When we talk about the Biblical character, Naaman, we usually reference chapter five of II Kings. Though definitely the main text for his story, we are actually introduced to Naaman in the book of I Kings. He’s a successful commander in the Syrian army, and he’s actually a war hero. I Kings 22 tells a story of a soldier (Naaman) striking the King of Israel with an arrow, ultimately resulting in the Lord “giving victory to Syria” (II Kings 5 v 2).
Naaman is a celebrated commander and hero and has plenty of money and power. He seemingly has the life, except he is a leper. As we see throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, leprosy was socially and medically undesirable, to say the least. Though he has attained plenty of worldly “things” and accolades, there’s nothing that Naaman or his possessions can do to heal his leprosy.
Naaman’s wife has a servant, a girl from Israel (remember that the Syrians greatly looked down upon Israel. They were at war with each other in I Kings.). The Bible says that this servant is a “little girl.” Many theologians estimate that she was around the age of 12. Naaman represented everything that this “little girl” should have hated. He ripped her from her home, from her friends and family and all aspects of her daily life. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s forcing her to work for his family.
Though she should hate Naaman, she has so much faith in “her God” that she thinks everyone needs to hear about Him. When the girl hears of Naaman’s condition, she essentially says, “if he could only see my God, I know he would be healed.” So Naaman is sent to Israel, bringing hundreds of pounds of silver and gold, hoping that the king of Israel can cure him. The king says that he can’t cure Naaman, and actually thinks that the whole situation is a ploy from the king of Syria to start another fight between the two countries.
Elisha, a prophet of God, hears about this and tells Naaman that he knows how Naaman can be healed. Elisha says that he doesn’t need any of the gold or silver, and that all Naaman has to do is “go and wash in the Jordan seven times” (II Kings 5:10) and he will be healed. Naaman, looking down on Israel more than ever, basically says, “Aren’t there a ton of places that are better to wash in than here?!”
If it weren’t for his friends, Naaman would have left Israel, disregarded Elisha’s advice, and never been healed of his leprosy. Naaman did listen, though, and ended up dipping in the Jordan seven times, and “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (II Kings 5 v 14).
It’s so easy for us to act like Naaman. We ask God to answer a prayer, and when the answer doesn’t look the way we thought it would, we think, “That must not be what God has for me.” A story that could have ended terribly, the story of Naaman is filled with beauty. Naaman listened to an unexpected person that God had put in his life (the 12 year old servant). Further, though everything he had previously thought about Israel challenged what Elisha told him to do, he trusted in God’s answer to his request.
Just as God healed Naaman, who was an enemy of Israel, Jesus heals those were once an enemy of God (Romans 5:10).