Elisha Heals Naaman
1 Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army. The Lord had helped him and his troops defeat their enemies, so the king of Syria respected Naaman very much. Naaman was a brave soldier, but he had leprosy.
2One day while the Syrian troops were raiding Israel, they captured a girl, and she became a servant of Naaman's wife. 3Some time later the girl said, “If your husband Naaman would go to the prophet in Samaria, he would be cured of his leprosy.”
4When Naaman told the king what the girl had said, 5the king replied, “Go ahead! I will give you a letter to take to the king of Israel.”
Naaman left and took along 30,000 pieces of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, and 10 new outfits. 6He also carried the letter to the king of Israel. It said, “I am sending my servant Naaman to you. Would you cure him of his leprosy?”
7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in fear and shouted, “That Syrian king believes I can cure this man of leprosy! Does he think I'm God with power over life and death? He must be trying to pick a fight with me.”
8As soon as Elisha the prophet heard what had happened, he sent the Israelite king this message: “Why are you so afraid? Send the man to me, so that he will know there is a prophet in Israel.”
9Naaman left with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. 10Elisha sent someone outside to say to him, “Go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then you'll be completely cured.”
11But Naaman stormed off, grumbling, “Why couldn't he come out and talk to me? I thought for sure he would stand in front of me and pray to the Lord his God, then wave his hand over my skin and cure me. 12What about the Abana River or the Pharpar River? Those rivers in Damascus are just as good as any river in Israel. I could have washed in them and been cured.”
13His servants went over to him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. So why don't you do what he said? Go wash and be cured.”
14Naaman walked down to the Jordan; he waded out into the water and stooped down in it seven times, just as Elisha had told him. At once, he was cured, and his skin became as smooth as a child's.
This wonderful story has an interesting complexity. Can you see how the same events are seen by the kings on the one hand and the servant girl and Elisha on the other?
Story One: Kings and military. Aram, or Syria, shared a border with Israel, and the two countries had been at war. Tradition has it that Naaman was in fact the anonymous man who had earlier “shot his bow at a venture” (1 Kings 22:34, KJV) and killed Ahab, king of Israel. Naaman held a high position in Aram. Like the Shunamite woman he had everything – except his health. He was a leper.
Story Two: A prophet and poor people. There is an anonymous kidnapped Israelite girl, servant to Naaman’s wife. A nobody. She made the suggestion that Naaman go to see the prophet Elisha.
Back to Story One. The King of Aram plays politics. He supplies Naaman with a legendary amount of money and sends it to – who else? – the King of Israel (probably Joram). Joram is powerless to heal the leprosy and suspects a trap.
Story Two: Elisha hears what has happened, and tells Naaman to come to him. Can you imagine Naaman with his horses and chariots arriving at Elisha’s simple house!? And Elisha doesn’t even bother to come out. Just tells him to go and wash in the muddy Jordan. Naaman is humiliated and angry, but, on the advice of his servants, obeys.
And he is cleansed.
Like the wise men in the Christmas story, the “big” players assume that power is in the gift of kings. The secular game is about politics of war, wariness of traps, exchange of gifts, alliances between nations, spectacular events.
The prophetic “game” is about God’s power, about ordinary people in divinely strategic positions, about humility and obedience, as God reveals his kingdom by loving and healing the outsider, the enemy, the Gentile.
Father, forgive us for so often looking for your power in the wrong places. Forgive us for not seeing it in the “small” places where you work. Thank you for what you do in our ordinary lives. We look to you for answers to our prayers, in the name of Jesus Christ, whose “ordinary” life has changed the world. Amen.