“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
In David’s famous psalm of confession he writes “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” David is confidently convinced that God will not reject or disdain his repentant, needy heart. But I am not God, and I sometimes despise the brokenness I find in my own heart. I may not be surprised when I see my short-comings, but it is still difficult to embrace the idea that God welcomes me in my weakness and need.
In 2 Kings 5, there is a story of a man who had a hard time embracing the reality of his need, yet his despising of his brokenness almost kept him from real healing and restoration. In the story, Naaman is an important commander for the king of Syria, a man of valor and accomplishment with one fatal flaw: he is a leper. As it had happened, in one of Syria’s military raids, Naaman acquired an Israelite girl as a servant for his wife. The young servant girl compassionately tells Naaman’s wife that there is a prophet (Elisha) in Samaria who can heal Naaman’s leprosy.
In Naaman’s pride he assumes that his healing must come from a man of power and importance. He writes to the king of Israel seeking healing, but the king is distressed because he is not God and knows he doesn’t have power to heal—and the king also fears the retaliation of a disappointed Naaman. Elisha the prophet hears of the king’s distress and tells the king to send Naaman to him so that Naaman will know God’s power in Israel. Elisha sends a messenger to Naaman with a simple message: “Go wash in the Jordan River and you will be clean.” Naaman is enraged! He is insulted by such simple instructions. Wash in a dirty river? Naaman wanted the special treatment, the bells and whistles, the fanfare!
In The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones wonderfully captures the simplicity of Elisha’s offer to Naaman and the pride that holds Naaman back from healing of his body, and his heart.
“All Naaman needed was nothing. It was the one thing Naaman didn’t have.”
When Naaman finally gives up his pride and acknowledges his need, he washes in the Jordan river and he is made clean. In 2 Kings 5:15, the author notes: “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” Naaman’s leprosy was a real problem that he could not fix—not with success, power, or position. But Namaan’s problem was not just about dermatology; Naaman’s sickness was of the heart. So when God brings healing to Naaman he heals his flesh and he heals his heart.
Naaman, like me, despised the idea that brokenness, emptiness—nothing—was exactly what God welcomed. I know that my brokenness is the reality of who I am, but sometimes I long so much to not be broken or needy that I just try harder. When I despise my need for Jesus this only keeps me from full life and freedom in Jesus Christ. If I am willing to continually take God at his word, believing that he does not despise my broken heart, but loves it and unceasingly makes me clean, then I, like Naaman, will have a new heart that works properly.
(Written by Meg Haden)