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Lesson 3: The Unlikely Missionary *

Introduction: When you think about your future, what do you want to happen? You want good things to happen! Good health, good jobs, good relationships are the things we want. For some, the hope is even more basic: enough to eat, freedom of speech, freedom to work, freedom of religion. When bad things happen instead, we have a hard time understanding how a loving God could permit it. John 9:1-3 records a discussion about a blind man. Jesus explained he was blind "so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." When we face difficult times, it presents an opportunity for God. Let's jump into our Bible study to learn more about this intriguing idea!

  1. Naaman and the Young Girl


    1. Read 2 Kings 5:1. Who was responsible for Naaman's success? (God had given him military success.)


    2. Read 2 Kings 5:2. Why was this young girl a captive? Isn't it a result of God's blessings on Naaman?


      1. If this young girl is from Israel, has God given Naaman the victory over Israel? (Actually, that is not the case. Aram (Syria) successfully resisted the Assyrians - the heavy weight nation in the area. Syria engages in raiding of Israel, but it has not conquered Israel.)


      2. What would you think about your God if it appears that His blessings to Naaman made it possible for you to be a captive?


    3. Would you like to be Naaman? (He is a top leader in the country, his boss admires him, the public loves him, and he is brave and successful. However, he has a terrible disease: leprosy.)


    4. Read 2 Kings 5:3-4. What kind of attitude does this young girl have towards her captors? Would you have a similar attitude?


      1. How much advice do you think Naaman takes from young slave girls?


      2. Notice that the slave girl's advice is taken all the way up to the King! How do you explain this? (Naaman is desperate! Otherwise this makes no sense.)


    5. Read 2 Kings 5:5. Why would the King of Aram and Naaman send gold and silver if they ruled Israel? (This confirms that Aram does not rule Israel. They may be a more dominant country, but they do not have control.)


  2. King of Israel


    1. Read 2 Kings 5:6-7. Compare the thinking of Naaman's Israeli slave girl with the thinking of the King of Israel? (The King is considering only his own abilities!)


      1. Do you approach difficult problems the same way as the King of Israel?


      2. The young slave girl is a missionary for God. If we want to be God's missionary, what should be our first reaction to every situation in life?


    2. Read 2 Kings 5:8. Would you have worded Elisha's message the same way?


      1. Compare the wording found in 2 Kings 5:3? (God is directing the writing of this story. Although it bothers me that the arrow of attention is pointed at the prophet rather than God, perhaps this reflects God's will. Perhaps it is my misunderstanding of what is being said.)


  3. Pride


    1. Read 2 Kings 5:9-12. Does Naaman have a reasonable point of view?


      1. Read Romans 13:7. Naaman has a letter from the King of Aram. The King of Israel has also sent him to Elisha. Plus Naaman is an important man. Why is Elisha snubbing him and refusing to show him honor?


      2. Let's reconsider something we discussed before. I thought God should be the focal point and not Elisha, the prophet of God. But, if the point of the story is that they are viewed as a unit - the prophet of God is God's representative - then it makes sense that "God" would not need to come out to greet a mere man.)


      3. Has your pride ever kept you from a blessing?


    2. Read 2 Kings 5:13-14. Who talks sense to Naaman? What does this teach us about Naaman? (Naaman is a proud man - and we can understand why. But, this reflects a pattern in his life: he is willing to take advice from those "below" him. Recall that he started this adventure because he was willing to take advice from a young slave girl.)


    3. Let's look again at 2 Kings 5:11. Would this have worked if God decided on the approach Naaman wanted? (Of course.)


      1. Would doing it Naaman's way have the added benefit of putting the focus on God?(Adam Clarke's Commentary has a great insight. Clarke points out that Naaman expected Elisha to "come out to me" - emphasis on the "me." Elisha should stand before Naaman (who is in his chariot) to invoke God. This puts both Elisha and God at the service of Naaman. Healing should be done the way Naaman thinks is appropriate.)


        1. How many times do you demand that God do things your way?


  4. Glory to God


    1. Read 2 Kings 5:15. Compare 2 Kings 5:9. What has changed? (Naaman has dismounted from his chariot. Elisha has come out to see Naaman.)


      1. Has this missionary endeavor worked? (Yes, and God and Elisha did not treat Naaman gently.)


        1. Is this a lesson for missions? A loving God is not always a gentle God?


    2. Read 2 Kings 5:16. Compare 1 Timothy 5:17-18. If a worker is worthy of his reward, why did Elisha not take his reward? (Recall my concern about focusing on the prophet instead of God? This is the clearest statement about who is responsible for the healing. If Elisha healed Naaman, then he would have earned his reward. But, the great God in heaven healed Naaman. For Elisha to take the reward would be to take credit for God's work.)
    3. Read 2 Kings 5:17. How do you explain this odd request? Why does Naaman need dirt? (This reflects an error in Naaman's theology. He thinks that gods are territorial - each nation has its own god. He wants dirt from Israel, so that he can worship the true God on ground from Israel.)


    4. Read 2 Kings 5:18-19. Would you give Naaman a pass on this? Naaman explains to Elisha that his job requires him to bow down to a pagan god. I regularly have clients who refuse to compromise their religious beliefs over a work requirement!


      1. Let's discuss this: First, Naaman has a clear theological misunderstanding that seriously undercuts the authority of God. Second, he asks for permission to sin in the future. Elisha's response to these two serious problems is "Go in peace." Why?


      2. There is a long-running debate about whether or not we should make sure a person knows all of the "rules" before we baptize that person. If we baptize them without explaining the rules, someone is always quick to correct the new convert. What does Elisha's response teach us about this issue?


      3. Read Luke 23:40-43. This fellow not only missed the baptismal classes, he missed the baptism! Is this a "one-time exception" because of the circumstances? (The answer to this series of questions is that we too often trespass on the work of the Holy Spirit. If someone wants to be baptized, we should do that without creating all sorts of barriers. Once the person accepts Jesus, as did the thief on the cross, then the Holy Spirit should be the primary force to convict the sinner of God's will.)


        1. Does this mean we have no role in instructing new Christians? (Read Matthew 28:19-20. We clearly have a teaching role. However, notice that even in Jesus' Great Commission, He puts baptism before teaching.)


    5. How important a witness do you think Naaman will be in the future? (He is admired by the King and loved by the people. He can have a huge impact to advance the Kingdom of God in Aram.)


      1. How did this glorious result start? (With a young slave girl.)


        1. If she had not been taken captive, would we have this glorious result?


    6. Friend, difficult times may create the opportunity for great advances for the Kingdom of God. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to keep you alert to these opportunities?


  5. Next week: The Jonah Saga.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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