Summary: The Mississippi River is called the Big Muddy and rightly so. This is a message about another "Big Muddy" River.
WASHING IN THE BIG MUDDY
INTRO: The Mississippi River is called the Big Muddy and rightly so. I first saw the river at Memphis. It looked like a mass of cocoa moving lazily toward the sea.
At one time this mighty river was colored only by the tons of silt it carried downstream. Now, however, its peculiar mixture includes the sludge of numerous cities, the by-products of civilization. The Mississippi looks dirty and uninviting. Few people would attempt to take a bath in it.
The Jordan River is similar to the Mississippi in many ways. George Adam Smith described the Jordan as “Muddy between banks of mud, careless of beauty, careless of life.” The Jordan was, to say the least, an unlikely spot for a bath and an even less likely spot for a miracle. In 2 Kings 5, however, we are told that both occurred.
The miracle unfolded as three lives were woven together by God’s timely providence. The three people were a young slave, a Syrian general, and a prophet. Their story is worth hearing and understanding.
I. THE SLAVE.
She was a young girl, perhaps a teenager. Taken captive by Syrian raiders, she became a servant in the Syrian commander’s house.
Imagine what slavery meant to the young girl. The burdens of loneliness, separation, and obedience must have been unbearable. Certainly her heart ached to go home, but she knew that she would very likely never see home again.
What is remarkable in this young slave is that she did not succumb to bitterness. She did not let her circumstances control her thoughts or her faith. She rose above and triumphed over the circumstances.
Not only did she maintain her faith, but she also became a witness for her faith. She told her master about the prophet Elisha and the possibility of healing. If this young slave had not had the right spirit, the miracle never would have occurred. Her master would still have been a leper, and God would have had one less member of His kingdom.
The message rings loud and clear. Our joy in the Christian faith must not be linked to our external circumstances. Our faith does not have to be equal to life’s challenges. It can be greater. Then we will seize every opportunity to shed some of our light into the darkness of other lives. Through our triumph, others might win.
The slave girl’s master was Naaman. He was the chief general of the Syrian army.
Naaman had one flaw — he was a leper. That disease threatened to end his career if not his life. No doubt it had already robbed him of social contacts. In short, Naaman was miserable despite his power, position, and wealth.
We all have such a flaw. We may not have a physical disease, but we certainly have an inner leprosy. This spiritual sickness permeates our lives until it eventually robs us of all we value. Don’t be fooled by outward appearances. Beneath the armor of wealth, power, and glory lurks a soul needing the touch of the Physician’s hand.
With desperate hope, Naaman followed the slave girl’s suggestion. He traveled to Elisha. He was unprepared for what he found.
This great prophet lived up to his inheritance. He inherited Elijah’s mantle with twice the spiritual power. His many miracles supported his lifelong struggle to bring Israel back to God.
In this story Elisha’s keen insight into people is evident. Like the slave girl, Elisha’s function was to give the directions which would lead Naaman to God and to healing.
Elisha was aware that each person is unique, with a different set of hang-ups. The barriers which keep people from God vary. So Elisha had to understand the individual first and then map out the directions which would lead to God.
Notice how Elisha dealt with Naaman.
First, Elisha refused to meet Naaman before the cleansing (vv. 9-10). This struck at Naaman’s sense of power and position. Elisha wanted Naaman to learn that what would happen was not the result of wealth, position, or power. Naaman was important to God but not any more so than the slave girl or any other person.
Second, Elisha refused to perform any elaborate ritual connected with the healing. Through a messenger, Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times. That’s all there was to it.
Already angry because of the impersonal nature of the visit, Naaman grew angrier as he considered Elisha’s laziness. He wanted Elisha to earn his pay. All religions have some rituals, and Naaman’s religion was no exception.
The simplicity of Elisha’s directions mystified him. They were intended to show Naaman that the ritual was unimportant. The important thing was to follow the directions in giving oneself totally to God.