READ 2 KINGS 5.1-19
Do you find it easy to talk about your faith? Do you get nervous that someone will ask you a question about God that you can’t answer, like… ‘Why does He allow suffering’? Do you struggle to make sense of things you have experienced? Or haven’t - that you hoped for? Do you wonder where God is some of the time? Especially when it all goes wrong? Me too.
2 Kings 5; 1-4
“Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went in and told his master, saying “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.”
And so, Naaman goes to Elisha, washes in the Jordan and gets healed.
There are some remarkable children in the bible: Samuel, David, even Mary was hardly more than a child, but this little girl is quite something – even if we don’t know her name.
We can piece together a few fragments of her young life. Captured in a raid on her village or town, it’s likely her family is dead and that she has seen things we would hope our children would never see. Certainly she has been forcibly taken from her home against her will.
Unfortunately there are parts of the world today where her story really wouldn’t be so remarkable. Children are regularly snatched in parts of war torn Africa, trafficked for prostitution in Southeast Asia, live in sewers in South America.
This little girl has been sold into slavery and is working in the house of a high ranking Aramean official as his wife’s maid. We don’t know from the text how long she has been there, or how she has been treated; whether she has violent or benevolent owners. But what is striking about her is that despite all this she still has the courage to speak up and to honour Elisha, the prophet of Israel’s God – who, lets be honest – has not saved her from captivity!
One is that she is sufficiently concerned about the health of her master to speak up, to try and help his situation. You wouldn’t blame her for being glad that her captor, owner, oppressor, is ill; seriously, debilitatingly ill. Perhaps her future would be uncertain if he died, but I don’t hear self-interest in her little speech. This is a child tentatively making a suggestion to her mistress, which frankly could have cost her a beating!
Or was the situation so desperate and her mistress so distraught that compassion outweighed the fear and she took the risk anyway? We can see God behind her words – the words of a child, but I wonder if she knew that or if her conscience simply prompted her?
The second remarkable thing is that, despite everything, she still had faith in Yahweh and his prophet. God had not prevented her capture or suffering, but she still believed that he was the answer to Naaman’s problems. She still believed in his power, in his faithfulness to heal, in a prophet to work on his behalf, in miracles done in his name. There is no ‘could’ but rather a ‘would’ in her mind. She believes God and his prophet WILL heal her master - even if they didn’t save her.
This little girl is a real inspiration.She shows concern for those who she has no reason to love, who do not love her, who use her. To quote Jesus she really does ‘love her enemies’. (Matt 5.44)
She has lost her family but not her compassion or her faith.
While the adults in Israel were busy betraying God, this child, far from home, is still living in a way that would make him proud. I wish we knew her name. It may be that the writer of the story didn’t think it was important, she was just a little girl, but I bet Naaman and his wife did. And God knows it for sure!
Because God has not rescued her does not mean, in her mind, that he won’t help. In fact she is convinced that he will. How can a child have come to a level of faith like that? Or is it the innocence of childhood? Perhaps she doesn’t think philosophically about the ‘why’s’ in life but just remembers what her parents taught her, that ‘the prophet of God can heal’?
I do wonder whether we wrestle so long and hard with the ‘why’s’ that we disable our own faith? I’m not advocating mindless ‘Christian happiness’ or thoughtless acceptance no matter what. I’m not suggesting that we mustn’t question God. He and I have had some heated exchanges over the years I assure you! (Well, heated on my part anyway – he seems to stay calm.) But lets be honest, there are things we are never going to understand. The question is, can we hold on to God’s faithfulness in the darkest of those times, or will we abandon him if we feel that he has let us down?
Can we really sing Matt & Beth Redman’s words, “When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord”?
Can we honestly say with Habakkuk:
Hab. 3; 17-18
“Though the fig tree does not blossom;
And no fruit is on the vines;
Though the produce of the olive fails
And the fields yield no food,
Although the flock is cut off from the fold
And there is no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.”
Tragic accidents, inexplicable illness, marriage breakdown, bereavement, addiction, stillborn babies, suicides - we all experience tragedy in our lives, or the lives of those we know and love. How do we make sense of them?
God can handle our tears, our wrestling and our confusion. It’s not a problem to him and it’s clear he cares; is involved in the mess of our lives with us. He came to be ‘Emmanuel’ – ‘God with us’ after all! But this little girl who MUST have cried tears of bereavement, of confusion, of homesickness and exhaustion, somehow STILL has faith in him. Enough faith to pass on to someone she ought to hate, but cares about.
That is why she is inspirational. Why despite one nameless mention in the whole bible she’s a heroine.
They might slap us down, ridicule or dismiss us. This child faced worse than that. The prayer might not get answered in the way we had hoped. They might continue to take us for granted. They might think we are weird…
We believe in Jesus in a society that uses his name as an expletive, that views his moral code as archaic and restrictive, that believes simultaneously in reincarnation, past life regression and atheism! To have an active Christian faith in Europe makes us unorthodox. Just like this little Hebrew girl in the middle of an Aramean household. We are the minority here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t point people towards the power and love of the God we know to be faithful, even if our circumstances are dark.
Naaman’s life was literally transformed. So was his family’s. So was the perspective of his servants and maybe even the king of Aram! Who would have thought that the faith of one little girl could have that kind of ripple effect?
It’s a gamble, but maybe our faith could too?
© Ruth Perrin 2008. Last revised on 22 November 2008
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Cloud of Witnesses is a series of Bible studies on the men and women of scripture. You'll find everyone from Gideon and Andrew through to Tamar and Tabitha.
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Ruth Perrin, the author, is on staff at King's Church Durham and holds an MA in Theology and Ministry.
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