Summary: Faith in Christ is not always easy, but simple. Elisha, Naaman, and his servants remind us to: 1. Offer a simple witness to someone in need 2. Encourage others to do the right thing, and 3. Accept what God offers you.
The Simplicity of Faith
There is a saying: “Nothing is as simple as it seems.” Sometimes that’s true. Someone well-meaning gives you advice, and you’re thinking, “You don’t know the half of it!” Or you plan something out, and Murphy’s Law kicks into gear, and makes life a lot more complicated than you ever expected. Yet, as we think about the Christian faith, maybe there is a certain simplicity to it. The truth is that God loves you. God loves you so much that he sent his only son to die for your sin and to rise back to life and conquer sin and death forever, so that you may have eternal life. And with that life that God gives us, Jesus says, very simply, to love God and to love others as yourself. That’s it. That’s pretty simple. Love God and love others. If we do those two things, everything else will sort itself out.
Today’s story is about simplicity. The main character is a famous military commander. In fact, he was probably a general officer, the commander-in-chief of his nation’s army. 2 Kings 5:1 calls him a “great man,” “highly regarded,” victorious, “a valiant soldier.” I imagine he was awarded a Legion of Merit, and no doubt received a Purple Heart or two. He wore the Ranger tab. He was a soldier’s general. He led from the front. His only downfall, besides his pride, was his personal health: he had leprosy.
Back then, leprosy was a blanket diagnosis for all kinds of highly infectious skin diseases. There was no cure. All people could do was isolate the lepers and hope they lived an okay life. This fellow obviously hadn’t been isolated in his country, but he knew the prognosis wasn’t good. Then, a slave girl told the man’s wife about a prophet back in her hometown that could heal. So he got with his king, who obviously liked him. The king of Aram gave him about 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold, along with a nice letter of reference to present to the King of Israel. The king of Israel wasn’t a strong believer, and was afraid this was all a ruse to pick a fight over an impossible task and start a war. Elisha heard the commotion in the palace and sent word that he would take care of this foreign general’s need.
So Naaman showed up at Elisha’s meager Samarian home, expecting a grand reception befitting his military rank. Yet, Elisha refused to even come out and greet the great general. Instead, he sent word through his servant for the soldier to bathe seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman was incensed and stomped off, muttering about the vastly superior quality of Aram’s rivers back home. But his servants eventually settled him down, talked some sense in him, and got him to obey God’s command. And he was healed. Healed completely!
Douglas Mullins, in his excellent article for “Ministry Matters” entitled, “When the Remedy is Simple” [https://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/3984/when-the-remedy-is-simple], speaks of three key turning points in the story. And I’ll order three life applications in parallel with these same turning points. The first turning point is when a nobody, a young child, a foreigner, a servant girl, offers help. She recommends to her master’s wife that her master try a prophet in Israel who can heal. From this servant girl, we learn lesson #1, which is to...
1. Offer a simple witness to someone in need.
This girl didn’t do much. All she did was show concern for her master and pass along information she thought might help him. She served as a witness. Much like you and I serve as a witness when we suggest to someone in need, “Have you tried prayer? I will be glad to pray with you. I know, when I’ve been upset, it has really helped when I’ve turned to God. He calms my nerves and gets me through the situation.”
In reflecting on the servant girl’s witness, Douglas Mullins says, “Never underestimate the power or the necessity of your personal witness to another in need.” It doesn’t take much. It takes some compassion, some care, some empathy, and some reflection of how much God has done for you. When you realize how far God has brought you, you naturally want to pass it along to someone else in need: “one beggar leading another beggar to the bread.” This girl did that...for a foreigner, for a person outside her social class, for a person much more powerful than she was. Yet, she knew Naaman needed God. We all need God...even generals. So she offered a simple witness.
The second life lesson comes from Naaman’s servants who accompanied him in his pilgrimage to Israel. It is a turning point in the story when they convince him to accept Elisha’s advice. The lesson we learn from these servants is to...