It is hard to imagine what it is like to be abducted as a little girl and ripped from your home and all you know, and then find yourself living in terror. On October 4, an eight-year-old girl was abducted from her front yard in Fresno, California. An Amber Alert was issued. Eleven hours later, a "Good Samaritan" recognized the truck, cut it off in traffic, and helped secure the safety of the little girl. Thankfully the little girl was returned to her mother due to his thoughtful and courageous actions. Yet I know that we all hate that this ever happened to her.
Centuries ago, another little girl was abducted from her home by a raiding party that invaded Israel during a dark time:
Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel ... (2 Kings 5:2).
This is the story of Naaman, an important general from Aram who had a horrible skin disease, and his servant girl who sent him to Elisha to be healed (2 Kings 5:1-19). The story unfolds straightforwardly. In fact, we will look at the story in the old Joe Friday way, "Just the facts ma'am!"
Fact One: Great Man, Tough Situation (2 Kings 5:1)
Naaman was a great commander in the army of Aram. God had won victories through Naaman, but he had an awful skin disease, possibly leprosy.
Fact Two: Young Girl, Awful Circumstances (2 Kings 5:2)
This unnamed young girl had been taken from her home by a raiding party and now was a household slave for Naaman's wife.
Fact Three: Young Girl, Great Faith (2 Kings 5:3)
Despite her own circumstances, this young girl had compassion on her master Naaman, and believed that the great prophet Elisha could heal him.
Fact Four: Great Man, Unusual Trust (2 Kings 5:4)
Naaman was either desperate enough or trusting enough to take this young girl's word and he went to the King to solicit help to go to the prophet and get healing.
Fact Five: Great Man, Great Respect (2 Kings 5:5-6)
Naaman was so highly respected by this king that the king supplied an incredible amount of money and clothing ($3.5 million dollars by today's standards) to help ensure that Naaman was healed.
Fact Six: Fearful King, Little Faith (2 Kings 5:7)
The King of Israel was weak and fearful, thinking the gift and the healing were part of a trap because such healing seemed impossible to him — he did not have the faith of the little slave girl!
Fact Seven: Man of God, Great Faith (2 Kings 5:8)
Elisha rebukes the king and emphasizes that there is a true prophet of God in the land who can carry out Naaman's wishes.
Fact Eight: Great Man, Simple Command (2 Kings 5:9-12)
Naaman arrives at Elisha's house with great pomp, and Elisha sent his servant out to tell Naaman to go immerse himself seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman is offended by Elisha's actions and his simple command. He expected something dramatic.
Fact Nine: Simple Servants, New Man (2 Kings 5:13-14)
Naaman's servants lovingly tell him that even though the act is simple, the prophet promised healing, and urged him to obey. When he did obey, he was healed — his skin was as good as a newborn baby.
Fact Ten: Great Man, Changed Man (2 Kings 5:15-19)
Naaman was more than just healed; his heart was also changed to believe in the One True and Living God. He was committed to honor God, even though his master and king back home worshiped idols.
Now more than just a story, this is a God-story intended for us. It is a reminder that no matter how dark it is on our side of the mountain, God can use us to bring his light and life to those trapped in darkness. Let's notice at least four messages for us in this simple story. God tells us ...
- "I want all people saved!" (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4)
Throughout the Old Testament, God reminded his people that he had called them to share his blessings with others so that all nations could come to believe in him (Genesis 12:1-3). Salvation, as Jesus demonstrated in his own ministry (Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35), involved both physical well-being and also spiritual rebirth. God wants us to work for both in the lives of all people!
- "You have a God-story to share!" (1 Peter 3:15-17; Mark 5:19)
If a little girl, abducted and far from home, can share her story with a powerful man and help him find healing, imagine what a difference telling our God-story can make in the lives of those around us.
- "You have a part to play!" (1 Peter 4:10-11; Matthew 23:11)
Notice that the heroes in this story are all servants! The little servant girl helps Naaman find healing. Elisha's servant communicates to Naaman what he needs to do. Naaman's servants urge him to obey even though the command is simple. If these simple servants can bring great blessing, imagine what blessings we can bring to others if we choose to serve them.
- "I can make you new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Mark 2:1-12)
God wants to bring us both physical and spiritual healing. While we are often brought to God because we face physical challenges beyond our ability to fix, our biggest need is to be made new spiritually. Naaman reminds us that this can happen and change our lives forever.
It's hard to imagine a worse beginning — the abduction of a little girl during a time of war — that leads to such a redemptive ending. Let's remember that God can use us, even in our darkest moments, to bring light on the dark side of the mountain!