Of the ten lepers that our Saviour cleansed, the only one that returned to give thanks was a Samaritan, Luke 17:16. This Syrian did so, and here expresses himself.
I. Convinced of the power of the God of Israel, not only that he is God, but that he is God alone, and that indeed there is no God in all the earth but in Israel (2 Kgs. 5:15)-- a noble confession, but such as intimates the misery of the Gentile world; for the nations that had many gods really had no God, but were without God in the world. He had formerly thought the gods of Syria gods indeed, but now experience had rectified his mistake, and he knew Israel’s God was God alone, the sovereign Lord of all. Had he seen other lepers cleansed, perhaps the sight would not have convinced him, but the mercy of the cure affected him more than the miracle of it. Those are best able to speak of the power of divine grace who have themselves experienced it.
II. Grateful to Elisha the prophet: “Therefore, for his sake whose servant thou art, I have a present for thee, silver, and gold, and raiment, whatever thou wilt please to accept.” He valued the cure, not by the easiness of it to the prophet, but the acceptableness of it to himself, and would gladly pay for it accordingly. But Elisha generously refused the fee, though urged to accept it; and, to prevent further importunity, backed his refusal with an oath: As the Lord liveth, I will receive none (2 Kgs. 5:16), not because he did not need it, for he was poor enough, and knew what to do with it, and how to bestow it among the sons of the prophets, nor because he thought it unlawful, for he received presents from others; but he would not be beholden to this Syrian, nor should he say, I have made Elisha rich, Gen. 14:23. It would be much for the honour of God to show this new convert that the servants of the God of Israel were taught to look upon the wealth of this world with a holy contempt, which would confirm him in his belief that there was no God but in Israel. See 1 Cor. 9:18; 2 Cor. 11:9.
III. Proselyted to the worship of the God of Israel. He will not only offer a sacrifice to the Lord, in thanks for his present cure, but he resolves he will never offer sacrifice to any other gods, 2 Kgs. 5:17. It was a happy cure of his leprosy which cured him of his idolatry, a more dangerous disease. But here are two instances of his weakness and infirmity in his conversion:—1. In one instance he over-did it, that he would not only worship the God of Israel, but he would have clods of earth out of the prophet’s garden, or at least of the prophet’s ordering, to make an altar of, 2 Kgs. 5:17. He that awhile ago had spoken very slightly of the waters of Israel (2 Kgs. 5:12) now is in another ex 3885 treme, and over-values the earth of Israel, supposing (since God has appointed altars of earth, Exod. 20:24) that an altar of that earth would be most acceptable to him, not considering that all the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. Or perhaps the transport of his affection and veneration for the prophet, not only upon the account of his power, but of his virtue and generosity, made him, as we say, love the very ground he went upon and desire to have some of it home with him. The modern compliment equivalent to this would be, “Pray, sir, let me have your picture.” 2. In another instance he under-did it, that he reserved to himself a liberty to bow in the house of Rimmon, in complaisance to the king his master, and according to the duty of his place at court (2 Kgs. 5:18), in this thing he must be excused. He owns he ought not to do it, but that he cannot otherwise not do it, but that he cannot otherwise keep his place,—protests that his bowing is not, nor ever shall be, as it had been, in honour to the idol, but only in honour to the king,—and therefore he hopes God will forgive him. Perhaps, all things considered, this might admit of some apology, though it was not justifiable. But, as to us, I am sure, (1.) If, in covenanting with God, we make a reservation for any known sin, which we will continue to indulge ourselves in, that reservation is a defeasance of his covenant. We must cast away all our transgressions and not except any house of Rimmon. (2.) Though we are encouraged to pray for the remission of the sins we have committed, yet, if we ask for a dispensation to go on in any sin for the future, we mock God, and deceive ourselves. (3.) Those that know not how to quit a place at court when they cannot keep it without sinning against God, and wronging their consciences, do not rightly value the divine favour. (4.) Those that truly hate evil will make conscience of abstaining from all appearances of evil. Though Naaman’s dissembling his religion cannot be approved, yet because his promise to offer no sacrifice to any god but the God of Israel only was a great point gained with a Syrian, and because, by asking pardon in this matter, he showed such a degree of conviction and ingenuousness as gave hopes of improvement, the prophet took fair leave of him, and bade him Go in peace, 2 Kgs. 5:19. Young converts must be tenderly dealt with.
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