A Little Child
We read these scriptures to get an impression of the Lord Jesus Himself as the little child of Matthew 2, and then that we might understand what the Lord teaches his disciples as to the need to be converted, and become as little children. We see this working out in Saul of Tarsus and in these two persons in 2 Kings 5, in whom I believe there is moral correspondence: the little maid and Naaman, whose "flesh became again like the flesh of a little child."
The Lord Jesus is spoken of in Matthew 2 as a little child, and these wise men from the east come to Jerusalem saying, "Where is the king of the Jews that has been born?" These wise men came, and then went to Herod the king, where they expected to find knowledge of the King of the Jews that had been born — just as Naaman, coming to Israel, went to the king of Israel to find the means of being cleansed of his leprosy. But the answer is not found with Herod the king or the king of Israel. The answer to our salvation is not found where it might be expected. It's not found in what is big, prominent, or accredited in this world. King Herod didn't know. It says, "the king, having heard of it, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." So that's not where the answer is found; it is found in this little child of verse 11. Herod sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go, search out accurately concerning the child." It's not the little child that Herod asks about, it's just the child. But it says of the magi, "they having heard the king went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went before them until it came and stood over the place where the little child was." The Lord Jesus was two years old or less, as we know from verse 16. The Lord Jesus is spoken of as a little child: these wise men "saw the little child with Mary his mother, and falling down did him homage."
How attractive this Person was, the Lord Jesus — just a year or two old — yet these wise men "did him homage." Well, the way of salvation, the means of salvation, is not what we might expect. In Kings, Naaman's servant said, "If the prophet had bidden thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?" The mind of man expects salvation to be obtained by doing some great thing or in connection with some great persons: King Herod or the King of Israel. But salvation is not obtained that way. Salvation is obtained, as we read in Matthew 18, by being converted and becoming as a little child. The Lord Jesus, in that chapter, "having called a little child to him, set it in their midst."
In Mark's gospel, it says He took a little child in his arms. How appealingly the Lord Jesus presents to us the way we must all be saved, the way we must all come to "enter into the kingdom of the heavens"!
Saul of Tarsus, in Acts 9, was a big man who had a reputation as a Pharisee of the Pharisees, just as King Saul in the Old Testament had a reputation as head and shoulders above his fellows. But Saul was struck down on the Damascus road by the Lord Jesus saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me"? And then we get this little phrase, "leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus." Well, here we have these two thoughts: Converted, he became as a little child. "Leading him by the hand" — he became as a little child.
In the glad tidings, God has in mind for us that we should be converted and become like Jesus, the little child of Matthew 2. The Lord Jesus speaks very appealingly and protectingly about little children. He says in verse 10, "their angels in the heavens continually behold the face of my Father who is in the heavens." In his epistle, John writes to little children "because ye have known the Father." The Father cares for and delights in persons who come to know the Lord Jesus, who are converted and become as little children!
A little child is guileless and trusting, dear friends. A little child is not self-confident, not trusting his own abilities, but he's leadable: "leading him by the hand they brought him into Damascus." He has confidence in another; he doesn't have confidence in himself; and he's simple. Paul writes of "simplicity as to the Christ", 2 Corinthians 11:3. I think the Lord Jesus desires these features of a little child in His own. It's of note that he "set it in their midst." This chapter, Matthew 18, is marked by that feature. He says later, "For where two or three are gathered together unto my Name, there am I in the midst of them." And here, He calls a little child and sets it in their midst. Well those are the two ways He brings in this feature of what's in the midst: the little child in verse 2 and then Himself in verse 20. I believe the Lord Jesus comes in among persons who have been converted and become as little children. He's not pleased to come in among persons who think they're the greatest.
In this chapter the Lord isn't speaking to unconverted persons. He's not speaking to the crowds. He is speaking to His disciples, who were discussing among themselves (as we know from Mark's gospel) who was greatest. So He speaks to the disciples about being converted. We may have been converted; maybe we were converted when we were very young, maybe 20, 30, 40 years ago or more, but perhaps we need another conversion. The glad tidings goes out Lord's Day by Lord's Day in view of us being maintained in the good of our conversion, and of being converted again if we've lost the sense of being a little child.
The Lord Jesus is meeting a very serious matter with the disciples emulating one another and seeking to be acknowledged as the greatest. And in spite of what the Lord says here and in Mark, the disciples really don't get the gain of it at this time. Because in Mark 9, verse 38, after the Lord has finished this precious teaching, John answered him saying, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in thy name, who does not follow us and we forbad him, because he does not follow us", showing that they hadn't got the gain of the Lord's teaching as to being converted and becoming as a little child. They were still thinking about other things. They were still not adjusted. Even John was not adjusted. "But Jesus said, Forbid him not." You see? There was still a need for the disciples to be converted, and to take this diminutive place: "If any one would be first, he shall be last of all, and minister of all", Mark 9:35. Think of the Lord Jesus saying, "I am in the midst of you as the one that serves", Luke 22:27. That is the spirit of Christ, dear friends, that the Lord is looking for in each one of us. He is not pleased with persons who are seeking to take a great place among the saints. He's not pleased with persons who are seeking to maintain their reputations. And this matter of conversion involves repentance. He looks for repenting sinners. There's joy in heaven for one repenting sinner, and perhaps that needs to be you or me or someone else. May each of us be maintained as repenting sinners!
So God brings in this little maid in 2 Kings. "And the Syrians had gone out in bands, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid." Well, she was in Syria, waiting on Naaman's wife; she accepted her circumstances, accepted the situation as it was. And yet she knew where salvation was. "She said to her mistress, Oh, would that my lord were before the prophet that is in Samaria! then he would cure him of his leprosy." Well, Naaman didn't like the proposed cure, and the flesh in any of us doesn't like the proposed cure that the gospel offers. Peter says in the New Testament, "And salvation is in none other, for neither is there another Name under heaven which is given among men by which we must be saved", Acts 4:12. He's real definite, that there's no other name, just as Elisha is very definite here. It's got to be the Jordan, and you just have to plunge seven times in the Jordan, and be clean. The rivers of Damascus, the Abanah and the Pharpar, wouldn't do. It's only the death of Christ that opens up the way for us to be cleansed from our leprosy, to be saved from our sin. And it says, "Then he went down and plunged seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God."
Well, he was a person who accepted, by faith, the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ; he was taking that home to himself. It says, "his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." What a wonderful result from the glad tidings! What a wonderful result from this man of such reputation who was a captain of the host of the king of Syria! What a reputation he had! It says, "And he was a mighty man of valour, but a leper." Just think of that! That could be any one of us who has a great place, whether it's in this world, whether it's among brethren, or whether it's in our own eyes. Whatever it might be, it says, "but a leper." So he had to go down; he had to humble himself. It says that the Lord Jesus "humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross", Philippians 2:8. This man humbled himself and accepted the principle of death. He plunged himself seven times in the Jordan. He's a man who, in type, entered into the kingdom of the heavens: "his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."
Well, isn't that attractive to us, that we too can come to Jesus and accept the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ: the One who came here in that precious way as a little child, and to whom the wise men from the east came and did homage! How attractive He is to our hearts, as we come to Him! How approachable He is! All the works of man, all the works that we can do are of no avail, but it's simply by going down and plunging seven times into the Jordan, that is, by being converted and becoming as a little child, that we will be clean. That's God's appointed way of salvation. God's appointed Man is the Lord Jesus Christ. No other "name under heaven ... among men whereby we must be saved." It's imperative. Oh, beloved friends, the glad tidings are imperative! "behold, now is the well-accepted time; behold, now the day of salvation", 2 Corinthians 6:2. It might be too late tomorrow. The Lord Jesus may come today. None of us knows how long we're going to be here.
May the Lord Jesus encourage each one of our hearts to come to Him and to be ready to go down and become, in simplicity, like the little child of Matthew's gospel.
For His Name's sake.
S. E. Hesterman
A Little Child