I love it when a pastor tells a familiar Bible story and shows us things we may not have seen before.
Recently, Robert Madu shared beautiful insights about the story of Naaman.
Robert is lead pastor of Social Dallas in Texas and he recently spoke at Saddleback Church in California. His sermon, called “The Cost of Going Off,” focuses on anger.
Naaman is a great example of someone who could have lost a lot — if he hadn’t turned the corner on his rage.
We find his story in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings, starting with Chapter 5.
Naaman is the army commander for the King of Aram. He’s a valiant soldier and highly regarded.
There’s just one problem.
Naaman has leprosy, a terrible skin disease that was incurable in ancient days.
But Naaman has an uncommon advocate.
Raiders from Aram have taken a young Israelite girl captive and she serves Naaman’s wife. The servant girl says if Naaman will go see the prophet Elisha, he’ll be healed.
So Naaman heads to Israel with gold, silver and 10 sets of clothing.
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He ends up at Elisha’s house, but the prophet doesn’t come outside to meet the mighty warrior.
Instead, Elisha sends out a messenger who tells Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River and then his flesh will be restored.
Naaman is angry.
“I thought 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,” Naaman says.
Naaman storms off in a rage.
One of Naaman’s servants goes to him and humbly asks: “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean?’”
So Naaman dips himself in the river seven times.
And guess what?
His flesh is restored and is like the skin of a young boy.
Naaman returns to Elisha and tries to give him a gift, but the prophet won’t take anything.
Some things just can’t be bought.
One of many things I love about this story is that Naaman’s transformation is more than skin deep.
His heart is changed.
Naaman says he’ll never worship any other god.
And in talking with Elisha, Naaman basically seeks a pardon.
Naaman says he must accompany the king of his country into the temple of a false god. When the king bows, he leans on Naaman’s arm, so the warrior must bow, too.
“May the LORD forgive your servant for this,” Naaman says.
Elisha tells him to go in peace.
I think God and Elisha knew where Naaman’s heart would be for the rest of his life.
Naaman’s story offers many lessons and I love the details Robert points out.
Here are some thoughts from his wonderful sermon:
* Don’t look AT anger. Look UNDER it.
Underneath that anger could be pain, stress and worry. (And I’d venture to add fear as well.)
Naaman was a man of status.
“He was the one that all the women wanted and all the guys wanted to be like,” Robert says.
With all his status, Naaman probably never thought he’d have such a devastating disease.
I’d say that would be a shock and enough to make anybody angry.
Robert talks about how obsessed people are with status today.
When he was younger, Robert remembers kids talking about wanting to be a fireman or a teacher.
Now, they just seem to want to be famous.
Because, subconsciously, we think if we just had that status or reached a certain level, we wouldn’t have any problems, Robert says.
* Status doesn’t stop suffering.
Like Naaman, we must understand this. When we scroll through Facebook, we see the highlights of people’s lives, not their suffering.
Robert helps us imagine how scary it must have been for Naaman to return from the battlefield and then see a spot after he removed his armor.
Everybody has a spot, Robert says.
For instance, someone may be great at work, but horrible at home. And just as Naaman probably covered his spot with his armor, we try to cover our spots, too, in a “show the best, hide the rest” attitude.
* Miracles come from unlikely places.
God can send us a miracle from people we’re sometimes quick to dismiss, because they look, walk and vote differently than we do, but we must humble ourselves before the Lord, because we don’t know who he’ll use to bring a miracle into our lives.
* Servants start the miracles.
The captured slave girl was taken from her home. Her parents probably were killed.
She had every right to be angry, but she offered the remedy of healing to her enemy.
It was like Christ, who centuries later on a cross, said “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.”
* Serve others.
If you want to start seeing miracles in your life, start serving other people, Robert says.
Don’t strive to see how high you can go, see how low you can go, remembering our Savior Jesus who left the pinnacle of heaven to come to earth, where he washed his disciples’ crusty feet and then gave his life for us.
* People get angry when their experience doesn’t meet their expectations.
Naaman was angry, because Elisha didn’t come outside and wave his hand and cure the commander.
So Naaman stormed off in rage.
And — in that process — risked losing his healing.
* In simple obedience is strength; We’re only as strong as we are obedient.
Thank goodness for the servant who said if Naaman had been told to do some great feat, he would have done it.
Naaman probably would have fought off 1,000 men or scaled a wall or defeated a lion.
Because then he could have gotten the credit.
Instead, Robert says, Naaman was told to do something a toddler could do — take a bath. It was simple.
Today, many people can’t wrap their minds around the simple and free gift offered through Christ, that if they confess with their mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in their hearts Christ raised him from the dead that they will be saved.
Yet that’s what God says.
* Humility always initiates the miracle.
Naaman had to get off his high horse to dip in the river. “Your victory is actually in your vulnerability,” Robert says.
* Trust God for his time schedule.
It was probably unnerving for Naaman when he dipped the first few times and nothing happened.
“We want God to show up like Amazon Prime,” Robert says.
But God wants believers who will persevere and say that even if something doesn’t happen on their time schedule that they’re going to trust God and — even if they don’t get their miracle — they believe God is worthy of praise and glory. “Don’t give up just because it didn’t happen on your time schedule,” Robert says.
Also please note: Naaman couldn’t stay in the shallow end of the Jordan — he had to go deeper — and dip seven times in the river. And when he did, he was healed.
I know God can take us to deeper levels of faith as we trust him.
Robert encourages us with this:
Don’t let your rage make you go off, because something didn’t turn out the way you thought it should, trust God and obey what he’s telling you to do.
We must put anger in its proper place and seek the Lord for our souls’ healing.
Robert invites us to consider something else: How many soldiers in Aram were affected by Naaman’s story?
I hope many were. And I hope many will be impacted by our faith stories, too.
Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly faith-based column.