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The Unusual Story of Naaman

2 Kings 5:10 "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean."

Relations between Israel and Syria (sometimes known as Aram) in Elisha's day were tense at best. The Syrians had a formidable army and their commander was Naaman, a great leader and warrior. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was really no different than any other nation at this time, and the Lord gave Naaman success against Israel as an instrument in His hands to discipline the Israelites.

Unfortunately, Naaman suffered from leprosy, an incurable disease back then leading ultimately to death. There was no hope for a leper and most of them were isolated from mainstream society. A little Israelite girl who had been captured during one of Naaman's raids was apparently kindhearted enough to tell his wife about the prophet Elisha.

Taking a large amount of gold, clothing, and a letter with him, Naaman heads to Israel. The flustered Israelite king (Jehoram, a son of Ahab) has no idea what this was about. An enemy commander is at his door wanting to be healed and the helpless king thinks it's an act of aggression. It is no surprise that he doesn't even remember Elisha despite their having met before.

Naaman had certain expectations about his meeting with Elisha. As a powerful and famous commander, he expected to be greeted with deep reverence, much pomp, and great fanfare. He didn't receive any of these. The commander was standing outside Elisha's door. He didn't even bother so much as to go out and meet Naaman personally! Instead he receives instruction from a servant to go and wash in Jordan River seven times. Naaman is furious: "I came all this way to wash in a river? I could have done that back home!" He stomps off and were it not for the wisdom of his servants he would have left Israel unchanged. However, he listens, humbles himself, and follows Elisha's instructions--and is both healed and converted.

Even though his thinking was still pagan (asking to have two large carts filled with Israelite soil to carry home with him), his devotion to the Lord was genuine. He would sacrifice to the Lord alone from now on and asked for pardon whenever he entered with his master, the king of Syria, into the pagan temple back home. Sadly, this beautiful story was tainted by Gehazi's greed, but the lessons are still rich:

1. God is not a respecter of persons. He shows mercy to everyone who calls upon Him, regardless of their national background, even an enemy of Israel! Those persons least expected to receive His mercy are quite often His prime candidates!

2. God's mercy and grace are free, notwithstanding Gehazi's greed. No one can purchase his or her salvation or earn it by any other means. God's blessings must be received by faith.

3. An important ingredient for the activation of God's mercy to submit to God's way with humility. Proud Naaman needed to humble himself before he could be healed.

4. Naaman's washing in the Jordan was not itself a work to "merit" or "earn" the gift of healing. His activity was the outward expression of his faith in God's Word. Some people confuse "effort" with "earning." Genuine faith requires effort, which Naaman put forth, not in order to earn but in order to receive.

5. We need to be like that little Israelite slave girl who let her mistress know about Elisha. Apart from her testimony, Naaman would never have been healed. This unknown little girl was faithful to her Lord in sharing this information for Naaman to hear.

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