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    Jul 07, 2019

    Elisha and Naaman

    Elisha and Naaman

    Passage: 2 Kings 5:1-15

    Speaker: Vivian McCarthy

    Naaman and the King of Israel were blind to the fact that human, earthly power is not the source of hope and healing. Neither one realized that hope and healing come from God alone. ~Pastor Vivian

    Can you just imagine being the most exalted warrior in the whole country and developing a skin disease that meant no one would come near you?  A skin disease that forced its victims to live in caves so they wouldn’t infect anyone else?  A skin disease that meant you were totally dependent on others for your food and care because you couldn’t be with other people unless they had the same disease? 

    That was Naaman’s situation, and he was desperate.  It appears from the story that he was still out and about in society, but that couldn’t last much longer.  In his desperation, Naaman takes advice from a small young girl that his troops had captured from Israel.  This girl, who was as weak as Naaman was powerful insists that he go to a prophet in Israel for healing.

    But Naaman didn’t really listen.  He shows up at the door of the king of Israel, thinking that only the one with great power could work such a healing.  One of the commentators I read this week said, “It’s almost as if you were bleeding to death but went to city hall instead of the hospital!”  And then when he realized that the king couldn’t or wouldn’t heal him, he finally takes the little girl’s advice and stops to see Elisha – whom he should have visited in the first place!

    Of course Naaman was completely and totally insulted by Elisha’s refusal to see him in person and also by his curative advice.  Go to the puny Jordan to wash.  Wash!  Can’t you just hear him, “I could have done that at home in a much more powerful river!?!”  (I actually think this is one of the most humorous scenes in the Bible!)

    But again, an underling spoke to him, somehow convincing Naaman to give it a try.  What’s the big deal?  It’s just a bath.  What can it hurt?

    Once again, God surprises us.  Naaman expected a spectacular healing worthy of his exalted position in society.  He expected that he would receive VIP treatment from the king, and when that didn’t work, at the very least the prophet should treat him with the respect he was due. 

    A little girl and a servant  were the agents in healing this big, strong-willed, pompous general.  These two servants were expected to be seen and not heard, yet they were clearly the ones who spoke God’s message to Naaman.

    There are a few things we should notice in this story.  First of all, the servant girl shared her faith in an extremely simple way.  She knew the power of God and simply offered healing.  She said nothing about conversion – and neither did Elisha, for that matter.  Healing was offered as a way of showing the goodness and mercy of God – no strings attached.  It reminds me of a quote attributed to St. Francis:  “Preach the gospel at all times.  When necessary, use words.”

    Secondly, Naaman’s healing came by doing what the prophet told him to do.  He couldn’t buy it.  He didn’t have to do anything complicated.  He simply had to wash and trust that the healing would come.  And in this story it came pretty fast – although you know how tricky things can get in the Bible when there is a formula using the number 7.  The story doesn’t actually say how long it took – just that he washed 7 times. 

    Healing doesn’t always come quickly.  But how often do we try to rush things along?  How often do we expect a quick fix for an illness or a problem or a guilty conscience or the healing of a relationship?  We may receive the advice of a doctor or a trusted friend or even a therapist – but when it doesn’t come quickly or by the means we expect, we tear off to find a better answer when we may just have to give it a little time and do our simple part to get to a better place. 

    And then there is the question of whether we are skeptical of God’s messengers.  Do we look for something better because we don’t think the messenger is qualified?  Is the messenger just a “little girl” or a “servant” in our mind?

    Thirdly, and this one is a challenge, what if we are too proud or arrogant to admit our need for healing or to accept it when it’s offered?

    I would love to know why Elisha didn’t talk to Naaman in person.  The story doesn’t give us a hint!  He was clearly confident that he could heal Naaman, even chastising the king for not immediately sending Naaman to him.  But it doesn’t really say why he sent a messenger.  So, I’m going with this, totally based on Elisha’s refusal to allow Naaman to give him payment for his healing:  Elisha knew the glory and thanks belonged to God, and he kept his focus on that.  The healing was through God.  Elisha was an instrument.

    As we prepare to come to the communion table today, let’s give God glory, thanks and praise for some of those things that God is doing in our lives.  Where have you found healing?  When have you trusted God and found relief?  When did an unexpected source help you to see God’s way?  Where do you need healing in your life?  Come to the Table of Grace…

    Come, ye disconsolate, where'er you languish; 
    come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel. 
    Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; 
    earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal. 
    Joy of the desolate, light of the straying, 
    hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure! 
    Here speaks the Comforter, in mercy saying, 
    "Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot cure." 
    Here see the bread of life; see waters flowing 
    forth from the throne of God, pure from above. 
    Come to the feast prepared; come, ever knowing 
    earth has no sorrows but heaven can remove.