Naaman is a powerful man. He is commander of the Aramean army which dominates the entire region. He is at the right hand of the King of Aram.
And yet he has a need. Something that is not right in his life, despite all his power and success and wealth and servants: he is a leper; a skin disease which makes him a social outcast.
We can tell that he is desperate to overcome this problem; that he has exhausted every other possible remedy…because he listens to his wife! Indeed, to be precise, to his wife’s servant, a girl captured from Israel. She says to her mistress that there is a prophet in Israel who will be able to heal her master’s sickness.
Naaman enlists the king’s help and they use all the panoply of power and diplomacy to get the Israelites to help.
The Israelite king is terrified by their request ‘am I God to give life or death that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?’
But Elisha hears of the kings plight and tells the king to send Naaman to him.
Then Elisha does something extraordinary….Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house, with his chariots and his horses and his trappings of power…and Elisha doesn’t even open the door. He shows absolutely no respect for this important man. He sends out a servant and says through him to Naaman, ‘Go and wash!’, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan’
Naaman is furious. ‘Why the Jordan? What’s wrong with the rivers of Damascus?’
But, amazingly, his servants bravely say to this senior soldier ‘if he had asked you to do something really difficult, would you not have done it? How much more should you do it when the prophet only says ‘wash and be clean’.
And he takes their advice. He healed and he is converted to the God of Israel.
One of the most frustrating things about Christian ministry, is that we can be very confident that we have the solution to many of the problems that our neighbours face: problems of identity, problems of value, problems of slavery to idols, emotional and physical illness of various kinds, all of these issues, and, yet, our neighbours cannot imagine that coming to Christ could possibly be the solution to their difficulties.
Why is that?
It is partly because of the same problem that Naaman had – pride.
The religion for which they have so little respect, perhaps because of encountering Christians who have disappointed them in the past cannot, in their view, be as helpful as some kind of New Age crystals, some kind of Eastern spirituality or mindfulness, some medical solution – some kind of drug, some kind of psycho therapy, when what they really need is to be reset, reborn, by their Creator.
It is also partly because not all of the Christians in our community have confidence in what the Lord can do and so they don’t tell them about it.
If we want to see suffering reduce; if we want to see our neighbours healed; we need to be for them what the Israelite girl and his other servants were for Naaman. We need to be willing gently to point them in the direction of the one person who can transform their situation, perhaps through attending the Alpha Course we will be running in the Autumn; so that they can wash and be healed
5 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”
He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Ki 5:1–14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.