I produce and host a program on Better Life Television called “Women in the Word”. It started out as a topical program. For instance the topics of grief, addiction, faith, tithing, and parenting to name a few, where tackled with various guests. Then it progressed to a series on Daniel, soon followed by a series on the life of Joseph.
I want to take it in a different direction yet again: women in the Bible.
After mentioning this to be sweet friend Christie Anderson, she began compiling a list and once presented to me, I must admit, I was impressed.
She suggests the study of women listed in Jesus’ genealogy as well as unnamed women, widows, women leaders and prophets, mothers, wicked women, and bold women. And then she went on to list them by name. She has done ¼ of my work for me :)
With that in mind I wanted to look at one particular woman today. Actually, she had not yet reached womanhood when her story was told and she was never named. She is Naaman’s slave girl.
Before we talk about the girl, who was Naaman?
Naaman was a general of the army under the king of Aram. He was an important man and his master held him in high esteem. The reason for that we are told, is because it was by him that God had given victory to Aram.
King James Bible calls him a great man and honorable.
The English Standard version uses the words “great man” and “in high favor”.
The Living Bible translates he was a great hero.
When you think of real-life heroes today, who do you think of?
Martin Luther King Junior? Nelson Mandela? Mother Teresa? Yes, all are heroes in my eyes, but have you heard of Christina Simoes?
Christian Simoes made headlines in May 2014 for surviving a deadly fire in her home in Massachusetts and saving the life of her young child. When her apartment complex caught fire, Christina, seeing no way out, cradled her 18-month-old son Cameron in her arms, kissed him, and told him she loved him. Using her body as a shield, she leapt out of the window and landed on her feet, but the impact shattered her vertebrae - doctors say she'll never walk again. Although she is now paralyzed from the waist down, because of her heroic feat her son survived with barely a scratch.
Or what about Mindy Tran? In March of 2014, Mindy, a 22-year-old mother of two, parked her car atop a steep hill. After she got out of the car to lock her door, it began to roll down the hill with her two young girls still inside. Seeing no way to stop the rapidly moving car, Mindy laid down on the ground in front of it and essentially acted as a speed bump. The car ran over her but was slowed down long enough to allow a bystander to safely pull the girls out of the car. She suffered a broken leg, hip, and shoulder but triumphantly states when recounting the nightmare, “It was all for my kids”. Score one for a mother’s love.
One more: In January 2014, 17-year-old Aitzaz Hasan stood up to a suicide bomber right outside of his high school in Pakistan. The bomber intended to enter the school and detonate his jacket made of 13 pounds of explosives, but Aitzaz acted fast and challenged the attacker to a physical brawl. After a brief fight, the cowardly bomber set off his explosives, killing both instantly. Although his murder was a heartbreaking tragedy that’s left many throughout the country grieving for the young man’s life, nevertheless Aitzaz’s bravery saved 1,500 of his peers from certain death as he summoned the extraordinary selflessness to step up and protect them. (Source: therichest.com)
Now that is a true modern-day hero!
Military servicemen and servicewomen.
First Responders: Ambulance, police, fire.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and Naaman was a hero in his day. But there was one very serios problem. He was a leper.
Now, the word ‘leper’ was used for several skin diseases in Bible times. We know his was a grievous skin disease; what we don’t know is how long he had the disease or even what he had tried in the past to find a cure. He was a desperate man. He needed a cure. He longed to be healed.
God had a plan.
It so happened that Aram, on one of its raiding expeditions against Israel, captured a young girl who became a maid to Naaman’s wife. One day she said to her mistress, “Oh, if only my master could meet the prophet of Samaria, he would be healed of his skin disease.”
Naaman went straight to his master and reported what the girl from Israel had said. “Well then, go,” said the king of Aram. “And I’ll send a letter of introduction to the king of Israel.” So he went off, taking with him about 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothes.
With this one act we see Naaman is a wealthy man, or at the very least has access to wealth. By today’s prices, 150 pounds of gold is valued at over $3 million dollars; silver would be around $215,000. I don’t know the value of the clothes, but he means businesses. He is going to purchase his health. He must. After all, he is a great man, a hero, but Leprosy was a terrible disease - painful, contagious, disgusting, and fatal. He needed a cure!
The Message Bible reads, “Naaman delivered the letter to the king of Israel. The letter read, “When you get this letter, you’ll know that I’ve personally sent my servant Naaman to you; heal him of his skin disease.”
When the king of Israel read the letter, he was terribly upset, ripping his robe to pieces. He said, “Am I a god with the power to bring death or life that I get orders to heal this man from his disease? What’s going on here? That king’s trying to pick a fight, that’s what!”
Elisha the man of God heard what had happened, that the king of Israel was so distressed that he’d ripped his robe to shreds. He sent word to the king, “Why are you so upset, ripping your robe like this? Send him to me so he’ll learn that there’s a prophet in Israel.”
So Naaman with his horses and chariots arrived in style and stopped at Elisha’s door.
Elisha sent out a servant to meet him with this message: “Go to the River Jordan and immerse yourself seven times. Your skin will be healed and you’ll be as good as new.”
Naaman lost his temper. He spun around saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off, mad as a hornet.
But his servants caught up with him and said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?”
So he did it. He went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, following the orders of the Holy Man. His skin was healed; it was like the skin of a little baby. He was as good as new.
He then went back to the Holy Man, he and his entourage, stood before him, and said, “I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God anywhere on earth other than the God of Israel. In gratitude let me give you a gift.”
“As God lives,” Elisha replied, “the God whom I serve, I’ll take nothing from you.” Naaman tried his best to get him to take something, but he wouldn’t do it.
“If you won’t take anything,” said Naaman, “let me ask you for something: Give me a load of dirt, as much as a team of donkeys can carry, because I’m never again going to worship any god other than God. But there’s one thing for which I need God’s pardon: When my master, leaning on my arm, enters the shrine of Rimmon and worships there, and I’m with him there, worshiping Rimmon, may you see to it that God forgive me for this.” Elisha said, “Everything will be all right. Go in peace.” – 2 Kings 5 The Message
There is more to the story. We’ll look tomorrow, but not one line of this story would be possible if it had not been for that one slave girl.
Had God allowed her to be taken captive? I believe He knew He could trust her to fulfill the mission.
If I had been taken captive, ripped from my home and all that was familiar, would I have been as generous with my information. Information that would help my captor? I don’t know; I’m thinking I would be a bit pouty.
“What kind of mind-set would you expect the girl to have? Brooding over the injustice of her forced servitude? Seeking to sabotage operations in a military household? Crafting plans for an escape as soon as the opportunity presented itself? Plotting to assassinate the Syrian general as an act of patriotism? None of the above. Hearing that her master was plagued with leprosy, she offered information to help him…” (Source: timeofgrace.org)
We don’t know her exact age. She could have been as young as 9, she could have been as old at 16, but what we do know with certainty, is that her confidence in a prophet and her faith in God, even in the middle of her own personal crisis, changed history.
So, to the nameless servant girl, who was taken from her home in Israel and placed in a stranger’s house in Syria, over 350 miles from her friends and family, I thank you. I thank you for being an example, not just to girls and boys your age, but to the countless adults who are inspired by your story.
One person can make a difference and we see that time and time again in the Bible. We see that in grassroot efforts today. One person can make a difference.
Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
Go ahead. Go change the world for someone. It only takes one.
by Jeanette Stark – Wednesday, January 11, 2023