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Sermon 2019-08-25 Peter Day

Naaman’s Little Maid,  2 Kings 5:1–19

Our reading told us about the miraculous healing of Naaman, a Syrian army commander. However this morning we’re not going to be thinking about Naaman but rather about an amazing and remarkable little girl whose witness led not only to his healing but also to him turning from the worship of idols to the worship of Israel’s God. Although she lived around 850 years before Jesus she provides us with a great example of what it really means to live a Christian life.

When I was young we used to have Sunday School both in the morning and afternoon.  In the morning the children would be in church for the first part of the service which included a short ‘children’s address.’  People often commented that they got more out of the children’s address than they did out of the sermon. So today I’m going to put the two together and hopefully get the best of both worlds.

So we’ll begin with the children’s address, which takes the form of a brief children’s video.  Please watch it very carefully. In it Naaman’s little maid brilliantly demonstrates the attitudes and characteristics of the Christian life that the Holy Spirit is endeavouring to grow in each of us.

Play the Video. https://youtu.be/HQWurDzRDRQ

I’ll re-read verses 2&3. Both there and in the video the little girl demonstrates four hallmarks of the Christian life which I want us to think about this morning, they are:

    1. Fortitude
    2. Forgiveness
    3. Faith
    4. Finally – Compassion and love

  • Firstly, Fortitude

Naaman said in the video, what is implicit in the reading, ‘My soldiers raided your land and took you from your people.’

That must have been a totally devastating experience.  Can you imagine how you would have felt if it had happened to you as a child? We’re not told how old she was but we’re told she was a young girl, therefore, we can reasonably imagine her to be around 10 years old. For a child so young it must have been a pretty traumatic experience.  One dreadful day a Syrian raiding party had come along and completely destroyed all that she had and held dear.  Prior to that awful day, she’d probably been living at home with Mum & Dad and possibly with brothers and sisters.   In all likelihood she was handled very roughly, she’d lost her home, probably most of her family and friends and was taken away to forced labour in a foreign land.  I doubt if there are any of us here who have had to endure such a horrific experience.

The only ameliorating factor appears to be that she was taken into service in an affluent household where her mistress seems to have shown her some kindness.  But still, the hurt would be there. I wonder how often she cried herself to sleep.

Although it’s not stated outright in the scripture her fortitude is implicit and the video quite rightly picks up on it.

The dictionary defines fortitude as ‘showing courage in the face of pain or adversity.’

And Naaman acknowledged her fortitude and said, “When I watch you I am impressed with how you serve me in the face of all that has happened to you.”

I’ve no doubt there are several here who know what it’s like to go through traumatic times and perhaps there is someone who even now, is going through a very difficult time.   I don’t know how your experience may relate to what this little girl went through but I think it would be difficult to find a worse one.  But it’s not the storm or the nature of the storm – whether it’s actual such as crossing Cook Strait in a force 7 gale or severe turbulence at 30,000ft – or a serious health issue or relationship breakdown etc. that matters it’s how we handle it that reveals where our sense of security lies. Fortitude is a true Christian virtue based on faith in God.  It is a God-given assurance deep in our hearts, that whatever circumstances we find ourselves we know and that God is our refuge, and underneath us are His everlasting arms; Deuteronomy 33:27

 

  • Forgiveness

Secondly, she showed great forgiveness. She had been through and was still living in the midst of a very traumatic experience.  She could so easily have looked at Naaman and said at least to herself. “I see Naaman’s got leprosy that’s great! That’ll be God’s judgement on him for what he’s done to me.  I hope he slowly rots and dies an agonisingly, slow death! And may his family rot as well.” But she didn’t.  She’d clearly dealt with any bitterness she could have justifiably felt but to the contrary, her actions showed that she had forgiven her captors.

Forgiveness is a true Christian virtue and it is a virtue this little girl displayed. People will upset us but as Christians, we must forgive. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to forgive, and Paul told the Ephesians to ‘Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice’: Ephesians_4:31  Despite the fact that she lived around 900 years before Paul wrote that our little maid showed true forgiveness in her heart.

 

  • Faith

So we come to the third Christian virtue she displayed which is faith. Again I think the video picked up well on what is implicit in the scripture, she had a living faith in the living God.  When in the video Naaman challenged her about the validity of her faith she had the assurance of faith, to say ‘My God is real.’

So where did that faith come from? In the chapters surrounding 2 Kings 5, we are told that there were at that time, what is termed the ‘sons of the prophets’ who appear to have been disciples of prophets like Elijah and Elisha. The little girl was certainly aware of Elisha and his work and that he was a great man.  So she must have known him.  I suspect that she was the daughter of one of the ‘sons of the prophets’ and Elisha may even have been a family friend. It seems likely therefore that she had learned her faith from her parents and that in the traumatic experience that she had gone through her faith held fast and became not just her parent’s faith, but her own faith.

In Romans 10:17 we read ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.’   The question then is how and in what form would she have learned the word of God?

We know she lived at a similar time to Jonah and we know for a fact that he knew the writings of the Law and Psalms. When he was at his very lowest point, in a desperate and apparently hopeless situation in the belly of a great fish he prayed and in that prayer he quoted several phrases which are found in the Psalms and in chapter 4 quoted from the book of Numbers and Psalms.

Therefore it’s reasonable to suppose that this little maid’s faith had been imparted from the writings of Moses and Psalms which she would have learned at home and they probably encouraged her as much as they encouraged Jonah in his predicament.  The Psalms, in particular, are a tremendous resource that God has provided for us.

Dr. James Sidlow-Baxter wrote this about the Psalms –

  • Here when we’re tempted and tried we find fortitude from the saints of yesterday, whose feet bled along the same thorny path.
  • Here when we’re suffering and sorrowing we find sympathy which takes the bitterness out of our tears.
  • Here the persecuted and forsaken find reassurance in their time of need.
  • Here penitent sinners find the words that suit their broken and contrite heart.

If we want to grow in grace and deepen our faith memorising verses or passages of scripture is very valuable.

When it came to witnessing to Naaman it is quite possible that our little maid remembered Psalm 103: 2-4 –‘Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies.’

It’s wonderful to realise that over 2,800 years ago, both Jonah and this little girl could have drawn strength from the Psalms and that we can do the same today. Every experience of the soul is expressed in that book and God has given it to us as a wonderful resource in times of need, whatever our needs are.

True faith takes risks. And she took a huge risk in telling a desperate man who had the power of life and death over her, that there was a remedy for his disease and it was to be found in a prophet in Israel. Let’s face it, from the reaction of the King of Israel when Naaman made his request known, this little girls words could have started a war. It’s also wonderful to see that when Naaman arrived at Elisha’s door Elisha didn’t say “She said what!?” rather he confirmed her faith.

Time forbids me from saying much more about this little girl’s faith.

However, I’ve not finished yet. So far she has shown us the Christian virtues of fortitude, forgiveness and faith.  The fourth point I want to make is the greatest of them all.

 

  • She showed great love and compassion.

John Wesley said that Christian love is like flying a kite.  The stronger the contrary wind the higher it flies.  Certainly, very strong contrary winds had been blowing through this little girl’s life. 

We have a 9-year-old granddaughter called Netanya.  A little while ago a rather concerned school principal asked my daughter “what do Christians believe about taking revenge?” It turned out that Netanya had had a bit of a falling out with one of her classmates and said to her “I’m going to heap coals of fire on your head!!” So you can understand the Principals concern.  Of course, what our granddaughter was thinking about was the passage in Romans 12 where Paul tells us “Repay no one evil for evil……don’t seek revenge… don’t be angry… leave the vengeance to God….. rather do good to your enemy …for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on their head.”

As the video showed so well when Naaman said to her “I am impressed with how you serve me in the face of all that’s happened to you.”  She incredibly goes a huge step further and says to her mistress with love and compassion in her heart   “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”    In those few words, you hear not only forgiveness and faith but compassion and love.  Jesus said in Luke 6:45 “A good person out of the good treasure in their heart brings forth good.” There was no hint of bitterness or hatred in her heart. That is mind-blowing stuff.  Eight hundred years before Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount’ she practised what He preached.  She showed love to her enemy, she did good to the one who had destroyed every good thing she’d ever known by showing the type of compassion and love that is truly a fruit of the Holy Spirit. She sets any of us who claim to be Christians a tremendous example and challenge.

I wonder how any of us would have reacted if we’d been hurt as badly as this little girl was? It really is only when we’re tested that we learn what is in us.  If we have been truly born again and are seeking to be in tune with Him by following the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives then when the crunch comes what we are will be revealed.  Jesus said, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

This little girl truly did show Christ-like love to the person who hurt her and reached out to give him the greatest blessing he could ever know.    

 

  • Conclusion

So what about Naaman himself?  Well I’m certain many sermons have been written around him but just consider this- through a child’s faith & love he was wonderfully healed and became a changed man and we are told that God’s blessing was pressed down and overflowing for his flesh became like that of a little child. As a result, he turned away from his former idolatry and became a dedicated worshipper of the God of Israel.  All through the witness of a little girl.

When we hear that his flesh became like that of a little child it reminds us of what Jesus said in Matthew 18. ‘Unless you are converted and become as little children you shall by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.’

Life’s experiences can leave us wounded and hardened and no longer childlike, in the way we know a Christian should be.  If we feel like that then let’s realise the same God who healed Naaman can restore and revive people like us even today, even here and now. 

This little girl set us a remarkable example.

  • She showed great forgiveness and fortitude – she didn’t give up when the going got tough.
  • She showed great faith – never backing down in her belief that God would heal Naaman though failure would have spelled disaster.
  • She showed great love and compassion towards someone who was her enemy and had done her great harm.
  • She showed us long before Christ came, what it means to be a Christian.

 

Many years ago I was told never to preach a sermon unless it meant something to me. As I’ve prepared this sermon God has challenged me.  And I’ve had to ask myself ‘what does it mean for me to be a Christian?’  Hopefully, you too have been similarly challenged.

To conclude we are going to play a Gospel song which is really a prayer.  It’s sung by Jazz singer Mahalia Jackson. As we listen let’s think not only of Naaman’s little maid but also ask ourselves what sort of Christians do we want to be?  Do we want to be ones who display, fortitude, forgiveness, faith and above all, compassion and love, or are we content to be something else?

Until God calls I want to be

A Christian, a Christian my Lord,

Until God calls I want to be

A Christian, a Christian my Lord,

Give me a heart so kind and pure

A heart with compassion and love,

Give me a faith so deep and strong

When life’s trials are so hard to bear

Yes, until God calls I want to be- Lord

A Christian, a Christian my Lord.