Summary: God wants us to be humble and listen to His directions. But, pride can get in the way of our obedience.
The story of Naaman
Naaman was the commanding general of the Syrian army, a man of great influence and immense importance. He was well respected with his numerous military conquests as well as being the military advisor to King Ben-Hadad. His presence demanded respect, and he earned it through his brilliant execution and the sheer power that he was able to wield with but a word. Put in modern terms, having Naaman visit was much like having the one of the popular athletes of a successful sports team of today come visit. The people were in awe of this man’s power.
But, all of his power and influence was being threatened. There was a real possibility of him having his status stripped away because of a skin blemish. People did not want to be near anyone who had any visible disease. Many considered it unclean and segregated the sick into isolation. In Israel, separate colonies of people were set up to bear the brunt of leprosy and every other kind of visible skin illness. In other words, this disease would move him from the most respected circles of society, to become an outcast shunned by many. He had the equivalent of HIV or AIDS and tried everything to remove the Leprosy.
This is the man who came to see Elisha. He had tried various treatments, but nothing had worked. Instead, under the advice of a little slave girl, he came to see the holy man of Israel. He expected to be treated with the respect and fanfare due his office.
But instead of finding the red carpet rolled out welcoming his arrival, he was greeted with a messenger and told to go jump in a lake. Elisha didn’t even come out to say hello! Instead, he sent a messenger out to Naaman with instructions to cleanse himself in the Jordan river seven times. Intentionally or not, it’s as if he was told “You’re so dirty and unclean! Not only will I not come outside to see you, but I want you to bathe in a dirty, muddy and detestable water.” He was being humiliated and treated as unclean and unacceptable. This is NOT what Naaman was expecting.
Instead, he was deeply offended! After being treated this way, he didn’t want to follow the advice of this mere messenger. He was willing to pay a huge amount of money and perform any number of outlandish activities. But to wash himself in a filthy river just seemed like too much to bear. Where was the red carpet? Where was the greeting party? Where were the escorts? Insulted and outraged, he was not going to be humiliated further by this mere priest! He would go home without following the directions.
Pride got in the way. Naaman was willing to live with his disease and live in his dishonor rather than embarrass himself further. He wanted to be greeted and treated like the important person he was, not humiliated and dunked in the dirty Jordan River. It took a servant of his to convince him to set aside his pride and obey the directions of Elisha. Through the words of this lowly servant girl, he agreed to try, and complied with the orders of Elisha.
God Speaks to Us in Different Ways
Dipping in the Jordan River was nothing short of bowing down to the will of God. Elisha was known as a faithful man. He was known to speak prophecies that came true. Naaman was well aware of this and chose to listen to what Elisha had to say. Whatever he had to say, it surely came from the authority of God Himself. He knew that there was something to this man. Through the advice of his servant girl, he submitted to the words of Elisha. In doing so, he submitted to the will of God. Through this simple act of submission, he was cleansed of his self-righteousness and purged of his pride. In the process, he was cleansed of his disease. By allowing himself to bow down to the power of God, he was able to relish in the benefits of good health. Had he kept his attitude of defiance, he would have never realized the healing miracle that took place.
God spoke to Naaman through his humble servant Elisha. Where the powerful Syrian was looking for a way to be healed, he received a potent healing miracle, but only by listening to what God had to tell him. It was more than just listening and obeying. It was setting aside his ego.
After all, the advice he received was not what exactly he wanted to hear. He brought money along to buy his healing. But, the healing was not for sale. He was prepared to go through any number of ceremonial procedures or rituals. But, he wasn’t prepared to embarrass himself or put himself to shame. He wasn’t looking to get muddied up to reach his goal. He was looking for a more comfortable way to be healed.