More Than Skin Deep
There is a marvellous beauty in the moral change brought about in Naaman. We tend to focus merely on the transformation of his skin and overlook the remarkable inward conversion that accompanied it. As a Syrian he had no claim whatsoever on the Jehovah of Israel, but through divine mercy, he was turned “from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thess. 1: 9). In the same way that his leprous skin “became again like the flesh of a little child” (2 Kings 5: 14), so his life was turned completely around.
Just as leprosy is a picture of sin, so Naaman is presented to us a man marked by sin. He may have been “great” and “honourable” (v1) as the world sees things, but he was also marked by pride and anger (see vs 11, 12). But the man that came up out of the Jordan was quite different to the man that went down. No longer is he contemptuous of “the waters of Israel” (v12) for he boldly proclaims before all “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel” (v15). Nor is this all, for he immediately begins to think of the worship that is due to Jehovah. Syria was an idolatrous land, but the cleansed leper would have a testimony set up there to the true God. His wish is for “two mules’ burden of [this] earth” (v17) to be given to him in order to build an altar to Jehovah in his homeland. There is something peculiarly attractive about this: It could not be just any soil, it had to come from Emmanuel’s land. His past course of life is finished, he has met the true God: “thy servant will no more offer burnt–offering and sacrifice to other gods, but to Jehovah” (v17). In Syria, he would be isolated, now not on account of his leprosy, but because of his worship—but he is prepared to stand.
There is one more thing—something that proves the conversion of Naaman. In verse 18 we find his conscience troubled about a matter that, to the unregenerate, would be hardly worthy of notice: “In this thing Jehovah pardon thy servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to bow down there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon—when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, Jehovah pardon thy servant, I pray thee, in this thing” (v18). No longer the haughty man of the world, but a humble believer, Naaman is acutely aware that his allegiance is to the true God and none other. It might have seemed a small thing to bow to the god of his master, a god that he knew was merely wood or stone, but to Naaman it was no triviality. And through the instrumentality of Elisha, God in grace answers Naaman’s concerns: “And he said to him, Go in peace” (v19). Naaman’s transformation was not merely skin–deep—he had been changed on the inside too. He, unworthy as he was, was now a child of God.