The other day, I had to tell the story of Naaman from memory. Why? Because it was depicted on a coloring sheet at the preschool where I work and I have a class of overly curious four year olds. So there I was, wishing that someone had been clever enough to include this particular passage of scripture in the story Bible we use in the classroom. Wishing the coloring picture had been of Jonah or Esther or one of those other classic stories that I can tell backwards and forwards and maybe even upside down. But no, it was Naaman. Why? Because God apparently had something to teach me.
I decided to tell my class that Naaman was sick and his servant girl (whose unwavering faith in God I praised) suggested that he go see the prophet Elisha who told him to wash himself in a pool of water seven times and he would be healed.
I thought of that story again today and looked it up to see how I had done in my spontaneous retelling. (Leprosy is a sickness, right?) The thing that jumped out at me was something I forgot… or maybe something that had simply never seemed vital until today.
Naaman’s reaction when Elisha told him to wash himself in the Jordan River (Yeah, it was a river, not a pool. I must have been thinking about that guy in the New Testament. Technicality. But I did get the number right. So do I pass the test?)… Well, it’s a pretty interesting reaction. Naaman actually gets mad.
“I thought 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,” he says in 2 Kings 5:11. The next verse explains that Naaman walked away in a rage. Imagine that. This guy actually gets ticked off because Elisha doesn’t come out looking like Obi-Wan in his over-sized robe while waving his hand in the air and saying, “You do not have leprosy.”
Naaman started walking away from his miracle because it didn’t come in the form he was expecting.
It was supposed to be over with a wave of Elisha’s hand. This whole swimming lesson was a bit ridiculous. Because it’s not like Naaman had never bathed before. Leprosy wasn’t something you could simply wash away.
He didn’t understand that all God really wanted from him was obedience.
Thankfully his servants pointed out that he was being ridiculous and convinced him that it was time for a bath.
In Naaman’s defense, I’m willing to bet that his doubts weren’t entirely misplaced. I imagine that he had tried many remedies. After all, he was a wealthy, highly respected man who probably had connections to some pretty successful doctors. But none of them had a cure for his leprosy. Nothing he had ever tried before actually helped.
Now here he was again—justifiably skeptical—standing at the edge of a river where the God who doesn’t play Jedi mind tricks asked him if he really had enough faith to be healed.
Naaman immersed himself in a promise.
And he was healed. Instantly.
And that’s when Naaman knew that there was no God in all the world except the God of Israel.
May we all have to faith to immerse ourselves in God’s promises and let the waves of His love and mercy wash all our impurities away.