The path you choose may chart your destiny
We know little about her.
She’s a Jewish child and probably had a loving family. But she’s torn from them, seized by raiders and taken back with them to Aram (Syria). The child then becomes a slave in the household of Syria’s mighty general—Naaman. Scripture describes him as a “great man” and “valiant soldier,” saying the Lord had given him victory for Syria. It’s probably fair to say that Naaman was a national hero.
He was also a leper.
In Israel, those with leprosy were forced to live isolated lives, required to yell “Unclean!” upon coming near anyone. But the Syrians must have thought Naaman was too valuable for that, because he continued as their general. Even so, Naaman knows his days are limited—the disease will permanently damage his skin, his nerves, his feet, his eyes. He’s doomed.
One day, the Hebrew child tells Naaman’s wife about a prophet who can cure Naaman. The general hurries to the Syrian king, who immediately writes a letter to the king of Israel, asking him to cure Naaman.
It would seem that the general then raced south with his entourage of chariots and horses, hoping to find healing. Scripture says he took gifts of silver and gold.
Naaman isn’t prepared for what happens next: Israel’s king has a complete meltdown!
“Am I God,” he says “…that this man is sending word to me to cure…leprosy?” 2 Kings 5:7
Israel’s king tears his clothes, certain Syria is picking a quarrel with him.
Why did Jews tear their clothes? Remember Jacob tore his upon hearing of the death of his son Joseph. David tore his upon hearing of the deaths of King Saul and Jonathan. It’s what Jews did when overcome with emotion, often grief.
But who has died?
Israel’s king is grieving for himself! He knows Naaman is not to be toyed with. The general could snap Israel like a twig.
Fortunately, the prophet Elisha hears about the drama. “Why have you torn your clothes?” Elisha says. “Send him to me.” 2 Kings 5:8
Naaman is off again. Scripture says he comes with horses and chariots and stands at Elisha’s door. Obviously, he’s hopeful.
Again, the mighty general isn’t prepared for what happens. Naaman undoubtedly expected the prophet to lay hands upon him. SHAZAMM! Healing!
That’s not what transpired. In fact, Elisha doesn’t bother to come to the door. The prophet sends a messenger—Naaman is told to wash seven times in the Jordan.
Ohhhh! Naaman is insulted! Scripture says he’s “furious” and leaves in a “rage.”
But the general’s servants calm him down, talking Naaman into following Elisha’s words.
Once again, the general isn’t prepared for what happens. He dips down seven times, probably feeling foolish. Immediately, his skin is restored!
Naaman worshipped God from that day on.
You learn a lot about these people by how each reacted to the unexpected. Naaman took the words of a child to the king. No matter how slight the chance of healing, Naaman was determined to seize it.
But contrast that with his reaction to Elisha, unwilling to do the simple act of dipping into the Jordan. Why did his attitude change?
Naaman’s pride is hurt by Elisha’s behavior, and it almost gets the best of him.
Look at Israel’s king. He has an utter meltdown, completely overreacting, seeing Syrian pillage. His reaction might have started a war where none was intended.
Consider the king of Syria. Did he want to owe Israel a favor? No. But Naaman was too important to his country, so the king immediately acts.
Then there’s Elisha, scarcely lifting a finger. Not the least bit intimidated by the mighty general nor his display of chariots and horses.
Am I leaving anyone out? Think a moment. Who is the most important character in this story?
The little slave girl.
What do you want to bet she’s taken home to her family that same day, laden down with everything she could possibly want?
Many would resent their captors, but the little girl sought healing for Naaman. She returned good, despite the evil of slavery inflicted on her.
Scripture repeatedly says: Do not repay evil with evil. Romans 12:17-21, 1 Peter 3:9, Proverbs 17:13
Always take the high road. The path you choose may chart your destiny.
The Rev. Mathews (BA, MDiv, JD) is a faith columnist and seminary graduate. She’s the author of “Reaching to God” and the sweeping Christian novel, “Emerald Coast.” Contact her at Letters@RAMathews.com.
Copyright © 2017, 2018, 2012 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.