The past few months, I've been slowly... very slowly, actually... studying my way through I and II Kings. It has been eye opening, to say the least!
When I came to the story of Naaman (2 Kings 5), I figured I might move through it a little more quickly; after all, it is an account I know pretty well, one I've both studied and taught as well as heard taught several times. I was wrong. I probably camped out there for at least a week! I just love how God's Word is like that - the familiar reveals even more profoundness even as it re-iterates and cements the already learned and observed - challenging me to apply truth to daily life.
Verses 9-12 were like that for me as I worked through this chapter. Naaman had certainly built up some expectations for how things would play out when he finally saw Elisha, the prophet. He imagined something impressive and life-changing, something he believed honored the position, power and authority he carried with him. He had constructed in his mind a protocol of how Elisha should, and would, treat him. It didn't happen. In fact, he never even saw Elisha. Elisha sent instructions to the front of the house with a messenger.
I must admit, that as I reflected on this fact, I was surprised. Our theme this year at church has been James 4.8 " Draw near to God and He will draw near to you..." Naaman had come all this way, seeking cleansing and restoration of health. His infirmity had pushed him into the place of seeking the Lord. Here he is, at the door to God's prophet's house - and the only one to speak to him is a messenger. I found myself asking, "Why?"
The Bible describes Naaman's reaction: he ragingly, furiously stalks off. The word translated fury comes from a primitive root that means to "crack off." In other words, he cracked. It really isn't too surprising considering where Naaman was - sick, scared, vulnerable in a foreign land (where relationships weren't always on the best foot) trying to track down a magic cure and wondering what the chances really were. He was surprised - at least in my experience with people who call themselves here - "healers" generally want to be seen, they want to impress and intimidate others with their power, and they want a recompense. Naaman had come prepared for all of that. I believe he was prepared to grovel a bit, but never dreamed he'd be summarily dismissed with directions to bathe in the river. He was probably exhausted, embarrassed, offended, humiliated, helpless, and hopeless - as now the only optimistic possiblity he'd found, to which he could cling, had unraveled. Not only did the prophet refuse to see him, but the ridiculous “cure,” he offered was insulting and odious. Naaman expected a powerful, flashy display or a clear miracle of God dramatically performed. He hated being told by a lowly messenger to go wash in what he considered a dirty, yucky river.
As I reflected on this, I started asking myself the following questions:
- How often do I come to God with needs/requests/desires – and then get offended when God doesn’t respond as I wanted, hoped, expected, or believed I deserved?
- Instead of honoring God (or am I considering it an honor that I'm willing to ask for His aid - which reeks of pride and self), am I demanding that God honor me in some way?
- James 4 continues, listing aspects of how we are to draw near to God: hands cleansed, double-mindedness purified, with sorrow for our state and in humility. If I don't come broken and not "full of me," have I actually drawn near? Or have I only done so on my terms, not the Lord's?
- And that thought leads me to ask a question: Can you see a parable of salvation hidden in this story? If so, what does it teach me about what to expect, what sort of attitude is essential in both me and in others, as I seek to lead them closer to Jesus?
It has been a few weeks, and I'm still wondering... mulling over those questions. How about you? What do you think?