Forming Faith Blog

The Little Things (2 Kings 5)

It’s easy to focus on the main characters—like Elisha and Naaman here—but this miracle wouldn’t have happened without the courage of an unnamed Israelite girl.

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Living Faithfully

We have jumped forward about a hundred years since Solomon was king of a united Israel—all twelve tribes. Due to Solomon’s unwise actions in turning away from God (1 Kings 11), God told the king that the kingdom would be divided after he died. This indeed came true as soon as Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king. The son apparently got none of his father’s wisdom, since when people from the northern part of the kingdom asked the new king for relief from the “heavy yoke” Solomon had put on them, Rehoboam rejected the advice of his elders and threatened to make life even harder for the people.

This led Jeroboam, the spokesperson for the people, to reject the Davidic king, and the ten northern tribes formed their own kingdom (unhelpfully also called Israel). This left only Judah and Benjamin to follow Rehoboam, keeping the government and temple in Jerusalem. To protect his power, Jeroboam set up golden calves to worship instead of having his people cross to the southern kingdom to worship in the temple. The northern kingdom then had a series of unfaithful rulers who led the people into disobedience to the God of their ancestors.

It’s Important!

This is a lot of historical context. But I think it’s really important. One of the problems that the Narrative Lectionary is trying to solve is that most of our worshippers/faith formation participants don’t know how the various parts of Scripture connect, assuming they know Bible stories at all. The division of the kingdom (specifically covered in NL Year 2) is a critical part of the biblical story. So, I beg you, please find an engaging way to bridge the gap between Solomon and Elisha!

God Sends Prophets

Throughout Israel’s (all twelve tribes) history, God sent representatives to speak on behalf of God. This continued through the division of the kingdom. We can read the words of prophets to the northern and southern kingdoms within the Prophets (Major and Minor) section of the Bible. But in the narrative Historical Books, we get to read about prophets who were miracle workers, the most famous of whom were Elijah and his successor Elisha, both active most in the northern kingdom. It is Elisha that we read about today.

The Lowly and the Powerful

Now let’s move on to the assigned passage. Elisha the prophet is living and ministering within the northern kingdom and has made a name for himself with various miracles. He is relatively famous. Therefore, when a young Israelite girl is kidnapped by raiders from the kingdom of Aram and made a servant (slave) of the wife of the army commander, she knows about Elisha. It is her action that sets this entire story in motion, leading to God healing this commander (Naaman) through Elisha.

Within the portion of this story that we cover today (2 Kings 5:1-15a), there are only two named characters: Naaman and Elisha. These are the “important” people. The kings of Aram and Israel are also mentioned but not named. These are the “powerful” but not important people in the story. Then comes the “lowly” servants: the Israelite girl, Naaman’s servants, and Elisha’s servant (beyond this passage we learn that his name is Gehazi).

The Israelite Girl

There are many good lessons to learn in this story, but a relatively unique (at least to me) perspective would be to focus on the servants, especially the Israelite girl. She is one of the most powerless people in the story: she’s young, female, a servant/slave, and a foreigner. Why would anyone listen to her? In fact, why would she say anything to her oppressors in the first place?

Why Help?

I don’t think we will ever know with any confidence why this girl decided to speak up. That information is just not in the narrative. What we do know is that she had something to say, a story to tell. She knew of a prophet and was confident that he could heal with the power of God (I’m assuming that Elisha made clear that it wasn’t by his own power he could do these things). Whether her motives were pure (a desire to help Naaman or give glory to God), selfish (a desire to curry favor with her owners), or something else, she decided to share this news.

The Importance of Us “Small People”

Honestly, in a story like this, we probably have more in common with the servants than the main characters. Most of us would not be in positions of power (commander of a kingdom’s army, prophet and miracle worker, or kings). But that doesn’t mean we aren’t important. In fact, just as this story would not even happen without the action of the Israelite girl, many parts of the great story of God would not happen without our actions. We also have a story to tell. We have the stories of God in Scripture, the stories of Jesus in particular, and the stories of God’s work in our lives.

When you are preaching, worship leading, teaching, or otherwise faith formation-ing, this is a good thing to say. We might not all be “leadership material,” but we are all important, and the stories we tell might make a difference in other people’s lives.

May God give you the strength to tell the story.


Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download “Living Faithfully in God’s Promise” a free activity from our intergenerational Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship (NL) curriculum.

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