The Waters of God’s Word
By William B. McGrath
In Psalm 27 we read that King David considered it his principal joy, his top priority in life, to be able to gaze on the beauty of the Lord. Back then, he would go into the beautiful tabernacle where the artifacts symbolizing God’s intervention on behalf of His people were kept. Today we have a place just as beautiful and amazing to go to; we have His Word in its fullness, and His Holy Spirit dwelling within us to speak to our hearts personally.
People have testified to the fact that, although they had heard so much about the Bible and had read it off and on for many years since childhood, after having received Jesus and His forgiveness for their sins, the Bible then came alive to them in a unique way. The Bible becomes a book much different than any other, a book with inexhaustible truth to meditate on, a book that can sometimes seem to have Someone living in its pages, so to speak, imparting much more than what is on the printed page.
Each time you read a Bible passage, things old and new can be discovered. Here’s one example of a Bible account that I reflected on:
The story of Naaman, in 2 Kings chapter 5, is about the great royal captain of the Syrian army who had success, position, wealth, and high esteem. But he had leprosy, which isolated him and caused the grandeur that he had worked so long to attain to fade and lose its value.
His wife had a young Hebrew slave girl who had been taken captive through the conquests of his army. This girl mentions to her mistress: “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”1
Naaman has money, position, and is highly respected, so he acts accordingly and first goes to his king, the king of Syria, explaining why he wishes to see the prophet in Samaria. The king of Syria then sends a letter to the king of Israel to explain why Naaman would like to make a trip there. The king of Israel is very upset, as he does not wish to be responsible for the outcome.
Naaman sets out with his royal band to find Elisha in Samaria, prepared to pay a large sum of money and hopefully have a glorious healing event. Naaman is doing things according to the culture of his great country, and he plans on approaching the God of Israel in this customary, royal manner. He thought the king of Israel would command Elisha to cure him, and that surely the God of Israel would grant the petition upon seeing the large payment and recognizing Naaman’s importance on the social ladder.
But when Naaman and his company finally arrive at Elisha’s house, a servant comes out to meet him instead of the prophet, and the servant tells him to go to the Jordan River and wash seven times. To Naaman, this is an insult. He is prepared to pay a great price, and he is a top dignitary; to be met by a servant giving instructions is unacceptable. He no doubt envisioned the prophet Elisha himself coming out and honoring him with some sort of elaborate ceremony.
He leaves angry, but one of his own servants, who had come on the journey, suggests to him that he at least try to comply, to wash seven times in the Jordan, to find out if it might work. Naaman calms down, humbles himself, heads to the Jordan River and washes seven times and is marvelously healed!
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller tells us that this well-known Bible story is chock-full of meaningful lessons for our contemporary society. Individual success, high achievement, position, and economic status are instilled by our culture as top priorities—all the things Naaman had going for him. Naaman’s life and mentality revolved in this culture and he had done well for himself. He thought he should use his special connections and his wealth to approach Elisha and the Hebrew God. But he found out that the true God of the universe is “not an extension of culture, but a transformer of culture, not a controllable but a sovereign Lord … whose salvation cannot be earned, only received.”2
We, like Naaman, may also hold the subtle desire of wanting God to put on some great show for us when we seek Him for salvation or answers to our fervent prayers. He will sometimes do astounding things, but not always. As this story brings out, He will often request that we do the simple, humble thing. Naaman was told to “go wash,” and at first that felt like an insult to him, an affront to his pride and status. Today we’re told to wash ourselves in the water of His Word.3 Such a simple thing that anyone can do it, and as with Naaman, it brings about marvelous results and is a thorough means of inner healing.
When we return again and again to His Word, it becomes our main joy, and then naturally, our top priority. Just as it was for King David, going to the temple and gazing on the beauty of the Lord, meditating on God for who He is, for all He does. This was the one activity in David’s life that he would never neglect, as he found such joy and fulfillment there. And so it can be for all of us, as we return again and again to our living room, or wherever it may be, to gaze on His Word and commune with His presence. When we go through hardship, when we stumble along our walk of life, when we suffer great disappointment, this is the one recourse that comes through for us over and over again, to sustain us.
When Naaman did go down to the Jordan and wash “according to the saying of the man of God … his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” And Jesus tells us, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” His Word cleanses and regenerates our spirits. And through the years, as we gaze more deeply and come to enjoy it more fully and understand it more completely, our assurance and faith gradually grow stronger. This simple thing, going to His Word, changes our motivations, our identity, our views, and our actions.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good. … And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. … Rivers of living water. … Waters to swim in. … Come ye to the waters … hearken diligently unto me … and let your soul delight itself in fatness. … There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. … For the Lamb shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.”4
1 2 Kings 5:2–3.
2 Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, Chapter Four, “The Seduction of Success.”
3 See John 8:31, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, Psalm 119.
4 Excerpts from Psalm 34:8, Revelation 22:17, John 7:38, Ezekiel 47:5, Isaiah 55:1–2; Psalm 46:4; Revelation 7:17.