“And [Naaman’s] servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” II Kings 5:13
Recently, the story of Naaman the leper being healed by the prophet Elisha was read at church and the above verse was included.
I’ve heard this story at church and have read it myself too many times to count. But I got a totally new idea from it the other day. And I’ll tell you about it in just a minute.
Usually I think of the humility Naaman had to express before he was healed. Obviously, that’s a valuable lesson that we all need to learn.
But there are lots of lessons in this Old Testament story. (See II Kings 5:1-14. If you haven’t read this story in a while, you should check it out.)
Naaman is not Jewish, but actually the captain of the Sryian army. He was an honorable man and full of valor but he was a leper. I think it’s fascinating that Elisha is so willing to heal this non-believing Syrian. There’s a lesson for all of us when we only want to associate with and help those who are of our own culture, background or faith.
Naaman’s wife had a servant girl that had been captured from the land of Israel. This servant obviously knew of Elisha’s healing power as a prophet of the LORD and suggested Naaman could be healed by him.
Naaman comes with the fanfare of his horses and chariots to see the prophet. But Elisha does not even come out of his house to see him. Instead he sends a messenger telling Naaman to go wash himself seven times in the River Jordan.
What Naaman really needed.
Elisha knew he needed to be healed of the leprosy, but that he also needed some humility in order to be receptive to the simple, gentle, healing power of the God of Israel.
Naaman is incensed. “Why can’t I wash in the rivers of Damascus? They are so much better than that muddy thing you call the River Jordan. And some nerve he had. He didn’t even come out to see me. I thought since he was a prophet, he would come out and make a big show of how powerful this God of his is that he claims is so mighty.” [my paraphrase]
Because of his position and in the army and his favor with the King of Syria, Naaman was probably used to getting his way and having people treat him great honor. So Naaman stomps off in a rage. Not someone I would want to meet up with when he was in that kind of a mood. Would you?
But then the most amazing thing happens…
Some of Naaman’s servants come up to him and suggest that he should go ahead and wash in the Jordan as Elisha had instructed.
This is the part of the story that gave me some fresh inspiration. If you had been one of Naaman’s servants, would you have gone up to this raging man of immense power and told him to do the exact thing he was furious over?
I’ve always thought of the importance of Naaman learning humility before he was healed. Humility is a vital part of healing, no doubt.
But for the first time, I saw in this story the importance of courage, on the part of the servants, to say the right thing at the right time even if it was a hard thing to confront the anger of their master.
What motivates our actions, fear or love?
And then I saw a deeper lesson: love. Think how the servants must have loved their master to overcome their fear of talking to him. And to have the courage to counsel him to go wash in the Jordan River when he didn’t want to. And think of the love and respect Naaman must have had for his servants to even allow them to say anything to him while he was in a rage, then take their advice willingly. Wow!
The servants were part of God’s plan to reveal His healing power to Naaman in the Bible. It was hard for him to accept his assigned task from a stranger, but he could hear his trusted servants, whom he knew cared for him.
Which of these rolls have you filled?
Have you ever been like Naaman, full of even rightful pride and the answer to your problem was not to your liking? Guess what, humility is not of style, and you have it in you already. You just need to dig it out, dust it off and put it into practice. Seek the help of someone spiritually close to God. Listen to the counsel of those close to you who love you. Go ahead and eat your humble pie and do what you need to do. It won’t kill you.
Do you ever have the roll of the little servant girl? Maybe you have a boss that is a tyrant, but you have enough love in you to suggest something that might really help him.
And what if you are ever in the roll of Elisha? You never know when you might be the prophet of God’s healing power to someone in need–someone you know or someone you don’t know that doesn’t even believe in God. How will you respond?
And how about the roll of those servants who had enough guts to tell Naaman what he should do. Even if it’s hard and you’re afraid of the consequences, you can do what’s right in order to help someone–if you love enough.
Don’t you just love the way a Bible story you’ve read hundreds of times can be fresh and bring new inspiration?
I’d love to hear your ideas on this story and how it has helped or inspired you. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.