Some might say that the only time in history that there was peace in Israel was when David was king. That is not really true, since only for a brief time was Israel unified, and it began to break up soon after it had come together. Israel was the center of the world. It was the major trading post from north to south and east to west. With such prominence, there is no wonder why everyone always wanted it, and even those within its ranks looked to take control.
The story that we have this week is found within the divided kingdom many years after Solomon in the reign of Jehoram. Known to be favored by God, Naaman was an Aramaean military general who was quite successful and posed a great threat to Israel. The story starts when his slave wife encourages Naaman, who has a mild form of leprosy, to seek a cure.
So, with orders, the general makes his way to the court to plead his case to the King. In a slightly comical slant, the King, not really paying attention, takes the letter to be a threat and tears his clothes, a sign of getting ready for war. Nevertheless, Elisha quickly diffuses the situation and asks the king to send the man to him.
When Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house, Elisha gives a dose of humility, sending a servant with a prescription for the cure. Which did not make Naaman happy. Expecting to have a quick magical cure, Naaman was ready to head home rather than wash in the Jordan as prescribed. At that point the captive girl, his slave wife, pleads with Naaman to follow what the prophet said. With a good logical argument, namely “You’re already here, why not?” He went to the Jordan, washed, and was made new; literally “His flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.”
One could do a whole sermon series on this passage, it is so full of good topics. However, thinking of it in terms of healing, which is the primary focus of this passage, it took a lot for Naaman to seek and follow through. One could say that the healing Naaman received was a lesson in being humble and accepting direction he might not have liked.
First, he has to go to a foreign ruler, then is not really even given the time of day by Elisha, and finally has to follow a cryptic prescription. However, once he comes to trust, with the help of his captive, he is not just restored, but made almost anew.
God heals and commands us to go out into the world and heal others. How are you a healing person? What situations around you are in need of healing? How can the church be an agent of healing?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen