Behold, I Thought…

Naaman was desperate. A great general in the Syrian army, he could ill afford to suffer the effects of the leprosy that had invaded his body. In fact, Naaman was ready to try anything to get his life back on track.

Fortunately for Naaman, he was a man of considerable meekness. Meekness is merely power under control. Meekness is evidenced by the absence of pride and the presence of a teachable spirit. Naaman showed meekness when he listened to his servant, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria. He would cure his leprosy!” (2 Kings 5:3).

So, the great Syrian general took the advice of a young servant girl and headed off to Israel to seek a cure for his leprosy. Problem was, Naaman was evidently concerned about his image. The meekness he showed in the private confines of his home seemed to disappear when he crossed the border into Israel. He went first to the king, bringing with him lavish gifts (2 Kings 5:5-6). Israel’s king was suspicious… Syria had historically been an enemy of God’s people, and so the king quickly referred Naaman to Elisha, the prophet of Jehovah.

Elisha’s response to Naaman’s arrival was less than impressive, by the world’s standards. Naaman and his entourage were left standing in the street, never even gaining a direct audience with God’s prophet (2 Kings 5:9). The only message Elisha sent challenged Naaman’s meekness to the core: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you will be clean.”

Naaman’s response was classic: “Behold, I thought…” (2 Kings 5:11). If Elisha had asked Naaman to do some heroic thing, Naaman would never have questioned. But God’s message to Naaman was to go and wash himself in a dirty river. Seven times.

The great excuse of the Bible is, “Behold, I thought…” We, like Naaman, are often convinced that God’s will is one thing, when in fact His word clearly teaches otherwise. What can we learn from Naaman as we strive to be what God wants?

We need to cultivate a teachable spirit — So many in the world have their consciences seared (cf. 1 Tim. 4:3). Sad thing is, many in Christ’s church are in a similar predicament. There is no place in Christ’s kingdom for the proud, know-it-all Christian (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1-2). Naaman was angry because he expected one thing and got another. How often do we really let God’s word change our thinking? How teachable are we?

We need to cultivate meekness — Jesus was meek and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:29-30). This means that our Lord knew what it meant to wield great power with restraint. Naaman was undoubtedly a meek man, but he needed to grow. So, too, we grow when we are forced to confront our own pride and arrogance. Meekness is seen when the words, “Behold, I thought…” become, “Now, I know!” (2 Kings 5:15). Naaman learned that restraint of power is a characteristic of Godliness.

We need to cultivate faithfulness to God — God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8). Who would have imagined that God’s recipe for cleansing Naaman would be to dip seven times in a river? Yet through faithful obedience, Naaman was cleansed. Who could have imagined that repentance and baptism in water would be God’s means of salvation from sin (Acts 2:38)? Yet, when we are faithful in these things, God saves us. May He help us to be more faithful to Him! — JB