Naaman the Aramean was powerful. He was male and close to the king; he had status and influence. He suffers from a skin disease yet is the recipient of divine favour. (‘Leprosy’ – a somewhat generic translation for a range of skin diseases mentioned in the Bible – was often seen as “divine judgement”.) That God moves in a mysterious way is always in the background of this story.
In Naaman’s household there’s a slave girl, a member of God’s people in captivity. Naaman, heeding the word of the young girl, speaks with the king. And so it is that Naaman comes through “official channels” to the King of Israel but it is Elisha to whom Naaman must look.
At Elisha’s house, accompanied by horses, chariots and entourage, Naaman expects deference – and spectacular, miraculous healing. Instead, he is met by a messenger: Go, wash in the Jordan seven times… Naaman’s resulting anger and sense of grand insult are only eased by the simple yet clever words of his servants.
It is the powerless ‘little people’ who are instrumental in helping Naaman to wholeness: the servant girl in Naaman’s household; Elisha’s messenger; Naaman’s servants who urge him to at least try the bathing technique. Who knows? It might just work….
Naaman got off his high horse
removed his armour and sword
and stripped of his dignity
not in the mighty Abana or Pharpar
but in the Jordan.
still feeling a little put out
a result is hoped for
its possibility doubted
but Naaman is made clean
socially acceptable again.
Naaman took the plunge
and got not what he wanted
but what he needed.
Coming with expectations and demands,
Naaman is more than healed:
he leaves transformed
and lived in the company of God ever after.
God of the unexpected,
God in the background,
offends, shocks, delights, surprises:
little people in the foreground,
instrumental in bringing
wholeness, transformation and hope.
© Jeff Shrowder, 2012. More for Epiphany 6B…