2 Kings 5
I had a hard time titling this blog. I knew exactly what I wanted to convey, but couldn’t really think of a good way to communicate it in a title. So, I hope by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll understand what I had in mind.
My thoughts about God and the subtle witness are based on two portions of this chapter. First, this: "Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, 'If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.'" (vs 2-3)
Next, this: "Naaman said [to Elisha], 'please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.'" (vs 17-18)
Let’s talk about the servant girl first. Actually, servant is such a sanitized word. She was a slave. She had been stolen from her home by bands of raiders from Aram and taken to serve Naaman’s wife. Now, what I find interesting about her is that she wasn’t trying to get out of her terrible situation. She didn’t embark on a campaign for her freedom. She didn’t take up the cause of her civil rights. Instead, she began to serve Naaman and his household for God as best she could.
And when Naaman turned up with leprosy, instead of thinking Ha! He got exactly what he deserved, she told him where he could find healing. She helped him! Her captor! She didn’t even try to use this information as leverage to garner her freedom. All she was interested in doing was helping him. And, the fact that she was taken seriously (and Naaman did what she said in order to find healing) testifies to the incredible job she was doing as a slave. She had never been a problem. They trusted her. What an amazing (albeit extremely subtle) witness she was for God. Her very life, day in and day out, was a witness to the Lord.
And that brings us to the second passage I quoted. When Naaman was healed of his leprosy and became convinced that the God of Israel was the one and only true God, he decided to be the same kind of witness he had encountered in his own household. You see, Naaman had a master of his own—a master who would go into the temple to worship one of the false gods of Aram, and Naaman would go with him. But now that Naaman knew the truth about God, he wasn’t intending to go back to Aram and start a noisy campaign, but to simply continue on in his daily routine and look for opportunities to influence his master. He would make his life a subtle witness to the Lord.
So often, we have been tempted to think that what God requires of us is to go around like bulls in a china shop, making a huge racket about what’s wrong with this world and everyone in it. But 2 Kings 5 makes it clear that an effective witness for the Lord doesn’t have to be a noisy witness. In fact, I think it’s more often the case that the most effective witnesses for God are the ones who aren’t trying to "witness" at all. They don’t do what they do or say what they say because they’re expecting a change in someone else; they are just living out a simple, devoted life to the Lord.
Conviction is the job of the Holy Spirit. And yes, there are times when the Spirit chooses to speak loudly and brashly through a prophet in order to confront evil. But it would be such a shame if we lost sight of the power of the subtle, quietly-surrendered life, the life that wasn’t out to advertise, but simply out to serve. Personally, I think it’s a shame that more of us aren’t like that little Israelite slave. If we found ourselves in her situation, would our first priority be service... or a lawsuit?
If we could spend less time trying to alter our circumstances and, instead, let God use us in the midst of our circumstances, I think we would see miraculous things. I think we would rediscover in our day the powerful ways in which God uses the subtle witness.