Summary: It is a mark of true leadership to be able to take advice from those whom we lead
THE DRAWING OF NAAMAN THE OUTSIDER
‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Those who were ‘far off are made nigh by the blood of Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:13). Holistic healing comes to those who are outside (Luke 4:27).
Naaman, as commander of the Syrian army, was a “great” man (2 Kings 5:1), expecting “great” things (2 Kings 5:13). The king of Syria held him in high esteem, because “through him the LORD had given deliverance to Syria.” It is good that, so early in this account, Yahweh, the God of Israel is acknowledged as the One who brings victory - even to Israel’s enemies! The one true and living God is Sovereign over all.
Naaman was a mighty man, but he was afflicted by some form of a leprosy. This circumstance occasions the introduction of the second significant person in this narrative: a “little maid” who waited on Naaman’s wife (2 Kings 5:2). One of the ironies of this passage is that the on-going faith of this little Israelite slave-girl, far from her home, would eventually lead to great and mighty Naaman’s diseased flesh becoming renewed, “like that of a little boy” (2 Kings 5:14). Maintaining our Christian witness in the hard places of life reaps benefits in the lives of others, however unlikely it may presently seem.
We may forgive the vagueness of the little girl’s advice (2 Kings 5:3). We are prone to see the hand the LORD uses, rather than the LORD who uses the hand.
True to his position and the limits of his own expectations, Naaman makes his approach through his preconceived chain of command (2 Kings 5:4): from his king to Israel’s king (2 Kings 5:5). He took a gift, and a letter from the king of Syria which almost started a war (2 Kings 5:6-7)! Our ways, so often, are not the LORD’S ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and the king of Israel is first to admit that it is God alone who can give life (2 Kings 5:7).
Enter Elisha… or not! In fact Elisha, whose name means ‘my God saves’ remains off-stage in this whole drama. The “man of God” sent a message to the king of Israel: “Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8).
Naaman and his entourage hit the road again, this time stopping outside Elisha’s house (2 Kings 5:9). Again the prophet used his messenger service: “Go and wash in Jordan…” (2 Kings 5:10). How rude: did Elisha not realise how important this dignitary was?
The means the LORD used for Naaman’s healing is neither what he expected (2 Kings 5:11), nor what he wanted (2 Kings 5:12). The way of salvation may seem so simple as to be insulting: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved’ (Acts 16:31).
Naaman again had to look down the chain of command to find sound advice. It is a mark of true leadership to be willing to take advice from those whom we lead.
The commander’s indentured servants effectively argued, “If the man says ‘Wash and be clean’ why not try it?” (2 Kings 5:13). Naaman immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as instructed, and was cleansed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:14). The holistic nature of Naaman’s healing is seen in his subsequent confession of faith: “I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15).
Here and now is, after all, the time of God’s favour (2 Corinthians 6:2). I am reminded of the conversation between the Ethiopian ambassador and Deacon Philip (Acts 8:36-38). Faced with the challenge of the gospel (Romans 10:9), including the call to baptism (Matthew 28:18-20), we need to swallow our pride, ignore our cultural prejudices and presuppositions, take faith by the hand, trust, and obey.
Finally, a word to the church. None of us should be uncaring concerning the sufferings of the people around us, and their hopelessness without Christ. Naaman’s trip to Israel anticipates the preaching of the gospel ‘in all the world for a witness unto all nations’ (Matthew 24:14).
None of us is too insignificant, too inexperienced, or too young to share the gospel with others. Without the little slave girl overcoming her timidity and speaking out for the LORD, Naaman might never heard about Elisha. And neither would he have been healed, nor come to faith in Yahweh.