There are a lot of names in Scripture that are near impossible for us to pronounce correctly on first attempt. I think celebrities that like to come up with off the wall names for their kids should look to Scripture, particularly the Old Testament; they’re ample resource for uncommon names there. One that’s interesting is Naaman, since it sounds like the word “name.” Hey what’s your name, “My name? My name’s Naaman.” That could be an Abbot and Costello routine if we got carried away with it.
The story of Naaman is even more interesting than his Naaman (I mean, his name). In 2 Kings 5, the commander of the Syrian army, Naaman, came to Elisha to be healed of leprosy, because one of his wife’s servants suggested it. Elisha sent him a message to wash in the Jordan seven times and “your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean” (5:10, ESV). Naaman is dissatisfied and angered by this command: “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper” (v 11). Naaman had a preconceived idea of what Elisha should do to heal him. He wanted a prophetic display similar to things he had perhaps heard about before, a more dramatic and “spiritual” encounter. When this wasn’t the case, and washing in water was the requirement, he haughtily complained that he could have done that in better water back home (v 12). Thankfully, his servants offered him some helpful perspective: “It is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (v 13). Naaman followed through and indeed was healed (v 14). Then he thanked Elisha and acknowledged “there is no God in all the earth but in Israel” (v 15).
I think Naaman’s story is common today. There are people that want to receive something from God but they want it packaged in a particular way. “I’ll go to church, but only if they do [fill in the blank].” Or, “I want God to heal me at this conference down in front of everyone.” Heaven forbid God might want to challenge the person to grow by doing something that isn’t his/her way among people in a diverse church than can enrich their lives. Heaven forbid God might want to heal the person in the quiet of his/her bedroom while s/he passionately seeks God in prayer. God can do it the way we want it, but maybe he wants to expand or sharpen our theology by working outside our expectations. Sometimes presuppositions about what God should do or what Christian leaders should do, can keep people from simply obeying God’s voice. God says wash in the water seven times or put mud on your eyes and these things seem silly and unnecessary. We want the fireworks, the spiritual sizzle—or simply something convenient. God wants unqualified obedience. That’s what he’s always wanted.
Christians are often accused of being narrow minded on socio-political issues. But I wonder if sometimes we’re also narrow minded about God. We expect him to act the way we want, the way we expect or think things should be. Yet who are we to decide for God how he acts? Instead of complaining that he’s got to wash in a river seven times to be healed of an incurable disease, Naaman should rejoice that all he has to do is “wash and be clean.” Likewise, rather than wishing God would do things a certain way to meet our expectations, lets instead surrender ourselves to his will, to his Word, and simply obey.
Let God surprise you. The call to simply pray through your pain, to look for God in his living, enduring Word during your confusion, to obey even when it doesn’t make sense, may not be the fanciful, exciting spiritual journey everybody wants, but it is the one everybody needs.