2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c (NRSV)
1Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
15a-cThen he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”
ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
- What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?
In the last month, my family and I have spent a lot of time being sick. It’s back to school time, and everyone shares all their germs with everyone, and before you know, everyone is sick. I have to admit that when we are sick, going to the doctor is kind of a last resort. If there is no fever, or acute symptoms, we treat with rest and fluids and more rest. When we do go to the doctor, we expect the doctor to DO something. I can empathize with Naaman in this respect. He decides to take drastic action by going to a miracle worker of his enemies, and Elisha won’t even meet him? And all he has to do is wash in the Jordan 7 times? Sometimes, something so simple is hard to believe.
- What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why?
I have two favorite parts of this text. First, I love that the solution comes from an outside source. This very powerful man is cured because of the advice of a captive Israelite girl, and encouraged into the cure by other servants. It reminds me to listen to unlikely sources when I am stuck, and to hear the voice of God from unlikely messengers.
My other favorite part is that the cure is so simple. Namaan doesn’t have to do anything special or hard or painful to be cured. Elisha calls on God’s power, and it is freely given. Isn’t it amazing that God works through ordinary things, and offers help and hope and healing, to everyone, regardless of creed or origin?
- What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to my life?
When was a time in your life when you got good advice or encouragement from an unexpected source? When was a time when the cure was unexpectedly easy? When was a time when you sat back and thought, “Whoa! God really is good!”? This story reminds me of the many times that I have sat in meetings and someone presented an amazing solution that I had never considered before. I give thanks for those times, and the way the God speaks through sometimes unexpected sources.
I also remember times when my doctor couldn’t give me a quick fix, and I felt frustrated, tired, and scared. I am so grateful for the support of tireless medical professionals, family and friends during difficult times. They are the ones that keep putting me back in the ring, and help me to persevere, even when things are really hard.
- What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?
God is working all over this text, right? My take-away this time is to give medical professionals a break, to accept good advice from unexpected sources, and to support those who find themselves in frustrating situations. Where is God calling you? As always, I am looking forward to diving deeply with you into this text over the course of the next month. Who knows where God might lead us into healing?
In Christ, Pastor Breen