Authored by Tina Kapp
Note: This story is adapted from 2 Kings chapter 5.
Life during Bible times was often pretty intense: Battles raged, kings ruled, kingdoms were conquered, and servants and slaves were a common part of life.
Some of the more recognized stories of servants or slaves we read in the Bible are of Joseph, who was sold as a slave by his brothers; or Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were taken captive and became servants of the king.
There is a servant girl mentioned who isn’t named in the Bible and is only referred to as “a young girl.” She was also taken captive from Israel and became a servant to the wife of Naaman. Naaman was a great warrior and the commander of the army of the king of Aram. As the commander of the army, he served the king. The Bible refers to the king as his “master” and Naaman as his “servant.”
One day, Naaman discovered that he had leprosy. One can imagine how devastating this was for him! He and his wife must have faced the eventuality of him being shunned by the community, losing his job, not being able to care for his family, not to mention enduring the painful and debilitating disease itself!
In spite of the slave girl’s plight as a captive in a foreign land, God used the situation for her to be His messenger and an instrument of His love. The slave girl told Naaman’s wife about Elisha, a prophet in Samaria, who could cure Naaman of leprosy. Of course, the wife immediately told her husband, who in turn got everything together in order to go to Israel for healing.
He took with him a bag filled with six thousand shekels of gold, and another one with 10 talents of silver. If that wasn’t enough, he also brought ten trendy new outfits! (Okay I’m just guessing they were trendy.) The king of Aram also wrote a letter on his behalf addressed to the king of Israel. It read, “I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
Somehow the king of Israel missed the memo that it was Elisha who was meant to do the praying and healing, so he got all stressed. He thought the king of Aram was trying to pick a fight with him. He tore his robe (which is what people in Israel used to do in dire situations) and 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?” These were all valid questions.
Thankfully, Elisha heard about the robe-tearing incident and rightly asked, “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
I’m sure Israel’s king felt relieved to have somewhere to send this desperate man, and so he sent Naaman with all his prezies off to see Elisha. When Naaman arrived at the door, Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
This was not the normal etiquette for when the commander of an army came to visit. Naaman was pretty offended that Elisha didn’t come out to talk to him himself. He was also probably angry that the prophet didn’t come and wave his hand over the spot and cure him with some dramatic flair. And maybe a little peeved that Elisha chose the River Jordan. It was not known to be the best swimming spot. The rivers of Damascus, Abana and Pharpar, were much nicer; Naaman grumbled that he could have just taken a dip there and saved himself the trip.
It was time for another good servant to step in and save the day, one of Naaman’s this time. The servant wisely pointed out, “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” Naaman thought about it and decided that his health was more important than his pride, and went and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times as the man of God had told him to do. His flesh was not only cured but it became as clear as a young child’s!
After such an amazing, life-changing miracle, Naaman’s heart was filled with happiness and gratitude. He raced back to Elisha, stood before him, and said, “Now I know that there is no God in the entire world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” Elisha, being the man of God that he was, knew he didn’t do the miracle and that healing is a gift from God, not a commodity to be bought. He kindly, but firmly, told Naaman that he would not accept anything.
Naaman then said he would never again make any burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord and asked for two loads of Israelite soil. It’s not specified why he asked for this, but I’ve read a few interesting theories. After he made this request he also asked if it was okay to bow down before a false god. The skinny was that, when he took his master to the temple of Rimmon to bow down, because his master would be leaning on his arm, he would naturally need to bow down with him. Since he now knew it was a false god, he wondered if the Lord would forgive him.
One theory is that he needed the soil to build an altar to God back home. Another interesting concept was that he could put the soil in the temple of Rimmon so that when he knelt down he would actually be placing his knees on the soil of the true God of Israel.
Elisha told him to go in peace.
I think the Lord knows what is at the heart of every situation. I would have otherwise thought that this would be a huge compromise for Naaman to make; everyone might assume he was thanking Rimmon for his healing. However, God certainly knows best. Maybe in this case He knew the example Naaman would set by being a good servant would cause his master to respect his testimony more. Who knows? Something we can take away from this is God’s understanding for the situations we find ourselves in.
After that exchange, Naaman happily started home and Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman … by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
Off he went running after Naaman. When Naaman saw him and asked him what was wrong, the greedy Gehazi made up a story about how Elisha had told him that two young prophets were coming to visit him and to please give them a talent of silver and two of those groovy outfits.
Naaman, of course, was more than happy to give it to him, and insisted he take two talents of silver instead. Gehazi happily stood waving till they were out of sight. Then he went and hid those things in his house.
Then, all chuffed at having pulled off this little scam, he skipped merrily back to Elisha’s house. The man of God immediately asked him where he’d gone. Elisha then told Gehazi that he knew exactly what he did and that this was not the time to take things as a reward. It would have undermined the credibility of the miracle God performed for Naaman. Because of that, Gehazi was cursed with the leprosy that Naaman had as a warning against greed and trying to sell God’s power.
I find this story fascinating, as so many characters played a pivotal role and many of them were servants. Sometimes we’re tempted to think that if we’re not a missionary or a pastor or a youth leader, our sample doesn’t really matter. We assume that it’s fine to keep our faith to ourselves, as someone more appropriate can share their wisdom instead.
God seems to like using people no matter where they are as long as they’re willing. Imagine if Naaman’s wife’s servant hadn’t told her about Elisha, or Naaman’s servant hadn’t told him to give the Jordan River a try, no matter how silly or simple it sounded. The healing might never have taken place.
It also shows that bad choices like Gehazi’s can have dire consequences, even though he, too, was a simple servant who probably thought his actions didn’t really matter. I think this part of the story shows that no matter what role you play, you are the only one to answer for the choices you make.
However, in spite of the mistakes we make with our choices, it helps to remember that we can still watch God work things together for good. We never know when an answer to prayer or a miracle might be right around the corner.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International