Key Texts: 2 Kings 5; Mark 1:40-45; 2 Kings 2:1-15; John 15:5; Rom. 6:4-11; 6:1
The lesson this week comes from 2 Kings 5, the record from the time of the ancient kings of Israel, a time period from about 970 – 560 B.C. When you read the record of those times, it becomes quickly apparent that there was a lot of tumult and upset.
The particular story the lesson focuses on is an unusual and unlikely story about a little girl whose name we do not know. She was a servant of a very important man from a neighboring country, a man named Naaman who is described as being a commander of the Syrian army, a great man, highly regarded by the king, and a valiant soldier. He was not, however, a follower of the God of Israel, the God of Abraham.
Naaman, though very powerful, found himself in dire circumstances because he concentrated leprosy, a most dreaded disease in antiquity, a disease that often caused people to be cut off from society so as not to bring about the infection of others. In the case of Naaman, this disease is what brought him into contact with Elijah, the great prophet of God.
- It would be good to pause here to think about how often adversity causes people to be open to interaction with God. Can you think of people who became open to God because their adversity put them into some extremity they could not cope with?
According to 2 Kings 5:1-7, we learn that there was in Naaman’s household a captive slave girl who had come from Israel. We have no details in the Bible about the girls identity or how she came to be in Naaman’s home. We only know that into the middle of Naaman’s dire circumstances, the little girl inserted information about a prophet of God who could heal Naaman’s ailment. For some reason, Naaman was so taken with the words of the little girl, that he asked permission of his King to go to visit the prophet.
Here is an occasion to think about where God’s agents might be found and what form they might take.
- When the little girl was taken captive, who would have thought that she could become an agent of God at the very apex of Syrian power? What thoughts do you have here about how what looks like something terrible might end up being something God can use for a good purpose.
- Do some “holy speculating” about the conduct of the little slave girl that would have caused her comments to her master to be taken with seriousness.
The interchange between Naaman and the prophet Elijah has some interesting twists and turns to it not the least of which is that the prophet, without coming out to even greet the great man, told him to go dip in the muddy Jordan River seven times and he would be healed.
- Naaman’s prideful initial rejection of the suggestion is worthy of a few minutes reflection. How often do you think pride gets in the way of good and even godly things?
- What comments might be made about the skillful way in which Naaman’s retinue gently persuaded him to go ahead and dip in the Jordan? Do you think there are any life-lessons to be taken from that interchange? What might those who deal with the powerful of earth learn from this?
We are left to picture in our own minds the unfolding of the scene as Naaman dipped in the river seven times then to discover himself fully healed, his skin becoming “like that of a young boy.” (2 Kings 5:14).
The response of Naaman to his healing is an interesting one. With great joy, he announced “there is no God in all the world except in Israel” after which he offered gifts to the prophet. At this point we might contemplate several things:
- What might we make of the joyous response to the acts of God that saved Naaman. Do you see any parallels to salvation now?
- What do you think of Naaman offering gifts to God’s agent Elijah? Do you think he should have accepted the gifts? What dangers do you see in accepting such gifts? What lessons might a missionary learn from this episode?
- Notice the comment made by Jesus (Luke 4:27) many centuries later to the effect that “Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elijah and none of them was cleansed save Naaman the Syrian.” What reflections come to your mind as you think of this? What do you think had happened in the house of Israel that only Naaman was healed? What parallels do you see for today? What cautionary lessons might we learn to help prevent such a circumstance today?
There is one last happening in this story that might well have implications for missionaries. According to 2 Kings 5:18-19, Naaman’s adoption of Israel’s God caused him problems at home in that he still had to go into the temple of Rimmon to accompany the King at worship. It seems Elijah supported Naaman’s plea for pardon for this practice.
- What might this tell about expectations when it comes to new believers enculturating into their new belief systems? What happens if they adjust too quickly? What happens if they do not adjust at all?
- What does this story tell us about God? Might it be that the intentions of the heart are of more significance to Him than mere appearances? How do we know what the genuine motivations of another person’s heart are?