Captured by Naaman, snatched from her home and parents, and forced into slavery in Syria, Scripture thus introduces the little maid, who soon realized that Naaman, her captor, was dying from leprosy. “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kgs 5:3, ESV). So said the little maid to Naaman’s wife, and what she said spoke volumes about her parents and to parents today.
I. WHAT THE LITTLE MAID DID SAY. . .
The little maid pointed Naaman’s wife to Elisha, God's prophet in Israel. In 2 Kings 4, we read four miracle stories of Elisha: the miraculous provision of oil for the widow so she needn’t sell her children into slavery, the raising from the dead of the Shunammite’s boy, the removal of deadly poison from the soup about to be eaten by students, and the miraculous multiplication of a few loaves and some ears of grain into food sufficient for one hundred starving people. Elisha performed miracles that showed God’s power over death, disease, deadly poison, and desperate financial and family circumstances. He is the God who delivers! There is no human challenge beyond His reach!
The little maid’s witness reveals the importance of parenting. In harmony with Deuteronomy 11:18–21, she had learned in her home that God’s people were to be a light to the nations. “There is no higher trust than that committed to fathers and mothers in the care and training of their children.”1 Rather than sinking into bitterness, she chose to be an agent of healing and conversion for the ostensible enemies of God’s people.
“We know not in what line our children may be called to serve. They may spend their lives within the circle of the home; they may engage in life’s common vocations or go as teachers of the gospel to heathen lands; but all are alike called to be missionaries for God, ministers of mercy to the world. They are to obtain an education that will help them to stand by the side of Christ in unselfish service.”2 Parents and caregivers, we are raising our children not merely to love God, but to be His witnesses wherever life takes them. We raise them so that whilst we do not know where they will go, we know with whom they will go. While we may, we plant the seed of the Word in their hearts, and then allow the Spirit to bring a harvest in due time, wherever they may go.
The little maid’s witness revealed her parents to be part of God’s hidden yet faithful remnant in apostate Israel, maybe even among the “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kgs 19:18, ESV). From her parents she had learned of love for her enemy, compassion in speech, mercy for the lost, and to point others to God. Her actions reflected her parents’ careful instruction in the fear of the Lord, which transcended political and ethnic boundaries, and her faith that in lifting Yahweh high, He could and would draw all people to Himself, even a leprous war criminal like Naaman (John 12:32).
II. WHAT THE LITTLE MAID DIDN’T SAY. . .
There is much she could have said about Israel other than point to God. In her parents’ lifetime, Ahab was king, a wicked king. He had married Jezebel, a Syrophoenician princess, who imported Baal worship into Israel. Hundreds of prophets of Baal were supported from the public purse. Jezebel had hunted down and killed God’s prophets. Faithful Naboth and his family lay dead, killed at the conniving of Ahab, Jezebel, false prophets, and corrupt civic leaders. A huge temple for Baal worship had been built in Samaria. Golden calves had been installed in Dan and Bethel to prevent Israelites from worshipping in Jerusalem. The rich oppressed the poor. Injustice was rife. Israelite society was rotten, from top to bottom.
Yes, there was much the little maid could have said, but she didn’t. Criticism of God’s people to non-believers never leads to their conversion; it merely hardens them in their unbelief. Had the little maid waxed lyrical about Israel’s problems or the failures of Israel’s leadership, Naaman may never have been converted. He would have remained a leprous man of war dying without hope.
“Many who listen to the preaching of the word of God make it the subject of criticism at home. They sit in judgment on the sermon. . . . The message that should be regarded as the word of the Lord to them is dwelt upon with trifling or sarcastic comment. . . . Severe judgment is pronounced . . . and this in the hearing of the unconverted. Thus are destroyed respect for God’s messengers, and reverence for their message. . . . And the parents question why their children are so little interested in the gospel.”3 Oh parents, be careful what you say. If you have genuine reason for concern, speak privately, or you may inadvertently be raising gospel-hardened heathens in your home.
Life doesn’t always work out as we hope or plan. Plans do go awry. Sin intrudes via disease, discouragement, divorce, depression, and death. The little maid did not plan on being kidnapped and forced into slavery, but she did purpose on being faithful to the God of Israel, no matter what happened in life. “He who sent . . . the little Israelite maiden to the help of Naaman, the Syrian captain, sends men and women and youth today as His representatives to those in need of divine help and guidance.”4 Like Paul and Silas singing in jail, Jonah praying in the belly of the fish, or Daniel and his three friends purposing in their hearts to not defile themselves, so the little maid had little control over her external circumstances, but she could choose a God-honoring response. And so can we!
We are also called to reflect on what we speak about. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth does speak. By our words, do we build up or tear down? Do people learn of the loving character of God or the troublesome saints of God? Would we ever wish for a wandering child to stumble across our comments on an Adventist website? Does our speech honor God and those of the family of faith in harmony with Ephesians 4:29–5:2? Our speech can lead to eternal consequences, one way or another, for others. O be careful, little mouth, what you say!
And finally, Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt 7:16, ESV). The fruit of the little maid’s faithful parenting was Naaman’s physical healing and eternal salvation. By God’s grace, in what we say and what we don’t say, may the fruit of our walk with God be the healing and salvation of all those whom God places in our path, and in the lives of our children.
1 Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1917), 245.
2 Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1954), 483.
3 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1900), 45–46.
4 Ellen G. White, Conflict and Courage (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1970), 227.
Conrad Vine, DMin, is the president of Adventist Frontier Missions, Berrien Springs, MI, USA.