a servant's heart
Steven P. Wickstrom
all Scriptures quoted from the NASB
It seems to me that we live in a “me first” society. This is an era where “I want” and “I will” and “I need” and “I will not” reigns supreme. The god of self is worshiped daily. “I am number one, and you are nothing to me” is the prevailing attitude in our country today. Our society encourages this worship of self. Hollywood glamorizes it in the movies and on television. The attitude can be summed up like this: If I'm going to serve anyone, it is going to be myself.
God expects and even demands that we behave exactly opposite of the way the world does. God wants us to die to ourselves and serve others. God did not put you on this earth to serve yourself, instead He put you here to serve others. This is how all Christians should think. But it's not easy because it goes against our flesh. As you may know, self dies hard. In fact, it doesn't want to die at all.
The following story is about how Naaman learned to become a servant. It has many relevant points that apply to us today. We can learn from Naaman and the other people in this story just what it means to be a servant. So open your Bible to 2 Kings chapter 5, open your mind, open your heart, and see God's view of a servant's heart.
2 Kings 5
(1) 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.
Aram was a country North East of Israel in the land which would later be called Syria. Naaman was the Captain of the army of the Arameans. He was their Commanding Officer, the army's highest ranking leader. He was a great man and a good leader. Not only was he held in high respect, but he was also a valiant warrior. His men would follow him into battle because he knew what he was doing, and because he won. The Lord was with Naaman on the battlefield, and the army was continually victorious. It is no wonder that the king of Aram held Naaman in such high regard.
Amidst the victory, tragedy struck. Naaman became a leper. Leprosy would someday alienate him from his people and his army. He would someday be forced away from his own family. There was no cure for leprosy, and there was no hope for lepers. People feared lepers as much as they feared the disease. Naaman's future was destined to be one of loneliness and isolation. The hero would become the outcast. The warrior who was one of the greatest men in the land would be shunned by all. Naaman must have despaired as he longed for a cure to restore his health.
(2) 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.
(3) And 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.”
(4) And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the little girl who is from the land of Israel.”
Bands of marauders would occasionally go out from Aram and raid the surrounding nations. During one such raid into Israel, captives were brought back to Aram. The captives were probably sold at a public auction as slaves. Naaman's household bought a little girl who was brought back on that raid. The young Israelite girl was made the servant of Naaman's wife.
The young girl was a good servant and it appears that she soon became fond of Naaman and his wife. She had a servant's heart. She could have become bitter and resentful because of her circumstances; but she did not allow herself to fall into that trap. She had been torn away from her family (who may have been killed in the raid, or sold as slaves themselves). She had been forcibly removed from her home. She had been stolen out of Israel. She had been sold as a servant at a public auction. How did she react to all of this suffering, heartache, and humiliation? She served to the best of her ability. This girl somehow knew that hatred and bitterness were wrong and against God's will, and chose instead to show love.
When trouble and calamity come upon us, how do we react? Do we pout and stomp our feet and say “This is not fair! I do not deserve this!” Do we lash out at the people we think caused the problem, or do we choose to serve the Master who bought us? Do we choose to harbor bitterness and hatred and unforgiveness until it consumes us like a cancer? Are we good servants no matter what the situation? Do we have the desire to serve? Do we have the desire to forgive?
Naaman brought the young girl into his house and made her the servant of his wife. Naaman and his wife became fond of the little servant girl. They did not abuse her but treated her well. I can say this because of the little girl's reaction to Naaman's illness. When Naaman developed leprosy, the young servant girl became concerned for Naaman. As Naaman's despair increased along with his desire for a cure, the girl sincerely wanted to help him.
One day while the young girl was waiting on Naaman's wife, she let her desire be known. She wished that Naaman could be with the prophet who was in Samaria, because that prophet could heal Naaman. The very fact that this young servant girl longed for Naaman to be healed shows the love in her heart. It also shows a lack of malice. If she had been bitter and full of resentment, and unforgiveness, she would have jumped up and down with glee and hoped that Naaman would spread his leprosy to all of Aram. But she did not have that attitude because she was a true servant. She was dedicated to serving her master in any way that she could.
Naaman's wife was astonished at the little girl's revelation. She probably wasted no time repeating the servant girl's words to Naaman. Naaman wasted no time and quickly sought an audience with the King where he repeated the young girl's message: A cure had been found.
Naaman and his wife could have simply dismissed the little girl's words. They could have chosen not to believe their servant, after all, she was only a little girl. They not only believed her, but they acted on her words. This is why I think that Naaman and his wife were fond of the little girl and treated her well. It is because of the way they reacted to her message. If Naaman and his wife had no regard for the child, they would not have listened to her.
(5) Then the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” And he departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes.
(6) And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, “And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
(7) And it came about when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.”
The King of Aram was ecstatic that it was possible for Naaman to be healed. So the King of Aram wrote a letter to the King of Israel asking him to heal Naaman. Apparently the King of Aram assumed that the King of Israel was the prophet who could heal lepers. After all, weren't King David and King Solomon rumored to have been prophets? The current King of Israel was a descendent of them, wasn't he? The King of Aram wrongfully assumed that the King of Israel was a prophet and sent Naaman, escorted by his army on his way to Israel to be healed. The King of Aram was willing to pay the prophet for Naaman's healing. He was prepared to spend a lot of money.
The King of Aram sent with Naaman ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes. The ten talents of silver were not exactly loose change. According to Strong's Concordance, one talent of silver weighed ninety one pounds. in today's market (2014) at 17 dollars an ounce, one pound of silver is worth about two hundred dollars. One talent would be worth over eighteen thousand dollars ($18,000.00). Ten talents of silver would be worth about one hundred and eighty two thousand dollars ($182,000.00). It would take quite a few pack mules just to carry all that silver.
Along with all the silver, Naaman brought six thousand shekels of gold. There are about three shekels in one troy ounce. There are twelve troy ounces to a pound. This means that Naaman was carrying one hundred and sixty six pounds of gold with him. I don't know what gold was worth back then, but in today's market (2014) at one thousand two hundred dollars ($1200.00) an ounce, that would be worth about two million, three hundred ninety thousand dollars ($2,390,000.00). I can't even imagine that much gold. He also brought along ten changes of clothing. This was not clothing that was fit for a peasant. This was clothing that was fit for a King. It was the good clothing made of silk and other fine linen, specially made for the King. The common person could not afford to buy these clothes; they were made for royalty. They were worth a lot of money. It shows the value that the King of Aram placed upon Naaman. Naaman was worth much to the king who would pay whatever it cost to get him healed.
Try to picture the size of the caravan that accompanied Naaman. Mule after mule after mule loaded down with gold and silver. Surrounding the mules are the horses and chariots and men of Aram's army. The king of Aram is not going to take any chances of having an enemy capture all that gold. Behind them are the supply wagons carrying the food and supplies necessary to feed all those men and horses. Israel could probably see the dust cloud days before the caravan came into view.
Let me ask you a question. How much are you worth to the Master? Are you worth a million dollars? Are you worth more; are you worth less? Or are you worth everything to Him? Consider this: He died for you. Does that show you just how much you are worth in His eyes? Can you see that your value goes far beyond money as far as God is concerned? The amount that Naaman was worth to his master pales compared to what we are worth to our Master. The amount that Naaman's life was worth to his master pales compared to what God was willing to pay (and did pay) for your life.
Naaman and his caravan arrive in Israel where they are granted an audience with the king. The King of Israel was incredulous when he read the letter that had been hand carried by Naaman. He could not believe what he had just read. I imagine that he looked down at the letter, looked up at Naaman, looked down at the letter, looked up at Naaman, and felt his jaw fall open to the floor. He probably went into shock. There was no cure for leprosy and the King of Israel was very much aware of that fact. Only God could cure leprosy and the King of Israel was not God. The conclusion that he came to was that the King of Aram was trying to provoke a war.
The King of Israel looked at the circumstances and did not look to God. He knew that only God could heal a leper, but he never thought to seek God. All that the king could see was a leper, the Aramean army that had accompanied the leper, and a letter requesting him to heal that leper. Never mind that the leper just happened to be the commander of that army. Just how cooperative would that army become when they found out that Naaman could not be healed? So the King of Israel tore his clothes and mourned.
Now before we jump up and down on the King of Israel and judge him too harshly, perhaps we should take a look at our own lives. Now be honest with yourself, haven't you done the same thing? I know that I have. It is easy to look at our troubles and problems (and perceived circumstances) and forget to look to God. But if we are servants of God, wouldn't it make sense for us to run to our Master first? What would happen if we jumped into God's lap instead of jumping to conclusions? I think that if we spent more time on our knees, we wouldn't fall down as much.
(8) And it happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
(9) So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots, and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha.
We don't know how long it took for word to reach Elisha that the king had torn his clothes. I assume that it took at least several days. That army of Aramean's camped just outside the capital city would cause the gossip to spread faster than a wild fire. Elisha received word and then sent a message to the king. That message would also have taken several days to arrive. What is Naaman doing during all of this time? He sees that the King of Israel is stalling. As a result, he despairs and probably becomes depressed. He came to Israel in order to be healed, but nothing is happening. I imagine that Naaman is starting to think that nothing ever will happen.
By now Naaman knows that the King of Israel is not a prophet. But on top of that, the King has not mentioned that there even is a prophet in Israel. For all that Naaman knows, this has been a complete waste of time. Besides that, the King of Israel thinks that Naaman is here to start a war. All the king has to do is look out his window and see all those Aramean horses and chariots. And so as the days goes by, Naaman's spirit sinks lower and lower.
Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like something that you have been through? Perhaps you have an insurmountable problem and there is no answer in sight. Everywhere you go to find an answer, there is none. The people you go to for help let you down. Not only do they not have the answers, but they don't even know where to turn either. You may have a lot in common with Naaman. There may not be a cure for your condition either. But what Naaman did not know was that God was sending a message. Naaman had to wait for the answer, and sometimes, we do to. Waiting for an answer from God can be a very difficult thing to do.
Then a message came to the King of Israel from Elisha the prophet. I don't think that the king was expecting this message. The message was a slap in the king's face. “Why have you torn your clothes?” Elisha knew that the King of Israel had forgotten that there was a prophet in Israel. So he tells the king to let Naaman come to him so that Naaman would know that there is a prophet in Israel. But it wasn't just Naaman who now knew, so did all of Israel who had conveniently forgotten that fact.
The message must have shamed the King of Israel. How could he have forgotten that there was a prophet in the land? The king spoke with Naaman and told him about the prophet in Samaria. He gave him directions and sent him on his way. I imagine that the king breathed a heavy sigh of relief as Naaman left the palace. Naaman and his men quickly left the king and then journeyed to Elisha's house. I imagine that word quickly spread throughout the troops, as the order to mount up was given, that the prophet had been found. Hope was reborn. Imagine the nervous excitement as Naaman stood at Elisha's door and politely knocked.
(10) And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you and you shall be clean.”
(11) But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper.'
(12) “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.
Naaman and his men are waiting outside of Elisha's house. They are waiting for the prophet to come outside and heal Naaman. Their expectations are high, and they can barely contain their excitement. What will the prophet do? What will he say? Will he be flashy and glittery with a fancy expensive haircut slicked back like the faith healers back home? Will he put on a show to awe them with his power? Would people fall down backwards and be slain in the spirit in a true showman style? Lights! Cameras! Action! Naaman could hardly wait.
But Elisha never came outside. He didn't even come to the door. Instead of Elisha the prophet coming to greet them, they get a servant. No show, no spectacle, no prophet, no flowing robes, just a servant. Worse yet, it was a servant with a message to go wash seven times in a muddy river. And then the door closes leaving Naaman speechless and his army silent. How rude! How disappointing! Naaman's expectations were crushed. His pride was deeply injured. He had come expecting so much, and received so little. How dare Elisha treat him this way! He was a great man. He was a valiant warrior. He was the Commander of the army. How dare Elisha send a servant out to tell him to wash in a filthy river. What was wrong with the clean rivers back home? He deserved better treatment than that!
Naaman worked himself into a rage and departed from Elisha's house. He was furious that Elisha had not come out and performed some magic. Even the powerless shamans back home at least knew how to put on a good show. He felt cheated. Worse than that he felt defeated, and that was something he wasn't used to feeling. Why wash seven times in a filthy muddy river when he could get cleaner by just washing once in a river back home? The whole trip had been a complete waste of time.
Have you ever been mad at God because He did not answer your prayer in the way that you wanted Him to answer your prayer? Maybe you thought that He didn't even answer you. Did you feel like God was sending you back home empty handed? If that is the case, then you can understand what Naaman is experiencing. God has a habit of doing what He wants to do and not what we want Him to do. He answers prayer in the way that He wants to answer prayer which tends not to be the way that we wanted Him to answer our prayer. Sometimes, (a lot of times) that can be very frustrating to us. God does what is best for us, even if we don't think so. We don't see what God is doing in our lives, just as Naaman could not see what God was doing in his life,
God was in the process of removing Naaman's pride. God may be removing something from your life also. If God is removing something from your life, trust me, you don't need it. Naaman did not see himself as a servant. He was in charge of the army, he was a master. What about you? How do you see yourself? Are you a servant? God was in the process of stripping away Naaman's pride in order to make him into a servant. God may be stripping something away from your life in order to make you into a servant. Naaman still had a lesson to learn in order to become a true servant. He still had to learn to obey God.
(13) Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?”
(14) So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Naaman is heading for home and his servants are concerned. When Naaman gets home, he will still be a leper. Naaman cannot see that his own pride is preventing him from being healed by God. But that fact is very clear to his servants. The servants decide to do something very bold and daring; they try to change Naaman's mind. They are true servants. They are more concerned about their master than they are about themselves. They could have played it safe, held back and said nothing, but they didn't. Naaman's life was more important than their own lives. They would rather risk Naaman's wrath than be silent. They loved their master.
What about you? Do you love your Master? How much do you love Him? Do you truly love Him? Are you willing to forfeit everything for Him? Would you be willing to die for Him? Is furthering His Kingdom more important than furthering your own? Where are your priorities? Are they God centered, or self centered? The priorities of Naaman's servants were centered on their master.
So Naaman's servants reverently asked him some questions. If the prophet had asked you to do something great, you would have done it, right? So why not do something insignificant like wash in a muddy river and be clean of your leprosy? What could be easier? Naaman thought about it. He realized that his servants were right. His temper cooled and his fury abated. Why not do as the prophet had instructed? What did he have to lose? He certainly had everything to gain. Naaman decided to trust and obey God.
At Naaman's command, the chariots turned around and everybody headed for the Jordan River. The army came to a stop when they reached the banks of the river and they all watched as Naaman humbly got down out of his chariot and waded into the muddy water. God must have smiled as Naaman began to dip himself under the water. Naaman had learned obedience. His pride was washed away downstream.
As Naaman came up out of the water for the seventh time, he looked at his body and noticed that his leprosy was gone. He was clean, totally and completely healed. His flesh had been restored like the flesh of a little child. God didn't just heal his leprosy, He gave him brand new skin. How his servants must have rejoiced. How his army must have cheered. Naaman was both overjoyed and awed at the power of God. Naaman climbed back up into his chariot and turned the army around. Together they headed back to Elisha's house in jubilation.
(15) When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, “Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now.”
(16) But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.
(17) And Naaman said, “If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules' load of earth; for your servant will no more offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord.
(18) “In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.”
(19) And he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him some distance.
Naaman comes back to the house and this time Elisha is waiting for him. I imagine that with tears in his eyes, Naaman gave Elisha a big hug. In front of his entire army, Naaman confesses that the Lord God is the one true God, and that there is no other. Naaman is not ashamed to say this in front of his men. Not one man in his army can contest the fact that God had healed him. In his gratitude, Naaman urges Elisha to receive the king's royal gift. Elisha however, firmly refuses to take the gifts from Naaman.
Perhaps Elisha wanted Naaman to realize that God's awesome power cannot be bought. Perhaps Elisha wanted Naaman to see that God's gift was free. Perhaps this way Naaman would see that God was interested in his heart, not his money. We do not know because the Bible does not tell us the reason. All we can do is speculate, but it is interesting to think about.
When Naaman sees that Elisha refuses to be paid for his services, he comes up with his own request. He wishes to be given two loads of earth. What an interesting and curious request. Naaman now knows that the true God is the God of Israel, not Aram. So why not bring a little of Israel back to Aram? This way he can at least build an altar to God on Israel's soil, without having to go to Israel to worship. Naaman's constant desire to go to Israel to worship God would not have been understood by the king of Aram.
He also asks that the Lord forgive him when he enters the temple of the Aramean god, Rimmon. Naaman knows that he will have to escort his master, the King of Aram to the temple to worship. Naaman pleads for forgiveness for going into the temple of a false god and bowing down before it. Naaman knows in his heart that he will never again worship a false god and Elisha knows this also. Elisha reassures him and Naaman heads for home. Naaman is now a servant of the Lord God.
In our day and age we are also surrounded by false gods and idols. It is easy to fall down and worship the god of food. We follow after the god of money without even realizing it. We place our career on an altar and sacrifice all for that next promotion. But God is a jealous God. In fact His name is Jealous (Exodus 34:14). Let us destroy any and all idols that may be in our lives and worship the one true God. Ask God to forgive you for worshiping false gods and idols and truly repent.
Naaman brought back soil from Israel so that God would have a place to dwell in Naaman's home. When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, God comes to dwell in our hearts. He is our Master and we are His servants. What type of servant will we choose to be? Will we serve Him with everything that we are? Will we serve Him with everything that we have? Is the Lord God, our Master, pleased with our service? Be obedient to the Master. Do everything that He tells you to do. Let God wash away your faults and imperfections as you dip in the river of obedience. Choose to be the best servant that you can be and do it. If you do this, you will do well, and God will be pleased.
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© 2005 by Steven P. Wickstrom, edited in 2014, All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.