Listen To Article

Four Lessons From The Story of Naaman
The Faithful and The Unfaithful

Naaman was a General from the land of Aram, now part of modern-day Syria.

He was a very bad man.

At least he was bad from the point of view of Israel.

From the Syrian point of view, he was a hero who kept Israel under subjugation and required tribute from the nation of Israel. Much like the reparations required of Germany after World War II, these tributes to Syria hurt the economy of Israel. But Naaman did not just demand money from Israel. He also took slaves.

He had one major flaw: leprosy. Exactly what skin disease this was is a matter of opinion. Nevertheless, it was a flaw that made him feel uncomfortable.

One slave was a young girl. We don’t know how young she was or even what her name was. We are only told that she was taken captive in a raid. Was she angry about this? Did she feel that she was lucky to be living in a big house as a woman’s maid, with a steady food supply? Friends of mine who are fans of Downton Abbey have suggested to me that a maid’s life in a house of sane people is often better than a life of poverty that many “free” people experience. Thus, many people applied for “service” jobs at Downton Abbey.

Pretend you were a young, captured on a military raid, and forced to be a house servant. Would you be angry at your captors? Would you wish evil upon them? Or perhaps you would wish blessings upon your captors. The happier your master is, the better your life would be. Would you be openly defiant of an owner? Would you be passive aggressive against that same person? Might you seek what is good for that person even if it was out of self-interest? Be careful. You might be accused of being a “collaborator.”

If you were a captured servant, what would your relationship with God be like? Would you blame God for your situation? If you believe that God is sovereign then certainly, he either causes circumstances, or at least, allows things that happen. Would you be angry at God? Would you doubt the power of God? Might you assume that maybe God is not powerful or sovereign? Perhaps your faith in an all-loving, sovereign might be shattered, and you would eliminate this God from your life?

Have you ever had your faith shattered? Have you watched a loved one die tragically? Have you been a victim of violence? Have you taken Jesus’ words about prayer seriously but not had your prayers answered? These instances can shake our faith.

The faith of this young slave girl was not shaken despite her circumstances. She mentions to her mistress that there is a prophet in Israel who, she claims, can cure Naaman’s illness. Was she going out on a limb here?

After what she, an Israelite girl, has endured, how can she trust the power of her God’s prophet? Surely a powerful God would not have forsaken her! Suppose this prophet refuses to heal Naaman, an enemy of Israel? Would Naaman be angry and take his wrath out on her? Can she guarantee a good result? Of course not.

Yet, this unnamed, young slave girl had faith in God, and God’s prophet. No matter her motivation, she did what she could do to put Naaman in touch with God’s prophet.

Do we have such faith? When we are in bad circumstances do we still trust the power and grace of God?

Mark Ennis

Mark William Ennis had his first book, "The Circle of Seven: When His Servants Are Weak," recently published by Deep River Books. An ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America for 35 years, Mark served as a chaplain at the opening of the National 911 Memorial Museum in New York City, ministering to survivors, first responders and their families.  

2 Comments

  • Tom Eggebeen says:

    So many thoughtful questions here … I like how you presented Naaman as a hero to his own people … to see from another perspective is always a challenge … and the servant girl; at the time of need, she recalled her origin. Thanks. I presume this was a sermon???

Leave a Reply