Do you remember the days of playing hide-and-go-seek? The object was to stay hidden as long as you could. Have you played this game lately? We may not be playing hide-and-go-seek, but we are hiding plenty of other things in our life. The world encourages us to try to live up to the image of perfection and grandeur, which has led us to feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness, just to name a few. What did you hide this week? It could be a simple, harmless thing or on the other hand very serious. Maybe a pimple with concealer, a few extra pounds with a body shaper; money you spent; an annoyance with a co-worker, talking intimately with another person other than your spouse; something you looked at on your computer; and the list could go on and on. Everyone experiences times in their life when they had rather no one know what is actually going on in their life. So we put on a smile, pull up our shield, and march onward. We were never meant to live in this silent prison, but in freedom with Christ.
In 2 Kings 2:5 the story of Naaman is conveyed to us through scripture. Naaman comes from the Hebrew verb naem, meaning delightful, pleasant, and beautiful. Naaman was a skilled warrior, the king’s confidant, and a highly regarded person in the Kingdom. In the eyes of most people he had it all: a great home, great job, respect, and lots of power. However, the tiny phrase “but” reveals everything is not genuine in his life. “He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” Naaman had a secret. Although Naaman had all these other things, he was riddled with pain, embarrassment, and separation due to the leprosy that continually wreaked havoc on his body. People with leprosy were quarantined to special camps and considered unclean. This disease could progress for many years, mangling the body, before it eventually took someone’s life. Naaman probably wondered how people would view him if they knew the truth- the real Naaman.
One of the captives, an Israelite girl, expressed hope for Naaman if he would seek the prophet in Samaria. Out of options and probably feeling like he was running out of time, he requested permission from the king to pursue the prophet. Because the King was fond of Naaman, he immediately dictated a letter and sent him on his way. Envision this entourage leaving the kingdom with soldiers, chariots, and riches; what a sight to behold! When Naaman arrived in Israel, he promptly sought after the king of Israel and presented the letter. Upon reading the message, the king was distressed and tore his robes because he was incapable of healing anyone. His immediate fear was that the king of Aram was trying to provoke a quarrel with him. Imagine Naaman’s face after traveling all this way for healing and having someone say it was impossible. He had put all his hope in this last ditch effort to be healed. However, God always has a plan and orchestrates it beautifully. Elisha sent a message to the king that he would heal Naaman so he could testify that a prophet resided in Israel. So Naaman rushes to Elisha’s house expecting this man to come out and perform a miracle over him. Here Naaman, second in command of his kingdom, stands at Elisha’s door, and Elijah does not even come out to greet him.
Instead, a messenger simply tells Naaman to go wash in the Jordan seven times. There were no fancy prayers, no hoopla, no fireworks, just a simple command. “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.” “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end leads to death” (Prov. 14:12)
Naaman is beside himself with rage. First he was sent to the lowly dwelling of a prophet, who did not even come out to meet him; and then he was sent off in this way, without any display or notice, to wash in the muddy Jordan River! His pride begins to swell, and he is about to miss his healing, when his servants come to his aide. Thankfully we all have those people in our life that speak logically to us when we are not being reasonable. The servants pleaded, “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’!” So Naaman swallowed his pride and dipped seven times in the Jordan River. Instantly his body was fully healed. He returns to Elisha’s house bearing gifts and exclaiming there is no other god, but the God of Israel. Elisha refused the wealth because God Himself had performed the miracle. Naaman is so overwhelmed and changed he asks to take soil from Israel back to his homeland.
What an amazing story! Here is a man that is gripped by a terrible disease longing to be free. Oh, how we are spiritually engrossed in things that hold us captive! Just as Naaman hid behind his armor, we, too, hide our burdens and sorrows from one another with our elaborate facades. Although he appeared to have a splendid life on the outside, he was literally dying on the inside. How many times do we put on a front to get us through the day, when Satan is secretly chipping away at our life? What keeps us from seeking our healing? What keeps us from running to the Lord? Naaman had reached a point where he was desperate. Although he had power, riches, fame, and prestige, none of those things could heal him. Today as we overindulge in purchases, sex, drugs, alcohol, lying, jealousy, and many more things, none of these benefit or cure our brokenness. Naaman came from a pagan world where they worshiped many gods. However, he was being drawn to a nation that had the one true God, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. Naaman, although he sought after God, almost missed his healing. It is not enough to seek after God, but we have to engage with Him. Naaman almost allowed his prideful attitude to cost him the precious gift of restoration. How many times does God draw us in for healing, but we will not put down our pride to receive it? Our hands are so full of what we think we need and deserve that there is no room for God and His blessings. Thankfully, Naaman had sensible servants that were willing to risk his anger to convey the facts of the situation. Don’t miss the actions taken by Naaman. He listened. He obeyed. He was healed. The old saying, “God gave you two ears to listen and only one mouth to speak” is so true. Sometimes we won’t be quiet long enough to hear what God has to say, much less put it into action.
Naaman represents the seeking soul (the sinner), the one in dire need of a Savior. On the other hand, Elisha represents our Savior (our salvation) when he says, “let him come to me.” For Naaman to know healing through Elisha was also to know the one true God of Israel. It also is a picture of how simple salvation is and how freely it’s offered. This is why Elisha denies money or gifts for the healing because there is no payment needed for healing (salvation). How many times have we thought, “If people knew me intimately they would think……… (finish the sentence)?” The root of Naaman’s name was beautiful, pleasant, delightful and stood in direct contrast of how Naaman existed. The leprosy had taken his beauty, his pleasant demeanor, and maybe even a delightful personality from him. Satan is so crafty. If he can convince us to hide out in darkness, then he has won the battle. When we are isolated, we too lose our ability to fight, our personalities, and maybe even relationships. God calls us to Him, just like Elisha called Naaman. He also wants us to surround ourselves with people just like Naaman’s servants, people who will cheer us on, have a stern conversation, and keep us accountable. Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” He wants us to break down our barriers and seek Him at all costs. I cannot tell you the times I have had people pick me up and encourage me through my life, but especially this past year. I have one lady, my sweet Ms. Sandy, who loves me dearly and is always ready to listen, have a strong conversation if needed, and lift me up in prayer. When God sends you people, be grateful and accept the gift!!
I cannot end without mentioning the servant girl. Here is a girl ripped from her homeland by Naaman’s very army. I like the commentary notes: “In fact, by His matchless grace, God worked through the unrighteous deeds of Naaman’s own army to bring this little slave girl into his own home to be the instrument of God’s Love.” Wow! Our minds cannot even begin to understand the plans of the Lord. Here was a small girl, humble, obedient, insignificant to men, living under dire conditions, but with a Romans 8:28 attitude; she was a girl using the problems of life as opportunities or as open doors to witness for God. Why do you suppose that Naaman listened to such an insignificant girl? He was probably desperate for healing, and I cannot help but believe her everyday life supported her words of wisdom. I wonder how the girl’s circumstances changed when Naaman returned home?
The point is that no matter how insignificant we might feel in this world, God is significant. He can take us and turn our lives into magnificent works that portrays His love. In Priscilla Shirer’s study on Jonah she says, “that a whole nation depended on one man’s obedience to God.” What if the same is true today, and I highly believe it is, whose salvation, revival, relationship may be dependent on your ability to break free from your chains and run heartily after the Lord?
Naaman was so changed by this experience he ask to take soil home from Israel. This request may seem odd, but truly it is showing Naaman’s new pledged allegiance to the one true God. In ancient near East it was thought that the god could only be worshiped on the soil of which they were bound. Naaman knew that he would have to return to his old environment and live in the midst of idolatry and evil, so he wanted to make sure he had the soil. Naaman was so new to the faith, and was so inundated with pagan worship; he would have been unable to understand the one true God is not bound by anything!
Are you in hiding today? Is there something in your life you need to confess and bring to the light. Remember every Christian faces trials, sins, and disobedience. Will we be brave enough to lay down our barriers and seek after the one true God? Only He can bring the type of change we seek in our life.