2 Kings 5:2&3 “Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’”


You see the first two verses are introduced by the word ‘Now’. “Now Naaman was a commander of the army . . . Now bands from Aram had gone out and taken captive a young girl from Israel” (vv. 1&2). He is called a “great man,” and she is called a “young girl,” and ‘now’ we are here, the great and the small (though there seem to be just a few of the former). It is 2,857 years later and we are considering what the same God of heaven, who healed Naaman and helped this little girl, is teaching us about this episode in the lives of both the commander and the captive. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Roms. 15:4). Whoever you are, great or small, you are in need of hope. All of us I suppose are somewhere on a scale between the mighty Naaman and the wee slave girl working in his home, but wherever we are placed on that scale we need hope. If you are like Naaman in a place of command – a headmaster, a soldier, the head of your business, a politician, a bureaucrat, a self-made man – then this word from God is for you. Or if you are like this lassie surviving in the lowliest place, a virtual slave, trapped in work that you can’t leave, with your job satisfaction less than one out of ten; if you are counting your pennies each day, then this word from God is also for you. Perhaps you will gain a growing confidence ‘now’ that you have something that the most wealthy and powerful person you meet needs.

See the contrasts between these two personalities in these two verses, the man and woman; the older person and the girl; the slave-owner and the slave; the captain and the captured; the millionaire and the pauper; the famous and the unknown; the Gentile and the hated Jew; the worshipper of Rimmon and the worshipper of Jehovah; the person with a name, ‘Naaman’ and the utterly anonymous servant; the sick and the healthy.

But set the contrasts at an immeasurably higher plane. Here is the Jehovah who grants victory in war to the Syrian army under its commander Naaman, and the same God who permits all that is most precious – liberty, and family, and the familiar home – to be snatched away in less than an hour from a little girl. Who is the God who does all this? As Dale Ralph Davis says, “This is no small-time director of an Israelite ghetto, not some mascot of a little Jewish club.” Here is the God of Genesis chapter one who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. He is the God of whom the psalmist declared, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” (Ps. 24:1). He is God of the church and God of the world. He comes to us in grace when we gather in his name, but that doesn’t mean that thereby he withdraws himself from anyone living in the flats and houses and student accommodation of this small town. He never turns his back on them letting them get on with their lives utterly unsupervised. Let them know that they live and move and have their being in him. Our God is sovereign in the greatest and smallest events, ‘now’ in a general’s triumph on the Syrian border, and ‘now’ in the most harrowing details of a little girl’s life, doing good to them both. And ‘now’ he has constrained you also to read these truths about himself because he wants to do good to you too.


This was not a local girl from Aram who hero-worshipped Naaman whose dreams came true when she was chosen to work in Naaman’s household. She was not even someone with Israeli ancestry. She was a pure Jew, a child of Abraham. A few years earlier she had been living in Israel. There she’d been raised under the influence of God’s commandments, covenants and promises. She had been exposed to the Scriptures; God had given to her father’s generation the prophet Elijah, and to her own generation his successor Elisha. The influence of the Word of God on her had been pervasive; we can see that from her response to her terrible ordeal. She believed that Elijah and Elisha had been sent by the mighty God to the land. She believed that what they preached was his word, and that God had authenticated the fact that they had been sent by him by the miraculous signs they’d done. Elijah had prayed and the heavens had dried up; there was no rain for years. Elijah had also spoken and a non-stop supply of oil for a widow in Zarephath had been supplied; he had prayed on Mount Carmel and fire had fallen from heaven and burnt up a sacrificial bull on the altar; God spoke to Elijah in a still small voice and finally he took Elijah up to heaven in a chariot and horses of fire.

Elisha who was his designated successor also did mighty works, healed the water of its poison, made an axe-head float, fed a hundred men with a few loaves, and he restored to life the son of a Shunamite woman. The whole countryside buzzed with news of how God authenticated his word in the miracles he had done through Elisha, and this little girl worshipped Elisha’s God, Jehovah the great I am.

Then, one never-to-be-forgotten day, her faith was sorely tested as none of ours has ever been tested, and I trust never will be. There was a sudden raid of soldiers from across the border with Syria swooping down on their home. The actual details we don’t know. Was she by herself picking berries when a solider jumped out from behind the bushes and caught her up smothering her cries with his hand over her mouth? Soon she was far gone over the hills before her parents even began to worry about her being late home. Did they spend the next year like little Madeleine’s McCann’s parents in the summer of 2007 in Portugal searching for their abducted daughter everywhere, following up every trail but never finding her? Or was what happened that day in Israel far worse? Were her godly parents killed before her eyes? They had prayed that morning for protection; they had sung a psalm together and then the family went on with their various duties and this is what had happened. A raiding party from Aram showed no mercy. No angels were sent from heaven to rescue them. Did the Syrians finally throw a lighted torch on the thatched roof of their farm? In five minutes all she had was destroyed and off she was taken never returning to that place again. She spent the next years with people whose language she could not understand, sobbing herself to sleep many a night.

Did she pour out her heart to God? Did she cry why, oh why? Why did Jehovah the Lord in whom she had put her trust allow such pain to happen? Why had God broken up her home and destroyed her loving parents and taken her to this place as a slave? Why this cruelty? What kept her believing in him? What would keep us? We know that it would be the truths she and ourselves have known from Scripture. My niece’s husband serving his tour of duty in Iraq has memorized the letter to the Hebrews while he is there, and one of the reasons he has come to focus on that is an awareness that he might be abducted and he wants to fill his mind with great truths about his great High Priest.

This girl knew the word of God, and so she believed in the responsibility of men for what they did, that they were 100 per cent accountable for their crimes. She’d never blamed God when a bad boy took her favourite toy, or when thieves stole their sheep. “That is their responsibility,” her father might have said to her. “They will answer to God. Don’t blame a holy God for the actions of evil men. He does no evil, nor does he tempt us to do evil, and he doesn’t afflict willingly” She did not blame Jehovah for what happened, indeed, how could she have survived being taken off to Syria without trusting in the Lord? When she needed him most he was there for her, keeping her. Throughout her ordeal did she repeat the psalm she had learned as a child, Psalm 46? “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells . . . [Then were these her ‘own verses’?] God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

She remembered all she had learned from her father and her mother, how the patriarch Joseph had been sold by his wicked brothers to Midianite slave-traders and been taken to Egypt and bought there as a slave. He had not been much older than she was, but God had been with him in Egypt and the Lord had blessed all he did, working all this for his good, so that one day in the future he was able to provide for his father, brothers and all their families, finally saying to them “You meant it for evil – letting me become a slave in a distant land – but God meant it for good.” Did she pray to the Lord and ask him that her servitude might also be to his glory and to her good?

She would surely have known also the story of godly Job and how one day his children and grandchildren were all together at a party and suddenly a group of Sabean mercenaries attacked and carried them all off, killing all the servants but one. How heinously sinful men can behave! This little girl had no rose-tinted view of the human condition. She knew and believed what the prophet said that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. But she knew more, that this didn’t happen to Job because the devil was stronger that the Lord. God had permitted it to strengthen the faith of Job. When the old man had heard the news of the kidnapping of his family he had responded by falling to the ground and worshipping God saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). He did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing, and neither did this little girl. She strengthened herself with the Scriptures throughout her enormous trial. She set the Lord at her right hand and she feared him, and that is the beginning of wisdom. God was with her; he protected her from the brothel-keepers of Aram; he caused Naaman’s wife to buy her and bring her to their beautiful home to live, where soon she won the hearts of her mistress and all the people who worked there. I like to imagine that as a reward for her part in curing Naaman’s leprosy she was allowed to return home to her family, taken there by a secure escort. Certainly, one day in the glory that lies before us we will know more of the outcome and after-lives of some of the fascinating personalities of whom we are given little glimpses in the Bible. We do know that whether such reunion with her family happened or not that the Lord was always with her and all she did was blessed by him because he works all things together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose, even in a tragedy of such agonizing proportions as this little girl suffered. God had determined by this awesome means to bring healing and salvation to Naaman. At what cost to Christians has redemption been brought to such parts of the world as West Africa, Korea and India .


Bought by Naaman in the slave mart she entered a life of service in his home, soon rising to become the personal assistant of his wife. You can quickly understand why. In Babylon Daniel and Nehemiah were appointed to the highest offices of state because of their moral rectitude. In Egypt the same had happened with Joseph. These Old Testament Christians could not be corrupted or bribed or intimidated. This girl had been raised in a society governed by the ten commandments, and the fifth commandment said, “Honour your father and your mother,” and as with all the commandments it is difficult to restrict the range of their application. Out of the authority of parents all other authority is derived and develops. The attitude of children to their parents affects the health of society as a whole. We are all perturbed at the whole gang culture which has developed in particular in Liverpool, Manchester and London. Few of those gang members have two parents at home, and little honour is given to the one who is there, and so honour and loyalty is given totally to the gang. This is where teenagers from such broken homes get their sense of identity. The worse sin is to betray a fellow gang member – the loyalty of thieves and murderers. That is what happens when God’s commands are ignored – “Honour your father and your mother.”

For Israel the book of Deuteronomy amplifies this commandment in chapters 16, 17 and 18. It develops the theme by this approach; there is the judge – honour him. Then there is the king – honour him. There is the priest – honour him. There is the prophet – honour him. It unwraps the structures of authority in the land by means of those different categories. Authority focuses in God – fear God, and then you break it down, the prophets communicate to us God’s word – honour them. The priests instruct the people in understanding and obeying word of God – honour them. The kings have the responsibility of setting up and maintaining a system of justice – honour them. Judges have the responsibility of enforcing the system that has been set up – honour them. This is how this fifth commandment was amplified in Scripture and those attitudes pervaded all of life in Israel very helpfully. All of society was conscious that it was under authority, and that is how this wee lassie functioned.

She was abducted and taken to Syria and there she was purchased by Naaman. To whom now did she answer? She was accountable to whom for her attitudes and actions? She had been taken captive by a cruel and evil action. Did she obey these people? Yes. She was to honour her master and mistress and the whole order of command in that house. There were cooks and cleaners and gardeners and house-keepers. She was part of a team; she was not a loner. It was not hers to pick and choose which superior or which command she might obey – except when she was asked to commit a crime. There was a time-table for each day and every week; she was answerable to heaven for her godly conduct in that home, though everyone around her functioned in terms of another god. Thus it is today in your family; there are tasks that have to be done and children are taught that they have an obligation to do their part, to keep their own rooms tidy, to pick up what they threw down, to close doors which they opened, to switch off what you switched on, and so on; so do all the members of a family, and also long-term guests who stay with the family.

So it is in the church; there are meetings to attend; there are corporate decisions to take and accept; there are financial responsibilities to accept in your own budget; there are prayers to pray; there are people to love; there are the weak whose burdens you all need to bear, and we all have to do this in churches that are less than perfect, under ministries which manage from time to time to tread on our toes. Yet our obligation under God is to honour those in authority over us, for example, disdaining the pastor demeaning the elders, refusing to look at them, is an iniquitous sin.

This same commandment binds us in times of war. In a civil war the Christian must know to whom his honour is due, and sometimes that is a frantic decision. Which is the power in control of the nation? When that is settled Christians may discover that the nation’s leaders may not be the church’s choice. It might be the side most unsympathetic to Christianity, but it is now in power and to that power Christians show submission, pay their taxes to them and obey their laws. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. It is the enormous problem facing Iraq today. It was once a problem for the Christians in America during their revolutionary war against the English colonial powers. To whom was their ultimate obedience to be shown? Was it George Washington and his army or was it the parliament in London? These are very practical problems. Think how the Civil Wars of England and America tore apart families and churches. Christians fought on both sides. Certainly in the case of the king or a president the Bible addresses such leaders too and it does not permit them to act as despots. What of the tensions between a Trade Union and your employers. Who has the authority? Do you go on strike? Does a Christian policeman or doctor or nurse ever go on strike? You can see what a challenge these issues are to a Christian and how they will not always be united in their understanding.

So the little servant girl arrived in the home of Naaman and began her special duties assisting his wife, and soon she had learned the language and the customs of Syria. She showed her submission to the lady who was the keeper of this home and her mistress. What were this girl’s obligations as one who believed in the Lord? Let us see how Paul addresses Christian slaves in his first letter to Timothy. He says, “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered” (I Tim. 6:1). But in more detail in his letter to the Ephesians chapter six from the fifth verse we discover two broad commands;

i] Obey. “Slaves obey your earthly masters” (Ephs.6:5). When Naaman’s wife gave her the list of her daily duties she was to get cracking and do them, though there were some she found particularly irksome. She couldn’t justify shirking and obstinacy because of the monstrous cruelty that had been done to her. She was now under a new authority. You think of a woman who accepts Jesus Christ as her Lord; she cannot argue that as her husband is not a servant of God she is free from her obligations to him. No way. Let her respect her husband until her dying day. So this little girl in Naaman’s household learned that faithfully doing things she didn’t enjoy brought peace when the task was completed. She had to obey when she felt emotionally disinclined, when she had an ailment, when she was wallowing in depression, when she was overwhelmed with home-sickness and missing her parents and her sisters dreadfully. Still, on those occasions, to obey her Syrian mistress was her duty. She was even to work for her mistress on the Sabbath. There was no Sabbath rest in Aram and so, though she missed the weekly pattern of the sabbatical creation ordinance, and though she tried to find some extra time in prayer and meditation on the things of God, she obeyed her mistress and on the Sabbath did what she was told. As her mistress grew more confident in her there might have been a space for negotiation on such issues.

More than that, she was to obey “with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart” (Ephs. 6:5). In other words there was to be no fake obedience; that would be horrible; to add to her actions a phony submission. Respect those you serve! Fear them, the Bible says. It is not talking about a cringing servility, a Uriah Heep pose of awed respect for so ‘awesome a boss!’ Not that at all. Remember where this little girl was. After the Queen then Naaman’s wife was the most important woman in the nation, and in the providence of God she who was a little nobody had been appointed to become her personal assistant. Let her respect and fear her mistress with sincerity of heart.

Then Paul goes one step further, “just as you would obey Christ” he says (Ephs.6:5). Imagine how you would feel as a little girl from Israel, if you’d been chosen, of all the girls in the nation, to be personal assistant to the Messiah! How would you respond? How would you serve him? “Oh, I would be so diligent and imaginative in all I did, working from dawn to dusk. I would do everything to please him. What an honour to serve the Christ.” Good, then that is how she was to please Naaman’s wife and how we are to work for those who pay us. Dr. Lloyd-Jones turns the phrase in this way; “What the apostle Paul says in effect is this, ‘My dear Christian friend, you who are a slave in Caesar’s household, or wherever you are; what I say to you is this. When you wake up tomorrow morning don’t start by saying to yourself, ‘Well, here comes another day. I’ve got hard work to do, and I’ll be thrashed if I don’t do it. I shan’t be given enough food, I’m just a slave; it’s all wrong. These pagan masters don’t understand, I’m not going to put up with it, I am going to rebel”. ‘No’, says Paul, ‘you must not speak in that way. When you wake up tomorrow morning say to yourself, “I am, incidentally, the slave of this man; but, in reality, I am the slave of the Lord Jesus Christ and my service must all be done as to Him”’ This is what Paul always says about himself, especially in the introductions to his epistles: ‘Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ’ By that, he means the bondslave of Jesus Christ’. In that frame of mind he did all his work, he was the bondslave of Christ. And he reminds these slaves that the same is true of them.” (D.M.Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit, Banner of Truth, 1974, p.353)

Paul goes even further as he opens up this theme of the Christian obedience of slaves. He says, “Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart” (Ephs. 6:6). That is how she was to behave. There were plenty of servants in Naaman’s household who gave a great show of work when Naaman walked along the corridor or went out into the gardens. What energy and sweat was displayed when he passed them as they hoed and polished and weeded and carried, but once no one was around they sat back, gambled and joked together. “You are not to work like that,” the apostle said, but rather as those conscious that the eyes of the Messiah are always on you. When you surf the web, when you text and send your messages, when the boss has a day off, when you are all alone in the office then you keep on working until the job is done or the end of your day has been reached. You do the will of God and it is God’s will that you have this job, and are getting this pay packet each week, and you obey the instructions built into this contract you have accepted.

Dr Lloyd-Jones says, “In other words, the first thing we have to realize is that our eye must not be on men at all. Isn’t that the whole trouble with the non-Christian and with the non-Christian life? He has his eye constantly on men – on self, on other men; he is constantly asking, how is this going to affect me, to work out for me? And if, as a Christian, that is my motive, I shall have my eye on others always. What do they think of me? What do they think of my appearance? What do they think of me as a man? What do they think of my ability? What do they think of me as a preacher? What do they think of me in a hundred respects? These become the dominating considerations: What do the people next door think? What will the other people in the office or in the factory think? The whole life is thus controlled by men and their opinions. ‘As unto men.’ The whole of the life of the unbeliever, poor fellow, is entirely governed and bounded by man. He wants the praise of man, so he always has his eye on men, he is always watching other people. But that should not be true of the Christian — ‘not as menpleasers’. It must not be our ambition to please men” (D.M. Lloyd-Jones, ibid, p.357). So obey your masters; that is the first exhortation which Paul has amplified. Then Paul moves on and he gives another exhortation

ii] Slaves, serve wholeheartedly. The seventh and eighth verse of Ephesians chapter six read like this, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” This phrase ‘wholeheartedly’ is similar to our Lord’s reference in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere to the ‘single eye.’ It means the opposite of Mr. Facing Both Ways, of serving two masters, having two goals in life. Rather it denotes a focused life and a single vision. It means we do what we have to do with undivided attention and effort.

This means, among other things, that the servant has one supreme vocation – irrespective of who may employ him – to give himself utterly to his task and to his boss while he is doing it. His time is not his own time, it is his master’s time. The money he handles is not his, it is his master’s. Everything connected with his work is his master’s. In other words, I would say that a Christian is disobeying the apostle’s injunction if, during his master’s time, and when he ought to be doing his master’s work, he is directing his attention to any other interest. Whatever the little girl in Naaman’s house did, sweeping out a room, making the beds, ironing the clothes, washing her mistress’ hair, bring her her favourite cool drink on a hot day, she did it all whole-heartedly, and she did it as unto the Lord Messiah himself, and it was noticed.

Naaman’s wife had never had such a girl working for her before, who was really interested, wise for her age, respectful and caring. What made a girl like this? Were there times when she spoke to her servant and asked her if she didn’t feel bitter at being taken from her land and family to work as a slave there in Aram? Then the girl could bear witness to the help she had from her Lord, the God of Israel, and the teaching she lived by. Nothing the girl did was insignificant, and nothing you do is insignificant and when you get up and do your Monday morning tasks, the drudgery of each day, that there you too are all the servants of the Lord. Show it in your work; show it in everything that you do and wherever you are. Never feel a sense of drudgery again. Your job may be mechanical, repetitive and soul-less but you must think, “I am doing this to him who loved me and has put me in this place.”


We are told that one day a word that she’d prayed about and rehearsed for so long was finally spoken to her mistress, “‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy’” (v.3). How carefully she spoke it and yet with such assurance. It was a word that had come to her from God, that is, as she weighed up this important occasion, and prayed over her words again and again. She didn’t say, “My master must go to Samaria . . .” No. “If only. . .” she said as though to say, “It is Naaman’s choice of course. He must investigate. But I am personally sure of this that if he went and saw the prophet Elisha he would be cured.” As I read those words and hear that plaintive tone of voice it appears to me that the vacuum that the absence of her own parents had left in her life had become filled by Naaman and his wife. But loving and endearing as she was she was still a mere slave, while he, after the king, was the most powerful man in the nation. He had received so much destructive crackpot advice over the past months about his leprosy why should he listen to what this girl said to him?

How often have sick people been given such harmful counsels about healing from professing Christians. To whom should they listen? Let them listen to the body of evidence that points to the truth. What do I mean? Let Naaman make inquiries about this man named Elisha. Let him send his most trusted and intelligent servants to Israel to actually hear Elisha speaking, and to interview his disciples and speak to the Shunamite woman whose son he raised from the dead – just as the Pharisees interviewed the man born blind to whom Jesus had given his sight, and his parents. Let Naaman’s servants ask the king of Israel his opinion of Elisha. “That man Elisha who has a following in your land, is he a crank, or a charlatan, an evil man or a bit stupid? Or is he in fact a prophet from the Lord Jehovah, a man to be trusted?” Let him take these words of this girl seriously. There was no other option to Naaman covered now in leprosy; he had no alternatives. He had run out of doctors; the arm of the flesh had failed him, and now he was being pointed to the God of Israel. If Naaman had never heard of Elisha and his God then one could excuse him not going there, but having heard and doing nothing at all he would be rightfully condemned.

You are not to blame if you remember you left something valuable in the front room one night during a power shortage and in the darkness you felt around everywhere for it and failed to find it. I can understand that failure because of the unavoidable darkness. But you are to blame if when you have mislaid something there’s no power shortage but you refuse to switch on the lights. How can you expect to find that precious thing without the light? I am saying to you that here is the Light of the world; here are the claims that Jesus Christ makes. Examine such claims for yourself. “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” Read the Bible; read the Sermon on the Mount; read the narrative of one of the gospels. Come and hear it being preached for the next weeks; are you afraid of truth? Talk to people about what believing in Jesus Christ means to them. Don’t shut your eyes to these things.

So the little captive girl spoke these words after months of diligent and consistent service. She had been torn from her home and reduced to a slave in the conqueror’s home, but no thought of revenge was in her heart. She never thought, “I know the very place where Naaman could be cured, but after all his soldiers did to my family he won’t get any help from me. I’d rather see him die!” Here is a girl under the biblical obligation to love her neighbour as herself. More than that, she is to be judged by that law that says, “Love your enemies and do good to them that despitefully use you. Don’t overcome evil with evil but overcome evil with good.” How generous and forgiving was the girl. The grace of God had done that to her. She had seen the dark spirit descending on the household; the sound of music and singing was never heard in the house those days; the lines of worry were on her mistress’s face. What an impression of despair it made on the girl. She began to pray for Naaman’s healing, but it became clear that her prayers alone were not the means that God would use. Then she thought of mighty Elisha back home. He had made an axe-head float; he could feed a hundred men with a few loaves; he had restored to life the son of a Shunamite woman. She thought, “Couldn’t he heal the leper?” There had been no example of Elijah or Elisha healing lepers. There were many lepers in Israel at the time of Elisha said Jesus but to none of them did God send the prophet to heal them. But God was able, and surely he could make his prophet able. The more she meditated on this the more confident she became and finally one day the opportunity was given to her by providence and she said simply and earnestly to Naaman’s wife, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (v.3). And God didn’t allow one of those words to fall to the ground. Those are the only recorded words of hers preserved in Scripture, and yet what an impact these words, backed by such a life made on this household. They became deliverance and redemption to Naaman. They brought new joy to this home, because the people who heard the word did what it said.

26th August 2007 GEOFF THOMAS