 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God". So what Naaman discovered is that you can't purchase salvation from God. You wouldn't be able to afford it. The only thing that could pay our bill, which, the wages of our sin is death, is the death of Jesus.
And so Naaman was saved on credit because of what Jesus would do and having already paid for it. That's why Jesus died on the cross. The Bible says as He hung there, God took all of our sins and placed them upon Him. And He purchased the price of our sins by dying not just for us, but as though He were us. And since it's already been paid for, it can't be earned. It can only be received. By grace you can be saved, through faith. That's the only way for us to have a right standing before God is to receive the salvation purchased by Jesus. And that is, why, by the way, when he says, well, let me give you this money now that you've cured me, Elisha says, no, it's not the time for that. It's not the time, there's a sequence to it.
That's why we're so careful and intentional, especially around heightened times of guests coming to our church, like on Christmas or on Easter when we put on a service that's explicitly evangelistic. We're saying invite people who don't know Christ to come. We would always say at an offering time if you're here at the invitation of a friend, please don't participate or feel the need or obligation to participate in any way in this. All we ask is your attention. We're grateful that you're here. Why? Because Elisha said, it's not the time for that. There's a time and a place to give money to priests. There's a time and a place to give money to pastors to fund, if you receive from a ministry, you should support that ministry. You should be a part of giving to that ministry. That's called tithing, where you take that first 10% of what God's entrusted to you and you return that to your church, and then above and beyond that, offerings. And then above and beyond that, you live a generous life, and you're participating in needs as you see those things happening. But the timing is so important to allow someone who's just about to give his life to Christ to pay for ministry that would cause him to think, well, that's connected to this.
And what happens in Naaman's life is he comes to Christ based on grace, him putting his faith in God, and then down the road there can come a place for generosity. But Elisha's careful not to allow Naaman to think that it was his giving that led to his being saved. Why is that an important distinction? It's because of the frame of mind it puts you in. If you, in any way, are able to do this and then God saves you, that sort of puts you into a relationship with him like we would have with the government. And when you walk around a government building, you kind of have the sense of, well, my taxes pay for this. There's a little bit of a sense of this is my post office. I paid for a part of it. You drive on these roads. Like, well, that's right. Yeah, I did pretty, you know these are my taxes. You like these roads?
I remember the first time I went to a government building and heard the eye-opening thing that every child should get as you go to a state Capitol. This is your Capitol. It was me in Denver the first time. Oh, this is mine? Yeah. I'm a citizen of this country. This is not the people who work there's. It's all of ours, right? And I think if we contributed to our salvation in that way, it would put us in this position with, like, well, good job God, running the universe. And I'd love to see you treat this because don't forget that You do work for me. I do pay my taxes. And nothing could be further from the truth when the only way we are saved is through the blood of God's Son that dripped down Skull Hill for you and for me. It puts us always and forever in His debt, which is why at the end of the story, when Naaman makes the two requests that he does, he says, may your servant get some earth. May your servant, he's saying I'm the servant here.
And what is a servant? A servant is someone who has a master. And if someone saves you by allowing his son to die for you, that person becomes your Lord, not the concierge you call down to request a bigger room to. This is someone who is master and commander of your soul, the shepherd and Savior, the King forever. It puts us in the perspective of this is my God, this is my King. We are always looking to Him as Lord. Thirdly, notice this. Naaman sought kings and prophets, but God only ever spoke to him through servants. Naaman had this mentality that if I want to get something done, I'm going straight to the top. So two different times in this passage he made his appeal to a king. He made his appeal to his king first, and then he asked his king to give him permission to speak to the king.
Now, the weird thing is the king was never involved. The exact word was there's a prophet. There's a man of God who's preaching on behalf of God. You should go seek that man of God. But he said to his king, get me in front of the other king, and if he has a letter from you, he'll put the pressure, he'll turn the screws on the man of God and make this man of God do a miracle for me. So that's how, because he only respected one thing, power. And he thought that God would work that exact same way. But what he didn't understand was that Israel was the one nation where the men and women of God did not work for the king. The king answered to them. The king answered to them as they spoke the word from God. And so he thought, I'm going to get this done by going straight to the top. And then that's even why he was disappointed when the king gave him permission to go to Elisha's house and said, I'll talk to Elisha. You can go, that's where he lives. Just drive down that road.
And he pulls up, he expected Elisha to come out and sort of, whoa, wow, I'm impressed by, wow, this is great. And he thought he was going to do a big ceremony and wave his hand over, has he not ever met Elisha? This is not a guy who performs. This is not a guy who does party tricks. So he expected the kings to be a part of this and the prophets to be a part of this. And how ironic that someone who had such great power and respected such great power and expected the perks of that to open up for him that God only ever spoke to him through servants? That at first, there was the servant in his own home, and then secondly, Elisha sent the servant to come out and just tell him, yeah, he says to go dunk yourself in that river over there there, pal. See that one over there? No, no. Turn left at the cow. Turn right. Turn right over here. Hey, man. Hey, man. Just go over there. Just get down into that river. You just dunk yourself in it seven times. That's what he said. He said do it. He's like Larry the Cable Guy out here. He said if you dunk yourself in that river seven times, you'll be all right. Peace out, A-town.
And then he shuts the door and goes back inside with his sunglasses on and he tick-tocked them down and went back inside. And Naaman is standing there with all these cameras and this retinue of servants there with the gold, like a palace of gold, and he's like, what the heck? He is outraged because he expected to be addressed by kings and prophets, but God sent a servant. And this is how God works. God gives not work like the world works. It's not all about somebodies. It's about God working through people who feel like, I'm a nobody. The two people that God speaks the most powerful messages through in this passage are their names aren't even given. Yeah, we get the name of this individual. We get the name of that individual. But the ones responsible for Naaman's salvation, their names aren't even mentioned. And is that not what God loves to do? How was this church started originally, the church of Jesus Christ on the Earth?
I'm telling you it was by people who, Acts 4:13, who are bold but they were uneducated and untrained men. And then when they witnessed them, they marveled, and they realized that they had been with Jesus. It wasn't that they had these degrees from seminaries or these accomplishments that would be respectful in human eyes. These are just fishermen, these are just average people, but they had spent time with Jesus. This is what God loves to do. If he wants to take a giant down, it's not Saul or any of his soldiers. He's going to get a shepherd boy he's going to get someone out in the fields. I'm telling you when God wants to solve the dream of the king, none of the king's wise men were able to do it, but these random Hebrew slaves, Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they would be the ones promoted. The world's ways are not how God works.
1 Corinthians 1, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are". Now, this should both cause you to have a check in your spirit on any pride you have in your heart over how you think that you should be treated. But it also should inspire you to know that, like these servants who just spoke up, God wants to use you. You might feel like, who am I? I work at Wendy's. Who am I? I drive an Uber. Who am I? I don't have any great calling. I'm telling you something. It was the nameless and the faceless in the story responsible for the miracle, but they were willing to speak up. They were willing to click the Facebook share button. They were willing to post this link to their story. They were willing to tweet this out and text a friend.
I'm telling you, it's just the person who says, I'm willing to speak up, I'm willing to tell you this, I'm willing to come out and do as I'm told. It's not the ones that the world sees, oh, wow, that's the mover and the shaker. I'm telling you God wants to use you. He sees you right there living in Ohio, feeling like, who am I? I live in a trailer. How could God ever use me? I'm telling you God delights to use uncommon, ordinary, untrained people who are willing to spend time with Jesus and then say, here I am. Send me. I'm willing to go. I'm willing to, it's not the king and the prophet in this passage. It's the servant. Now, if you're a king or a prophet, the good news is you can be a servant, too. And you never at any point in your life graduate from servanthood. It's always in the kingdom of God about how low can we stoop, how much can we serve each other?
And sidebar, let's not be like the king of Israel. Nobody comes off in this passage looking worse, in my opinion, than him. The king of Israel is the worst. When he reads a letter from the king of Syria, saying, I hear there's a man of God who can do a miracle, Naaman's legit, he's too legit to quit. Please tell the man of God to help Naiman out. He's one of the good ones. The king's immediate reaction is, he must be mad at me. He's probably starting a fight with me. He probably hates me, and this is just a trick. How can I make someone heal him? And when he doesn't heal me, and he starts playing out these ridiculous hypothetical scenario, and now he's created literally World War III, and it's like, did you read that in the letter at all? All I read in the letter is Naaman's awesome. You supposedly have some wicked awesome prophet. Could you please help him?
Let's not be people who are hoping to get hurt and waiting to get wounded and reading between the lines, and I wonder what they really meant, and having these fictitious scenarios in our head, basically filling in thought bubbles over each other's heads that they might not ever have said. Let's give the benefit of the doubt. Let's be simple concerning evil. In malice, let's be like babes. Let's be surprised when we find out someone doesn't like us and not be like this king who's always like, this is what they probably meant by it, and therefore here's how I'm going to act super sketchy because of it. All right, the fourth thing about Naaman, we got one more after this and then we're done, he grew hot because God's remedy enough left no room for his vanity. Naaman got hot, furious, raging hot. He began to leave in a huff. Why? If you peel it back, it's at the end of the day because what he prayed for, he was given, but it didn't have any room for his ego. There was no room for personal vanity.
What Naaman thought, now, to his credit he came. And even when they were driving and it was like, where are we going? This is the sketchiest area I've ever seen, this man of God's house. And they pull up, and he's like, don't touch anything. And he sends someone to knock on the door. And the servant comes stumbling out. Hey, man. Hey, that's some sweet rims on that car. Yes, this is Naaman, I'm Naaman and your king said I could talk to your man of God. And yeah, I'm the assistant to the man of God, assistant man of God is what I am. I'll go check with him. Hey, yeah, he's in there eating a French fry and potatoes, he said dip in that river. Naaman's like, forget it. I'm out of here. Why? Because he had built it all up in his head of what his salvation was going to look like. Not only did he think it was for sale, like God was for sale, if I get this, surely he'll be pleased with me, but he also clearly thought it was going to be some incredible journey he was sent on. That's why he brought 10 outfits.
The Bible says he brought 10 changes of clothes. So he thought he was going to be sent on some Harry Potter quest, and he would need to eventually end up in a volcano and toss the ring in and overcome. He had in his head some crazy thought of how it was going to work, and then eventually when he had finished his spirit quest and seen the tiger that he would come back and, oh, you have passed all the challenges, Indiana. You overcame your fear of snakes and walked over the pit and chasm. And now I will wave my hand over you and you are completely healed. And that would have made him feel pretty good about his salvation. And when he got back to Syria, it's like, whoa, Naaman, where's the leprosy? He's like, I'm actually fine now. Why? He's like, I threw the ring in the volcano, and the man of God waved his hand over me, and I gave him a bunch of cash. You can go, too. Here's his card. And he would have felt good telling the story. But he wouldn't feel good about, hey, I went to Israel and just dunked seven times in a muddy river.
Wow, that's crazy, that man of God. Ooh, what a shaman that guy is. Actually I didn't even get to meet him. He sent his servant out. This is Naaman, the most powerful person in Syria. The guy wouldn't even see you? This is humiliating. And that is intentionally so. 1 Corinthians 1:18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" unto salvation, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Y'all, God intentionally, when He put together the gospel, made it in such a way that there would be no room for our vanity. There would be no room for our ego. There would be no flexing. There would be no I'm so great that God finally granted me salvation. It is the ridiculousness of the cross. It is a carpenter who is accused of not being able to read, who people made up and circulated rumors about His mom and messing around that He was born out of wedlock and out of matrimony. It's a scandal. The intentional way that God crafted it would leave no room for any of us to feel great about us but great about Him.
I'm telling you that is how salvation works. And because of that, Naaman almost stormed out, till his servants, with some incredible, winsome, masterful relational intelligence said, with all due respect, we can go. We're totally good with going. But just hear us out. What if he would have told you to do something incredible? What if he would have told you to do something adventurous? Wouldn't you have done it? A master class in speaking to people because they don't make him feel bad. They just help him see what he needs to see here. If you are on any kind of a team, these kind of dynamics being a part of the interaction, where you have permission to speak freely but you don't take that as the opportunity to make people feel ashamed, but you help people see their blind spots in love, this is incredible.
If you're married, take notes on how they speak to him for talking to your wife, talking to your husband, talking to your kids. Help them to see flaws, potentially, but giving them the easiest possible chance to do the right thing, because you can speak the truth, but to do so without love, and here they say, hey, look, we're totally good to go. But if you would have been told to do something great, you probably would have done it. And the logic is sound that if he tells you to do something that's not that great, maybe you should try that, too. And they're essentially asking him a question. And Naaman says, you're right. I see that now. Thank you for what you said. And he goes into the water and he comes up whole, a miracle he almost missed out on because of his pride. And I hope you'll come back next week, and we're going to talk a little bit about how some of the same dynamics are in play when it comes to our spiritual formation or our discipleship or our growth as Christians that many of us are likely to almost miss out on what will develop us into who God wants us to be as his children, just as likely as Naaman almost missed out on the entrance into the family of God because of his despising of the things that God wanted to use to save him.
Is it possible, and we'll talk about this next week, that you're tempted to despise the very things that God wants to use to shape you into who you want to be? Because Naaman almost missed out on what he had come for because what God told him was going to be the tools to save him didn't look like what he thought they were going to look like. Is it possible that you have in your head what it's going to take to get you to the next level, and it's not actually what you think it should be? But that's for next week. This last point this week, Naaman brought dirt to his house so his heart would stay clean. This is the last movement to his story. What is Naaman doing bringing dirt into his home for? He's doing it, ironically enough, so his heart would stay clean. I love that Naaman is returning to Syria. Naaman is doing what the demoniac of Gadara was told to do, the one formerly called Legion was told to do, because it could have been tempting for Naaman to go, I've been saved.
You know what? I'm turning over a new leaf. No more working for an icky, bad regime in Syria. I can't go back to my old job. I have decided to follow Jesus. I'm going to serve Elisha. I'm staying here in Israel. No, he understood intuitively that when God saves you, He wants you to do an even better job at the job you were doing before and to do so with that new spirit and to do so with that new heart. He just says, can I bring some earth home with me? And what he was indicating was that he wanted to build an altar. Now, post-cross, pre-cross, it looks different, the way that we worship. But essentially, he was saying, I want to return home to Syria but continue to worship the God of Jacob. And so I'm going to build an altar of Israelite earth, and I'm going to see myself as sort of a citizen of that kingdom, the kingdom of God, but while my feet are still here as a citizen of this kingdom called Syria. I'm going to live here and it's going to be my home, so to speak. But in my heart, my true home is going to be somewhere else.
And so I want, you could say some clean fill. I want some fill from Israel to bring with me back to Syria so that I can worship in my country, but not worship my country. And maybe this is a word for us today who are living in a country, and many of us for different reasons, and maybe exactly opposite reasons, are tempted to worship our countries and idolize our country and the idea of what we want our country to be. And we're forgetting that we're called to be citizens of a different kingdom. Yes, we're to live in America or to live in South Africa or to live in Australia, to live in England, but to have our heart set on a coming kingdom that we're a part of, that we stand on different soil in our souls, that we worship the God who sent His Son to die for us and to rise from the dead and who's going to come again in glory. And we want to be good citizens and return to the King and be a part of what we're called to do as a baker or to be an auto manufacturer or to be a real estate broker and to do an even better job than we did before we came to know Jesus and to shine an even greater light, but to do so with our hearts now an altar worshiping the God who saved us and not fleeing from the opportunity to be around people who need Jesus.
And we're not going to flee the opportunity. We're not going to say, all right, everybody, quit your job. We need to just all work for the church. We need to sing all under God. Let's build a big monastery. We're only drinking milk from Christian cows. We're only wearing Christian clothes. Ooh, ooh, people with, ooh, cooties, no. It's like, hey, I'm just going to have my heart be the altar that I worship God on in the midst of this culture, integrating into this company, being a part of this state school, walking in every single day to this high school. And in my heart, I'm going to worship God. Even though my feet are still here at the school, my heart doesn't value the things that the people around me necessarily value. I love that he says, this is going to be sticky, because my king is going to still be doing things that show that he worships Syria, that he worships these false gods. And if I'm going to be around him, there's going be times when he's worshipping and bowing to this god, but I'm not going to be bowing on the inside, but I'm going to let him hold my elbow while he bows.
That is to say, I'm not going to say, oh, you terrible, evil king. I'm just going to let my life do the talking. I'm going to let the shining brightly be in my heart and believe that can make a difference, not by my fleeing this opportunity or shaming those who are still caught up in it, because I'm no better than the king. I'm no better than anybody else. I just got here first. And so he's saying it's going to have tension to it. And I love that Elisha says to this desire that he has, go in peace. Peace comes, not when we flee opportunity, and also not when we just become like those that we want to reach, but when we are that counterculture, when our hearts are still on that fill of Israel, even though we live in Syria. And this really comes home because 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God, not of us".
So we don't need to fly to the holy land and get a bunch of earth and come back home and we're, I got Israelite dirt. No, no. You are the dirt. You are the dirt that God wants to fill with His Spirit, fill with His power. And He has scattered us all around the world and sent us into the homes that He has, sent us into the businesses that He had, sent us into the schools that He has, that we might then have that treasure inside of us representing Him. But don't forget. It's not just fill that's wanted. God is looking for fill. He's looking to fill you with His power, fill you with His glory, use you to do great things. It's clean fill that's wanted. Psalm chapter 24 puts it this way. "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob", first off, this is what God is calling us to be, "the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face. Selah".
God has always been on the hunt for clean dirt that He can fill. Now here's the problem, and here's the real bugger. The text says only those who have not lifted their souls to an idol, and that automatically defiles me. It eliminates me from consideration. All of us have. So how are we going to get there? How are we going to get from where we are, and when I was talking to my builder friend this week and asking him about what sort of things would cause dirt to not be clean? He said, oh, there's all kinds of stuff that can be in there. You can have organics in it, like stumps. It could have roots in it. It could have junk and lots of stones and debris, things that would make it not useful for what you intend it to be used for. And in our lives, there are so many different things, and part of the reason that we as a church community are giving ourselves over to prayer and fasting at the beginning of this year is so that God can have some space and time where we're not so distracted by every other thing and we're asking the question, God, what's the dirtiness inside my life? What am I regarding that I shouldn't? What needs to be removed so that I can be clean, so that You can fill me with Your power? What's holding me back from what You have for me?
If we ask that question, we will hear God speak and answer. If we try to walk that path, we will find the path as we discover it. And ultimately, it is only Jesus that can clean. It's only Jesus that can cleanse us from the things that we have done in the past that have defiled us. Precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus. An incredible, incredible exercise to undertake every time you read Scripture is to find Jesus, and Jesus gives us permission to do so, because He said of the entire Bible, these are they that are written all about Me. He was speaking to people who love the Bible but missed Jesus, and that's possible to do. So if we look at 2 Kings, chapter 5, and we play a game of where's Jesus, I think we find Him in the most unlikely place, because in the passage, we don't see Naaman as a type of Jesus. Neither do we see in any of the kings a type of Jesus. We don't see even in the prophet, the man of God, Elisha, for he doesn't even really show his head.
So who's Jesus in this story? The answer is the servant girl. The servant girl in this passage is the picture of Christ, for she was obtained by a raiding band, led by who? Naaman, into Israel on a conquest mission. And he had to at least sign off on the order. And no doubt her mom and dad were either killed or she was clearly separated from them, probably 10 to 13 years old, and she was brought as a prisoner of war to live, sold at an auction, and she was brought to live in the house of Naaman. So that means, then, that he, ultimately, was a symbol of all that represented the worst thing that ever happened to her. And one day, her master, who represents the end of everything she ever loved, gets sick. She knew of the only cure that there would be for him. And how easy would it have been for her to simply say nothing and think about the day that she would get to dance on Naaman's grave, whose signature was on the order that led to her brothers, perhaps, being killed, her father, perhaps, being killed? She could have sat there smiling, knowing that she could tell him about Elisha but choosing to not do so. But she spoke up, had love for her enemy, and told him the plan that could lead to his salvation.
She is the picture of Jesus, and an incredible picture of faith, by the way, because if you read Luke, chapter 4, Jesus said that Elisha in his ministry, up until this point, had never healed one single leper. And yet she says, there's a man of God who can heal leprosy. She's had the faith to believe he had done some things. He could probably do that, too. So not only was she showing love for her enemy, but she was speaking out words of faith about things that hadn't ever even happened yet. It was the servant girl who died to herself and was willing to help someone who had harmed her. Who does that sound like? This servant girl suffered much, and she becomes for us a picture of Isaiah 53, the servant that God sent to suffer, Jesus, who on the cross spent His last breath saying, God, I want you to forgive these who don't know what they do. They had harmed Him and put Him there, and yet here He was saying I want them to be healed at My expense.
And if you're here today watching this message and you've never trusted Jesus Christ, I pray that you would hear the servant girl pointing you to the Savior, Jesus Christ, just as she said, there is someone who can heal you. I don't know what's going on in your life right now. But no doubt, in all the successes and in all the things that you had hoped would bring you success and lasting fulfillment, you found that there is still an emptiness that you can't do anything about. There's still something that's sort of nagging at you, like the spot under Naaman's armor, that has caused you to realize this accomplishment or going to this school or doing this or skiing this or being there or backpacking across Europe, whatever it is that you would hope would fill some emptiness inside of you can't do that. But a relationship with Jesus can.
He loves you. He died on the cross for you. He rose from the dead and conquered the grave. And He, right now, stands and offers you resurrection power. You can come out of the waters cleansed like a child on the inside, healed on the outside. And I pray that you would. Father, thank You for this time in Your word. I thank You for the way that, for all of us, this message is an exercise in us confronting our pride, being invited to what ultimately was the greatest thing ever, humbling. And if you're responding to that right now and you would say there's some area that maybe is defiling me or holding me back and I want Jesus to cleanse me from it, I want Him to heal this thing, change this thing. This is some things contaminating, the dirt keeping Him from filling it like He wants to, could I just ask you to just if you hear God speaking something, nudging your heart, would you just raise your hand up right now, just responding to Him?
Wherever you are watching right there, just raise your hand up. You're saying yes, God. I see it. I hear it. Or maybe you would just be honest enough to say I don't know of anything, but if there is something holding me back, God, would You please tell me? You could raise your hand up. Father, bless these. Help them to see secret sins, hidden sins. Help us all to see little things so they don't become out of control. And as we're praying, in this moment, you can put your hands down, I want to invite any one of you who have never made the decision to give Jesus your heart to do so. Yes, it's foolishness, as we talk about. This guy died on a cross 2,000 years ago? Believing in Him can save me? Yep. That's the gospel. And God chose it exactly because of how crazy it sounds. If you don't believe, you will not be saved. But if you do, it is the power of God unto salvation for you. So right now, right where you are, pray with me. Say this to God. He'll hear you and save you come to live inside of you.
Dear God, I know I'm a sinner, and I can't fix myself. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me, to rise from the dead. Please come into my heart. Make it your home. In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Amen.