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Four Lessons from the Story of Naaman
The Faithful and the Unfaithful

Naaman, the great general of Aram, was on a quest to have his leprosy cured.

On the advice of his wife’s handmaiden, a captured Israelite slave girl, Naaman made arrangements to meet with Elisha, the great prophet of Israel. He traveled many miles, and carried a fortune in precious metals and garments to bring as gifts for the prophet.

We don’t know how many men accompanied Naaman, but the value of the treasures that he carried certainly indicate that for security, it must have been a significant force.

After a long journey, Naaman finally arrived at the home of Elisha. Because of his own status, he expected Elisha would be excited to see him and come out to give him a royal welcome. Naaman was, after all, a very important man. He was used to receiving the respect that comes from status and power. He demanded it.

Instead of respect or honor, Elisha refused to see Naaman face-to-face. Elisha sent his servant, Gehazi, to speak on his behalf. His instructions were very clear; Naaman was to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times. After the seventh time, his flesh would be cured of leprosy.

Naaman raged about this message. He was entitled to better service than he received. Shouldn’t Elisha have come out of his house to greet such a great man? With great ceremony and splendor, Elisha should have called on the name of the Lord, and then perhaps, waved his hand over Naaman’s rash. Perhaps the prophet would demand some arduous task or high price. At least, this is what Naaman expected. He was entitled to more than he received from this prophet of the God of Israel.

I wonder if there is a little bit of Naaman in all of us, at least all of us who are Christians in the first-world. Aren’t we entitled to good health because of our faithful service? Why should we have to wait in a grocery line or traffic jam when our time is so valuable? It takes hours or days to get contractors to get back to us. Who do they think they are making us wait? Don’t they know who we are? We are Christian Americans with busy schedules. Shouldn’t we get service quickly on our terms? Why doesn’t God answer our prayers quickly the way we wish for them to be answered? Who does God think he is treating us like this?

Fortunately for Naaman, his servants had wisdom and spirit beyond his. They persuaded him to do as he was told to do. They challenged him do dip himself in the Jordan as the prophet had instructed. If he was willing to do a great thing if demanded by the prophet, then why not do a simple thing?

Naaman saw their wisdom, complied with the directive of the prophet, and found the cure that he was looking for. With gratitude he returned to the house of the prophet bearing the treasurers that he wished to give as gifts.

This time, Elisha greeted him at the door.

Naaman proclaimed to Elisha that the God of Israel is the one God in all the earth. In the future, back home, when his position required that he bow to a pagan idol, in his heart he will be bowing to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Elisha blessed him in this and told him, “Go in Peace.” So, the works of Elisha won a powerful convert to worship the God of Israel and Naaman learned to be humble before God.

Are we so humble and filled with gratitude?

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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