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Servants Of Naaman And Servants Of The LORD

INTRODUCTION: It is unusual for me to have a four month gap before completion of another Bible study, but I finally have brought this one to a conclusion. During my preparation, I took a detailed study side trip through the historical books of the Old Testament, with the objective of tracing various prophets who authored no scripture themselves, though they were active during the period of the kings of Israel and Judah. Some of them are not even named, but simply referenced as prophets of God. I wanted to develop more depth in my personal exposure to the scriptural record of the way God was reaching out to His chosen people during several centuries of their wayward history. In addition, my participation on a search project for a senior pastor at our local church consumed much of the quality time I ordinarily use to compose each Bible study.

The subject narrative surrounding Naaman appears only in II Kings, and seems to fall during the reign of king Joram (or Jehoram) of Israel, the son of King Ahab. Even though Naaman the Aramean is mentioned no where else in the Old Testament, Jesus does make reference to Naaman in the gospel of Luke. There are a variety of interesting aspects to the story surrounding Naaman, but my emphasis herein is to demonstrate how dear the Lord can be even to some unnamed people of such low position as to be slaves. Jesus had some surprising words to say to Jews who thought they were free. "31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." 33 They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" 34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:31-36 NIV).

Are we willing to be slaves to the one who is the most gracious master of all? "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." (Ro 6:22 NIV)

NOTE: Bible text in the outline topic sections are from the NIV.

A - Naaman, His Wife, And A Jewish Slave Girl

"1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. 2 Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. 3 She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."

COMMENTS: The Arameans (Syrians) had been at war with Israel, and it is interesting to note that the LORD had given victory to Aram through Naaman, the commander of the king's army: showing the Lord's design to discipline Israel, and the preparation for future events in Naaman's life. The victory in battle caused Naaman to be considered a great man in the sight of his king, and highly regarded. The text clearly tells us that Naaman was a valiant soldier, but we also find that he had the incurable disease of leprosy. The young Jewish girl apparently had accepted her condition of involuntary servitude to Naaman's wife, and had enough faith in the prophet of God back in Israel, to commend him to her mistress to be able to cure the leprosy of Naaman. There is no indication that the Jewish girl tried to bargain for her freedom from slavery, or for any other advantage. In fact, if her suggestion had resulted in nothing but embarrassment for Naaman, she possibly would have faced some very unpleasant repercussions.

B - The King Of Aram Wants Naaman To Be Healed

4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 "By all means, go," the king of Aram replied. "I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy."

COMMENTS: Naaman had a malady so severe that he would accept the word of a slave girl for potential healing, and ask leave of his king to go to a neighboring country not considered to be an ally, but one that had been militarily subdued. . The king of Aram sent his highly honored military man to the king of Israel with many valuable gifts, and a letter explaining what he expected. The implicit factor of the letter is that the king of Israel would be well aware of someone in his kingdom having the ability to cure leprosy, and would also have the power over that individual to demand results.

C - Elisha Offers Relief For a threatening situation

7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, "Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!" 8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: "Why have you torn your robes? Make the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel."

COMMENTS: The king of Israel considered that only God could do what had been asked, and since he did not personally rely on the Lord, he accepted this letter as a provocation. He also did not have a relationship with the man of God that would give him any confidence of God's favor for his predicament. He tore his robes as a sign of great anguish over the conflict that would surely arise when no cure was produced. But when Elisha sent word to the king, the king apparently didn't think that the situation would get any worse, so he sent Naaman to Elisha. In contrast to the king, Elisha's message to the king was sent in complete confidence that the Lord would indeed work through him, to the glory of God.

D - Naaman Takes His Entourage To Elisha

9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed." 11 But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he 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. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage.

COMMENTS: Naaman's reaction seems to indicate that he had seen some manner of demonstrations perhaps by magicians in his own land, and expected ceremonial incantations of some sort. He is even angered that only a messenger addressed him, and the instructions seem as such that would make him appear a fool. He most surely has washed in clean waters in his own country before, and his leprosy has not subsided. He also had no opportunity to display the treasures he had brought to compensate for services rendered, and that was just another affront. He began to leave in a rage.

E - Faithful Servants Show Concern For Their Master

13 Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, 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, `Wash and be cleansed'?" 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

COMMENTS: Here are faithful servants again taking a key role in this story about a man who has commanded troops warring against Israel, and the Lord is working in his behalf. First a slave girl thought enough of her master to make her recommendation, and now loyal servants seem to have a genuine concern that their master follows these simple instructions to be cured. It also speaks well of Naaman that he would listen to servants and do something that may have seemed utterly foolish. This may be evidence of the quality of shared respect in even a master and servant relationship, another interesting character trait to consider of Naaman.

F - Praise To The LORD, Not To Elisha

15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant." 16 The prophet answered, "As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing." And even though Naaman urged him, he refused. 17 "If you will not," said Naaman, "please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also--when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this." 19 "Go in peace," Elisha said. (2Ki 5:1-19 NIV)

COMMENTS: Now Naaman is face to face with Elisha, and he finds that Elisha had no interest in personal gain from this event. Elisha uses the term LORD [Jehovah] as he declares that he himself is only a servant. Naaman now applies the term servant to himself several times, and he seems to understand why the gifts are not important to Elisha. Naaman even wants to make a demonstration of his intent to worship the true God by taking some symbolic earth back to his own country. He also understands that he still has an allegiance to his earthly master, and Elisha simply responds to Naaman's inquiry about that loyalty by telling him to go in peace.

G - Heart And Soul Servanthood To The LORD Is The Only Way To Please God

"And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul," (Deuteronomy 10:12 NIV)

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:22-24 NIV)

""No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6:24 NIV)

"20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you--although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to." (1Corinthians 7:20-24 NIV)

COMMENTS: The mercy and love of the Lord endures forever, and we must be His servants in the same manner that has been true from the Old Testament, to the New Testament, and to our lives today. No matter what our position or station in life, if we are servants of the Lord, everything we do should be done in a manner that honors the Lord. The physical and external circumstances observed about us by others are far less important than whether we are motivated by the desire to serve the Lord with all our heart and soul. Our true freedom is not determined by the degree of authority others have over us if we are the Lord's servants. We must also be careful about the temptations of the world, that we avoid even serving ourselves by going after money, power, or prestige because of our own pride.

H - Being Part Of Any Particular Assembly Does Not Qualify One To Be A Servant Of The LORD

"27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed--only Naaman the Syrian." 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way." (Luke 4:27-30 NIV)

COMMENTS: How hard it can be to receive the truth from god when it doesn't fit the perception that we have of how our own favored people should be treated. The passage above could be the subject of a completely separate study, but it is placed herein as a specific reference to the story of Naaman. The servants of Naaman may not have all been servants of the Lord, but their actions seemed to demonstrate faith in the God of Israel. As for Naaman, despite his position in the Syrian society, the Lord had favored him directly in military conquest. Naaman then experienced a miraculous healing that brought him to honor the only True God above all others. What joy can be ours when we focus our lives on serving the one who gives us eternal life by grace through faith.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

How easy it is to be carried away by the temptations of the world, and by the selfish desires that lie within me. Help me Lord to apply my own experiences in life as my teacher, that I may be able to say with Paul that I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Your promise to stay with me always is my motivation and my reward for having contentment to displace coveting, as I remember what the writer of Hebrews said, "Let your conversation {manner, deportment} be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you." You have cleansed me of my terminal disease of sin, giving me a new birth; just as you cleansed Naaman of his leprosy, and renewed his skin as that of a newborn. Lord Jesus, one of the most precious statements directly from your lips makes it very clear that there is no measure of possessions in the present world that compares with having eternal life in you; and there is no material substance that I could possibly supply to you to gain eternal life by my own merit. So I praise you for the truth of the question you posed, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" May all glory be to you Lord Jesus as I seek your enabling power to be your faithful servant every day of the rest of my life. Amen and amen.

Published 11 August 2008