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2 Kings 5:1-14

This time we look at how just a casual remark, like the casual meal for the Shunammite woman in study six, opened the door for God to step in and do something amazing. In this case, it was a miraculous healing. There are only three, short verses written directly relating to this young Jewish girl, but there is an amazing testimony as a result. Her intervention and the events that followed from it have been recorded for the whole earth to read about, generation after generation.

The young girl had been captured during one of the raids by Syria on Israel. She had been chosen by Naaman - probably at the slave market in Damascus - from all the girls available to serve his wife. Obviously he thought she was the best. Probably as a result of her parents’ prayers and her own cry to God, she arrived in a happy home.

She would have been chosen for:

  • Her beauty;
  • Her demeanour;
  • Her humility;
  • Her willingness to serve.

Response to adversity

This young girl could have responded to her abduction by being sulky, uncooperative, spiteful, resistant and disobedient. She had been captured by a foreign nation and taken to a foreign land with its foreign customs and traditions. Her family would have warned her about such people, who served different gods and lived by different values. But this girl did not have the mentality of a slave. It is clear that she had been brought up to have faith in God and wasn't prepared to renounce it, even in changed circumstances. She settled down in a good home and threw herself into being a good servant to Naaman’s wife. Despite her difficult situation, God was able to use this girl to glorify His Name and to bring about change for her good.

She was not ashamed of her background or faith and, when she realised that her new master was suffering from the scourge of leprosy - a common and demeaning skin disease of those times - it seemed natural for her to speak up. The apostle, Peter, in the New Testament, encourages believers to have a similar readiness to speak up for their faith. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) This echoes perfectly the girl's life and witness. She firmly believed that the prophet, Elisha, in her own country could bring the power of God into her master's life and heal him of this horrible disease.

Hope in the darkness

Undoubtedly, when Naaman first realised that he had symptoms of leprosy, it would have struck him like a mortal blow. We are told that he was a valiant soldier, highly regarded by his master, the king, but leprosy was a much-feared disease. It wasn't necessarily fatal in all cases, but it was highly contagious and Naaman knew that he would be obliged to live in seclusion from others, ostracised by his fellow officers and the whole of society. The law of Moses required people afflicted with leprosy to live separately from others, to wear a mask and call out a warning to anyone who approached. (Leviticus 13:45-46) It would have been far worse even than the "lockdowns" that followed outbreaks of Covid around the world in 2020. Although Naaman's nation didn't directly follow the law of Moses, there was a universal fear of any form of skin-disease, such as leprosy, that would have followed him around for the rest of his life.

The young Jewish maid must have heard many of the amazing stories of what God had done through Elisha and, previously, through Elijah in her home nation. She knew that there was someone in Israel who would pray for God to heal her master. She must have prayed and carefully chosen the right time to drop in her casual comment to Naaman’s wife that there was hope for her husband, if only he was willing and able to make the journey to Israel. Naaman and his wife were clearly ready to grasp at any straw that offered such hope. How much of this was due to the attitude of their young slave girl and how she had behaved since coming into their household? The fact that this short story appears in the Bible indicates clearly that she had been placed in this house by God for a purpose. When the time was right, she acted with faith and courage to help this soldier who was one of the enemy that had fought against her own people and conquered them.

Looking out for Number One

Naaman's own master, the king, was fully prepared to support him in his quest for healing and writes a letter of introduction for him to the king of Israel. Naaman takes with him a considerable fee and sets off to find Elisha. He arrives in Israel and pays his respects to the king who, on reading the letter, promptly jumps to the conclusion that his neighbour is trying to pick a fight with him! It doesn't seem to occur to the king to seek help from God through the prophet, Elisha. His first thought is only for himself and his own position. Nonetheless, Elisha hears about it and immediately sees a great opportunity to remind their neighbours that the God of Israel is a living, almighty God and not some dumb idol that serves only to represent a comforting but totally false notion of reality.

Naaman turns up at Elisha's house and assumes that he will be treated as a VIP and given special treatment because he is able to pay. He is shocked and angry when Elisha doesn't even show him the courtesy of meeting with him but treats him like a servant, sending out a messenger with instructions to go and wash himself seven times in the River Jordan. Despite the grim future that he faces, Naaman is still concerned primarily with himself, his status and position. His pride is affronted.

Many people want to "do business" with God on the basis of being equals. They want to "trade" with God, offering wealth, position, status or simply a lifetime of "good works" in exchange for a guarantee of "heaven" and eternal life. But God is a heavenly Father who wants to draw us into His family and adopt us. We have to come to Him as children. "Truly I tell you: anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:15)

Healing - of body, heart and mind

Naaman nearly lost out on his one opportunity to be healed of leprosy and to put his faith in the one true, living God for eternity. Fortunately, his own servants show greater wisdom and understanding than their master. Had they perhaps also been influenced by the faith and courage of the young, Jewish slave? They persuade him to step aside from his pride; to accept the simplicity of what Elisha is asking and not to overcomplicate things. Naaman agrees and follows Elisha's instructions to the letter. Immediately, he is cleansed of the leprosy. His flesh is restored "like that of a young boy".

But the healing process had gone a lot deeper. Naaman had recognised the presence and power of the one, true God. This God had refused to accept him on the basis of his position, wealth or power, but was more than willing to give him the deepest desire of his heart out of simple love for a man who was willing to humble himself and step out in faith. Having found the one, true God, Naaman repents of his previous idolatry and gives himself wholly to God alone.

Like a mustard seed

"The kingdom of God is like... a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted... it becomes the largest of all garden plants." (Mark 4:30-32)

Only two sentences are written in the Bible about this slave girl and yet her impact is phenomenal. What she says is repeated to two kings. One responds negatively and one responds positively. (2 Kings 5:5-7) Her faith touches her master and his whole household and brings both healing and salvation to the house. We can also see how this young girl illustrates a number of attitudes that we are encouraged elsewhere in Scripture to develop.

  • She expresses her faith in words. (Matthew 21:16)
  • She expresses her faith in action. (James 2:14-26)
  • She was young, but didn't hold back from contributing something positive. (1 Timothy 4:12)
  • She was moved with compassion for a person in desperate need. (Zechariah 7:9-10)

Being witnesses

Why is it so important that we share our faith? God's word shows the importance of being witnesses to His presence and power in the world.

  • We have been given the ministry of reconciliation and need to fulfil it. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
  • We have been given instructions to take our good news all over the world. (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • We are baptised in the Holy Spirit so that the body of Christ can continue the ministry that Jesus began. (Acts 1:5; Acts 1:8)
  • We have been chosen in Christ Jesus to be fruitful. (John 15:16)
  • Jesus is God’s faithful witness. As we are made like Him, we shall also be faithful witnesses. (Revelation 1:5)
  • Faith undoubtedly grows as we share the life of Christ with others. (1 Timothy 6:12)

Practical guidelines

This unknown and, apparently, insignificant girl was dragged away from all that was familiar to her, but held on to her faith and trust in God. If she had not spoken up when she did, Naaman would have been lost. Many scriptures speak of our need to "speak up" for Jesus and we never know when something we say may totally change someone's life. We cannot meet the needs of people ourselves; only God can save them. But we can prepare ourselves in various ways so that, when an opportunity arises, we can grasp it with both hands. For example:

  • We can pray. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • We can allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. (Acts 1:8)
  • We can talk of our experience and knowledge of Jesus and what He has done for us. (John 3:17)
  • We can be prepared. (For example, by learning key scriptures by heart.) (1 Peter 3:15)

Questions to consider

  • What effect are our words having?
  • Are we speaking faith-filled words OR death-filled words?
  • Are our actions showing the reality of our faith?

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