But Naaman went away angry … he turned and went off in a rage …
“Go in peace,” Elisha said (2 Kings 5:11-12, 19).
Naaman knew how things worked and how to get things done. He was capable, decisive and successful. A military man, he knew about orders, obeying them and giving them. As a well-established, well-regarded commander, maybe more these days about giving orders.
Naaman doesn’t know it, but God has started him on a journey, a journey towards God. One of the main things to be learned along that way is you’re not in charge, you’re not giving the orders. The journey from my way into God’s ways.
Most of us don’t have Naaman’s position or resources. But we probably have some experience of learning that my ways aren’t always God’s ways.
The circles in which Naaman moves can’t help with his problem and he learns that maybe a prophet in Israel can. He knows how this works: he first must get permission from his king. And he needs to bring a “gift,” a gift that shows he’s serious, that he is “worthy” and that he is not to be trifled with.
Off he goes, carrying a “gift” in the form of nearly half a ton of money. The poor camels that carried it all the way ended up carrying most of it all the way back home. The little bit that remained behind didn’t help Naaman or do anyone else any good (see verses 21-27).
When he finally gets to Elisha’s, he is mightily offended: the prophet he came all this way to see sends his servant to give Naaman his orders. A guy Naaman never meets telling him what to do!
Despite himself, Naaman complies—and receives God’s healing. You can almost see the little lightbulb over his head go on.
He is not dealing with a god who can be placated and manipulated, a god whose favorable attention can be bought or “deserved” or earned. Naaman has come into contact with a god who doesn’t owe him anything; in fact, as Naaman comes to realize, he’s the one who owes God everything. And this God heals him.
Grateful, Naaman offers the prophet a gift; it is refused. So Naaman asks for a gift instead: two donkey loads of dirt.
We might say Naaman goes home grounded, with a greater measure of humility. Not humility as a generic “character quality,” but as a result of a life-changing, life-shaping, life-directing encounter with God.
The God who healed Naaman. And sent him on his way in peace, gifted with the fear of the LORD. Not because of who Naaman was or what Naaman did or deserved; because of who God is and what God does for those who will learn to listen to him and walk in his ways.
During these pandemic times, have you noticed something about God’s ways? Or have you experienced something of God’s loving resistance to your own ways? What is one practical way your ways could become more like his? Before you “try harder,” how might you pray?