Forgiveness When Bowing
In The House Of Rimmon
By Curt Wildy
In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, [that] when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing (II Kings 5:18).
In II Kings chapter five, we see a beautiful picture of salvation in the account of Naaman the leper. Though this passage speaks of his physical healing, it is a type of spiritual healing; and though it is a type of spiritual healing, I believe that God actually regenerated and converted Naaman when he cleansed him (much like those during the time of the incarnation who, when they were healed of the Lord physically, were likewise healed spiritually — their sins being forgiven).
We see that the proud Naaman, vile in his state by nature as an unregenerate man but pleasant and agreeable in his own sight (as his name in the Hebrew suggests) was made whole by the sovereign grace of God; proving that he was pleasant and agreeable in the sight of the LORD — being chosen, predestined, and justified from eternity in Christ. Though Naaman was no doubt pleasant in his own sight for quite some time, he began to see some vileness, some corruption in himself. He saw his leprosy — much like how a child of God often sees his own spiritual leprosy before feeling the blessings of forgiveness and spiritual communion with the Lord.
We read that Naaman was the captain of the host. In the Hebrew, the word captain is the word transliterated sar (H8269); it denotes “a head person (of any rank or class).” He was of position, being the head over a host [H6633]; that word host means a mass of people or things – but points primarily to an army, those that united go out to war. I think it fair to say that his high rank amongst the host made him pleasant in his own sight.
Naaman was not the captain of just any host, but of the host of the king of Syria. He was a head under a greater head and this greater head was the king of Syria/Aram [H758]. Syria/Aram refers to the highlands, the high places, the exalted ones according to the Hebrew definition. This also no doubt served to make Naaman pleasant in his own sight.
Moreover, he was a great man with the king, his master. It’s interesting that this word great [H1419] comes from a word that means to twist, enlarge, magnify. He was enlarged before the face of his master, magnified in the presence of the one that ruled over him. He was a great man as the text reads. It is interesting how this word man [H376] ultimately comes from a Hebrew root word meaning to be frail, feeble, desperate, incurable, sick, and/or woeful [H605]. Though these words rightly describe fallen man — Naaman was enlarged and magnified in his own sight and in the sight of his sovereign, the king over the exalted, those inhabiting the high places.
The passage goes on to state that Naaman was honourable [H5375], he was lifted, borne and carried as the word denotes. He was so esteemed, so lifted up, because by him, the Lord gave deliverance to Syria/Aram. Through Namaan, Syria was freed from Israel. He was also a mighty or powerful [H1368] man, one who prevailed, having strength in valor (H2428). Naaman was great in strength and force (as an army); he was great in wealth; and he was great in his own eyes. He was what mankind would naturally call a star, an idol, and yet he was a leper. But not just any leper; he was that gentile leper spoken of by the Lord Jesus, who was healed when many lepers in Israel were passed by (Luke 4:27).
I will not go into the entire account, but we soon find that he goes to Israel to be healed of his leprosy. He goes there with much pride and arrogance, yet he goes there knowing that he has a need. Being displeased with the decreed way of being cleansed, he goes off angry. Yet he eventually does as Elisha the prophet instructed him to do, dipping himself seven times in the river Jordan, and on the seventh dip — he came up clean. I would encourage you to read and meditate upon the entire account; it is indeed a great picture of salvation.
However, I want to focus on something I found to be very interesting. In II Kings 5:18, we read that though he has been washed and cleansed, healed of his stinking, rotting leprosy, he nonetheless asks for forgiveness whenever his master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and leans on Naaman’s hand, and Naaman therefore bows himself in the house of Rimmon. He asks that when he bows down himself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon him in this thing.
With Naaman now being washed, cleansed, healed, and saved, why is he still bowing himself down in the house of Rimmon, this false god, this dumb idol? Why is the sovereign over the exalted ones still his master if God has saved him? Why does he bow down with his master in this house of a false god if Jehovah God is now his Lord and Saviour? Why did he not flee the king of Syria, having nothing to do with him — thus avoiding having to bow down in Rimmon’s house? One clear answer is that God ordained both the circumstances and his request for pardon to teach us a very needful spiritual lesson.
To best understand this spiritual lesson, we need to look at this matter of masters and servants. The Bible is full of what has been called authority structures. Authority structures are those pictures that God provides in the Bible that show a dominant entity, a subservient entity, and the nature of the relationship between the two. In the Bible, there is much language of kings and their subjects; conquerors and the conquered; captors and captives, masters and slaves; bits and horses; riders and horses; helms and ships; husbands and wives; parents and children; elders and congregations; heads and bodies; and many other such examples. If one were to look at such things in their physical or historical context only, they would miss a wealth of edifying food for thought and spiritual nourishment.
Through these authority structures we can learn much about the elect, the reprobate, the true church, and the false church as a whole — but we can also learn a great deal about ourselves as individuals. Our individual walk as a Christian is heavily typified and explained by these structures.
Please consider the following five New Testament passages:
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin… 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God.4 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace… 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I… 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me….20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?5 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:4 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)3 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Notice the key words in the language above, words such as reign, yield, obey, allow, allow not, dominion, serve, captivity, drawn away, warring. All of these words denote (a) an authority, (b) one subject to that authority, or (c) the relationship (often power struggle) between the two. We need to keep this in mind as we consider the verses above, all of which describe the authority structure and power struggles within man.
Both the saved and the unsaved have an authority structure within them; though it is clear that the acting authority differs greatly between the two. We know that ultimately God is the authority over all; He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. God alone purposes all things, brings about all things, and orders and directs every ‘particle’ of matter and energy, from the smallest to the collective greatest, to fulfil His own eternal purpose and good pleasure. God is absolutely sovereign, absolutely in control over everyone and everything. However, this precept is only partially the focus of this post. My aim is to examine the authorities ordained of God to bring about His purposes in our lives as He conforms us to His image and works in us that daily warfare that leads to the denial of self and the elevation of Christ in our hearts. To best understand this, I would like to start by looking at the authority structure within the unregenerate.
The unsaved man in daily practice is a law unto himself; he is king over himself (in his own mind), master of his own destiny, and he goes about fulfilling the lusts of his flesh seeking his own satisfaction. Though he is king of his bodily castle, he is also an utter slave to it. Though man desires to be his own sovereign, he is completely enslaved by his own wicked lusts, desires and actions — all of which equal natural self. His wicked flesh works in tandem with his wicked spirit (which is dead to God, dead to godliness, and dead in trespasses and sins — but not dead in the sense of being non-existent). Man as wicked spirit and wicked flesh culminate to form a wicked soul (psyche, mind) and they together provide a united front of wickedness against all that is holy, just, and good. This united man (soul, spirit, body) has self as its master, obeying the lusts thereof. Like the fool that he is, he goes out as a united army to war against the Lord, to rebel against His dominion. Though he has no hope in his endeavor, he nevertheless brings with him a massive arsenal of both infinite sin and the great host of innumerable sins that flow forth from it.
When considering how that sin flows forth, we see that as with Eve, man by nature is tempted and succumbs to that temptation (willingly, whether consciously or unconsciously). Man succumbs because he finds that temptation to be good for food (for our god by nature is our belly as we read in Philippians 3:19). He also finds that temptation to be pleasant to the eyes (for we by nature have eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin – 2 Peter 2:14). Finally, he succumbs because he finds that temptation to be desirable for making him wise in his own sight — for we love to be made proud, enlarged, twisted, and exalted by nature. Thus, the greatest enemy that a man can have, spiritually speaking, is his own natural self. Carnal self loves sin, carnal self is sin, and carnal self can never get enough of sin.
Some may argue that satan is the greatest enemy, and that may be the case, but I prefer to abstain from such arguments. Suffice to say that we obey ourselves as influenced by the devil — but I do not believe that we obey the devil. Eve did not obey the serpent, the serpent gave no command; she obeyed her self (being deceived by the serpent). What we obey is our own wicked inclinations and intents as we are tempted by satan, his minions, and by all that is in his kingdom, i.e., this wicked world. The devil is indeed a king, a prince of the power of the air, but man by nature is the captain of his own mighty host of sin. He is a great man, a strong man, mighty in his wickedness and most adept in his ungodliness. Unless God intervenes, quickens and converts, wicked self will remain a powerful, willing, servant in satan’s army of great and loathsome darkness.
Thus, we can say that man in an unconverted, unregenerate state is ruled by his old man and that old man is a strong man, a mighty man in valor — albeit unto wickedness. The reprobate have never had this old man crucified, nailed to the cross. They have no godly inner man by which to walk. For them sin must reign and it does reign in their mortal bodies; they feverishly obey it in the lusts thereof. They are ever yielding their members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin because sin has utter and complete dominion over them. They cannot do that which is good nor do they will to do that which is good. Evil is present with them always, and they love to have it so, because they have no delight in the law of God after the inward man… they have no God-birthed inner man to begin with. They have no warring in their minds against evil because they love their evil. They may have their natural consciences pricked from time to time but they have no spiritual warfare against sin because they are in perfect captivity to the law of sin (which they serve in their mind and in their flesh with complete dedication and devotion).
The Christian however, is quite different. They have a God who hedges them in, puts a fence about them, and will not let them stray out of His domain and dominion. They have a God who loves them and watches over them; who works in them, causing them both to will and to do of His good pleasure. They have a Hope of glory, which is Christ in them. They have an inner man that is in Christ and that is Christ (being one in eternal vital union). They have a Lord and Saviour who, through the Holy Spirit of God, fights their battles for them and gives them the victory. They are the very workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that they should walk therein. The Christian cannot fail; cannot utterly fall; cannot sin (in the inner man); cannot be taken into permanent captivity; cannot be under the final dominion of sin; and cannot be utterly overthrown. No one and no thing can lay anything to his charge; he is clean, clear, and free due to the blood of the Lamb, due to Christ’s finished work on the cross, nailing our sin to it, forever putting it away.
Despite these blessed realities, we know that in this life, believers do suffer from and succumb to temptation. Though not after our inner man, nonetheless, we sin daily… constantly. In and of our natural selves, there is no good thing. The only Good we have is Christ in us; the Spirit of God in us; and the Father indwelling us as He does them. We have no innate, no intrinsic good of our own; so as daily beggars, hourly, minute by minute — second by second — we must thoroughly depend upon our Lord to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is God who works in us so that we abstain from yielding our members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. He gives us the strength to walk in those good works he has preordained for us to walk therein in, causing us to yield ourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Because of our Lord we can delight in the law of God after the inward man, war against the flesh, we can thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord that this body of death will not have the final victory over us.
The Lord does not suffer us to be tempted beyond what we can handle. Our temptations and falls will never separate us from Him (for a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief – Proverbs 24:16). The wicked shall indeed fall utterly, but the one having been made just in the Lord has a Spirit, God the Holy Spirit, that wars against the flesh and keeps fleshly sin from overflowing the boundaries and flooding into our regenerate hearts. He will effectually defeat that flesh and the sins therein on the last day in light of Christ’s fully accomplished work and victory wherein He declared it is finished! Thus, we do not war after the flesh, for we have One that wars for us. In Him, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. When the mighty power of God is manifest in our daily warfare, we do indeed bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. The wicked know nothing of this; the reprobate have no interest or portion in these things.