People can be so foolish. They think they know all things. They think they can do all things. They think they can get away with doing all things, but they only fool themselves. Men often pride themselves for being wiser than animals, and In fact, some truly are, but others deceive themselves…
Would you like to hear a story about a good man who came to know a mighty God? The story I’m about to share with you is a true story. I was there, and I witnessed the whole all of it. Because they believed we were nothing more than a dumb animals, nothing was hidden from me and my counterparts…
I served one of the strongest and most brilliant military leaders of our time. Although Naaman, the man that I served, had the dreaded disease of leprosy, he still won the admiration of the king of Aram, because the Lord gave him great victories over other the armies of other nations. I was honored to serve this man, for he was a kind master, serving me the best oats and barley and hay, and though many masters beat their servants and their animals, my master would never have considered doing so. In fact, I’ve seen him discipline other soldiers for abusing their animals and their slaves.
Anyway, one evening, when Naaman came home, his wife ran out to the stable to meet him. She was a good and loving wife, and I couldn’t help admiring her, because despite the gruesome and very contagious disease her husband carried, she remained by his side, refusing to leave him. And on this evening, she ran up to him and threw her arms around him, laughing joyfully at Naaman’s surprised face.
“Oh Sweetheart,” she cried, “I’ve been waiting anxiously for you to get home. I thought you’d never get here!”
Naaman grinned as he put his hands on her shoulders, gently pushing her away, lest she come into contact with his bare skin. Then, looking down into her sparkling eyes, he said, “Now, that’s some kind of greeting!” Though Honey loyally stayed with her husband, Naaman was always careful not to let her come into contact with his bare skin. Because I was an animal, he felt safe confiding in me, for he was certain I would never tell his secrets, and as long as he lived, I never betrayed him. He even named me Raz, which is the Aramean word for secret, and he often talked to me about how difficult his life was, since he had gotten that terrible disease. For though his wife refused to leave him in spite of the leprosy, he made sure that his skin was always covered, to prevent her from coming into contact with it and getting it also. He told me that from the moment he got the disease, he no longer even shared a bed with his beloved wife. So, smiling down at her, Naaman asked, “What have I done to deserve this greeting? Not that I’m complaining!”
I knew his wife’s name was Honey, because I never heard him call her anything else. It seemed like a funny name to me, but she always answered to that, even though no one else called her Honey.
Anyway, as I was saying, you could see that Honey was really happy about something. I mean it was obvious that she was happy to see Naaman, but she was happy about something else too. That’s why she came running out to meet him, instead of waiting for him to come inside to her. She just laughed and giggled when Naaman asked her why she was so happy to see him. She tossed her chestnut colored hair back over her shoulders, as she replied, “Darling, do you remember the Hebrew girl you gave me for a maid?”
My master nodded his head, as he gave me some food and water, while she continued, “Well, earlier today, she was talking to me… Oh Naaman, I really love this girl – she’s so compassionate, and she really loves us! Anyway, she was talking to me while she brushed my hair, and she said, ‘I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.’ Darling, I questioned her thoroughly, and she was very certain of this. She wasn’t trying to pacify me. She brought it up to me, and when I questioned her she told me about a prophet named Elisha, who is very powerful.”
I watched as my master put his hands on his wife’s shoulders, holding her away and turning very pale, as he looked into her eyes. “Could this be true?” he whispered incredulously, as++ his wife nodded. “Hurry, my love! Get this girl and bring her out here to me so that I may question her in private!” Then, laughing joyfully, she ran to get the servant girl.
While she was gone, Naaman retrieved my brush from the shelf in my room, and began brushing my hair, and talking to me. “I don’t know what to think, Raz. I lost all hope many years ago, when I first got this dreaded disease. And yet, by some great miracle, the gods still smiled down on me, allowing me to keep my position as commander of the king’s army and my wife.”
I couldn’t help but snort at his statement about the gods smiling down on him. People think that animals are much dumber than they are, but in this area, we are much smarter. For we don’t bow down to idols carved out of wood and clay, and silver and gold mean nothing to us, because we know our Creator, and we know that there is no other god besides Him. Still, my master was a good man, and I had hopes that he would come to know his Creator one day soon.
As my master continued to brush me, I leaned into it, enjoying the feel of him brushing and massaging me. It felt so good, I didn’t want it to end, but just then, my master’s wife came scurrying back with her slave girl. She was a Hebrew, and I remembered when we had captured her. She knew who the One true God was, and it was very clear that she had a close relationship with Him, for she prayed to Him constantly when we brought her back here.
Now, Honey reintroduced the slave girl to Naaman, “Sweetheart, this is Hannah. Hannah, please tell Commander Naaman what you were sharing with me today about the prophet in Israel.”
Bowing her head, Hannah greeted him, “Shalom, Commander Naaman. I hope you had a productive day.”
Smiling, Naaman replied impatiently, “It was a fine day, but I’m more interested in what you told my wife today.”
“Yes sir,” Hannah nodded. “I told my lady that I wish you would go to see the prophet in Samaria, because he would heal your leprosy.”
“Young lady, don’t you know that there is no cure for leprosy?” Naaman replied, patting me and laying my brush down.
“Oh yes sir, but the prophet in Samaria is truly a man of God, and he has performed many miracles, and healed many people. Oh Master,” the young lady said passionately, “if you would go to him, I just know he would heal you of this terrible disease. Then you and your wife would be able to have children!”
Glancing over her head, I saw my master look at his wife, whose eyes were filled with tears. Then he looked down at the Hebrew girl, whose eyes were also filled with tears. “Master, you have been so kind to me, and I would never have said anything to your wife if I didn’t know that you could be helped. I – I – I just wanted to help. Please forgive me if I’ve overstepped my boundaries.”
“Well,” he said gruffly, “I suppose I have nothing to lose if it doesn’t work.”
“Exactly!” his wife said joyfully, “And you have everything to gain!”
And so it was, that my master went to see the King of Aram the next morning, and came back with a letter and a large grin on his face. He rubbed my nose, nuzzling his face into the side of my neck, “Well, Raz, my boy,” he sounded like he was choked up, but I couldn’t see, because his face was buried in my neck. “It looks like we’ll be going on a trip in a couple of days, and who knows? If this works out, I’ll be able to snuggle with my wife instead of you.” Laughing, he continued, “It’s not that I don’t love you, Buddy, but a man has needs that only his wife can meet, and since I’ve had this disease, we haven’t been together, and you have no idea how hard it’s been.”
He was right. I didn’t have any idea how hard it was for him, but I could imagine. I saw how his servants were careful not to touch him, and I heard them talk about my master when no other humans were around. I’m certain my master was lonely for company of his own kind, just as I liked to be around my own kind. And just as I enjoyed being with a few young fillies that I knew, I imagine my master wanted to mate with his wife.
I had heard of the prophet the Hebrew girl spoke of, and I was very hopeful for my master. And so, three days later, we left, with a group of Naaman’s most trusted officers and soldiers, carrying 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing as gifts, not to mention a letter from the king of Aram, telling Israel’s king, “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.”
Now, my master appeared before the king of Israel, who was apparently quite upset when he read the letter from the king of Aram. As a matter of fact, I heard that he was so upset that he tore his clothes and said, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”
Thankfully, Elisha, the very man of God that we were seeking, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, and he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”
So Naaman left on me, along with his other horses and chariots and we waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”
Now, I had always admired my master, and thought that he was both kind and wise, however, his response to the prophet’s instructions caused me to reconsider that. For instead of rejoicing and rushing to the Jordan River to do as the prophet commanded, Naaman became very angry, angrier than I’d ever seen him, in all the years that we had been together.
“I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Aram far better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I just wash in them and be healed?” He raged.
Thankfully, the soldiers and officers that accompanied him were far more level-headed than Naaman, and they began to reason with him, saying, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, would you have done that?”
“Of course I would,” he said proudly. “I would do anything, no matter how difficult, to be rid of this dreadful disease!”
“Well, sir, don’t you think you should obey the great prophet when he tells you to do something as easy as, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’?”
“But he didn’t even come out and meet me!” Naaman cried, outraged and insulted.
“No he didn’t Sir, but really, what do you have to lose by doing this? You said yourself, that you would do anything, no matter how difficult, in order to be healed, right?” When Naaman nodded, the brave young officer continued, “Then why not do this seemingly easy thing? Perhaps your obedience in this simple task will heal you. Wouldn’t you say it’s worth trying, Sir?”
My master bowed his head, and I could tell that he was ashamed of his outburst as he replied, “Thank you, Nahor. Please tell the men to turn around. We’re going to the River Jordan.”
After all that drama, Naaman went and humbled himself, dipping himself seven times into the murky waters of the Jordan River, and when he came up out of the water after the seventh time, I knew I had witnessed a miracle. When my master came up out of that water, his skin was as soft and white as a baby’s skin. We animals know and understand when we are in the presence of our Creator, and it was clear that the Creator had cleansed my master’s skin, and he was now clean. There was silence for more than a minute, as Naaman came up out of the water after that seventh dip. Not a bird chirped, not a squirrel squeaked, and not a horse whinnied. Even the humans understood that something miraculous had happened, and for once, they too, were silent.
And then, after a moment of silence, pandemonium broke out! Soldiers and officers alike shouted for joy, as the animals once again began to make noise as well. We rushed back to the prophet’s house at breakneck speed, and Naaman jumped off me and started to bow before the man of God, but he stopped him, placing his hand on his shoulder and shaking his head, he told Naaman that he was simply a servant of the Most High God, and that God alone was worthy of worship.
Naaman nodded his head in agreement and responded, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” Again, the man of God shook his head, stating that he required no gifts, and even though Naaman urged him to accept something, Elisha refused.
Then Naaman said, “All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord. However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.”
“Go in peace,” Elisha said. So Naaman started home again, his life forever changed. True to his word, Naaman worshiped the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth from that day forth, and never again worshiped the false idols of his fellow countrymen. Within a year, Naaman became a father, and he and Honey were the happiest married couple I’ve ever seen. God truly blessed Naaman, and Naaman worshiped Him until the day he died.
My master went on to be with the Lord nearly ten years ago, and I went on to serve his oldest son, who was the image of his father. When I became too old to continue working, my new master put me out to pasture, and for the last two years, I have enjoyed the good life. Each day, I arise when I feel like it, and I no longer carry any burdens on my back. And every once in a while, my young master finds time in his busy schedule to come and brush his old buddy Raz’s hair. The Creator has certainly given me a blessed life, and I have no complaints.
Cheryl A. Showers