Storytelling is a way of presenting a biblical text to those who gather to listen. We people tell better through stories. In addition to the biblical story, several questions are asked: What do I like about this story? What don’t I like? Which character do I identify with the most? What am I learning about God? How can I apply this story to my life?
Naaman was a captain in the army of the king of Aram – the present regions of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. A renowned warrior, he also suffered from leprosy, a bacterial infection known today as Hansen’s disease. His wife’s maid, a young girl captured in Israel, intervened and said she knew a prophet, Elisha, in her country who could heal Naaman.
Naaman traveled with incredible wealth to offer Elisha if he cured his leprosy. When he got to the door of Elisha’s house, Elisha didn’t even come out. He sent a messenger saying to wash seven times in the Jordan. Naaman was furious. He expected a big production. And then he had rivers in his country that he could draw from.
He left angry. His servant confronted him along the way – saying that if Naaman had been forced to do something daring, wouldn’t he have done it. Why not try this simple thing? This convinced the proud Naaman to humble himself – and after that seventh dive he came out of the water completely healed.
He returned to the house of Elisha ready to unload his rich gifts – recognizing the God of Israel as the true God. Elisha wanted nothing and couldn’t be persuaded otherwise.
Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, had other ideas. He chased after Naaman – who had traveled some distance – ready to lie. Elisha had only sent him – he needed money and clothes for the unexpected guests who had arrived – a small part of the captain’s treasure. Naaman sent two servants with Gehazi, each carrying seventy-five pounds of silver and a change of clothes.
Gehazi hid these items in the house. When he appeared before Elisha and Elisha asked where he had gone, he lied again. He said he didn’t go anywhere. Elisha replied, “Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you?” Because of his greed and his lies, Gehazi was afflicted with leprosy that had “clinged on Naaman.” He left Elisha’s presence “a leper as white as snow”.
What do I like about this story? I think Naaman listened – and was able to let go of his anger and pride to at least try the humble thing. What don’t I like? Gehazi accomplice. Who do I identify with the most? Perhaps the captive servant who braved him and offered a solution for Naaman.
What am I learning about God? May God give me opportunities to change when I’m on the wrong path – and if I choose not to, the consequences are mine. How can I apply this story to my life? I can watch in myself for signs of greed and lies. I can listen to the wisdom of others.
More importantly, I can know that God is working for good in my life – even in ways that don’t make sense to me – and I can follow Him without fear.