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Weekly worship: Sunday 7 July

Wisdom from unlikely sources. 

Hungarian Church Aid blankets for a Palestinian family from Syria
2 Kings 5: 1-14

Aram is modern-day Syria. To imagine a powerful leader of the Syrian army, embroiled in such protracted conflict, heeding the instructions of a young, nameless, trafficked female is as surprising today as it would have been in Naaman’s day. Even his listening to the wisdom of unknown servants is remarkable. Typical power dynamics are challenged throughout the events of this passage

It is a story that Jesus refers to in his sermon in the synagogue (Luke 4:27) when he highlights Naaman the Syrian, along with the widow of Zarephath, as the only people the prophets Elijah and Elisha chose to heal in all of Israel. Naaman would have been considered unclean by both his skin disease and also by his nationality.

Naaman was an incredibly powerful man who had the favour of God and the ear of the king (v 1 and vs 4-5). Yet this elevated position and high esteem paled into insignificance with the onset of a dreaded illness in the form of a skin condition.

It is the instruction from his wife’s nameless young slave girl, taken captive from Israel (v 3), and the wisdom of his own servants (vs 13) that guide Naaman to a place of being cured. To his credit, Naaman, for all his humiliation when Elisha refuses to even come and see him (vs 11 and 12), does respect and respond to the words of those considered to be beneath him. It may be indicative of how desperate he was - nevertheless, he still made that healing choice.

Why this little girl and the servants should have shown such compassion and care for their captor and master is another question worth reflecting on. The servants even approach Naaman as ‘Father’ (v 13). The influence of the girl and the servants is in sharp contrast with the lack of authority held by the Kings of Aram and Israel in the face of Naaman’s condition.

Elisha’s avoidance and remedy for Naaman raises questions: was it because Elisha wanted to attend to Naaman’s pride as much as his skin condition that he didn’t meet and greet him? Was it because Naaman’s leprosy made him unclean for the prophet to welcome him in person? Or was it because Elisha wanted to put those in opposition to Israel in their place and to recognise the God under which all are called to submit, and whose authority we are all called to heed?

Who do you most see yourself as in the story? The unnamed servant or slave girl whose voice is only heard when circumstances are desperate? The successful and powerful Naaman who is stopped in his tracks when illness comes knocking? The high-positioned yet powerless Kings of Aram or Israel, who can only revert to the power of God in such matters of wellbeing? The man of God who does not pander to the position and status conferred by social, economic and political constructs?

Naaman’s character development, that is being healed from pride as well as his skin condition, is one angle to explore. It gives cause to reflect on our own experience when illness or disease disrupts our lives. How do we respond and where do we turn to seek wholeness? His choice to listen to the voices of those regarded as marginalised is a wise choice and one that leads him ultimately to find wholeness and faith.


O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.’
Psalm 30:12

O Lord our God, we give thanks
for the wisdom of those often overlooked
for the healing of the meek and mighty, just the same,
for the prophetic voice that speaks truth to power 
We will give thanks to you for ever.

O Lord our God, we give thanks
for the gentleness of your Spirit
for the sharing of heavy burdens
for the new creation that is everything!
We will give thanks to you for ever.

O Lord our God, we give thanks
for the challenge of the apostles’ example
for gifts of welcome and hospitality
for the security of what it means to be Yours
We will give thanks to you for ever.

Points for prayer

6 July is the International Day of Cooperatives – pray for our partners helping to create cooperatives around the world, making a positive difference to the lives of many, many farmers.

9 July is Independence Day in South Sudan – pray for peace to prevail in the long-running conflict there.

11 July World Population Day – pray for the work of the United Nations Populations Services as it seeks to address the opportunities and challenges of the world’s growing population.

Published on 05 July 2019

Resource language
  • N/A
Themes – Areas of work
  • Theology