Here is a story I wrote to tell in Sunday School. The story of Naaman is instructive for us when we think we know better than God.
The Story of Naaman
Adapted by: S.C. Mathisen
He was a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies but…he had a problem. The problem that he had was not with an enemy of his country. He could have dealt with that easy enough. The problem was not with an enemy in his own country. It wasn’t someone that was trying to do him harm. You see the king of his country thought very highly of him. Through him, his country had won many mighty victories over their enemies. It says in the Bible that the Lord had given them those victories, so the Lord was on his side. His problem was…with himself.
I could probably be talking about a lot of famous men, but there was one that lived a long time ago in the Kingdom of Aram. We call that country Syria now.
The man’s name was Naaman and he was a leper. The word used for leprosy in 2 Kings 5 could be translated as a “contagious skin disease” and is used to describe a variety of skin diseases, but that doesn’t really matter. What mattered was that “he was a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies but…he had a problem”. It’s hard to be “a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies” when you are not welcome at the victory celebrations and your fellow soldiers won’t (or can’t) hang out wth you. It’s very lonely and takes a lot of the fun out being “a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies” because you have a problem that no one can fix, except maybe the Lord. And as it turns out, the Lord had a little surprise for him.
It turns out that as Naaman was returning home one day after another victory in battle, one of his young servant girls was thinking about this problem and said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.” You see this little girl was captured from the land of Israel by one of the Aramean raiding parties that plagued Israel and had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. But, she was well treated. They had taken her into their home and she was fond enough of her master and mistress to make this suggestion.
Well, Naaman’s wife evidently thought that was a good idea so she told Naaman. Naaman thought it was a good idea and he went to the king and told him what the little girl had said and the king that it was a great idea. After all Naaman was “a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies but…he had a problem” and the king wanted to help him with it. So, the king said, without hesitation, “Go and visit the prophet.” Now you can’t just wander over into a country that you have been raiding and occasionally at war with and go looking for someone, especially when you are “a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies”. The local people and the king will start to get real nervous, so the king of Aram said “I will send a letter of introduction for you to carry to the king of Israel.”
So Naaman started out and he took with him some presents for the King of Israel. He took 750 pounds of silver (about $217,200 today), 150 pounds of gold (about $2,220,000 today) and ten sets of clothing (all of this was close to 2.5 million dollars!). The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.”
Well, the king of Israel did not know what to say. He was shocked by this request. He knew who Naaman was and was probably just a little bit nervous having him and his party of soldiers with horses and chariots with him. Not to mention being afraid of a man with leprosy! After he heard this request, he probably had to pick his jaw up off of the floor. The Bible tells us that “When the king of Israel read it, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can kill and give life? He is only trying to find an excuse to invade us again.”
Fortunately the prophet Elisha heard about the letter and the king’s reaction and sent a message to the king saying “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”
So Naaman, with all of his soldiers with horses and chariots (and probably the gold and silver and changes of clothing as well) went to see Elisha. They arrived and waited outside of Elisha’s house. But, Elisha did not go out and see him himself. He sent a messenger out with this message. “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of leprosy.”
Naaman was stunned. This was not what he expected at all! I am sure that he expected the great prophet to come out and greet him personally as one would any guest. He expected to be treated as an honored guest! I am also pretty sure that he expected Elisha to come out and pray for him, or put some special medicine on him –or- something grand and spectacular. After all he are “a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies”!
Elisha was not impressed. He knew that in God’s eyes even “a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies” was just like anybody else and needed to obey the word of the Lord. That was just what Elisha had given him, the word of the Lord and he needed to listen and to obey. That’s not what Naaman did. He got angry and stomped away yelling. The Bible tells us that he said “I thought he would surely come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! Aren’t the Abana River and Pharpar River of Damascus better than all the rivers of Israel put together? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
Let’s think, for a moment about what just happened. Do you ever ask God to do something or expect Him to do something and He either doesn’t give you what you ask for –or- He gives you something else completely different –or- He doesn’t do what you expect at all? What do you do when that happens? Do you get mad and stomp around yelling, do you get sad and disappointed? Do you stop believing in God just a little bit and thnk that He answers other people but not you?
God doesn’t always fit into our expectations. In fact, He very rarely does. He is much bigger than we can ever imagine and has bigger purposes than we can ever understand. God works on a much grander scale, but still cares about the little things in our lives.
I think that is partly what Naaman was thinking and feeling. Elisha (God’s man on the scene) was not performing up to his expectations and that disappointed him and it made him angry. Really angry. It’s ok to get angry with God and to tell Him that you are, but you need to listen to that voice of wise counsel too. Let’s see what happens next.
The officers in his army that he brought with him knew him really well and went to reason with him. They said “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply to go and wash and be cured!”
What do you think that Naaman did? I think that he was humbled by what his trusted and loyal officer told him, because the Bible next tells us that he went down to the Jordan and washed seven times. He didn’t just swish his hands around in the water. The Bible tells us that he dipped himself. He got completely immersed in the water. Not just once, but seven times just like Elisha had told him to do. He had become humble and obedient. Even “a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies” needs to be humble and obedient. He needed to put aside his pride.
Naaman then went back to see Elisha and offered all of the silver and gold and changes of clothing, but Elisha would not take anything and refused it all. Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” You can’t pay God for the things that He does for you.
Naaman learned that obedience leads to healing. But, he only learned that after he put aside his pride.
We also learned that Naaman needed someone to tell him about the true prophet in Israel and, in reality, about the one, true God.
So, even though he was a great and mighty warrior, the commander of all the king’s armies …he had a problem, that only God could fix.