Summary: Lessons can be learned from Life's Setbacks; Receiving Healing God's Way; When human power isn't enough;
Learning from Life’s Setbacks
There are lessons to be learned by the setbacks in our lives. An excellent study of setbacks is found in the story of Naaman, the leper, where there are specific events and decisions that can be applied to our times and lives.
The setting is in the nation of Syria, a country in the headlines of our day because of the ongoing troubles in the Arab nations. In the Biblical record, Syria was the major power of the times perhaps 700 years before Christ and a few hundred years after Israel’s rule through David and Solomon. Under the leadership of their king and their army general Naaman, Syria had conquered many neighboring countries including Israel. Syria’s power came from the victorious battles of their general and war leader, Naaman.
Naaman had an excellent reputation of defeating armies and conquering countries for his nation. The Bible describes that he was victorious as the Lord had given him the victories. But there was a major problem with him. He is described “a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy”. Leprosy was considered very contagious and incurable. It would cause white spots to appear on his skin, then cover his body and the flesh would begin to die on his bones because of the disease. Lepers were restricted from being in public for fear of its contagious nature and directed to call out “unclean” when people approached. His whole life and career could be ended because of this disease.
A young Jewish girl, captured by his army when conquering Israel, was the slave maid to Naaman’s wife. When she heard the discussion of this issue in the household, she remembered the great prophet in her native land. She remembered the stories about Elisha, who healed people from many dreadful diseases. She simply told her slave master Naaman’s wife about this prophet in Israel. Her statement was simple. “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria, he would cure him of his leprosy.
Apparently Naaman had tried all other possibilities for healing and they had failed. When he told his king about this possibility, the king immediately formed a strategy for Naaman’s healing. In his world the king understood the strength of his power and wealth. He wrote a letter to the king of Israel, who had been conquered by the Syrian army, and ordered him to secure Naaman access to the prophet with implied threats for his life. When Naaman delivered the letter from his king, Israel’s king feared for his position and his life.
Elisha, hearing of his king’s fear, sent a message telling him to send Naaman to him. As Naaman made his way to Elisha’s house, he developed an expectation of what would occur. The prophet would come to the door, treat him with honor and do some ritual to heal him. However, the prophet did not even come to the door, but sent his servant. He would not see Naaman, but only order him to go wash in the Jordan seven times.
Naaman was both insulted and disappointed. In anger he left the home and prepared to return to his country. After all, his country had cleaner, clearer rivers than the muddy Jordan River. His army leaders stopped him, saying that after coming this far, he should do this simple thing. The test was simple. He must humble himself and do what he was instructed to do. Not a man to take orders but to give them, to do the menial thing like this he must set aside an ego and pride and go do so. With the urging of his fellow soldiers, he did it. Perhaps as he bathed each time and saw no results, he lost faith in the process.
After the seventh bath in the muddy Jordan, he was healed. The skin spots were gone, his flesh was clean of the disease and it’s tell-tale marks. He was healed. Still in the mindset of the warrior, he returned to thank the prophet. He assumed that the prophet was tempted by wealth and offered the treasure he had brought with him, estimated to be valued at four million dollars today. Elisha would have none of it. Realizing the prophet was not tempted by wealth, he testified he would be a faithful follower of Elisha’s God and simply asked for dirt to carry home to build his place of prayer. Humbled but healed, Naaman turned to make his way home. Elisha’s country had a friend in the Syria’s king’s court.
There are some valuable take always in this story, lessons for our defeated lives.
1. It all begins by the confession of a need. Naaman’s confession of his disease led to him seeking help. God had a witness in His world, a young Jewish slave girl who only shared about her God. Need and the recognition that God is able begins the process.