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).
Thorn in the side, Thorn in the Flesh
Though we have eternal victory in Christ, and though that victory is made effectual in our lives even now by the Holy Spirit, we still have sin. Pride remains an issue for us, therefore God must humble us. He must teach us what we are by nature and keep us from thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. To keep us from enlarging, exalting and magnifying ourselves (to use the language related to Naaman and the king of Syria/Aram), God gives us the thorn in our flesh (II Corinthians 12:7) to buffet us and to keep us low. Those wicked inhabitants of Canaan who were not driven out of the land became pricks in the eyes and thorns in the sides of the Israelites (Numbers 33:55) tempting them constantly to evil. Sin in the flesh, typified by the remaining Canaanites, constitutes the pricks in the eyes and the thorns in the flesh of all Spiritual Israelites — and how painful a prickly thorn it is.
On a side note, the Greek word for thorn in II Corinthians 12:7 is skolops (G4647) and it is only found in that verse. Skolops comes from the root words skelos (meaning leg – G4628) and optanomai (meaning to gaze i.e. with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable – G3700]. I believe that God is using this language to encourage us to gaze strongly upon the lesson we find in John 19:31-33, which is the only passage wherein that word leg is used in the New Testament. In this portion of Scripture, we see that both the elect malefactor and the reprobate malefactor had their legs broken — but the Lord Jesus, being perfectly sinless in Himself, was spared from having His legs broken (in fulfilment of prophecy). The elect thief remained on the cross even though he was saved. He had his legs broken even though he was told by God that he would be with Him in paradise that day. The fact that he was on the cross, and had his legs broken, was directly related to the temporal consequences of his sins. Though he was a child of God, though he was more than a conqueror through Christ, and though he had Heaven in the Lord to which to look forward, he still suffered for his sins. Spiritually, we are no different. We are humbled daily, conformed daily, by our bearing the cross, being buffeted by our pricks and thorns (our sins), and suffering under the consequences of our sins. Though there is much joy in the Lord in this world, the Christian’s life is indeed a life of suffering under the very things from which we have ultimately been delivered and over which we even now have the victory. Though a tangent, these things are important to keep in mind as we continue to consider Naaman and his master.
Bowing in the House of Rimmon
The remaining king
Before he was cleansed, Naaman was at complete odds with God in his experience. There was an enmity that had to be put away and gross rebellion that needed to be addressed. When the Lord Jesus binds the strong man and sets the captives free, we call it salvation — regeneration and conversion. When Naaman was saved, he was no longer a willing servant of sin — he was now a made-willing bondservant and son of Jehovah. God become the new Master in his life experimentally, fighting the battles for him, giving Naaman victory over self and sin.
However, as all believers can attest, there are many times wherein God appears to relinquish control, though never doing so in reality. Some call it the removal of His hand of restraint from upon us. He temporally allows our own sin to have dominion over us; our flesh, the one still loyal to that old man of sin becomes our sovereign. During such times, we are like Naaman who continues to be under his master, the king of Syria. Thus, we can say that this master, this exalted king, typifies sin in the flesh. By extension, it also typifies sin in the world, satan, and all of his minions — especially during those times wherein they get the mastery over us. Collectively, this king represents all wickedness, all sin, and all that has unrighteous dominion over a saved man when he falls into sin.
Remember, to whom we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servants we are to whom we obey. When we so yield to our sin nature, sin has dominion over us; sin reigns in our mortal bodies and we obey the lusts thereof. When sin exalts itself, it causes us to bow down in idolatry (submission to false gods and idols). Remember, all sin is idolatry for we read in Colossians 3:5 “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Sin, carnal self, becomes our master causing us to do what we do not allow — and causing us to abstain from doing what God gives us a will to do (the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak). During such times, instead of casting down our sinful imaginations and every high place (or thing) in us that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, we become the ones that are cast down and brought into captivity because we are the very ones who erect the high places and the false idols unto our own sorrow and hurt.
What is Rimmon?
So we see that this master, this sin of self, goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there. Rimmon [H7417] comes from the primitive Hebrew root ramam [H7426] which means to rise and is translated in the KJV as exalt, get (oneself) up, lift up (self), mount up. It is a picture of pride just as Syria/Aram is a picture of pride (being the land of exalted ones and high places and things); remember that God commanded the Israelites to tear down the high places, a picture of our haughty, arrogant, prideful thoughts and deeds. Though Rimmon was a false god, we know that all men are will-worshippers by nature (Colossians 2:23), by nature their own belly is their god (Philippians 3:19). The exalted, false god that mankind worships is one of their own creation and handiwork — it is nothing more than a manifestation of themselves. Pride is the worship of self and it is the chiefest of sins.
We read in I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” That word money [G5365 philarguria] literally means love or desire for money (literally silver); it is a term that denotes avarice — excessive greed for money or material things. However, that silver is literally the Greek word arguros and though it refers to silver in general, in those days, silver was often used to cover the columns of noble buildings and to adorn the rafters. Images of false gods were often made with silver. Here then we see pride (noble buildings) and the worship of false gods (which is really the worship of carnal self) shining through. In fact, the word for silver (arguros) comes from the root word argos which means shining. Isn’t pride all about shining, all about making ourselves shine in our own eyes and in the eyes of men. The root of all evil is this shining, this exaltation, and we love the things of this world that allows us to do it (whether it be money, a religious walk, charitable works, etc.). If any man is to shine or glory, let him glory in the Lord. May we shine with His light. But “the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine” as we read in Job 18:5.
Leaning on the hand
The passage goes on to say that this master leaneth [sha’an – H8172] on his hand [yad – H3027]. In keeping with the meaning of the Hebrew words, we can say that this master relies, rests, stays himself upon, or supports himself on Naaman who is his means, his power, the person by whom he can work his works. Does not sin rely upon, rest upon, and stay itself upon us by nature. A sin nature requires a living, but fallen, being upon which to work. Our own internal lusts require that we be alive; the corpse that has long since returned to the dust has no fleshly sin against which it must battle. Likewise, the world can only entice the living; you can put a cadaver near a television, turn up the volume, let all the wicked commercials play and plots unfold, and it would have no ability to seduce or entice him. Unlike God who is our True Master, this sin master has no power of its own. The power of this master comes from the influence it has over his subjects — upon whom he must lean and derive power. Nonetheless, when this master leans, putting his weight upon the hand of his subject, his subject must bow indeed (unless God intervenes).
We see that when sin exalts itself, resting upon the hand (i.e. the works of man, all that he endeavors to do), it causes the saint to bow down in the house of Rimmon as well. Not ultimately, but in our daily experience. But he doesn’t just bow down, Naaman states “when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon.” He is now saying that he bows himself down. The import here is that when sin forces us to bow down, we are bowing ourselves down. That sin is ours; the influence that Satan and the world has over us exists only because we let it, we succumb to it. It is our sin therefore we bow down. We cannot say, “satan made me do it;” “the world tempted me;” “it was Eve’s fault;” “my parents raised me thus;” we cannot say any of that because none of it is an excuse. It is our sin, we committed it because we wanted to commit it by nature; the only reason we ever do not want to commit sin is because Christ in us gives us a desire to abstain from such things; it is because God himself works in us to both will and to do of His good pleasure — causing us to want to be free from the presence, strength, and corruption of sin.
Our Continual Struggle
Note that in this body of death, we are always sinning. It isn’t like we live perfectly and from time to time we fall into a sin here or a sin there. What I am describing is a constant cycle, a constant struggle. We do not love God with all of our heart as we ought; we do not love our neighbor as ourselves; we still get angry without a cause at times (or legitimately get angry but fail to “sin not” as we are instructed); we still have to deal with lust and adultery in the heart. We are constantly assaulted by this evil enemy, this evil master. Yet there are times when our falls are so blatant in our own eyes and in the eyes of others that it appears that we have greatly succumbed. We can think of David with Bathsheba and Uriah, Peter with his many haughty misstatements, Samson with his lusts, Solomon with his willingness to please his wives (even to the point of setting up their idols); all of God’s people, who know their right hand from their left (good from evil), experience this reality. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that we are looking at a portrait of our entire lives; it is a constant reflection of our walk. Though it may vary in degrees, the picture continuously stands.
When we read that Naaman is asking for pardon for bowing the knee in the house of Rimmon, we are reading of the prayer of all saints — to be forgiven when we enter into sin. In this life, in this body of death, Naaman knew that despite his desire to “offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD” he would nonetheless bow in Rimmon’s house. The same applies to all saints. We understand that sin takes occasion and brings us down; when it does, like Naaman we cry unto God Jehovah be propitious. This is the same cry of the justified publican when he said “God be merciful to me a sinner,” or more literally, “God be propitious to me–the sinner!”
How does God respond to Naaman? Does He have the prophet curse or chastise him for making such a request or for daring to even bow the knee in Rimmon’s house in the first place? No; God responds to Naaman the same way He responded to the publican — with love and tender-mercy, justifying him. Even as the publican left justified, so did Naaman, and so do all of those that belong to the LORD by sovereign, electing, grace. God tells all of His sheep to “go in peace,” our sins being forgiven. The Lord Jesus is our Peace, He is our Rest, and our Hope. In His strength, we need to tear down the house of Rimmon and all lofty and exalted places in our hearts and minds. We need to deny ourselves, pick up the cross, mortify the deeds of the flesh, and bring into captivity every thought that is in opposition to God. However, when we stumble, when we fall, when we confess that we bowed the knee in the house of Rimmon, God is just to forgive us our sins because he has put them all away. He has burned down Rimmon’s house and we are free from its bondage — though we often do not feel the reality of this experimentally. God is the Victor and we will forever share in His victory; but when that felt sense of Victory eludes us, His pardon and forgiveness still stands. What a blessed saviour we have indeed.
To God be the praise, honour, and glory,