Naaman: What a Syrian Soldier Teaches Us About Jesus 

| Time: 11 Minutes

I want to introduce you to NaamanNaaman was one of my favorite Bible characters as a kid—an obscure favorite, I know. God kindly gave me parents who committed to reading their kids the entire Bible. I would replay Naaman’s healing story, dunking myself in the couch pillows as he dunked himself in the Jordan river (true story).

I hope that what you read here will make Naaman’s story one of your favorites too, not because you love Naaman, but because you come to know his Healer better. I want you to open your phone or Bible to 2 Kings 5:1-14 first, though. Reading Naaman’s story on your own—which will take five minutes or less—will enrich what you read here.

Have you read it? Alright, let’s talk about Naaman.

Naaman, You, Me, and Leprosy

Naaman commanded the Syrian army (2 Kings 5:1). Think army general. At his time, Syria was a military superpower. Thus, Naaman was beyond cool in his day—like Special Forces soldiers today. He had honors and victories under his belt. Naaman 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…” (2 Kings 5:1 ESV). Our Bibles tell us the Lord, the God of Israel, had given Naaman success.

“But he was a leper” (2 Kings 5:1 ESV). Few ailments compared to leprosy. At that time people considered this disease incurable, and by law it was severely isolating (Leviticus 13). Such a sickness would devastate any man—especially one so mighty as Naaman.

In the Bible, leprosy isn’t just a terrible medical condition, it’s also a graphic, physical illustration of sin’s destructive power. The sores and deterioration that Naaman experienced in his body, we daily experience in our souls. Because apart from God, our nature is self-oriented, self-destructive, bent on evil in opposition to God.

Naaman isn’t the only leper. We have leprosy of the soul, and that’s why we need to hear Naaman’s story (Romans 3:10; Jeremiah 17:9). His story can become our story too.

So what happens with Naaman?

Naaman’s Hope

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. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy. (2 Kings 5:2-3 ESV)

A word of hope comes to this afflicted man from a little servant girl. She knows a man who can actually cure himthe prophet of the one true God of Israel, named Elisha 

Notice that Naaman takes this servant girl at her word. She was his captive, servant, and she came from a small nation with a totally foreign god. What weight did her word hold? A lot. It got Naaman on his horse. He likely didn’t ask her advice on much. But this time he takes it. Why? Because he was in need.   

One of the most kind things that the God of the Bible does for us is turn evil things for good (Genesis 50:20). And so, our kind God will often allow bad things to happen so we can see our need for soulhealing, to soften our hearts and rip away our sources of strength so that we see ourselves as we truly are—in need of the God of Israel.   

He knows that each one of us suffers from a debilitating disease called sin, that will not only corrupt our joy on earth, but will demand our eternal suffering after death. Our souls are sick. We too need someone to cure us. Many years after Elisha, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17 ESV).

One barrier to belief in the God of the Bible is wealth. And I don’t mean money. I mean self-sufficiency, thinking we have enough. We think we’re ok, but the Scriptures tell us we are not. God indicts our self-reliance saying, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17 ESV).  

One of our greatest needs is to be healed of our blindness to our need. And God did this for NaamanNaaman’s worst nightmare was God’s means of changing his life for goodBut it began with seeing his need. Nothing but experiencing helplessness like this would bring a man like Naaman to his knees.  

So Naaman listens to the little girl. Get this—he writes to his enemies, Israela tiny nation being pummeled by encroaching nations—for rescue. He sent a letter and got on his horse to pursue the prophet.  

Why Naaman Almost Forfeited Healing

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 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.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. (2 Kings 5:9-12 ESV)

Naaman thought that he deserved healing his way. If God is powerful, why doesn’t he just heal me when I ask? Naaman was angry because he wanted a quick-fix. He wasn’t concerned with knowing God, he just wanted to be healed at the wave of a hand so that he could get back to his own concerns.

But God had other plans. He wanted Naaman to humble himself so that he could not only be healed but know the God who heals. God wanted more for NaamanThe God of Israel wanted Naaman to know him personally.

1. The Way to Healing

Notice that God, through the prophet Elisha, offered Naaman healing without cost. He did not discriminate against Naaman for not being an Israelite, didn’t conjure up a list of his past sins, didn’t ask for anything in return. He just said, “Go, wash.”  

What did Naaman have to do to be healed?  

First, he had to believe the prophet. Elsewhere in the Bible it says, “faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26 NIV). This means that if you really believe something, you’ll act upon it. Naaman had to trust the prophet’s words in order to go wash.  

Second, Naaman had to humble himself. He had to submit to the one way of healing God offered. He had other thoughts about how this healing should happen. God’s way was a muddy river, dunking himself not once, nor going for a normal swim, but dunking himself seven times, which might have seemed strange 

And Naaman almost forfeited his healing because of his pride

2. T