Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

On one of these raids against the Israelites, a rather pathetic mountain people from the west, little known for military prowess in any case, Naaman had captured a tiny Israelite girl and had given her to his wife for a servant. And a very good and helpful servant she was, soon making herself indispensible and becoming quickly more like a friend to Ms. Naaman rather than a slave. The girl was quick and extremely observant; it took her no time at all to see that Naaman's leprosy was a source of real contention in his public life that might soon spill over into his more intimate relationships, even with his loving wife.

So one day she approached her mistress and announced, "If only your husband were with the prophet who lives in Samaria (capital of the northern kingdom of Israel)! Why, it would take that man no time at all to rid my master of that nasty leprosy." That very night, Naaman's wife mentioned this conversation to her husband...

So Naaman went to Elisha's house along with his horses and chariots, not to mention the silver, gold, and fancy clothes. And the great general waited for the man of magic power to come out and cleanse him of his disease.

Instead out from the pathetic little house, not at all like the Aramean house of general Naaman, came not Elisha, the prophet, but a poorly dressed, ill-speaking servant, wiping his hands on a filthy dish towel. The tiny man looked up directly into the eyes of the general, seated on his finest horse, and muttered, "Go, wash in the Jordan seven times; your flesh shall be restored and you will be clean."

But Naaman became apoplectic! "Who does this pipsqueak think that he is? How dare he speak to me in such a way! I thought that for me, general Naaman—scourge of my enemies, first among my own people—that this so-called prophet would deign to come out of his hovel, stand in front of me, call upon the name of YHWH his God, would wave his hand over my scarred face, maybe utter a spell or two in an ancient tongue, and thereby cure my leprosy. But, no! I am commanded by a slave, no less, to dip my magnificent body into the muddy Jordan River, which is more creek than river in any case....

Is it not interesting that in this ancient tale, all the great men are fools, while the servants pipe the tune? Both kings misconstrue the simple problem of a man's disease, the king of Aram demanding the cure be made by his royal Israelite counterpart, when the servant girl clearly stated that only the prophet could do such a thing. And the Israelite king, seemingly unaware of the great prophet in his own city, in response to the Aramean letter performs outlandish actions of the deepest mourning, convinced that the Arameans are using Naaman's leprosy as a ruse to foment war. And Naaman himself, playing the part of the puffed-up great man, refuses to perform the tiniest request that could lead to his cleansing. Indeed, the servant girl starts the story, the servant of Elisha delivers the command, and the servants of Naaman save the day, urging their arrogant master to do what he must to find a cure. In this story, the cleansing actions of God are found in the unlikeliest of places.

Is it possible that even we tend to look for God in all the wrong places?

- John Holbert, "Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: Reflections on 2 Kings 5:1-14"