There’s one thing you need to know about me that you probably know after talking to me for a few minutes: I am a huge all-around nerd. Among other things, that includes a love for superheroes of all kinds. For years now, I have been an avid comic book reader, video game player, and hero movie watcher. From Ant-Man to Zatanna, I probably know about a dozen useless facts about every superhero in the book. What has intrigued me, though, is the increase in the superhero fandom in the last few years. The newest Avengers movie came out just a few weeks ago, and I was astounded by the number of people who seemed to be talking about it endlessly. As a true nerd, I was thinking to myself, “Almost none of these people have read the comics! There’s no way they’re all this invested in this movie.” Nevertheless, it is true that on the whole, the world is becoming obsessed with superheroes now more than ever.
As humans, we are naturally drawn to things like superheroes that appear to be extraordinary. The whole point of a superhero is that they have abilities that no other human has that allow them to do great things, and maybe save the world, too. We are taken aback with these characters because of their strength, perhaps even more so than the ways in which they use it. This is true for more than just heroes; truly anything that seems to be larger-than-life is usually a major point of discussion. It is a part of being human that we are seemingly obsessed with what we call “great.”
In 2 Kings 5, we are introduced to a Biblical figure that, in his time, might have fallen into this category. In the opening verses of this chapter, the Bible paints a very impressive picture of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army. It says here that he was “a great and honorable man,” one who was called a “mighty man of valor” in his home country. With him at the helm, and help from the Lord, of course, the Syrian army had experienced great victories, including many successful raids into Israel and other military victories. One look at him and his resume, and any Syrian worth his salt would have called him the hero of their country at the time. There’s just one problem: Naaman is a leper. This means that he is suffering from a disease that, if left untreated, will eventually kill him. Most of us probably know the story of Naaman from here. Eventually, he finds the prophet Elisha in the land of Israel. After being told to dip seven times in the Jordan River and begrudgingly doing so, Naaman is healed of this affliction and glorifies God.
This story represents a lot of things to us as Christians. It is proof of the redeeming power of obedience to all of God’s will. It is an example of the fact that, as Peter said in Acts 10:34, “God shows no partiality.” For the Syrians, though, I imagine it meant salvation. Their military hero who had expanded their kingdom and prestige throughout the region was cured, and now they could continue to succeed as they had before. For many reasons, this story is significant, and the outcome of Naaman’s visit to Elisha is profound from any perspective. There is one aspect of this story, though, that has been overlooked many times. Surely Naaman was a hero to the Syrians, and Elisha the prophet was a hero to Israel, and of course God is the Hero of all stories. However, in this story there is a fourth hero who rarely gets credit but whose actions given her situation were vital.
Going into this chapter, Naaman had no idea that Elisha existed. He had no idea that there was a God in Israel, or that salvation was waiting for him in the Jordan. However, there was one person in his house who did. In his raids on Israel, Naaman had taken many captives from among the Jews, including an unnamed servant girl who waited on his wife. Eventually, this girl heard about Naaman’s leprosy, and in her servitude, she said something that would make the difference in Naaman’s life. “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:3) This was relayed back to Naaman, who went to meet Elisha and was eventually saved from his plight. This is often a verse that we read over and fail to consider in the context of this story. We fail to realize that if this little girl doesn’t speak up, Naaman most likely dies. If she remains silent, this story of obedience and redemption is lost. If she fails to relay the news of salvation, salvation itself fails to take place. The fact that this servant girl chose to represent her God in a foreign land may have changed the course of history and of the Bible itself. All she did was present Naaman with what she had and what he was missing out on: the good news.
There are a lot of different kinds of superheroes. Some fly, some have laser vision, and some have no extra gifts at all, using what they have to serve and to save. Naaman fought, Elisha prayed, and the Lord ultimately healed, but this little girl, who had no extra gift at all, still chose to use the good news that she had to serve and to save. I wonder how many more superheroes there would be today if we all chose to do the same.
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” ~2 Timothy 4:1-2