“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” — Mark Twain
When I read the story about about Naaman in 2 Kings 5, two things stand out and cause me pause. First, why is an entire chapter in the Old Testament given over to this one character and his leprosy? And two, why am I so familiar with just how Naaman must have felt when he was told to wash in the Jordan River?
First, I haven’t a clue as to why an entire chapter is given over to this story. However, I am truly bothered by Naaman’s response to Elijah’s directives to go wash in the Jordan. Here is a highly regarded warrior whom the king of Aram knew to be a great man, “because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram” (vs. 1). Aram, by the way, is also known as Syria, whose capital is Damascus. But I digress.
Here’s the picture: Naaman is a great warrior, esteemed by all, adored by the masses and rich enough to own a slave girl imported from Israel. His only problem seemed to be a small case of leprosy, which is a bit more distressing that acute acne by not as bad terminal cancer.
So Naaman is a great warrior and respected by his peers. He’s a bit like me, if you will – a warrior with words and respected by the dozens of people who know I like to write.
Now comes the crisis (leprosy, or cancer or something tragic in my life like another rejection letter from an editor) and the solution (go bathe in a muddy stream, or bow to God or apologize to your family for being selfish or something equally mundane). “Wait!” I want to shout, “I’m a SOMEBODY. Elisha, you can’t be serious. Don’t just send out your maid and tell me to do something mundane. I’m special and I want special treatment!”