20. To Naaman

“God turned up” Meditations: 20 :  To Naaman

2 Kings 5:9-11 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry

Throughout this series we have been considering the times when God turned up in people’s lives as recorded in the Old Testament, but the truth is that many people would prefer God not to turn up. They are very happy to keep God at a distance, or even ignore Him altogether. Naaman was such a person. I suspect that he considered himself such a ‘big man’ that he had no need for the gods, and as for the God of the Israelites, well He didn’t seem to be doing very much for them, so why bother with him.

Yes, Naaman was a big man: “Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier.” (2 Kings 5:1) Now the Hebrew writer acknowledges that it was the Lord who had given Naaman victory, but I doubt that that was how Naaman saw it. So here was Naaman with everything going well, but then we are told, but he had leprosy.” If only it had been a cold it would have been a different story, but leprosy can’t be ignored. Now fortunately for Naaman he has a slave girl who had been taken from Israel and she says to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (v.3). Well when you have leprosy beggars can’t be choosers!  So Naaman first goes to his king who sends him to the king of Israel who sends him to Elisha the prophet. When all else fails, people desperately resort to God. Elisha is God’s man, so go to Elisha.

So we find Naaman, the great army commander of Aram setting out to see an otherwise inconspicuous character called Elisha. Basically he wants God to turn up for him and heal him. He’s looking for a big spectacular healing. He’s a big spectacular man and he expects the spectacular from this God of Israel. “So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.” (v.9) Note the plurals – horses and chariots. When you are commander in chief you don’t travel alone. So what happened? How did God ‘turn up’?

“Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” (v.10). That’s not very spectacular! That’s just the messenger boy (Elisha) bringing a message from the boss (God). Moreover it’s a pretty mundane message! Go and dip yourself in the Jordan seven times! Whatever is that about? Naaman obviously thought similarly: “But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.” (v.11,12). There you are, that’s what Naaman wanted – a touch of the theatrical! Come out, call on God, wave a magic wand over the leprosy and lo and behold, it’s gone!

Well that’s not actually how God wants to do it, Naaman! Fortunately he had some wise servants with him: “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, `Wash and be cleansed’!” (v.13) They recognised he wanted the great endeavour, or the spectacular, but isn’t this easier? Naaman takes the point and goes and dips seven times in the Jordon and on the seventh time, God turned up – quietly! He just healed him!

What’s the point here? Well certainly it is that God doesn’t turn up at our beck and call. He comes when He sees the time is right and He comes in the way He sees will be the most effective. Naaman needs to be humbled and needs to acknowledge the Lord and be obedient to Him – whatever He says!

So, have we learned these lessons? The Lord isn’t our servant; we are His! We don’t tell Him what to do, He tells us!   As little children the Lord tolerates our demands but that doesn’t mean to say He will give us what we demand!  We need to learn that He knows best and if the best involves bringing a dose of humility into our lives, so be it!  If the best means teaching us patience, then so be it! If the best means teaching us perseverance, so be it! Perhaps some of the most important words we can learn to pray are, “Lord, what do you want here?”  I am always impressed by some of the prophets; they listened to God, caught His will, and then prayed it! That’s a bit of a different approach to our demanding He conforms to our hopes and expectations. The trouble is that so often those hopes and expectations are less than God’s!  Dare we listen with ears that can hear big things? Perhaps there’s a new lifestyle to be taken on board?

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