Commentary by Walter Albritton


February 13, 2005


We Can Never Overcome Pride Until

We Humble Ourselves and Obey God


2 Kings 5.


Key Verse: His servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?” . . . So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan. – 2 Kings 5:13-14


Pride goes with power and affluence like fleas go with a dog. The rich and famous are apt to think they are a cut above the common people. The bank president does not go to lunch with the bank’s custodian. Donald Trump does not socialize with the maids who keep his penthouse clean. People are expected to know their “place” and respect those with a higher rank in life.

This was as true in the days of the prophet Elisha as it is today. As the commander of Syria’s army, Naaman’s power was second only to that of the king. The General was used to having people quickly obey his commands.

Naaman had a problem, however, a problem he could not solve. He had leprosy. He knew of no cure for the dread disease. Then his wife’s slave girl suggested he seek out Elisha of Israel for a cure. Desperate for help, Naaman asks the king for a letter of recommendation. Securing it, he shows up at Elisha’s home with his entourage of horses and chariots and impressive gifts for the prophet.

Elisha was not impressed. In fact evidently he felt that the pompous commander should be taught a lesson. He does not welcome the proud general into his home. Instead of speaking directly to Naaman, Elisha sends his assistant out with instructions to bathe seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman was enraged by Elisha’s lack of hospitality and by the prophet’s solution for healing.  He saw no reason to bathe in the Jordan when he had cleaner rivers back home in Syria. His pride almost cost him the healing God was ready to give him. His servants saved the day by encouraging Naaman to obey the prophet. Then he humbled himself, obeyed Elisha, and was immediately healed of his leprosy.

The point of today’s lesson is that pride can cost us a transforming relationship with God, and the blessings that God wants to give us. Once again, this Kingdom principle is clear: Blessing follows obedience. Foolish pride can rob us of the very thing we need the most. Humbly obeying God opens the floodgates of heaven, allowing us to receive God’s blessings.

Until we are willing to “come down from our high horse,” there are lessons we can never learn, and joys we cannot receive. I had been married for several years before it dawned on me one day that someone other than me was cleaning the toilet in our home. That someone was my wife. Meditating one day on the humility of Jesus, who stooped to wash his disciples’ feet, my heart was stabbed awake by the awareness that I had expected my wife to do the toilet cleaning. Ashamed of myself, I began to share this mundane chore. Humility helped me overcome foolish pride.
          Reporters and city officials gathered at a Chicago railroad station one afternoon in 1953. They were waiting to meet the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner. A few minutes after the train came to a stop, a giant of a man - six feet four inches - with bushy hair and a large mustache stepped from the train. Cameras flashed. City officials met him with hands outstretched. People began telling him how honored they were to meet him.
          The man politely thanked them and then, looking over their heads, asked if he could be excused for a moment. He quickly walked through the crowd until he reached the side of an elderly black woman who was struggling with two large suitcases. He picked up the bags and with a smile, escorted the woman to a bus. After helping her aboard, he wished her a safe journey. As he returned to the greeting party he apologized, "Sorry to have kept you waiting."
          The man was Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the famous missionary doctor who had spent his life helping the poor in Africa. In response to Schweitzer's action, one person said with great admiration to the reporter standing next to him, "That's the first time I ever saw a sermon walking."

Humility may be rare but it is the only cure for the pride that blocks our knowing God and receiving the blessings He wants to give us.

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