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My wife Judi likes to say, “There’s a song for every situation.” It’s a stream-of-consciousness kind of thing. The kids used to roll their eyes. Or worse yet, slink away in embarrassment if this happened in a public place. “Oh Mom!”

** Time to shop for groceries — “Yes we have no bananas…”
** The end of a trip — “Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight…”
** Out to get the mail? — Well, you get the idea.

Now me? I tend to think there’s a Bible story for every situation. Lately I’ve been thinking of 2 Kings 5, the story of the Syrian general, Naaman. He is a hotshot cultural elite and he’s got all the bells and whistles to prove it. Late model chariot with the super feature eight hoof powertrain. Shiny sword and lots of parade field bling. And people. People everywhere. Usually saying things like, “Yes, sir! Right away, sir!” You know, those bright young men working their way up.

There’s just one chink in his armor. One flaw in the self-promoting narrative of esteem and greatness. He’s sick. He’s got leprosy. This is bad and it’s going to get worse. He’s up against an invisible enemy, one that can’t be bullied, intimidated, or impaled. Life has thrown him a curve and there’s no way out.

Or, maybe there is. A servant girl uses a back channel to slip him a message, “In my country…you remember my country, right? You know. The one you invaded. The one you looted. The one where you killed my parents and stole me away. Now, where was I? Oh yes…well, back in my country there’s a prophet who can heal leprosy. You should check him out.”

All the physicians of Damascus had been worthless. And that hydroxychloroquine was a shill. So why not? What have you got to lose? Off to meet Elisha he goes. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Naaman shows up at Elisha’s door — presumably in a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood. The remote satellite news vans have been alerted and everything is set for prime time. Big man. Big day. Big event.

There’s just one problem: Elisha doesn’t come out. Instead, he sends a junior administrative assistant. “Go wash in the Jordan River,” he says. “That’ll take care of everything. Have a nice day.”

Naaman does what big men do when they feel slighted. He blows a gasket and stomps off.

“I thought that for me he would come out himself and really fuss over me,” he says. “He should have been prepared with lots of special effects. Greatest healing ever! Something like that.”

Evidently vanity and political clout are no match for a bacterium induced disease. Game over? Re-enter the servants. “Hey hotshot, if he had asked you to do something hard — like a grueling quest maybe — you would have done it,” they say. “So, what’s your problem with easy?”

And then an amazing thing happens. The story pivots and Naaman makes the transition from great man to wise man. He goes to the Jordan. Washes. And is healed.

In the end, restoration had nothing to do with Elisha. That was the point! It had to do with Elisha’s God. The God who is known as the Creator. Wellness and restoration are found when one lets go of pretense and enters into the stream of God’s flowing wholeness.

I said that I have been thinking of 2 Kings 5 — a story of ambition, disease, and restoration. The story speaks to me of our current situation of lockdown and death counts. I’ve listened to the reports of how COVID-19 jumped from animals to humans and how great, pretentious men couldn’t do anything to stop it. I’m listening to reports of how habitat destruction will only accelerate the problem.

I’ve been following the reports of climate change too. We’ve built the greatest civilization in the history of the world. We’re prime time! Re-enter the servant girl. “You remember my creation, right? The resources you looted? The ecosystem you killed and the life you stole away? This is bad, and it’s going to get worse. There is in my country a prophet who can heal…”

Our issue is to determine whether or not we will transition from great to wise. It’s possible. Scripture points the way. “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

It’s time to wash in the Jordan.

Peter Boogaart

Peter Boogaart is retired and living in Zeeland, Michigan. He has been active in the Creation Care Ministry at Hope Church, Holland, Michigan, as well as the Holland Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Peter has served as a consultant to both county and city governments for planning a responsible energy future. He is a graduate of Western Theological Seminary.  

15 Comments

  • mstair says:

    Amen

    “In the end, restoration had nothing to do with Elisha. That was the point! It had to do with Elisha’s God. The God who is known as the Creator. Wellness and restoration are found when one lets go …”

    of self …

    • Peter Boogaart says:

      It’s hard for us. The concept of self is both boundary and barrier. I have value as a person, boundaries define my space. But the original sin was a breaking or relationship, self redefined as singular.

  • Magnificent! This is one of my favorite Bible stories. Thank you for your thoughts on this.

  • Matt Huisman says:

    “All the physicians of Damascus had been worthless.”

    So true.

    “And that hydroxychloroquine was a shill.”

    Clever jab except that the “major study” in The Lancet that makes this claim has been retracted.

    • Peter Boogaart says:

      Yes, the Lancet withdrew the article. There were perceived shortcomings in the study design. Give some credit to the scientific community for its commitment to self-correction when needed. That withdrawal, however, is not an endorsement of hydroxychloroquine. There is no evidence to support the use of Hydroxychloroquine and, at present, a clear indication of potential harm. But this isn’t the real issue. Hydroxychloroquine, in the article, functions as a metaphor. As a current example, It stands in for the human desire for a magic solution; some tidy way of avoiding reality.

      • Peter Boogaart says:

        I’m not looking for subtlety here. I’m reading the Bible quite literally. “If my people… will humble themselves… then I will ….will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Everyone working for environmental justice and climate change mitigation recognizes that the land needs a healing. Science and political policy won’t be adequate; healing begins with changed hearts.

      • Matt Huisman says:

        I’m very pro-changed hearts. We probably just have some disagreements on who/how much. I’m OK with that.

        I’m just not big on unnecessary side-swipes. I understand the HCQ metaphor, just not the instantaneous, over the top need everyone has to crushing the idea that HCQ could be helpful. It’s almost hysterical – and it comes from ‘experts’.

  • https://www.dropbox.com/s/vgfbohzd3tmo5fp/Wade%20In%20The%20Water.mp4?dl=0

    Ken Medema has written new words to the spiritual Wade in the Water. I had to share after reading your post. Thank you

  • RLG says:

    Thanks, Peter, for the parable. I’m a little confused as to who the players are for today’s Covid 19 situation. Who does the Jewish servant girl compare to today, the church with the message of hope in Jesus? Who does Naaman compare to? Our society, the church? Who is Elisha, and what is his message? Are you suggesting that our scientists and medical experts should give up on their attempts to find a vacine? What is the message for our Covid-19 situation today and why is God not acting now? It’s just a little confusing to me. Can you help translate this parable in today’s terms? At any rate, thanks, Peter, for trying to be helpful.

    • Peter Boogaart says:

      Did I click in the wrong place? This comment was intended for RLG. Appears to be a response to Matt Huisman on my screen.

      I’m not looking for subtlety here. I’m reading the Bible quite literally. “If my people… will humble themselves… then I will ….will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Everyone working for environmental justice and climate change mitigation recognizes that the land needs a healing. Science and political policy won’t be adequate; healing begins with changed hearts.

  • /svm says:

    Make America Wise Again

  • John Kleinheksel says:

    Loved it Peter. A contemporary retelling of the ancient event.
    We each can draw from it how it applies to me/us today.
    A word to the wise is sufficient. Go and do thou likewise.

  • Naaman is one of my favorite Bible characters. He’s the conquering general, but his captured Israelite slave girl can still sigh for him. “If only my master could see the prophet and be healed.” and he listens to her nothingness. When he goes off in an angry huff, his servants care enough to gently take him to task. Again, he listens. He dips himself in the Jordan seven times. And he is healed in ways he could not have imagined. There was a human heart still beating.

    May we also be provoked to such surprising humility and healing.

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