Naaman washes in The River – part one

The story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5 has been cropping up in my life surprisingly often this year, so it gets a two part treatment.

It’s one of the vignettes in Phoebe’s children’s Bible, the wonderful Jesus Storybook Bible, of which we’re in our third read through. The title given to the story by Sally Lloyd-Jones there is “A little servant girl and the proud general” and the focus, which had never really struck me before, is the incredible grace shown by the slave girl…

“Now there was a little slave girl who worked for Namaan and she knew someone who could help him. But there was a problem; Namaan was her enemy. Not long before, Namaan had led an army raid on her home in Israel. He had killed her whole family, carried her off to Syria, and made her into his slave. Every night she cried herself to sleep – she had lost everything. Why would she, of all people, want to help Namaan? Didn’t she hate him and want to hurt him back? Didn’t she want to make him pay for the wrong he’d done?” That’s what you would expect, but instead of hating him, she loved him. Instead of hurting him back, she forgave him. “I want Naaman to get well,” she said to her mistress. “There’s a man in Israel called Elisha who can heal him.”

So, before we even get to the healing in The River, we see a most powerful example of truly gracious living – a “type” [teaching picture] of God in Christ, yes, but also a picture of humble, winsome, generous, self-sacrificing followers of Jesus, turning the other cheek and giving their last penny without resentment or developing a moral superiority complex (can you imagine!? i’m pretty sure I can misapply Paul’s words from Phil. 3:12 to myself here 🙂 )

Contrast this with Elisha’s servant Gehazi at the end of the story, who seeks to get something out of the healing encounter. He was the one constantly living in the presence of “the man of God”, and yet he, not the slave girl who was living in an hostile and ungodly culture (see 2 Kings 5:18), was the one to live for himself – and reap the consequences (I “google image” searched leprosy 😦 – not something to do at dinner time).

I just find that graciousness so attractive, and possibly because it’s not just niceness or, what’s the word, philanthropic? – it’s full of confidence and deeply rooted in God’s saving action.

Think what a risk she took to tell Naaman that he could, indeed, would be helped and healed by the prophet of her God (2 Kings 5:3). What would have happened to her had not God given such grace to Naaman? What would have happened if Elisha had decided it was his day off from serving God’s purposes? And yet she knew the God of Israel, the God of the whole world, and she had confidence in His ability and His goodness.

Furthermore, this sort of graciousness firmly believes that pointing people toward the living God is the best gift we can give. It longs to do good to our fellow human being, yes, and it knows that true God has God in the middle of the it.

So, my prayers for myself, and all of us, let alone those whom God calls to be part of The River gathering and community – is for gracious living that comes not from the pages of a magazine or BHG on a Friday night (not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry and George would say – or not always, anyway ;)) – but living that can enrich the lives of others with the healing and wholeness of the living God, even when those others are in complete disjunction with us, not of our beliefs, or who have even harmed us.

Yikes. I’ve certainly not attained all this – but may I press on…

P.S. I’m aware that there are some prior rivers to cross in the Book of Joshua (hilarious) which technically comes before this if one is doing a chronological look at The River in Scripture. We’ll get there friends – it’s just that Naaman just wouldn’t stop knocking at the door…


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