Frank Bergman sold office equipment for IBM in the 40’s and 50’s. He believed that IBM had the best equipment but what he really emphasized was customer service. He landed a deal with General Motors for them to purchase 3,000 electric typewriters. At $90 commission per typewriter, Bergman stood to make a whopping $270,000—more than ten year’s salary and an all-time IBM record for a single sales commission. But the deal never happened! A GM executive called and asked one of Bergman’s junior associates to come see him about the “few” typewriters. The rookie told the man to send an order by mail because he didn’t have time to drive all the way up there for a few typewriters. Because of that response GM bought those “few” typewriters and the 3,000 others from a competitor! As Christians we have the most glorious message in salvation, but if people don’t sense that we genuinely care they will take their spiritual needs elsewhere. Service and servanthood make a big difference in the lives of the people we touch.
First we see the witnessing servant (1-4). Naaman was a proud general. He was the commander in chief and distinguished on the battlefield, “a mighty man of valor.” He was also “honorable” and respected by his nation. “Naaman” means “gracious or fair.” It was certainly unusual for a captured slave and his servants to care for him (2, 3,13) but he seemed to be a decent man, though a pagan who worshiped the Syrian god Rimmon. He also had a disease. At one time he was probably tall, powerfully built and striking in appearance but leprosy was changing his visage rapidly. Leprosy was a living death—its victims often died blind, faceless, with missing digits, even limbs. In the Old Testament leprosy is a common picture of the curse of sin.
But Naaman had a humble slave. The young Israelite girl had lost her family, freedom, friends and future and was left with recurring memories of flashing swords, pounding hooves with accompanying screams. The Syrians were known for their blitzing, marauding companies of soldiers with little value for life who slaughtered and stole. This young lady became the servant to Naaman’s wife. The very man who had ordered and possibly led the attack. Humanly speaking, she had every right to be bitter, sullen and uncaring but the opposite is true; she understood that God was sovereign and good. In spite of her lowly position she had a testimony and credibility. With those important qualities she sought to help her master by telling him about Elisha, the prophet of God (3).
Next we see the wise servant (5-19). Ben-Hadad II, the king of Syria, sends a letter to King Jehoram asking for healing for his military commander Naaman. Jehoram assumes Ben-Hadad is provoking him to battle, and since he is unable to physically help the commander, Jehoram sends some aid—750 lbs of silver and 150 lbs of gold ($3 million in today’s money!)! Sadly, Jehoram was clueless to the availability of the miraculous power of God. But then, the bold prophet Elisha rebukes the foolish king Jehoram (8). This was an opportunity to show the greatness and power of Jehovah! Because of Naaman’s personal greatness, his huge gift, and the diplomatic letter, he expected some special treatment. Elisha doesn’t even come out of his house, but sends his servant with instructions. No religious performance, no eloquent prayer, no incense, vestments or bells just a simple command, “Go immerse yourself in the Jordan River seven times.” That muddy stream is nothing compared to the Abana and Pharpar whose sources are the clear snow melt streams from the mountains of Lebanon and Hermon. God, through Elisha, was testing and humbling Naaman. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Naaman would have submitted to a grueling discipline or lengthy ritual but this required a humble act and simple faith. He was ready to ride home unhealed but his servant pleads with him to obey. So seven times Naaman dips in the Jordan and his skin is restored without blemish and as supple as a little child’s. If he had scars from sword wounds or arrow piercings they were probably gone as well too. What a wonderful picture of what the Lord does to our heart and soul at salvation! Elisha refuses a gift of payment for sake of testimony, lest anyone think miracles can be purchased (15-16). Naaman immediately thinks of his own testimony, clarifying that he will not be worshipping the false gods of the Syrians, but in his official capacity he must accompany the king to the temple of Rimmon (18).
Finally, we see the wicked servant (20-27). Covetous of this caravan of treasure, Elisha’s servant Gehazi concocts a lie and accepts a small part of the gift for himself. He hides it in his home, and no one is the wiser, or so he thinks. But God reveals to Elisha what Gehazi has done. Gehazi receives Naaman’s leprosy until he dies!
In conclusion, remember, like the maid servant, you can glorify God even when circumstances are tough. She conquered her bitterness, loved her enemies and witnessed for the Lord. Like Naaman, you must obey God even when the command seems foolish. The Christian life is not glamorous but blessings come when we obey. And like Gehazi, you must refuse to sin even when the temptation seems justified. Man’s universal plight is sin but God’s simple plan is obedience to His Word.