8.00 10-10-04 NR
The Young girl – 2 Kings 5: 1-15
Story: My old vicar in Basle, Tom Roberts used to say that when you are stumped for a Bible passage to preach on use the story of Naaman. So I’m doing for once what I am told!
I have always been fascinated by three seemingly insignificant verses from the story of Naaman. Let me read them to you:
2 Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."
4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. (2 Kings 5:2-4)
At first blush it doesn’t add up!
Why would the mighty Naaman, Commander of the King of Syria’s army firstly listen to such nonsense for a slave girl and then secondly make a fool of himself in front of the king by passing on such a ridiculous story.
And what is more intriguing is that King of Syria took this girl’s report seriously enough to write to the King of Israel and send Naaman off.
1. So why did the King of Syria send Naaman to Israel
1.1 To declare war
The most obvious answer was that the King of Syria was looking for a pretext to go to war.
Indeed that was the King of Israel’s first reaction when he got the King of Syria’s letter.
Look at what the King of Israel said:
"Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!" (2 Kings 5:7)
But in those days you didn’t need a pretext – you just invaded. And it would have been a pretty stupid pretext anyway.
And you wouldn’t risk the life of your most successful general by sending him off to the enemy Israel, without an army – if all you were looking for - was a pretext for war. The first thing the Israelites would have done would have been to kill him!
1.2 To get Naaman out of the way
Which brings me to a second possible explanation. That the King of Syria wanted Naaman out of the way.
If that was the case, it would have been much simpler to murder him! Despots in those days did just that.
But look what the King of Syria sent with Naaman to the King of Israel:
Ten talents of silver (750 pounds of silver),
Six thousand shekels (150 pounds) of gold and
Ten sets of clothing.
Why send so much money off with Naaman – if all you wanted to do was kill Naaman off and use it as an excuse to invade.
750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold would go a long way in financing the Israelite army – and even in hiring in mercenaries.
Not a bright move by the Syrian King.
1.3 The story is fiction
A further possible solution is that the story is folklore – and never actually happened
But Jesus himself vouches for the veracity of the story - and that will do for me.
We read of Jesus saying in Luke’s Gospel: “And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet yet not one of them was cleansed - only Naaman the Syrian”. (Luke 4:27)
As that great detective Sherlock Holmes is reputed to have said,
"eliminate the obvious and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer."
(The Supreme Court and Constitutional Theory by Ronald Kahn. 1994.)
So the only answer left to me - however improbable is that the story really happened as the Bible recorded.
1.4 Naaman and the Syrian King really did hear and believed the young girl’s report
Here was an insignificant servant girl – a slave dictating Syrian state policy. Is that impossible?
No, not if you put God INTO the equation.
God does move in mysterious ways.
Story: You just have to read the story of Malta in the 2nd World War.It should have easily been overrun by the Italians and Germans. Even the British High Command thought so.
But the Governor General of Malta, Sir William Dobbie believed in prayer and the miracle of Malta was complete.
2. The Young girl
What do we know about this young girl in the story of the healing of Naaman?
We don’t even know her name.
But there must have been something special about her – for Naaman to listen.
I think there are two characteristics of her life that I think are attractive.
2. 1. The first characteristic about the young girl was that she didn’t seem to get bitter about her captivity
Story: You just have to look at the news in Israel and Iraq to see the bitterness that oppressed people can feel towards those they believe are oppressing him.
The suicide bombers kill and maim.
The urban terrorists who kidnap, torture and behead the perceived enemy. All in the name of religion. And both the men and women do it.
That young girl could have said: “The only good Syrian is a dead one”.
And it would have been fair enough for her to think that about Naaman - who had been a successful general against her own people and who kept her in captivity.
But she didn’t - Quite the contrary.
She was concerned enough for Naaman to stick her neck out and offer a solution to his plight.
2.2 The second characteristic about the young girl was that there must have been something about her character that made her trustworthy
I am guessing here - but why else would Naaman’s wife have listened to the young girl and then bothered to tell Naaman? Especially as the Syrians looked down on the Jews
I can only think that this young girl’s character shone out in Naaman’s household.
And it is totally in keeping with what we as the Children of God are called to BE
St. Paul exhorts us to live godly lives.
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:1&2)
That young girl’s lifestyle caused her to speak up.
And by so doing she paid a significant part in Naaman’s healing
She could have looked away and done nothing. She might have been ridiculed – she could have even been laughed at – but she took her courage in her hands and spoke to her master’s wife.
I wonder what sacrifices our Lord might want us to offer up – if we are going to be used by God to preach the Good News for the “healing of our nation.”