Essay

Elisha

By June 23, 2019 No Comments
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Four Lessons from the Story of Naaman
The Faithful and the Unfaithful

Elisha was a great prophet of Israel.

He had inherited the mantle of his mentor, Elijah. His reputation went out far and wide. Even Naaman’s slave girl, captured in Israel, had heard of Elisha.

Naaman, the Syrian general who terrorized Israel with border-raids, had a skin rash. Despite his power and influence, this skin rash haunted him. His Israelite slave girl, who was a maid to his wife, gave the advice to her mistress that Naaman needed to seek a cure from Elisha, the man of God.

Arrangements were quickly made for Naaman, the foreign general, to enter Israel to seek Elisha. Joram, King of Israel, was reluctant to give Naaman safe passage. He was afraid that Naaman was simply looking for an excuse to start conflict. Only after seeking the advice of Elisha, did Joram reluctantly allow Naaman in the country to seek the prophet who seemed almost anxious to have Naaman come. Here was a chance for Naaman to find out that there was indeed “a prophet in Israel.”

How would you or I deal with Naaman who was an enemy? This enemy terrorized Israel. He was the general of a foreign army who conducted raids in Israel. He enslaved Israelites. If you were Elisha would you bless Naaman with health or curse him with a worse disease? Might you even use your power to kill Naaman? It certainly would benefit Israel to have such an enemy powerless, immobilized, or even dead.

Yet Elisha was not looking to harm an enemy. He was seeking to show a powerful foreigner the greater power of the God he served. Serving God and witnessing was more important than the harm or health of one person.

In our generation, we have people of similar minds. Serving God transcends ethnicity or nationality. I think of Christian medical and aviation groups that fly all over the world caring for people but not caring about politics. Their pilots and medical professionals witness to the goodness of God by the care that they give others.

After a long journey, Naaman and his men came to Elisha’s house loaded down with all kinds of riches. In his world, like ours, riches often bought you better service. Naaman was ready to buy his cure from Elisha, the man of God.

Naaman waited at the door expecting Elisha to come out and greet him. He was, after all, an important General, possessing endorsements from two different kings entitling him to an appointment with Elisha.

Entitled or not, Elisha did not come out to Naaman. Instead, he sent a message to him.

Through his messenger, Elisha told Naaman that he must dip himself in the Jordan River seven times. The message infuriated Naaman. Naaman was a powerful, entitled man. He was used to getting his way. He was used to people coming to greet him, not sending word by messenger. He was insulted not to be treated in a more gracious way.

Pretend you are Elisha. Would you welcome the chance to do good for an enemy? Would you go to greet this powerful man? Would you fawn over a politician as many of us do instead of reminding community leaders that God is a higher power than they?

Elisha showed this powerful foreigner that truly there was a “prophet in Israel.” He was willing to show compassion to this enemy, but he did it on God’s terms.

Are we willing to be so bold in our witness in this world?

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.  

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