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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Naaman: Paying attention to servants

The story of Naaman gets just one chapter in the Bible (2 Kings 5). But there's an important lesson in that story.

Naaman was an important man. The king of Syria paid attention to him, and was personally concerned about his welfare. Naaman had leprosy. (We don't seem to be sure exactly what that was. Maybe what we now call leprosy, maybe not. It doesn't matter. He was sick, and he needed help.) A little Israeli slave girl told Mrs. Naaman that, if he were in Israel, Elisha the prophet of God could cure her husband's leprosy. Mrs. Naaman didn't have to listen to her slave girls at all. But she did. Then she told Naaman. Naaman didn't have to listen to his wife on this matter, either, especially when he found out the source of this suggestion, but he did. He told the king. The king paid attention to Naaman, too. (I don't know for a fact that Naaman knew where the idea came from, or that the king did, but, if I were in their shoes, I would have asked where it came from, if I weren't told. So they may have known that the slave girl was the source.)

So the king sent Naaman to Israel with a letter of introduction, which flummoxed the Israelite king, until Elisha, at God's prompting, sent a message to the king to send Naaman to him. Elisha didn't do something fancy -- he just told Naaman, through a messenger, perhaps his servant, Gehazi, to go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman wasn't happy about this. Surely he expected to at least see Elisha. He didn't want to wash in the Jordan. He considered his own rivers to be superior. Perhaps they were cleaner. But, again, Naaman had sense enough to listen to his underlings. They told him to go ahead and try it -- what did he have to lose? So he did, and was cured! This, of course, thrilled Naaman. He tried to pay Elisha, but Elisha said he wouldn't take anything.

Now Naaman would never have been cured if he had been too proud to listen to a servant. He must have had some good relationships with them, or the little girl wouldn't have cared if her captor got better or not, and the underlings wouldn't have dared to suggest anything to Naaman. There's a lesson in all this. My wife is not my underling, but, even if she were, I should listen to her suggestions about where to park and what to wear, etc. If I did have subordinates, or co-workers, I should listen to their ideas. Sometimes they might be more right than my ideas.

Gehazi, Elisha's servant, didn't listen to what was right. God must have spoken to him through his conscience. He decided to get something from Naaman, even if Elisha wouldn't take anything, but he tried to do it on the sly. He didn't tell Elijah. If what he did had been right, he wouldn't have had to sneak. He didn't listen, not to a servant, but to God himself. As a result, Gehazi got Naaman's disease. There's a lesson in there, too.

Thanks for reading.

3 comments:

Elliot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elliot said...

Good point!
And Naaman was able to look past his own patriotism, as well, his pride in his own country's rivers. So he had to exercise a lot of humility.

(The first time I commented I'd somehow missed that you already mentioned that fact.)

Martin LaBar said...

Well, it's easy not to get everything on a first reading. I seldom do.

Thanks for commenting!