“Why won’t He take it away?”
Probably words cried by every person who has tried their hand at prayer, at believing in a power greater than themselves in the midst of an unwanted situation, struggle, heart break. Even all the atheists have prayed for relief, a fix, a cure. We’ve all tried our hand at bargaining with God and agreeing to believe, to do better if He would just wave a wand over our heads.
Naaman, who wanted a wave of a hand- a wand, was a commander of the army of the king of Aram. The king of Aram worshipped a god named Rimmon. We know Naaman accompanied him to the temple of Rimmon for he tells us so later in the story.
Certainly he had most likely, desperately asked Rimmon to take his leprosy. Yes, Naaman had leprosy. Although life had seemingly been good to Naaman, he had this skin disease- a terrible skin disease called leprosy.
You see Naaman was successful. He was honored by the king and his men. He had position and power and respect. He also had a little slave girl, who was an Israelite, who had big faith. And he had a big enough problem to listen to her.
The slave girl suggested to Naaman’s wife that Naaman should go to Elisha, who was a prophet of the One True God, and that he could cure Naaman’s leprosy.
With leprosy, Naaman’s future was looking dim.
Desperateness makes us listen to people we normally wouldn’t listen to.
It also makes us go to places we normally wouldn’t go.
So, desperate, leprous Naaman listens to a little, foreign slave girl.
The feelings upon his shoulders become evident when Naaman first approaches Elisha and he is met by Elisha’s servant. He wanted to meet with the prophet himself, not with the servant.
So, when Elisha’s servant sends the message to wash in the Jordon seven times, he is angry.
And so his self dialogue may have gone something like this:
Slave girls, messengers… after all I’ve done. I’ve pleaded and tried the latest medicines. I’ve wished it away and petitioned Rimmon. I have power, position, and respect. I have commanded an army in battle and been victorious. And here! I have traveled to a foreign land and a foreign people with a foreign God. I’ve humbled myself and asked for help and this! This is how I’m treated. I can’t do this. I won’t. This is a hoax. It won’t work.
Here is what the Scripture records Naaman actually saying, “I thought he (Elisha) 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 then names two rivers that are even better than the Jordan in Damascus and questions why he couldn’t wash in them.
Then he goes off in a rage.
His feelings were revealed. He wasn’t as humble as he thought. Naaman had been what is humanly possible though rare: He had been humble in the sight of man.
He had yet to be humble in the sight of the One True God.
He wanted a cure not a God. He hadn’t come to Israel to meet and surrender to the One True God. He had come for a wand, for a story of magic, to meet with the famous prophet and be fixed.
Instead He would be broken and repentant and humble himself to the very words of God: the instructions from the servant of the prophet of God.
And when we read in Scripture that his men reasoned with him, did they know they spoke words of eternal life to Him? They pegged him saying, “… 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 to be washed and cleansed”. They basically told him to get his feelings off his shoulders.
He probably looked down at the leprosy and weighed it up against his anger and his pride, his pain, fear, and confusion. This God had given an instruction and it was time to listen or never know if His word was weighty or hogwash.
So Naaman did. He believed enough to lay down the feelings on His shoulders and pick up the will of God. It was credited to him as righteousness, just like for all those who believe and get up under His mighty hand because we cannot deny the leprosy of our sin soaked souls and the fact that we have no solution for it apart from Him.
He wanted it badly enough that he listened. He chose to quit chasing wands and bend to a King, who was enabling Him with His unwavering, heart- piercing instructions.
He learned that a wand would have fixed the leprosy, but a wand would never have dealt with his heart.
And Elisha comes out to meet him.
Naaman, whose flesh was restored, professes faith in God and offers Elisha a gift.
Elisha declines and ministers God’s peace to him as he heads back into Rimmon- worshiping territory.
And here is the story for our generation, dear reader, for you and for me and for all those around us:
He will not wave wands over our heads, but He will deal with our hearts and cleanse us and give us Jesus, the great protector of the hearts He cleans. He is ours to lay our sin upon just like they did with the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament.
When a person wanted to approach God, they would:
1. Bring an animal for a burnt offering to the brazen altar.
2. Place their hands on the head of the animal admitting that the animal would die in their place because of their sin.
3. Kill it.
Jesus is the lamb who was taken to slaughter. So look. He is the One we can place our leprous hands on- at the cross- the place where He paid the penalty for our sin. We can lay our leprous selves down and come up cleansed trusting that He took our punishment and look in His eyes and let Him minister peace to us as we travel this wand-worshiping world.
We can have peace with the One who is Peace.
We can curse that He hasn’t come out to wave a wand over us and has commanded us instead to be washed by blood- and like Naaman can scream all our failed expectations and go off in a rage.
But dear reader, may I be your servant in place of Naaman’s and say, “If God had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more when He tells you to be washed and cleansed?”
Now, go, weigh the cost. Get your feelings off your shoulders and go for the first time. Or go back because walking with Him doesn’t change the instructions. We go to Him over and over and over and over again because feelings have a tendency of climbing on our shoulders and because we need Him to teach us to be truly humble… no wands , but rather moment by moment receiving His correction, His love, His words, His peace, His life. Then we tell others about this King who offers us the truth.
O Reader, If He asks us to do some great thing wouldn’t we do it? How much more when He tells us to be washed and cleansed?
Bless you with the cleansing only He can give and faith on fire in a wand-worshiping world… until you see Him face to face.
Naaman’s story is found in 2 Kings chapter 5.
Photo by B.Jehle