Heart of the Matter
Heart of the Matter- Naaman
During the first day of speech class, the teacher was going around the room, having the students introduce themselves. Each student was to respond to the questions “What do I like about myself?” and “What don’t I like about myself?”
Nearly hiding at the back of the room was Dorothy. Her long, red hair hung down around her face, almost obscuring it from view. When it was Dorothy’s turn to introduce herself, there was only silence in the room. Thinking perhaps she had not heard the question, the teacher moved his chair over near hers and gently repeated the question. Again, there was only silence.
Finally, with a deep sigh, Dorothy sat up in her chair, pulled back her hair, and in the process revealed her face. Covering nearly all of one side of her face was a large, irregularly shaped birthmark – nearly as red as her hair. “That,” she said, “should show you what I don’t like about myself.”
Here was a young lady devastated by her hideous birthmark. She was desperate for meaningful touch.
So was Naaman.
Question: What do you like about yourself? What do you not like about yourself?
Naaman was the “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” of his day. The military leader of one of the region’s most powerful nations, he was a definite candidate for Who’s Who in the World. He was the cream of the crop, lived among the upper crust, and caroused among the elite. The Bible says, “Naaman, commander of the army for the king of Aram, was a great man in his master’s sight and highly regarded because through him, the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was a brave warrior . . .” (2 Kings 5:1). Did you hear those descriptive words? Don’t we all want people to use them of us? Commander. Great. Highly regarded. Victorious. Valiant. Here was a man that had power, position, and prestige. He was successful. He was a winner. He was wealthy. He was a hero. He was respected. He was admired. He was envied. He was there. That place where we all hope to be, he was there, he had the favor of the king of Syria. Naaman was somebody special- everyone loved him. But Naaman was a leaper. “But” – a three-letter conjunction. That small word changes everything.
Question: How did Naaman feel about himself? (In public and in private)
Notice how first one concludes. “. . . but he was a leper” (2 Kings 5:1). He could think about all of his accomplishments; he could enjoy his power and position and prestige; he could admire his home and his wealth; but they all seemed to vanish as he stared into the mirror each day. Each time he looked at himself there was something looking back that defined his life. He was a leper, and nothing could change that fact. He had a secret problem, undetected by the masses, but still a problem in his life. What are you hiding under your armor? Naaman was a leper, but in the public, he was not detected, but at home, he had to deal with some stuff behind closed doors. It seemed to be the best of times and the worst of times all at the same time. He was at the top of his career, on the job, but he would come home and wrap his wounds, and no one on the outside knew what he was dealing with on the inside.
Question: Do we show two sides of ourselves? Public and private?
Like Naaman and like Dorothy we, too, long for meaningful touch. Why is it that when I am away from my parents I long for their embrace? Why is that we squeeze the widow’s hand at her husband’s funeral? Why is that we sympathetically pat the shoulder of the defeated athlete? Why do we bear hug a long-lost friend? Why is that we hold our babies? Why is it that when my daughter is sad, she says, “Hold me, Daddy”? Touch brings comfort. Touch conveys acceptance. Touch promotes health. Touch imparts wholeness.
Can you imagine stumbling through life without being touched? Without someone holding your hand when you are lost? Without someone rubbing your back when it is sore? Without someone slapping you on the shoulder for a job well done? Without being embraced after being gone on a two-week business trip?
Naaman did not have to imagine. It was reality. His leprosy was his birthmark. It wasn’t just the disease, it was the dis-ease: how could I fight an army and not heal myself? I can deliver victory to a nation, and can’t fix myself. How could I give such good advice to other people, and be totally unable to fix my own issues. Hush; don’t tell anybody that I’m a leper. Because if they knew I was a leper, I would lose my position. They cast lepers out; they can’t find out that I’m one of them. Naaman was a leper; he was highly esteemed by the people. Now it wasn’t just the fact that he had it, imaging the stress of trying to hide it.
Explain the stress of trying to hide your problems from the public being worse than the problem!
Naaman was a leper, and he was trying to hide it from the public, from his friends, from his fellow soldiers, and it was only when he got home at night that, he revealed to anyone that beneath my shinny armor he is as vulnerable as the people he lead. Notice he didn’t mind taking his armor off at home, because the only person that saw him was this little Israelite maid. So as Naaman undressed, he didn’t mind if this little unknown slave saw him. Now this little maid was blessed in spite of her dilemma. She knew somebody that could bring about a change. But watch, this is one heart of the matter- this little maid had be taken from her family, but in bondage, moved from her home town, and know she is waiting tables in the house of an arrogant man; she had every right to sit there and let him rot. You see the real test of character is what you do with power.
Question: How do you think the little maid felt about Naaman’s condition?
What do you do, when you have the advantage?
The captain of the host life was in the hand of a maid. God had allowed Naaman to take captive the very one who had the cure for his crisis. Now this lets me know that the answer is somewhere in the house.
Point: Your greatest test is how you handle the person you hate. The little maid says I’ve got help for you Naaman, there is a prophet in Israel, and if you would go to him, he would set you free. But you have to be willing to go into the country you just conquered. How bad do you want it? Heart of the matter point- will you go to Israel to get well? Naaman says, I’ll just go to my boss and his boss writes a letter to the king of Israel.
Naaman seeks is not find in the palace. What God is doing is getting to the heart of the matter, to teach Naaman that your healing is not in the prestige. I’ll do it for you, if you can humble yourself. I’ll do it for you if you would go down to see the prophet. Naaman is trying to go up, and God is trying to take him down. Naaman first entered Israel he was in the right place, but speaking to the wrong person. He first went to the king of Israel, but the king could not help him.
Naaman’s problem was not just the leprosy, but the heart of the matter, was Naaman had a heart problem. How do you teach a soldier to submit? He had to listen not only to a prophet, but he first had to listen to a little maid. Are you willing to do whatever it takes? Naaman goes to the king of Israel, and then, he goes from there down to the prophet’s house. When Naaman arrives at Elisha’s dusty enclave, a far cry from Jerusalem’s splendor, the prophet doesn’t even come to the door. Elisha sends out his servant. Naaman had been remarkably flexible and amicable, willingly traveling out to the prophet’s remote outpost to ask for the healing touch. But, when Elisha’s servant shows up at the door with the instructions for the cure, he is incensed. Outraged. Ticked off. He’s not only sweating bullets from the dirty, dusty desert; he is ready to spit bullets in the direction of Elisha. He doesn’t even come to the door.
Heart of the matter- Elisha sent his servant, Naaman came in on his horse, and the servant came to the door, and told him to go down to the rivers of Israel and dip in the filthy waters of Israel to get your healing. See the heart of the matter is; if you are willing to go low enough, God will heal the issues in your life. If you want to go up, you have to go down. You have to sow the seed down in the ground to get the harvest.
The servant comes out and tells Naaman to go down and deep in the dirty waters of Israel. What is God is trying to wash out of Naaman? Naaman had not gone low enough so we shift from heart of the matter, to a matter of the heart- because Naaman would have walked away without his healing, until one of his servants said to him, if the man would have asked you to do a hard thing, would you not have done it? You care more about your image than you do your deliverance. So here is Naaman going down into the dirty waters of Israel. Naaman had to get to the heart of the matter, and in order to do that, he had to get down.