Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Kings 5:1
We are continuing our look at contrasts in Scripture marked by the conjunction “but.” Today we have a straightforward one with the Syrian commander Namaan.
When I was a kid, this was a pretty popular story in the Sunday school rotation. Who knows, maybe it was a roundabout way to impress on all of us the importance of taking a bath. (Kind of like how Daniel 1 is used to encourage kids to eat vegetables.) But in the last fifteen or so years that I taught Sunday school, we never covered Namaan. So if you’ve missed out on his story, let me give you some background.
Namaan was the commander of the army of Syria. Syria had just soundly defeated the Israelite armies under King Ahab, who was joined by Judah’s King Jehoshaphat. You can read about the battle of Ramoth-Gilead in 1 Kings 22. The Jewish historian Josephus believes Namaan was the archer who fired the shot that eventually killed King Ahab. (1 Kings 22:34).
A quick check of his resume in 2 Kings 5:1 lists him as a great man, highly favored, victorious in battle (even God-given victories), a mighty man of valor. BUT he was a leper. Leprosy, as described in the Old Testament, could be anything from a regular rash that healed quickly to the incurable disease that often resulted in a loss of digits and eventually death. Leprosy made the sufferer an outcast. Sometimes people were stricken with leprosy as a judgment from God like with Moses’s sister, Miriam, and King Uzziah.
In Scripture, leprosy is a “type” of sin or kind of a symbol. Our sin cuts us off from God’s presence just like leprosy prevents the sufferer from joining with the community. The only cure for leprosy was divine intervention. The only way our sin can be dealt with is by Christ’s death on our behalf.
If you finish reading 2 Kings 5, you find that Namaan receives his cure. His wife’s maid, an Israelite captive, tells them of the mighty prophet Elisha who prescribes a cure for the commander. However, the cure involves humbly submitting to doing things the way the prophet said.
With all that in mind, let’s consider some takeaways from Namaan’s story.
The successful and powerful need Jesus.
A quick glance of any news broadcast– whether politics, sports, or entertainment– will reveal scores of people who have reached the heights of power and influence, but who are cut off from a relationship with the God of heaven. Pray that the “maid” who has access to them can tell the good news that there is a cure. Consider who you might be the “maid” or the “prophet” to.
Humility is hard but life-changing.
Not just for the powerful and influential, either. In 2 Kings 5:11, Namaan became furious because the healing was not going to come the way he envisioned. However, as soon as he gave up his protests and his pride and followed instructions, healing came. Consider the sources of anger or frustration in your life. Would those situations be helped or resolved by the humility?
The glory is God’s alone.
Namaan was overwhelmed by the miracle in his life and, in his enthusiasm, he wanted to give a generous gift to Elisha. The prophet refused. This not only sent a message that messengers of the One True God were different from the pagan priests and prophets in Syria (and Israel too), but that glory for the healing belonged to God. Elisha wouldn’t risk any misunderstanding of that. Consider where God deserves glory in your life and make sure He receives it.