Now Naaman, the commander of the king of Syria’s army, was esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the Lord had given Syria military victories. But this great warrior had a skin disease. Raiding parties went out from Syria and took captive from the land of Israel a young girl, who became a servant to Naaman’s wife. She told her mistress, “If only my master were in the presence of the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his skin disease.”
Naaman went and told his master what the girl from the land of Israel had said. The king of Syria said, “Go! I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten suits of clothes. He brought the letter to the king of Israel. It read: “This is a letter of introduction for my servant Naaman, whom I have sent to be cured of his skin disease.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill or restore life? Why does he ask me to cure a man of his skin disease? Certainly you must see that he is looking for an excuse to fight me!”
When Elisha the prophet heard that the king had torn his clothes, he sent this message to the king, “Why did you tear your clothes? Send him to me so he may know there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood in the doorway of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent out a messenger who told him, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan; your skin will be restored and you will be healed.” Naaman went away angry. He said, “Look, I thought for sure he would come out, stand there, invoke the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the area, and cure the skin disease. The rivers of Damascus, the Abana and Pharpar, are better than any of the waters of Israel! Could I not wash in them and be healed?” So he turned around and went away angry. His servants approached and said to him, “O master, if the prophet had told you to do some difficult task, you would have been willing to do it. It seems you should be happy that he simply said, “Wash and you will be healed.” So he went down and dipped in the Jordan seven times, as the prophet had instructed. His skin became as smooth as a young child’s and he was healed.
—2 Kings 5:10 (NET)
When Naaman, commander of Aram’s army, discovered that he had developed a terrible skin disease, he traveled south to Israel to consult with Elisha, a prophet of God. Commander Naaman was desperate for help and would have done anything to gain relief from his condition: complete some great feat of strength, make a tremendous sacrifice, or undertake a deadly quest. But God only wanted him to take a bath in the Jordan River—well, seven baths to be precise.
Naaman struggled with this instruction, and he would have headed home, still leprous, if it hadn’t been for the urging of his servants: “O master, if the prophet had told you to do some difficult task, you would have been willing to do it. It seems you should be happy that he simply said, ‘Wash and you will be healed’” (5:13). Naaman couldn’t wrap his head around the Lord’s command. What good will come from washing in this filthy river? he must have thought. But God wasn’t really interested in Naaman taking a bath; He wanted Naaman to trust Him—no matter how small or insignificant the command might have seemed.
Eventually Naaman did obey the Lord. He washed himself in the Jordan seven times—and his skin was made new. His simple act of faith opened the door to God’s blessing. When we read this story in our Bibles, it seems so obvious to us. But in everyday life, just like Naaman, we can struggle to obey Jesus in the seemingly mundane.
I am convinced that the Christian life is not normally lived in the life-and-death struggles for the kingdom. Rather, it is made up of a million small battles waged each and every day over things like pride and anger, and those fights are won not in our own strength but in the power we receive when we take time to pray and listen to Jesus’ voice.
“One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.”