Yuri Gagarin was born on March 9, 1934 in the Soviet Union. On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to enter space. He orbited the earth, and on reentry became an instant national hero and international celebrity. His story was told worldwide. Shortly thereafter, a Soviet teacher was praising Gagarin’s flight, the seeming absence of God in space, the technological prowess of the USSR, the inevitability of world class struggle, and liberation from the now-disproven faith in God. As she spoke, a small child raised her hand and spoke up: “Please, Miss, my God lives higher up.” Wherever the story of Yuri Gagarin is told, so is the story of this little child. God works through the witness of faithful children, so we now turn to another faithful witness, the little maid.
I. THE SITUATION
In 2 Kings 5:1–2 the context is set. Ahab was dead, succeeded in turn by his wicked sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram. Elijah had been taken to heaven. Elisha was now God’s prophet in Israel. Although Israel and Syria were at peace, Naaman, a mighty Syrian general, would lead raiding parties into Israel, during which he captured a little maid and forced her into slavery within his own home, serving his wife.
II. THE COMPLICATION
The little maid noticed that beyond the glamour of Naaman’s home, there was a shadow, a ghost at every banquet, for Naaman had leprosy. What to do? Rejoice at God’s judgment on her captor? Speak vindictive words to her master? Gloat over the imminent death of her oppressor? In 2 Kings 5:3, the little maid tells her mistress that, if Naaman would go to Israel and meet with Elisha, then Naaman would be healed. Amazing words. What do they reveal? In the midst of bitter personal grief, the little maid had found forgiveness, peace, and healing. No longer was Naaman that wicked general whose soldiers had forcibly kidnapped her into a life of slavery. She now saw Naaman as a victim needing God’s intervention, just as the little maid wished for God’s deliverance for herself.
III. THE SOLUTION
In 2 Kings 5:4, Naaman went to the Syrian king, and told him the words of the little maid. The KJV translates this as “Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.” “Thus and thus”—we may wonder what the little maid said. What did she talk about? Elisha’s miracles, Elijah on Mount Carmel, God’s power to raise the dead? Whatever that little maid said, her witness was shared with Ben-Hadad, the pagan king of Syria, who heard of the power of the God of Israel. Words, once spoken, can never be taken back. A gracious and faithful testimony, once spoken, can ripple through society and reach the ears even of national leaders, who may never otherwise hear the gospel. The little maid never personally met Ben-Hadad, but her faith-filled testimony reached his ears. Unfortunately, her witness got lost in translation, for the king of Syria thought the little maid was referring Naaman not to Elisha, but to the king of Israel, so he sent Naaman with gifts to the king of Israel, asking him to heal Naaman of his deadly disease.
The king of Israel in turn sent Naaman to Elisha. Elisha sent out his servant to tell Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan. Proud Naaman was upset. Were not the rivers of Damascus cleaner than the Jordan? He intended to ignore the prophet’s command but his servants wisely counseled him to at least try. After all, wouldn’t Naaman have undertaken the most heroic of tasks and paid any price for healing? Naaman was confused. Surely God wanted something special from him—something so difficult it would be spoken of for generations. Yet the command for Naaman to be cleansed seemed to be just too easy! What God required was not the fulfillment of a difficult task, but a demonstration of trusting obedience. Likewise today, God seeks not extravagant sacrifices, but for us to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8, ESV).
So, Naaman went down into the Jordan. 1-2-3-4-5-6-still a leper-7-clean! Imagine the sheer joy when Naaman realized that God had indeed given him the gift of life! The horror of that death-dealing disease was gone. Naaman arose from the waters a new man. In the Hebrew, the little maid is referred to in 2 Kings 5:2, 4 as na’arah, and Naaman comes up out of the water (5:14) as a na’ar (“like the flesh of a little child”)—the masculine form. Naaman’s experience with God parallels that of the little maid. Although enemies in human terms, both were caught in desperate circumstances, both were facing separation from their loved ones, and both needed and both received the healing touch of God. God, in His grace, can heal burdens and restore former enemies into His kingdom.
IV. THE CONVERSION
Naaman rushed back to Elisha’s home (2 Kings 5:15–19)—his body healed, his fears relieved, his spirit humbled, his hope restored, his heart converted. From now on, he would be a worshipper of the true God, and so asked for two mule-loads of earth so when he prayed to the God of Israel at home in Damascus, he would be kneeling on soil from Israel. Elisha recognized Naaman as a fellow God-worshipper, thus transcending the Israelite hatred of the Syrian Naaman for his past, and responded, “Go in peace.” Naaman now had the assurance of God’s forgiveness. In verse 1 (ESV), we first met Naaman as a “commander of the army of the king of Syria . . . a great man. . . . a mighty man of valor,” but in verse 19 he is a new creation. A diseased man is now a healthy man. A dying man is now a living man. A man facing separation from his family is now looking forward to a long life together. A pagan is now a God-fearer. A man of war is now a man of peace. And all because the little maid spoke up!
“Please, Miss, my God lives higher up.” “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kgs 5:3, ESV). What did these two children have in common? These were the words spoken by children raised in God-fearing families. Both families lived in a rather godless age, both families lived in societies where the worship of God was suppressed, both families lived in an era where God-fearing parents had excuses not to nurture the fear of God in their children, yet both families took seriously their Godgiven responsibilities to raise God-fearing children. And the rest, as they say, is history. How about you and your family?
Conrad Vine, DMin, is the president of Adventist Frontier Missions, Berrien Springs, MI, USA.