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Great Man, Greater Word

Devotions can feel like a chore to the flesh, but once God’s Word meets our faith, the Spirit “works miracles among us” (Gal. 3:5). The story of a great Syrian warrior healed by an enemy priest was not the message I sought from God, but in the end, I’m so glad He sent it. Turns out I needed a surprise from Above.

So there I was in 2 Kings 5 …

[1] Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

Poor guy. I empathize with how he must have felt, having reached the pinnacle of his calling, so to speak, and yet, he’s cursed with leprosy. In my struggles with spinal degeneration, I often question the root of my suffering and how to count it as joy and trust in God’s work. This condition has forced me into weeping observation of God, and I wonder if Naaman had similar moments. If you’re hurting and asking God why, I hope this story of why in Naaman’s life will give you the strength to see God’s purpose for your pain.

Naaman is a “great man with his master,” which always feels good, right? In my chronic pain, I have recognized a pattern in Scripture calling servants to serve through suffering. God knows, yet He calls and equips us to continually trust in His goodness, strength, and wisdom.

Speaking of equipment for every good work, this “greatness” of Naaman is quickly outshined by another greatness: God’s Word and its amazing power.

[2] Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife.

Look at the seeming contrast of power between the greatest leader in Syria’s great army and a little girl servant to his wife. I wonder if Naaman or his wife had compassion on this girl, then I thank God that He still has great compassion on me.

“From the mouth of babes” is a phrase meant to emphasize the greater power of the word over the one who speaks it. God’s perfect and lovingly inspired narrative is setting us up for sequential messages of power:

First, Naaman is in his position by the word of the Lord. Now we have a girl preserved by the Lord, delivering a message of good news to another with that specific need. That message spreads up the chain to kings who may have otherwise not spoken and off we go. Look at the power of truth in a moment of need to move mountains.

[7] And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? …”

I love to picture God while I read His word, and in this case, the humor makes me grin. We know whose word has the power to bring life. Jesus said His word is spirit and life (Jn 6:63). His Spirit is the breath that gives us life (Gen. 6:17).

When Naaman goes to meet Elisha to be healed, Elisha doesn’t greet him with a good ol’ Moses whack of his staff to heal the leprosy.

Here’s what he does instead:

[9] So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. [10] And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”

Look at this as an illustration of the power in God’s word and our faith to esteem it enough to follow and obey. Naaman got upset. I’ve been there. We expect God to do something according to our wisdom and He provides His word and wisdom instead. Naaman isn’t the only one who needed to humble himself from being the greatest gift in the room to valuing God’s word as far greater. If the Teacher says to take a left, we take the left, even through leprosy.

I read the below verse and was struck by God’s power, goodness and wisdom:

[13] But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

A few words here: first, Naaman’s unnamed servant is the one to speak a greater word. He says, “It is a great word” that Naaman has received. I too have received a great word in the midst of my distress. I gather them like gold that does not fade–like food for a starving man desperate to survive the day. My status in this world means nothing compared to the peace in my heart that comes from Christ’s word dwelling richly in my heart.

The servant presents this “great word” and humbly asks Naaman, “Will you do it?”

I too am being challenged. Despite my pain, I have His commands. Will I obey them? Will I follow? Will I boast in my faith or crumble away in bitterness? It may feel shameful to obey the words of another, seeing as I’m a great man of valor, but if they work as intended, and part of their intention is to accomplish the very thing I need, why wouldn’t I follow? So what if I have to take a bath in the neighbor’s backyard, so to speak, as Naaman will here?

Naaman chose wisely. I want to as well. He left his pride and went to Israel to experience the fruit of faith in God’s word:

[14] So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

It’s interesting how God chose to further describe this Word as “of the man of God,” as though emphasizing the value of the Word above the one who brings and receives it. It doesn’t matter if you’re the king or the unnamed servant, we all need God and His power to change us.

I may not have a word from God that grants what I value as best: be healed now and forever. Thankfully, I have a lot of other powerful words that show me He is still in power, still wise and still loving. My complete healing will come in time. I have a beautiful inheritance.

Naaman walks away with flesh as soft and lovely as a little child’s. From bitterness to boasting. Our hearts can gain that same vitality when washed by His word. Thanks to this story and the power of God upon me to believe, I can love focusing on the greatness of God’s commands to follow, greater than my greatness and weaknesses abounding.

I’ll gladly be a child with a big word than a man among kings and no power to save.

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