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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, October 16, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Kings 5:1–3, 7–15

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.” But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.” (NRSV)

It’s interesting to think about the relationships between all the characters in this story. First, there is Naaman, who is described as a mighty warrior. He had a lot of social power, and some of that because of his violence. He was in high favor with the king, because he had been able to conquer and dominate others. He had led raids on other peoples and kidnapped a young girl who was forced into servitude, made into a slave, serving Naaman’s wife.

Naaman had power, political respect, and material wealth. We don’t read it in this selection, but in verse five he gathers his wealth to buy his health from the king of Israel. He brings “ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.” Naaman had it all, but still he suffered. He had a skin disease that he was willing to pay a lot to be healed from.

The kidnapped slave girl has none of Naaman’s power, but she has wisdom, respect for people, connections enough to know who can heal. This is a different kind of power. She also has compassion for his suffering, enough to offer the people resources that he needs.

Naaman’s servants also have a kind of power different from Naaman’s but similar to that of the young girl. They listen and they trust the words of Elisha, the prophet. When Naaman gets angry and is about to walk away from his own salvation, his own healing, his servants encourage him to listen and trust—to try the healing that Elisha offers.

After doing these things—listening, trusting, and trying—Naaman is healed to such a degree that he is transformed into a servant himself. Naaman goes to the prophet Elisha and says, “Please accept a present from your servant.” Naaman is transformed from a military leader into a servant leader.

Loving God, help me to listen, trust, and try the things that can heal me. Give me humility to learn from those around me. Help me to be a servant leader, filled with wisdom, respect for people, and compassion for all those who suffer. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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