2 Kings 5
12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?
Naaman is incensed at his treatment at the hands of Elisha. Here is this high royal official from Israel’s neighbor to the north, traveling with his retinue, laden with gifts: ten talents of silver (660 pounds!), six thousand shekels of gold (126 pounds!), and ten handmade suits from London’s Savile Row – or whatever is now the height of fashion and luxury.
He parades first up to the King of Israel and asks to be healed, for a captured slave girl has told her mistress, Naaman’s wife, that there is a man of God in Israel who can heal him. The King of Israel despairs, assuming this is a pretext for the incessant conflict with their hostile and more powerful neighbor to break out into open war. But Elisha sends a note “Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” The message, of course, infers that Naaman might learn what Israel’s king has not.
So the semi-royal procession moves to Elisha in the ancient equivalent of a presidential motorcade, and Elisha doesn’t even bother to come to the door. There is no great public ritual. No honoring of his esteemed guest. No show of power, only a servant sent out with the message to go wash in the Jordan seven times.
Elisha has sent him away as if he were a beggar.
And are we not all beggars when it comes to the divine mercy?
Naaman storms away in a rage until his servants persuade him to do as the prophet said. Had he been commanded to do a Herculean task, he would certainly have done so. But to humble yourself is a far greater challenge.
Naaman is healed. And when he returns with his great riches to make payment for the services of the prophet, he is sent away again. It is a gift. We are all as beggars before the divine mercy.