2 Kings 5:1–14
The encounter between Naaman the Syrian and Elisha is a dramatic story of an Israelite prophet ministering to a non-Jew. Significantly, Jesus referenced this story to the crowd in Nazareth, explaining to the Jews gathered there that His ministry would extend to the Gentiles. The reference very nearly got Jesus thrown off a cliff (see Luke 4:27–30).
So this story has always been used to show how God’s compassion is extended even to Israel’s enemies.
Naaman was a successful commander in Syria’s army. On one raid he had captured and enslaved a young Israelite girl. When Naaman contracted a skin disease, she selflessly encouraged him to seek out Israel’s prophet Elisha who was headquartered in Samaria. Naaman sought and received permission from his commanding officer to go for treatment, and his commander promised to send him along with a personal letter to guarantee Naaman’s safe conduct.
Sometimes even our best intentions can be misinterpreted when a relationship is characterized by mistrust. Such was the case when Naaman presented his letter of safe conduct to the king of Israel. This was probably King Joram (see 2 Kings 3:1–3).
Although Joram wasn’t as wicked as his father, Ahab, he obviously did not have a strong enough relationship with God to see God’s activity in this situation. He interpreted the king of Aram’s letter as a pretense to attack Israel.
Elisha the prophet clearly saw God’s hand in the situation. He assured the king God was orchestrating events for His glory so Naaman “will know there is a prophet in Israel.”
Instead of fawning over Naaman, Elisha sent a messenger to tell him to wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be clean.
Being sent away by a messenger was clearly not what Naaman expected. He was used to a certain level of respect, and he took being dismissed to wash in the Jordan as a sign of disrespect.
Have you ever been disappointed in the way God chose to act in a given situation? Maybe you had been praying for years for a chance to lead a specific person to Christ, only to see that person come to faith through someone else. Or maybe you were praying for your church to lead a revival in your city, and God indeed sent a revival — through someone else’s church. Our pride can get in the way of experiencing God’s help as well as rejoicing in God’s providence.
It took another of Naaman’s servants to convince him to do what the prophet said, so for the second time in this story, one of Naaman’s servants shows him the way to be healed. Naaman may have had some struggles with pride, but they weren’t so great they prevented God from working in his life. Naaman went to the Jordan and washed, and his flesh was restored.
Beloved, is your pride standing in the way of God doing a work in your life? Humble yourself! Follow God’s instructions and receive His healing.
By James Jackson
James Jackson is pastor of Glynwood Baptist Church in Prattville, Alabama.