TODAY’S READING: 2 Kings 5–8
The prophets were not just sent to Israel and Judah; they were also sent to hold other nations accountable for their sins. “God was the rightful ruler of the whole earth, not just Israel. The prophets knew they were to speak to the nations.” In the Old Testament period, “nobody at that point was under the impression that they were supposed to go… What we find rather is the clear promise that it is God’s intention to bring such blessings to the nations, that God will summon the nations to himself in the great pilgrimage to Zion. Missions to the nations, from the Old Testament perspective, is an eschatological act of God, not (yet) a missionary sending agenda for God’s people.” From this perspective, Elisha reflected the missionary passion of God towards Naaman in the Old Testament centripetal (inward) sense, even though he would head out to Damascus later in the story. The people of God taking the gospel outside Israel (in the centrifugal sense) is prefigured in the Old Testament (in this story, through the slave girl and Elisha in Syria) but is not yet systematized. All the same, Naaman’s story here is replete with missionary application.
God uses all nations to glorify His name. Jehovah gave Syria victory (2 Kings 5:1), a victory that would soon include the defeat of Israel. The fact that God uses pagan nations for His purposes proves that missions must be centered on the glory of God, not the achievement or employ of missionaries or the Church. This was why Elisha didn’t come out of the house to greet Naaman, nor go with him to the Jordan (vv. 10–14). All credit must go to God, not to any agent. God will glorify His holy name among the nations through many agents and agencies.
Business as mission demands an uplifted voice. The Israelite slave girl could be considered a proto-business as missionary. I am not overlooking the horror of capture and enslavement as a young child, nor do I think she was paid and given annual leave. I merely point out that God ordained His representative to work in the center of the home of a powerful man (Naaman was one of the highest ranking officers in the Syrian army) and to lift up her voice and announce truth. Today in the Arabian Peninsula, many African and Asian maids work in difficult conditions (some are essentially indentured servants) in the center of the influential Arab homes. This is an example for them to not lose sight of the God of glory and to lift up their voices and point to the One who can heal and save.
Salvation requires the abandonment of prior religion. While it is true that missionary messaging requires contextualization, it also demands conversion. Elisha’s response (“Go in peace”) to Naaman’s requests (bowing in the temple of Rimmon when ceremony demanded it) was not permission to stay in the old religion (vv. 18–19). Naaman knew it was wrong, which is why, as a brand-new convert of Jehovah, he asked for forgiveness. Elijah merely extended grace for Naaman to grow into what he already knew was right and to forsake what he already knew was idolatrous.
If we wait to share good news, punishment will come upon us. The leprous beggars in the Syrian camp recognized they had an obligation to share good news or face the wrath of a good God (7:9). We are nothing special. We are but beggars telling others where to find bread. But if we find bread and don’t tell, that’s on us and we will pay the price for it. God is so serious that all peoples, including the Shawiye Berber of Algeria, be fed the Bread of Life, that if we don’t pass the word about the location of the Bread quickly, if we are greedy for the gain of missions, then “the leprosy of Naaman will cling to us and our house forever” (5:26–27).
 Paul York. A Biblical Theology of Missions. Springfield, MO: Africa’s Hope, 2008. 105.
 Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. 503.