Naaman was a captain of the army of the king of Aram, which was a nation to the north of Israel with a border roughly equivalent to that of modern-day Syria. God had given Naaman and his army military victory over Israel and he is described as being a great man who was highly respected (v1). He had honour, valour, plaudits, victories, respect and status. He also had a very serious problem. Naaman had leprosy. None of the other successes or positives in the rest of his life could outweigh this or deal with the disease that blighted his life. There would come a day when he would be forced to withdraw from public life, leave the army, lay down his authority and position, remove himself from the service of his king and country and ultimately be separated from all those who he loved, including his family. And all this because he was sick. All because he was Naaman the Leper.
Down throughout history border disputes have been, and still are, common. The Aram-Israel border was no exception and it would seem that the Arameans sent bands of bands across the border to raid towns, villages and settlements in the vicinity of the disputed border (v2). It was in one such raid that the girl in this passage was captured. She was an Israelite and she was young. That is all we really know about her. She was captured for reasons that we can only guess at. Maybe her parents were killed. Maybe one of the raiders thought she would provide some form of entertainment for the men. Maybe her whole family were carried off into captivity. We don’t know. What we do know is that she was pressed into service and became a servant to Naaman’s wife (v2).
We don’t know how old this girl was. She was clearly old enough to work as a servant but young enough to be described as little. What is clear is that, over time, she became aware that all was not well in the household of Captain Naaman. She was presumably able to communicate with her mistress despite her forced service and as she went about her work she would have pieced together the facts: her mistress’ husband had a disease called leprosy and he was not able to be cured from it.
Seeing the dilemma and knowing she can help, she speaks out. Less than 20 of her words are recorded for us but they are dynamite!
She speaks with compassion
This little girl has been captured by enemy soldiers, removed from her home, family, village and country and is now dwelling as a slave in a foreign land. She could have been bitter and resentful. She could have wished the worst for her master. But instead, she sees a very real need and in compassion offers a solution. ‘I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria.’ (v3) Why? Because, ‘Then he would cure him of his leprosy’ (v3). The desire of this slave girl is to see her master made well. To see him healed. To see his skin restored. To see him freed from this wasting disease. She speaks out of an overflow of compassion: ‘I wish…!’
What a challenge this is to us. When wronged is not our natural reaction to become defensive, to cower away or to lash out with the intention of causing some pain to offset out own? Do we not find ourselves wishing that our enemy (in whatever form they take) will get their come-uppance? Do we not find ourselves secretly hoping that some misfortune will befall them because then that will serve them right for what they have done to me?
Not so this little girl. Out of a heart filled with compassion she speaks hope. Even to her enemy.
She speaks with faith
When she speaks she doesn’t simply tell of how much better it is back home. She could have said, ‘Back home we have someone who cures this disease.’ Instead she states a fact: ‘I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy’ (v3). These are words full of faith. These are words that reveal how big this little girl’s God is. In her mind there is no question that God would (a) heal, (b) heal a ‘foreigner’ and (c) heal an enemy foreigner. She has grasped something of the depth of the grace and mercy of God. Her God can and will heal. Social standing, ethnicity and merit are not factors that are in any way relevant to the outpouring of His mercy.
Her view of God echoes the promise God Himself made to Abraham centuries before when He said that though Abraham (and his descendants) all nations of the earth would be blessed (see Genesis 12:1-3). This girl believes that promise to be true. This little girl takes God at His word and believes that He will do as He says.
She speaks of what she knows
Although little when removed from her home it is obvious that her early years must have been filled with stories and accounts of how good and faithful God is in His dealings with man. She must have heard stories of the history of God’s people. I am certain that she would have known about the way God dealt with Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as the accounts of the rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the inheriting of the Promised Land, the glory years of King David and King Solomon and the exploits of the prophets Samuel, Elijah and Elisha. Out of this knowledge of her rich heritage she spoke words of compassion and faith.
What credit is therefore due to her parents. They must have told again and again of the things of God to their daughter. They have helped to fill her mind with the history of God’s dealings with His people. They have faithfully communicated the attributes of God. They have explained that God has not forgotten them, despite the victories that Aram seems to be having over them at the moment. Her parents’ God is faithful, merciful, gracious, reliable, real and involved in their lives. This little girl’s God is too!
This brief account presents us with a couple of challenges. Firstly, what do we talk to our children about? Are we laying a good foundation of the stories of God? Is there a deposit of truth being laid up in our children’s hearts that means they have something to recall even when life doesn’t turn out as anticipated? Never underestimate the importance of these foundations. We never know when our children will need to draw on the truths about God.
Secondly, what it our reaction when life seems to deal us a hand that doesn’t match with our plans or when someone wrongs us? Is our first reaction to pray for them and to long that they too might know a touch from God? Does compassion and truth spill out in our speech as it so evidently does from the little slave girl?