Have you ever refused to do something because you thought it was just too silly?
A few years ago, I was at a week-long conference for pastors. The sessions were pretty intense, so the leaders would break things up with something that got us moving around a bit. One day, the activity was to imitate Mary Catherine Gallagher, the character Molly Shannon played on Saturday Night Live in the ‘90’s. Mary Catherine Gallager was an awkward schoolgirl who dreamed of being a superstar, and would put her arms up and say, “Superstar!” At this retreat, they asked a room full of pastors to stand up and do that. “Superstar!” It’s actually a really good way to loosen up your neck and shoulders, and get your circulation going. Shall we try it?
It sounds silly but it actually works. That’s like what Naaman discovered in our Bible story today from 2 Kings. The prophet Elisha had told Naaman what to do to be healed of his leprosy, but Naaman didn’t want to do it because it sounded silly to him. And Naaman was too important to do silly things.
In the first verse of 2 Kings 5, we get a pretty good picture of just how important Naaman is:
- He is the commander of the army of the King of Aram (today called Syria).
- He is highly regarded by the King because God has helped him win many battles.
- He is brave warrior.
Naaman is a big deal, even though he has leprosy.
You can see why Naaman was thinking that he was too important to do something as simple and silly as dipping in the Jordan River seven times. He was expecting Elisha the prophet to come heal him with a show of power. He thought Elisha would call on the name of the Lord his God and wave his hand over the leprosy. (v11)
Hold on. I think I see the problem. He thought Elisha was a Jedi.
Actually, the problem is that Naaman is so important that he’s used to having people make a big fuss over him. We see all this fuss happening in the way Naaman conducts this whole business. He tells the King of Aram that he wants to go visit a prophet in Samaria, so the king writes a letter of introduction for Naaman to present to the king of Israel, and sends him with huge gifts – 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing (v5). Just the gold alone would be worth over $4 million dollars today.
But when Naaman presents the letter to the king of Israel, the king has no idea what to do, and even tears his clothes in dismay. So much unnecessary fuss and drama! It’s sort of a comedy of errors that the two highest ranking characters in this story, the king of Aram and the king of Israel, are also the most clueless. Apparently the king of Israel doesn’t even know that there is a prophet in Israel who has the power to cure leprosy.
Thankfully, there is someone who does know, a slave girl that was captured on one of Naaman’s successful battles against Israel, who now is the maid to Naaman’s wife. Someone so important as Naaman may not have been all that likely to listen to his wife, let alone his wife’s servant. This girl is about as low in the social hierarchy as Naaman is high. She’s a young girl, she’s enslaved, and she’s a foreigner. And yet her words come through loud and clear, and change Naaman’s life:
“If only my master were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”
We might also be inclined to ignore this girl, this background character with no name, and instead put all our focus on Naaman, the mighty warrior, and Elisha, the powerful prophet.
We often see names in the Bible that are descriptive of the role of the character. For example, Elisha’s name means “God is Savior.” In Hebrew, (El means God.)
So even though the young girl is not named in this story, let’s name her with the words in Hebrew that describe her.
Na’arah = girl Qatanah = young, little or insignificant
Na’arah Qatanah. I like that. It’s actually kind of pretty.
She really needs a name, because she is the only girl explicitly called “little” who speaks in the entire Hebrew Bible. If it weren’t for her words, there would be no healing, and there would be no story.
It makes me wonder about who we’re listening to. In our culture, we tend to listen more to the people who are rich and powerful, those with impressive credentials or high offices. Because of that, we might think that we have no voice, that we’re too young or too old, or that we aren’t smart enough or rich enough or famous enough to make a difference.
But if we never try, we’ll never know. Na’arah Qatanah probably didn’t expect her words to make a difference, but she said them anyway, and they did.
Today with social media there are more ways to be heard than ever. For example, there is a young girl who lives in Aleppo, Syria, the same country where Na’arah Qatanah was enslaved in our Bible story. Her name is Bana Alabed. In 2016, during the Battle of Aleppo in the Syrian civil war, her mother helped her send out tweets about the damage the airstrikes were causing, and the hunger and homelessness people were experiencing. Her tweets helped get the western world to pay attention to what was happening in Syria, even though she was only seven years old.
Where and how might we need to speak up, even if we think people might not listen, or might not want to hear what we have to say?
Even a little bit can make a difference, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
We have to give some credit to Naaman. Even though he was important and powerful, he listened to his wife and his wife’s servant, and he listened to his officers when they tried to reason with him and get him to do what Elisha had told him to do. So Naaman went to the Jordan River and dipped himself in the water seven times, just as Elisha had said, and he was healed. His skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child. In the Hebrew, it says he became like Na’arah Qatanah. He became Na’ar Qatan. Like a young boy.
Naaman was humbled and changed, and he makes a profession of faith:
“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” (v15)
Now Naaman has learned what Na’arah Qatanah, his wife’s maid, already knew, that God’s healing love can do amazing things, and that God’s love doesn’t need big, important people to make a difference.
Naaman’s story reminds us that God often uses insignificant people to do God’s work.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:27 NLT: God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.
Naaman’s story foreshadows Jesus, who didn’t come in power, but instead came as a young boy, and who calls us to follow in his ways.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
 Park, Song-Mi Suzie. 2 Kings: Volume 12 (Wisdom Commentary Series) (p. 144). Liturgical Press. Kindle Edition.