Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lessons in God’s Sovereignty from a Little Girl

by Bruce Mills
I have been studying and teaching on the life of Elisha, the Old Testament prophet.  I have arrived at 2 Kings 5 which records the story of the healing of Naaman the leprous Aramean (Syrian) military commander.  As I began studying the story, I encountered one of the characters in the story who I have never heard anyone talk about to any significant degree, yet this person plays a significant role in the story. This person is found in 2 Kings 5:2 and it is the unnamed little Jewish slave girl who informs Naaman’s wife about Elisha being able to heal Naaman of his leprosy.  She had been taken captive during one of the many raids which the Arameans had carried out against Israel. She was selected to be the slave girl in waiting for Mrs. Naaman.
Now think about this. Here we have an incredible story of God’s sovereignty at work. This little girl had been forcibly taken away from her home and her parents and forced to work as a slave for the top military commander’s wife in a foreign land. Who knows—perhaps her parents were even killed by the Aramean raiders when they went pillaging through Israel and captured her! So she had, at a very young age, become a slave. The text doesn’t tell us how old she was when she was taken captive, but she was probably there for at least a year or two because she had apparently learned the Aramean language, as she was able to express to her captors the information about Elisha.
Here we have God’s sovereignty at work again in what seems to us to be a negative manner. After all, God could have protected this little girl from being captured and carried away from her parents and put into service as a slave in Naaman’s household. But He didn’t. He let her be captured and hauled away. He certainly doesn’t seem like a God of mercy and love when you look at it that way. But God doesn’t look at things like we do (cf. Isaiah 55:9). Her story is very similar to that of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, and years later when he has risen to be the prime minister of Egypt, he is reunited with his brothers and tells them, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:20).
So here is this little girl—young, far from home, enslaved to serve Naaman’s wife—and yet she maintains a positive attitude of humble submission to those over her. This is seen in her statement to Naaman’s wife regarding Naaman’s leprosy. She says, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3).
Now you might think, “Hmm, I’ve never heard of someone who had been captured and enslaved, speak with such thoughtful, kind terms about her captors. Instead of saying, “I wish my master would die of his disease. After all, he deserves to, since he snatched me away from my home and made me a slave. I wish God would help me escape and get back home to my family,” she says, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.”
This is clearly the work of God in her life. She had a positive attitude despite her circumstances. She cared for her master and had his best interest at heart. There is no hint of dissatisfaction or discontent with her situation in life. Even at her young age, there was a maturity beyond her years in terms of understanding that God had sovereignly placed her in her circumstances and had a purpose in doing so.
Now, someone might argue, “Well, perhaps her circumstances in Syria as Naaman’s slave were better than her family’s circumstances back in Israel. Maybe that’s why she didn’t complain.” I will admit that it is certainly possible that her circumstances as a slave may have been better than her life had been back in Israel, but it is also true that in general the circumstances of the average African slave here in America in the 1800s was better than the average African living in Nigeria at that time. Yet those slaves yearned and longed for freedom from their slavemasters. You see, when you take away a person’s freedom, it doesn’t matter how much better their circumstances may be. Apart from an understanding of God’s sovereign work in their lives, they will rebel against that slavery; if not outwardly, at least internally. Yet in this young girl’s words we see the desire of her heart that her master would be healed by God’s prophet Elisha back in Samaria. No complaining about her own situation; just concern for her master’s situation.
Iinterestingly, this story doesn’t have a Hollywood happy ending for this little girl. There is no reward of freedom for her after Naaman is healed. We would like for there to be a verse thrown in somewhere in the chapter which tells us that when Naaman got home, he set the little girl free and sent her home to live with her parents back in Israel. After all, she is the one who brought up the possibility of Elisha healing Naaman, but after verse 4, this little girl is never mentioned again in the story. She may have spent the rest of her life as a slave, working for Naaman’s wife.
What this teaches us is the need to be content in our circumstances, because they may never change. In fact, they may even get worse from a human perspective. But no matter what happens, we must rest in the truth of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. Do you remember what Paul said in Phil. 4:11-12? He wrote: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” The writer of Hebrews instructs us, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (13:5).
Far too often we behave sinfully when the providence of God goes against our will and we find that God has placed us in situations which we hate and dislike. But God is trustworthy to stand with us in those difficult circumstances, no matter what they may be. He promises to never desert us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), so it doesn’t matter how bad our circumstances may be, He has promised to be with us every step of the way. Therefore, we can be content in that situation, knowing that God is in control and will not permit us to suffer more than we are able to endure.
In this case, God intended and sovereignly placed that little girl in Naaman’s household so that He could use her as the link in the chain that led to the healing of Naaman’s leprosy and the magnification of God’s glory as He is seen reaching out to the Gentiles and providing cleansing and salvation from the awful condition of sin. What tremendously important lessons about how to respond to the seemingly negative circumstances of our lives we can learn from this young unnamed slave girl.  The next time you begin to complain about your particular situation, remember that God has sovereignly placed you in that situation, and He has done so for His glory and your good.

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