Sunday, February 23, 2014

Naaman

He was an important commander in the army of the Kingdom of Aram. He had risen through the ranks, and led the Aramean army to victory after victory. His country loved him because he helped to make them more powerful than ever. But one day, he met an enemy that no army could defeat. It made it hard for him to lead his army as this enemy kept him away from the soldiers he commanded. He had never encountered anything like this before. This wasn’t even a person he was fighting this time. The commander’s name was Naaman, and he was in a battle for his life against the feared enemy called leprosy. It causes the skin to look scaly and awful. It can lead to deformed fingers and toes. Lepers can’t feel pain, so that can lead to some more serious injuries. It’s even a bit contagious. Now there are treatments for the disease, but back then, the only thing people could do was move away from others so they wouldn’t spread it. What was this important commander to do? He wasn’t used to being helpless against a fearsome enemy.

Some time earlier, bands of Aramean raiders had gone into the neighboring Kingdom of Israel and taken captives. One of these captives was a young girl who became the slave of Naaman’s wife. This slave girl cared for her master and mistress, and one day she suggested to her mistress, “Back home, I heard of a man who might be able to help. There’s a prophet in Samaria who can cure him.”

So Naaman went to the King of Aram and told him what his wife’s slave girl had said. The King sent Naaman with a letter to the King of Israel that said, “I’m sending you my servant Naaman so you can cure him of his leprosy.”

When the King of Israel got the note, he said, “Are you kidding? Who does your king think I am, God? I can’t cure leprosy!”

When Elisha found out the King had thrown a fit, he went to him and said, “Whoa, what happened? Have the guy come to my house, and he’ll know there’s a prophet in Israel.”

So Naaman set out to Elisha’s house. When he was almost there, he met a messenger who said, “Elisha says you’re supposed to go to the Jordan River and wash yourself seven times.”

“WHAT?!” Naaman cried. “That’s disgusting! Why does it have to be the Jordan River? Surely the rivers back home would have been better! Here I came all this way to have a prophet call on his God, wave his staff, say the magic words and heal me! Now what? The Jordan River?! Ewww!”

But his servants pointed out, “Wouldn’t you do it if the prophet told you to do some heroic deed to be healed? How hard can it be to have seven baths in the Jordan?”

“Oh, all right,” he said. He washed himself in the river once. Twice. Three times. What was happening? Four times. Five times. It was getting better! Six times. Seven times. Naaman’s skin was smooth and normal again! The leprosy had been defeated!

He couldn’t believe it. This seemed too good to be true! He and his servants hurried back to Elisha with the news. He had brought a bunch of treasure and clothes to pay for his treatment, but Elisha wouldn’t take any of it. From then on, Naaman vowed to serve the one true God who had healed him of his leprosy.

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