As we conclude our series on Naaman, remember that when Naaman went to Elisha’s home to be healed of his leprosy, the Syrian general was not greeted by the Elisha but rather by his messenger. The Scriptures states, “And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman was angry” (2 Kings 5:10,11).
The Dangers of Pride
Along with Naaman’s expectations not being met, the second reason Naaman was enraged was due to his pride. In order to obey what God had spoken to him, it required Naaman to take off his outer garments. This action would allow everyone to see Naaman’s true condition.
I imagine that Naaman went to great lengths to conceal his leprosy from others. Perhaps he wore gloves and long sleeves to hide his arms and hands. Maybe we wore a hat and a scarf to cover most of his face. To obey the word of God, Naaman would have had to “expose” himself to others – not in a lewd way, but in an honest, authentic way. He would have to allow people to see the real him – to see his leprosy.
In pride, Naaman says “No” to God. The Scriptures warns us of the consequences of living our lives with an attitude of arrogance. First, Proverbs 16:18 clearly states, “Pride goes before destruction.” If we walk the path of personal pride, it will eventually bring us to ruin. Also, James tells us, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
When we choose pride over humility, we put ourselves in a position were God resist us rather than pouring out his grace upon us.
Naaman’s unwillingness to become vulnerable before God and others would prevent him from being healed. To be vulnerable requires risking to expose our real self rather than the false self we continually seek to put on display for others. Vulnerability requires humility.
After hearing the messenger instructions, Naaman turns around and walks off in a rage. His expectations of how he thought God would heal him and his pride became gigantic obstacles for the very thing he desired most in life – to be healed. Thankfully, several of his servants courageously stepped forward and appealed to Naaman to reconsider his choice.
His friends realized Naaman was making a terrible choice. Yet, they had a choice to make also. They could do nothing and let Naaman walk away, remount his horse, and head back to Syria, or they could intervene and confront him. Their action was courageous. Remember, Naaman is in a rage, and he could have exercised his authority and power over them by enslaving them or even beheading them. Nevertheless, they took a risk.
They said, ““My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13). They gently confronted Naaman through questions. They asked Naaman that if the prophet had given him a difficult task to perform, wouldn’t he have done it. Knowing that the rhetorical answer to their first question was “yes,” they then followed with a second question asking why then he would not do a simple task to be healed.
This exchange between Naaman and his servants exemplifies the need every one of us has to be a part of a loving, grace-filled community.
Like Naaman, all of us need people in our lives that not only encourage us but who also speaks truth to us.
Also, we need to be like the servants, who don’t let fear or apathy hold us from lovingly and gracefully confronting others in choices that they might regret later in life.
After his servants voiced the truth to Naaman, he headed down to the Jordan River to dip seven times as the prophet had directed. Naaman chooses to obey.
As parents, my wife and I wanted to instill a heart of obedience in our children. To help them learn what obedience was, we taught them the following 3-part definition:
- Doing exactly what you are told to do,
- When you are told to do it,
- With a happy heart.
We even had some hand motions to help them learn it! If any of the three components are missing, then our actions lack obedience.
As a parent I discovered, God did not give me kids so I could raise them. No, God gave me kids so he could raise me. It wasn’t long until the Holy Spirit began applying our parenting definition of obedience to my own life. Honestly, I certainly wasn’t perfect, but I usually managed to get the first two steps down fairly well. It was often that third step that became my downfall. I did not possess a happy heart (or for adults, a good attitude) in my attempts of obedience.
Jesus doesn’t want us to obey him merely in huge, difficult situations. Following Jesus means we also learn to obey in the countless simple acts of obedience we face every day, The Scriptures tells us that Naaman “went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God.”
Do you know why God told Naaman to do it seven times? I don’t. But it’s what God said, and Naaman did precisely that.
The results of Naaman’s humility and obedience were that “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:14). Notice, Naaman was not just healed. He was also restored. His skin was not restored to the rough, calloused skin of an old warrior, but to the soft, beautiful skin of a baby.
Finally, Naaman returned to the messenger and declared, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel . . .” (2 Kings 5:15).
By putting aside his expectations and pride, Naaman’s simple act of obedience resulted in a breakthrough. Not only was his skin changed, but he changed from being an angry general to being a worshipper.
What simple act of obedience is God calling you to do?