2 Kings 5:2

There are four personages that stand out with special prominence in this chapter, from each of which important lessens may be learned. These are - the little Hebrew maid; Naaman, the commander-in-chief of the Syrian army; the Prophet Elisha; and Gehazi, the prophet's servant. We shall speak first of the little maid.

I. THIS LITTLE MAID DID NOT FORGET HER RELIGION WHEN SHE WENT FROM HOME. We see that, though in a foreign land, she still thought of her fathers' God and of his prophet. That is an important lesson in these days, when traveling has become so common. The motto with a great many professing Christians seems to be that when they are at Rome, they must do as Rome does. When they travel on the continent, they keep the continental Sunday, just as if the same God was not looking clown upon them there as at home, just as if the Lord's day was not the Lord's day everywhere, and as if there were not good Christian people on the continent who valued the day as a day of rest and worship. Mr. Ruskin wrote some pointed words lately in reference to the way Christian people seem to forget their religion when they go abroad. He asked them to count up their expenditure on railway fares and sight-seeing, on guides and guide-books, on luxuries and photographs; and then to ask themselves how much they had spent in donations to the poor Churches of France and Belgium, or of the Waldenses in Italy. Happily, all travelers are not like this. Many Christian tourists like to find a Sunday blessing, and to hear a word of refreshing, in some little country church among the hills of Scotland or of Switzerland, or in the quiet chapel amid the pleasure-seeking crowds of Paris. But how many there are who look up their religion when they turn the key in their house-door, and, however careful they may be of taking guide-books and other provisions for the journey, never dream of putting a Bible in the trunk! No matter where we go, let us take our religion with us, as Joseph took his into Egypt, as Daniel took his into Babylon, as this little Hebrew maid took hers into Syria. This little maid had strong inducements to give up her religion. No doubt it would have pleased her master and mistress if she had worshipped their gods. They might have said that her worship of any other God was an impertinence, a sort of suggestion that they were doing wrong. But she listens to the voice of conscience and of duty rather than to the voice of worldly policy and expediency. It is a message to all who are in the employment of others. Never sacrifice principle for place. Never sacrifice the favor of God for the favor of man. Your employer pays for your labor; he does not buy your conscience. If ever attempts are made to tamper with your conscience, be it yours to answer, "We ought to obey God rather than man." Trust God for the consequences. Trust him to provide for you. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

II. THIS LITTLE MAID DID NOT RENDER EVIL FOR EVIL. She had been torn from her home and from her native land by the rude hands of Syrian soldiers. Perhaps her father had fallen beneath the enemy's sword. Yet we do not find her cherishing a spirit of vindictiveness or revenge. Instead of rejoicing to see her captor suffer, she pities him. She longs that he may be healed of that terrible and loathsome disease. Have we never exulted in the sufferings of others? Have we never felt a secret thrill of gratification when some misfortune has befallen one with whom we were at variance? Such a spirit, the spirit of revenge, however natural it may be, is not the spirit of Christ. He bids us do unto others as we would wish them to do unto us. The Christ-like spirit is to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us.

III. THE LITTLE MAID WAS BUT YOUNG; YET, BY DOING WHAT SHE COULD, SHE BECAME A BLESSING TO OTHERS. She did not say to herself, "I am but young; there is nothing I can do" She did not wait for some great thing to do. But she just did the work that lay nearest her. She saw a way in which she might be useful, and she took the opportunity at once. She said to her mistress, "Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy." That was all. She just told of where the blessing of health was likely to be found.

1. This is a lesson for young people, for the children. None of you is too young to do something for Jesus. Jesus has some work for every one of you to do. It may be his work for you that you should conquer some sinful passion, some evil habit. It may be his work for you that you should stand up for him and his Word among bad companions; or that by your own quiet and gentle life, and loving disposition and kind deeds, you should show how good it is to be a Christian. Do the work that lies nearest. If you are at school or college, and find your studies irksome, and long to get free to work at your own will and pleasure; if you are learning your business, and find it a drudgery; - remember that just here Christ has a work for you to do. These difficulties have to be mastered. Master them, and then you will show your fitness for mastering far greater difficulties. "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much."

2. It is a lesson for young and old. What are you doing to be a blessing to others? Is there not some sick person to whom you might read, some poor family that you might visit occasionally with some of the comforts of life, some tempted one to whom you might speak a word of help and encouragement, some backslider to whom you might speak a word of kindly warning, some careless, godless one whom you might urge to flee from the wrath to come? And if you can do but little for the sinner and the godless yourself, perhaps you can do as the little maid did - tell them where blessing is to be found, and invite them to come to the house of God. There is no need for rivalry between different Christian communities. There are godless people enough to fill all the places of worship, if only Christian people would stir themselves and go out into the streets and lanes, into the highways and hedges, and, by the power of irresistible persuasion, compel them to come in. Don't trouble yourself by thinking of your own fitness or unfitness. Are you willing to be of use in Christ's work? Are you anxious to be a blessing to others? That is the great question. If so, Jesus will do the rest. He will make you a vessel unto honor, sanctified, meet for the Master's use.

IV. THE SECRET OF THIS LITTLE MAID'S FAITHFULNESS AND USEFULNESS WAS HER STRONG AND SIMPLE FAITH. She could be faithful to God, because she believed in God. She believed that God would take care of her when she was faithfully serving him. She could be useful to others because, though she was a captive and had no means to help them, she knew of One who had. She had faith in God. She knew that God was with Elisha, and therefore she had no doubt about Elisha's success. Yes; it is faith we want, if we are to be useful. We say we believe a great many things. But how do we believe them? Where is our faith in God's promises shown in our patience under difficulties and trials and discouragements? Where is our faith in God's promises shown by our liberality to his cause? Where is our faith in God's promises shown by our work done for Christ? If our faith in God is real, it will show itself in every detail of our daily life; it will overflow in acts of usefulness and love. - C.H.I.

And the Syrians had gone out by companies.
I. HER FAITH IN GOD. Plainly she had very strong faith; and it was of the right sort. For there are wrong kinds of faith. Mere belief even of the truth may be perfectly powerless. The question is, what side does ]our belief make you take? It should be a living trust in a living person, a whole faith in the whole Saviour. Notice the beautiful signs of this girl's faith. In that land of idols and idolaters she was not ashamed to own her Lord. And her charity proved her faith sincere. What wonder if she had nursed revenge, and said in spite, "I'm glad my master is a leper: it is God's judgment upon him: it serves him right." How beautiful, how Christ-like her forgiving spirit! We should like to know how she became such a believing child of God. The people of Israel were then desperately wicked. It was the time of Elijah, of Ahab and Jezebel; and thousands had forsaken Jehovah for idols. But probably she had such a good mother as Timothy had. From her lips she learnt about the God of Abraham. Her mother's prayers were heard in heaven; and when sin rioted around, faith found a home in the heart of this dear child.

II. HER FAITHFULNESS. Faithfulness is more than faith. As the Word shows, it is the fulness of faith. She had so much of the true faith that it filled her whole nature, and made her faithful under terrible trials. It wrought in her loving loyalty to her loving God: it made her leal-hearted. Peter had faith, but not enough of it to make him faithful in the palace of the high priest. How sad that many who go to heathen countries are faithless to their religion. They act as if their religion should be shaped by the region where they happen to dwell; they are as the softest wax on which public opinion may set any stamp: men they are in this without manhood, who do not belong to themselves but to any owner who boldly claims them; they are tossed about like pitiable atoms in the centre of a whirlwind. We greatly value this unselfish loyalty to a cause that seems lost. The Bible is always pleading with us to be loyal to God, and true to our trust, whatever it may be.

III. HER FRUITFULNESS. "Nothing but leaves," cannot be applied to her. Seeming the meekest human being in Syria, she proved one of the mightiest. "I am but one, but I am one. I cannot do much, but I can do something; and all that I can do I ought to do, and by God's grace will do." Thus she became really a great apostle and missionary. By her the true religion was known and respected in Syria, and Naaman became a worshipper of Jehovah; and so she has been thought worthy of a large place in God's book. But take care not to fall into a mistake here. You may fancy that you are to do good only by a great and happy effort once in a while. "How long did you take to paint that picture for which you ask £100?" a gentleman once said to a famous painter. "Two days," he replied. "And do you expect £100 for the work of two days?" "You forget," answered the painter, "that my whole life was a preparation for the work of these two days." So a few words from this girl moved the household of Naaman; but it was her whole life that prepared her for giving these few words at the right time, and in the right way.

(J. Wells.)

Syria was a kingdom near to Canaan. For some time a little girl lived in Syria. She may not have been more than eight or ten years old. We wish to say seven things about her.

I. THIS LITTLE GIRL WAS A JEWESS. She belonged to the best land and the best people. What advantages she had! In this respect you are equal, yea, superior to her; Canaan and the Israelites then compared with England and the English now. A complete Bible and a Saviour who has come. To whomsoever much is given, of them much shall be required.

II. THIS LITTLE GIRL WAS A SLAVE. Think on her sad condition. Forced away from her land, home, friends, and parents. Many children have been in the same circumstances — Rome, Greece, America. Some even in the present day — Madagascar and Africa. "Slaves cannot breathe in England." Why? Education. Government. Above all, the Gospel. Should you not believe it and love it?

III. THIS LITTLE GIRL WORKED AS A SLAVE IN THE HOUSE OF NAAMAN. She was in his house, and waited on his wife. A lady's maid. From this we learn that, though young, she was clever, and did all her work well. Imitate her in these things. Never be careless about what you do. Try to read, write, spell, etc., in the best way. In after-life you will then do things easily and well. This will be a great comfort to yourselves and others.

IV. THIS LITTLE GIRL WAS VERY KIND. Here was kindness to one who had not been kind to her. This was the spirit of Jesus. Hear Him and see Him on the cross. It should be your spirit. You cannot have it without a new heart, any more than there can be a stream without a fountain. Because the little maid had the one, she had also the other. He who gave her a new heart will give you one. Ask Him for it.

V. THIS LITTLE GIRL WAS EXCEEDINGLY INTELLIGENT. This is how she reasoned: Elisha, who, by the power of God, could raise a dead body to life, could also, if it pleased God, restore a diseased body to health. Wonderful reasoning for a little girl. Learn to put things together in your minds. Do this with your school lessons; when you are reading books, looking at persons, watching the birds flying, and the ships sailing. You will then be not dull, but clever, and so be able to push your way through the world.

VI. THIS LITTLE GIRL DID A GREAT AMOUNT OF GOOD. Naaman was delivered from his leprosy, and likewise from his heathenism. Besides, the whole narrative has been used by thousands to illustrate the Gospel, by which multitudes have been saved from sin to holiness. Similar results have been produced by a single book, tract, action, or word. You can all do good; do it every day.VII. THIS LITTLE GIRL WAS HIGHLY HONOURED. By the attention she received from so many in Syria; by obtaining a place in the Bible; by having thousands speaking well of her, as we have been trying to do. Her case illustrates the text, "Them that honour Me, I will honour." Go ye and do likewise. Speak for God, like her. Speak for others, and especially the suffering, like her.

(A. M'Auslane, D. D.)

We are deeply attached to this impulsive officer, of sterling character but many faults, and to the little maid who, though a caged bird, sang so sweetly the songs of Zion that she led her master into the liberty of the sons of God.

1. See, then, one whom God determined to bless. Naaman was a heathen. Naaman was living in Damascus, a city which had stood for some 1100 years, and was enriched with the wealth and splendour of empires. God wanted a witness in that great city; and so this heathen general, dwelling in all the luxury of that great capital, became the object of God's peculiar favour. He was certainly one of fortune's favourites. Everything had gone well with him. He was a man of many victories. By him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria. This popular and successful man, who had gained all the world could give him, was the man God determined to bless.

2. But mark the mysterious means adopted. Strong measures were necessary, for such favourites of fortune are not easily won. First of all, Naaman was smitted with leprosy. What we think our greatest troubles often prove our chief mercies. But there was to be trouble and disaster in another quarter. A quiet country village on the borders of Palestine is disturbed by a sudden alarm. A band of Syrian horsemen is rapidly approaching. The peasants flee in terror and hide in the hills; but some are captured, and amongst them a little maid. And her friends, when they hear of it, wish that she were rather dead than the prey of the infidel. But God was working His purpose out. These two desolate homes were not a work of wantonness, but a part of the Divine programme of blessing.

3. Consider now the special instrument used. We love to dwell upon the scene in Naaman's home. The little maid soon found out that there were sore troubles in the world besides her own, and her heart was at once drawn out in sympathy with her mistress. It must have seemed like a nightingale's song from a distant grove, heralding the advent of spring. It was a gleam of sunshine breaking in upon a night of hopeless gloom. Naaman's house was full of idols. Sacrifices and libations without stint had been offered to gain the favour of the Syrian gods. And all had been in vain. But now this Hebrew child tells of a prophet who can save, of certain healing to be had in her own land of Samaria. No one could doubt either the sincerity of her confidence or the genuineness of her sympathy. It was the candid, artless statement of a truthful child, and it carried conviction to all who heard it. It reached the ears of the King of Syria, and he determined to act upon it at once. We see here the permanent results of early religious training. This captive maiden, because she had been taught to know and trust God, was so strong in faith that she was the means of bringing salvation to the house of her captivity, and of raising up a testimony for God which rang through the whole land of Syria.

4. But see the peculiar character of a child's faith. It is concrete and objective. It was the prophet who filled her whole area of vision. Though she knew well all about God's dealings in times past with her nation, her view of religion was summed up practically in this: the prophet that is in Samaria can raise the dead, heal lepers, or do anything. It is a splendid testimony to Elisha's character and influence, that he had awakened such confidence in the soul of this little maid. There is something wrong in the teacher or preacher if he cannot enlist the enthusiastic love of children. How simple and how real a child's faith becomes when the substance of the teaching is the living Christ! It is specially easy, alas! to inculcate error — to develop superstition instead of faith — false confidence in images and relics and human priests, rather than trust in the unseen Saviour. When father and mother can do such wonders, it is obvious to their simple minds that God can do greater wonders still, dealing with laws, and touching secret springs of influence unknown to the wisest men. This little maid was confident that Elisha could and would heal her master. It was nothing to her simple, generous faith that his disease was incurable, and.. he himself outside God's covenant. Surely a bigoted, sectarian child is one of the most unnatural and most odious monstrosities to be found on earth. Alas for England, if such a spirit ever prevails in those elementary and public schools which form the nursery of the nation. Oh for more of the child-spirit among Christians! "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." Genuine faith in a real God and a real heaven makes the whole Church one.

5. And notice how far-reaching may be the influence of the most insignificant child of God. This captive maid would have been looked upon as the least influential person in all Damascus. Her simple faith was the means of winning her master, who became a living witness to all Syria; and, by her bright faith, she has been preaching to millions of Bible students for nearly three thousand years. When Naaman left Damascus, he took with him treasures amounting to about £12,000 sterling. But he had with him also what was of infinitely greater value — the prayers of the little maid. Oh, children of God, live up to your high calling! In this, the land of your exile, you are only strangers and pilgrims. Confess it. Declare your faith in heaven, and your acquaintance with One who is able to save to the uttermost.

(F. S. Webster, M. A.)

The rich and the poor meet together. The mighty and the ignoble, the monarch and the slave, are, after all, near companions on the pilgrimage of life. Naaman the Syrian, mighty and honourable, is a dweller beneath the same roof with the little captive maid of the land of Israel.

I. We notice, HER RECOGNITION OF GOD IN PROVIDENCE. She might have looked at the dark cloud of adversity hanging over her, and failed to discern a gleam of light; but she believed that the God of providence was behind the cloud, and would disperse it in His own good time. She had the conviction that God had directed, and would still direct, her steps. Is not her example a pattern to believers? The captive maid does indeed reprove and exhort us, in our mistrust of God in providence. Christian experience may well be tested by the Christian precept which enjoins us, as believers, to be "careful for nothing" (Philippians 4:6). Afflictions, trials, disappointments, rightly regarded, would help us in the application of this test. We might safely reason thus: If we cannot commit the ordering of our earthly way to our Father, who hath loved us, and "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:3); if we cannot confide in His wisdom, and trust in His goodness, under the trials and afflictions lie may send us, have we not reason to examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith at all? Assuredly the measure of our faith in the God of grace will find no uncertain index in the measure of our faith in the God of providence.

II. We notice, secondly, THE USEFULNESS OF THE CAPTIVE MAID IN THE HUMBLE POSITION SHE OCCUPIED. We see in her an illustration of God's employment of simple means to accomplish mighty ends. How great is their folly who despise the day of small things! There is no station so humble, but God is able to find in it those who may render valuable service in His Church. Humility of circumstance, when attended with humility of character, especially commends a man as a fitting co-worker with God. "Not many wise men after the flesh," etc. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Let us beware of the delusive thought, which paralyses so much Christian exertion, that our station is too humble, our sphere of influence too circumscribed, to allow of Christian usefulness.

III. As a concluding remark on the history of the captive maid, we notice THE INESTIMABLE VALUE OF HER PIETY, BOTH TO HERSELF AND OTHERS. This lesson may be commended to us in a twofold form. It may remind us of the value of a pious servant in every household, and of the value of piety to every servant. It is recorded of the Rev. Henry Venn, that he often thanked God for a pious servant; and he once said to his children respecting her, "Ruth is my servant here; but if your father is found at her feet at the Great Day his place will not be a low one." Happy the servant who, by a life of piety, so "adorns the doctrine of God her Saviour," as to win from those whom she serves such a testimony of her worth!

(C. Bullock.)

In the story of this Syrian girl there are some things which may suggest thoughts of sympathy with girls nearer home.

I. The first suggestion is that of A CHILD'S HELPLESSNESS. We often say, "as helpless as a child." The child of our story was a girl — an orphan girl, so far at least as she was bereft of the parental care — and she was a slave-girl. Thus the child of the Syrian household stands before us in a situation so pathetic, and seems to plead for her little sisters of our own time.

II. The second suggestion of the text is of another kind, namely, A CHILD'S HELPFULNESS. Helpless as she was, the little maid of the story helped her master to the recovery of health, and the knowledge of God. Now the basis of her helpfulness was her religious training. She could help man, because she knew God. When they carried her away captive she could sing them the Lord's song in a strange land. This child knew the Psalms better than some of us know them, and some of Naaman's servants got the girl now and then to chant them. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." It was as if they had brought an angel in their train when they carried that godly child to Syria.

(Samuel Gregory.)

I. GOD CAN DO VERY GREAT THINGS BY VERY FEEBLE INSTRUMENTS. The cleansing of Naaman from bodily leprosy was a very great thing. By means of it he was converted to the worship of the true God — a far greater thing. But, in all likelihood, had it not been for the little captive maid he would have died a feller and a heathen.

II. GOD CAN MAKE THE SINFUL ACTS OF MEN TO PRAISE HIM. Bringing this little maid a captive out of her native country was a sinful act. But she was brought into the household of Naaman, and God made her a means of unspeakable good to him. Very likely, after his conversion, Naaman proved a blessing to others. If so, she had a share therein.

III. WHITHER-SOEVER WE GO, WE SHOULD TAKE OUR RELIGION WITH US. This little Israelitish maid, though she was living in a heathen household, was not ashamed to own herself to be a worshipper of Jehovah. Many who are attentive to the outward duties of religion at home act like those who make no profession when they go among strangers.

IV. WE SHOULD LOVE OUR ENEMIES. This little maid was a captive in Naaman's household. It would, therefore, have not been at all unnatural had she hated him. But, instead of that, she pitied him as a leper, and manifested her kindly feelings toward him by telling her mistress where he could obtain deliverance from his sad condition. The Lord, by His servant, the prophet Jeremiah, said to the captive Israelites in Babylon: "Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it."

V. THE MIGHTY OF THE EARTH SHOULD NOT DESPISE THE LOWLY. The former do not know how greatly they may yet be indebted to the latter. No doubt, many a time Naaman, the commander-in-chief of the Syrian army, envied the robust health of a private. For that — could he have done it — he would cheerfully have given him his wealth and honours. But it was utterly impossible for him, in any way, to buy that unspeakable blessing. At length he obtained it, but he did so "without money and without price."

(T. Fenwick.)

The keeper of a lighthouse on the coast of Cornwall went ashore one day, and was seized and held a prisoner by a band of wicked men. They thought that thus they would prevent the lighting of the light, and ships would be dashed upon the rocks, and then they could get the spoils. But they forgot the little daughter of the lighthouse keeper. When it came time, all alone and frightened as she was, she climbed the long stairs and lit all the lights. Many of God's purposes are imposed in small agents for fulfilment. The Lord seems to delight in fulfilling His will by feeble instrumentalities. A child's hand can move the lever which launches a mighty ship.

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