The Old Testament reading for today is one that I’ve loved since I was a child – perhaps because
it’s about a little girl. In 2 Kings 5:1-14 we read the story of Naaman and his little servant girl. When
we think about this story we most often think about the encounter between Naaman and Elisha but
I want to think about this little girl whose name we don’t even know and who is, for me, an absolute
There are some remarkable children in the bible: Samuel, David, even Mary was hardly more than
a child, but this little girl is quite something else – even if we don’t know her name. From what we
know of the history of the times we can piece together a few fragments of her young life. It’s most
likely that she would have been captured during a raid on her village or town and it’s possible that
her family is dead and that she has seen things we would hope children would never see. Certainly
she will have been forcibly taken from her home against her will – sadly there are many children in
our world for whom this is still true and we need to remember that this isn’t just a story about a
situation that arose long ago but it’s one that happens today and one which, to our shame, we
rarely think about.
Like many children in the world today this little girl has been sold into slavery and is working in the
house of a high ranking Aramean as his wife’s maid – Naaman – captain of the army of the king of
Aram. Naaman has leprosy which was probably not the same disease as we know these days, but
something that was still hugely feared and isolating – it doesn’t really matter what disease Naaman
had – just that we understand that it was something life changing and life limiting. We don’t know
from the text how long this little girl has been with the family or how she has been treated or
whether she has cruel or kind owners. However, what is striking about her is that despite all this
she has the courage to speak up and to honour Elisha, the prophet of Israel’s God – who, lets be
honest – has not saved her from captivity! However, despite being away from home, separated
from her family, in slavery, she still had faith in her God and his prophet Elisha. God had not
prevented her capture or suffering, but she still believed that this God, whom she knew as the one
true God, was the answer to Naaman’s problems. She still believed in God’s power, she still
believed in God’s faithfulness and ability to heal and in a prophet to work on God’s behalf through
whom miracles were done in God’s name. She believes God and his prophet WILL heal her master
– even if nothing they did was able to save her.
I wonder what it took for this little girl to speak up? Maybe you wouldn’t blame her for being glad
that her captor, owner, oppressor, is ill; seriously, debilitatingly ill – how often have we secretly
wished ill on those we really don’t like – and I don’t just mean people we know but despotic rulers,
politicians, community leaders. Perhaps her future would be uncertain if Naaman died but it doesn’t
sound like self-interest to me as she makes her little speech to her mistress. This is a child
tentatively making a suggestion which,quite frankly, could have cost her a beating but it didn’t –
Naaman’s wife listens and acts. Maybe the wife was desperate – this disease for Naaman would
not just be bad news for him but for her and their whole household – maybe she was clutching at
straws by listening to the child but, it doesn’t really matter, listen and act she did.
To me this little girl is a real inspiration as she shows concern for those she has no reason to love,
who probably do not love her who, in fact, use her. As we know from other parts of the story of
Israel, back home the people were busy NOT being faithful to God but here, far from home, in a
strange land, this little girl is living with faith in her heart. I do so wish we knew her name.
Over the years I’ve heard many people say that they “can’t believe in a God who let’s … happen”
and, to be fair, we’ve possibly all been there at times. There are certainly times when I’d dearly like
to ask God what’s really going on in the world – what God is playing at now – maybe you do too –
believe me, I’m absolutely not suggesting that we mustn’t question God – I can assure you, there
have been times when God and I have had some heated exchanges! Well, heated on my part
anyway – and that’s true for the psalmists and many others in the Bible, but, if we are really honest,
we have to admit there are things we are never going to understand. The question is can we hold
on to God’s faithfulness in the those times when things seem dark or confusing or will we abandon
God if we feel that we have been let down? These are the times when this little girl has something
enormous to teach us. Naaman’s life and the lives of his were transformed. Maybe the faith of his
servants was changed. Maybe the transformation even filtered through to the King of Aram! Who
would have thought that the faith of one little girl could have that kind of ripple effect?
Because God has not ‘protected’ her – done what she wanted/needed does not mean, in her mind,
that God won’t or can’t help. In fact she is convinced of the opposite – that God will help! So much
so that she does what could have been a risky thing – she speaks out – in a strange and foreign
place – she remembers what her parents taught her – that ‘the prophet of God can heal’. How
amazing is that? This little girl who MUST have cried tears of confusion, homesickness, exhaustion
and many other things, somehow STILL has faith in God – enough faith to pass on to someone she
has good reason to hate but doesn’t – she cares. That is why she is inspirational. And why, despite
one nameless mention in the whole bible she’s one of my bible greats! I wonder what this story
says to you? I wonder who your Bible Greats would be?
God, how can we forgive when bonds of love are torn?
How can we rise and start anew, our trust reborn?
When human loving fails and every hope is gone,
your love gives strength beyond our own to face the dawn.
Ruth C. Duck (b. 1947) Singing the Faith 613
Ruth Parry 3rd July 2022