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Second Kings 5 tells the story of Naaman, a Syrian army commander afflicted with leprosy. When he comes to Israel to be healed, Elisha tells him to go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this chapter cited as an example, rightly of course, of the need to obey the Lord exactly–how if Naaman had stopped washing after six times, he wouldn’t have been healed.
What I’ve never heard preached is verse 18, where Naaman appears to ask in advance for forgiveness in what will appear to be worship of a false god:
“May the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to worship, and he leans on my arm and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.”
Although the Bible doesn’t come right out and say God approves of Naaman’s intentions, Elisha’s answer, “Go in peace,” certainly implies that what Naaman plans is OK.
Let’s try to wrap our minds around that idea for a minute. It looks like Naaman would have seemed to be worshiping a false god in a pagan temple, but in reality he was worshiping the one true God. I wonder what lessons we could learn from Naaman today?