And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’”
~2 Kings 5:10-11
God is not into sensationalism, loud noise, special effects and excessive emotional displays. He is not looking to put on a show, to be applauded by throngs of hysterical fans. He doesn’t need out-of-this-world public sacrifices and self-aggrandizing statements. The simplicity of the gospel and of the life we are called to live as followers of Christ is often lost to us nowadays. However, THE thing our Lord wants from us is what we are most reluctant to give Him: obedience.
God doesn’t cherish our promises, offerings, big projects, self-righteousness, Bible knowledge, triumphs or religious practices. His delight is hearts trusting Him and therefore obeying Him. That’s called faith; and faith is what saves. Faith brings heaven on earth for us to experience the supernatural. Faith opens our lives to His miracles, which are His love at work. God simply desires us to say YES! Yes, to His will and to His ways. Yes, to His timing, His vessels and His places. We tend to forget we are supposed to believe like children.
Naaman the Syrian had to learn that lesson, even if he was an army commander, great and honorable, a man esteemed by the king, a victorious warrior, a mighty man of valor (2 Kings 5:1). Why? Because he was sick! Despite his successful life, riches and power, there was something he couldn’t control or change. He had tried everything…in vain. He needed a miracle, a real encounter with God. The things, people and forces he trusted in all throughout his life had failed. Listening to that slave girl and heading to Israel testifies of his desperation.
During the trip, he thought of how it should play out. Used to having his way, he mistakenly assumed God was at his service and ought to do as he pleased. He had brought gifts, was dressed up like a foreign dignitary on an official mission and had an imposing escort. Surely that would impress God! Or at least His servant. Elisha would have no choice but to swiftly perform his magic tricks, getting the genie out of the bottle to grant this Big Shot War Hero’s wishes. Surely it was owed to him because of who he was and all he had done!
Little did he know that the Almighty’s priority was to cure not the leprosy everyone saw, but the hidden disease corroding everything from within: pride! God will not move powerfully in our lives unless we humble ourselves, submit to Him, and accept to do things His way. We can pray and fast as much as we want, gather prayer warriors, anoint here, rebuke the devil there, use flashy gimmicks, etc. The real deal comes only to those who know they can do NOTHING of worth apart from Jesus Christ.
Naaman got angry because Elisha didn’t “bother” to meet him and admire his magnificence. He was furious because “all he had to do was take a bath”. Really? Where was the challenge, the complexity worthy of his abilities? He was also irritated because he despised Israel: the beautiful rivers of Syria would have been a more appropriate setting than the Jordan! Finally, there was NOTHING spectacular about the process: no calling on God with earth-shaking authority, no mighty gestures and moving around, no sweat, no tears, no screaming, no crowds, NO-THING. How often do we despise God’s work in us and around us because it seems lackluster, ordinary, or we take it for granted?
That’s why we should not be too quick to condemn Naaman. If that story happened today, Elisha’s social media profiles would have few followers, his instructions wouldn’t go viral, he wouldn’t be sought after for a stadium crusade or a TV show and nobody would put his face on a billboard. Many would ask, “What kind of ministry is that? How could that girl call him a prophet? No fireworks? No financial reward? No publicity? Come on! That’s a failure.” God thought otherwise. His standards are not the world’s. He backed Elisha and granted a double miracle: Naaman’s body and soul were healed!
The slave girl preached the truth and was a light in the darkness. Elisha had confidence in God, in his own calling, and refused to stand back as a spectator. Naaman himself listened to his servants’ advice, let go of his ego and preconceived ideas. Each of them, when faced with choices between faith or unbelief, fear or trust, said YES to God. Their decisions led to this wonderful testimony, the kind our lives must bring about more and more:
And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, ‘Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel…’
~2 Kings 5:15
Obedience is not popular or fancy, but it is God’s way for the unleashing of His life-transforming power. The girl obeyed. The prophet obeyed. The warrior obeyed. What about us? Are we willing to say YES to those “boring”, routine, simple acts God demands? Being faithful in little things, even when nobody sees us. Taking steps of faith day by day, whether we feel like it or not. Having our minds renewed by the Word to stop walking by sight.
For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.
In plain 21st century English it means: If God says so, then it is so; despite what I see, feel, hear or think. If He promised, it will happen. If God wants me to do this, quit that, go there, stop here, pray now, give, help, stand firm, rest, work, be quiet, hope… Well, let me do just that. Not more, not less. It is that simple.