Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

The Story of Namaan

The Story of Naaman

During this part of the church year our lectionary calls us to look at the events in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Last Sunday was Baptism of the Lord Sunday where we remembered Jesus’ ‘ordination’ into the role he will play as the Messiah - where we saw the dove come down and infuse him with the Holy Spirit as the voice of God was heard saying, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” This act begins the story of Jesus’ life as he obediently follows where God leads him, to reveal for us the nature of God; to teach us the way to live; to offer our salvation on the cross and to deliver eternal life through the resurrection.
After the time of his sending by God, Jesus immediately goes into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days to consider what this new focus of his life is all about. He goes to spend time with God and with himself; a time of prayer and discernment. It is a time to sort of just take a deep breath before he begins what he knows is going to be a tough journey. And then at the end of this 40 day period when he is tired and hungry he is tempted by Satan with all those things that seem so tempting in our life. He was tempted with power, with recognition, with arrogance. Notice he is not tempted by the things in life that we associate with sin - drinking, drugs, sexual sin, theft, dishonesty….. No he was tempted with the things that are even harder to resist - a sense of pride, a sense of self reliance, a sense of God’s care even when we are disobedient to him. It is a time when Jesus is most vulnerable. And Jesus makes it. He doesn’t give in! Can you imagine what that felt like. The humanity in Jesus must have felt pretty good about himself - Wow! I did it!
So he heads home. On the way his ministry begins in full force. He teaches, he heals people. He is invited into synagogues to teach and everyone thinks he is great. On this great success he decides to head home to share this great moment with people he knows! Word precedes him about how successful he has been and how great his message and his healing and he is invited to the hometown synagogue to teach for worship….. He is handed a scroll and reads a prophecy about the coming Messiah and then says, “Look! This is me! I am the Messiah read about in the scriptures. I have come to God’s chosen people to help them turn back to God.”
Well, the people then began to remember who this was - “Isn’t this Joseph’s son? We remember him as a little boy. Who does he think he is? Why is he telling us we need to change?” So they run him out of town. Certainly didn’t go as Jesus expected……
And so it is in our lives. Things certainly don’t go as we expect them to. We think we have a handle on things. We thing we understand what is going on and then it truly rains on our parade and we find ourselves spinning out of control and we don’t know what happened.
In Jesus’ message to the people of his home town he mentioned the Syrian Namaan. And Namaan is another good example of someone for whom things don’t quite go as he thought they would.
Namaan is a Syrian. The time period of this story is back in the days of God’s people as they lived under a series of good kings and bad kings - and the bad kings far outnumbered the good kings. God raised up prophets to help refocus the kings and to help the people know the true word of God. One of these prophets was the named Elisha.
Historically what was going on was the nation of Syria was continually attacking Israel, especially the border towns, and in doing so would plunder the small villages and would kill the men and capture the women and children and take them back to Syria as slaves. In the ‘God can bring something good out of any situation’ category, was a young Hebrew slave girl that had been captured by a mighty warrior of Syria and given to his wife. The mighty warrior was Namaan.
But as big and important as Namaan was, Namaan had contracted leprosy. This was devastating to him because he was powerful and important and things like that just didn’t happen to people like him. The little Hebrew servant girl who saw Namaan’s turmoil was bold enough to step up and say, “There is a prophet of God in Israel who can cure your leprosy.” Now this had to be a very

difficult choice for Namaan. The Syrian’s looked down on the Hebrews as being ‘less than’, not being ‘good enough’ and for Namaan to stoop to going to a Hebrew for healing was almost out of the question. But Namaan was desperate and he was willing to try anything.
He had his entourage headed off to Israel in search of the prophet. And they found him. His name was Elisha. Namaan had brought with him many of his soldiers and advisors and servants. He had brought huge wealth with him because he was sure this prophet was going to charge a great deal to heal Namaan since Namaan was sure his reputation as a great and powerful man had preceded his visit and great and powerful men were able to pay large amounts for healing and Namaan assumed Elisha would charge him great amounts.
He had one of his servants knock on Elisha’s door and Elisha’s servant comes to the door and says, “Elisha says to go wash in the Jordan 7 times and you will be healed.”
Namaan is outraged! Who does this prophet think he is to send some lowly servant to deliver a message instead of coming to me himself.” Namaan declares, “Surely the prophet himself would come out and perform rituals and call on the name of his God in order to heal me.” Namaan was incensed that the prophet hadn’t performed some great act; hadn’t made a great show; hadn’t performed some visual display for someone as important as Namaan!
Namaan begins to move away saying “If he isn’t willing to come out and approach me himself then I’m leaving. Wash in the Jordan river 7 times; how dumb that is. I could have done that with better rivers and clearer water back in Syria.” Off he begins to ride when one of his servants is willing to speak up and say, “Wait! We traveled all this way and you are going to let your ego get in the way of your healing? We are here. We can at least try what the prophet said. What will it hurt?”
It took some doing, but Namaan finally agreed and he and his entourage went down to the Jordan. Namaan went in the water and dipped himself in 7 times and when he came out of the water of course he was healed. He couldn’t believe it. Something so easy and simple.
He goes back to Elisha and this time Elisha does talk to him. Namaan offers Elisha great wealth and Elisha won’t take it - which again doesn’t go as Namaan had thought it would and Namaan and his entourage return home vowing to worship the Hebrew God.
Nothing went as Namaan had expected. Namaan expected some great wondrous ceremony, this great waving of hands and calling on God and the presence of angels and something grand. He expected to have to pay greatly for this huge gesture and the presence of this famous prophet, and it didn’t cost him a thing…
Just like Jesus and Namaan had this expectations of how things would go, God had other plans. The events did not turn out as expected - yet Jesus’ ministry continued, Naaman was healed.
We too often have these great expectations of how things should be. We plan and we consider how we would see the circumstances play out and when they don’t we are confused, perplexed, we wonder what God is thinking? We are sure that we had the path cleared in front of us and we are going on as we see fit and then that path takes a sharp curve and we are lost.
But we need to stop when we see that curve and not see it as devastation, but see it as opportunity. Jesus’ had the opportunity to understand that it wasn’t the right time for him to reveal who he was and it certainly wasn’t the right place but God set him back on the right path and his work and his ministry continued. Namaan had high expectations of wonder and grandeur and God gave him the opportunity to see that around that curve may not be something huge, but something easy and simple and exactly what God knows it should be.
Open yourselves to what God knows is right for you.

Amen!