The Little Maid
John Riddle, Cheshunt, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Notice the background: Naaman had been used by God to give deliverance to Syria, and that evidently included success against Israel. God controls the affairs of nations, and takes account of character. Naaman was not only ‘a great man with his master’, he was also ‘honourable’. Acts 10. 34-35 state, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him’. It is a sad reflection on Israel, that the Syrians were able to bring back captives from their raids. The overall lesson of the passage lies in the significant words:
‘A mighty man . . . a little maid’
The ‘little maid’ from Israel might seem very insignificant when compared with mighty Naaman, but she played a vital role in his life, and through this, in the life of Syria! She is a wonderful example of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 1. 26-29, ‘For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence’.
Let us consider firstly her captivity
‘And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife’. So we are made aware that:
i) Her early life had been shattered by tragedy. She had been uprooted from home and family, and carried off to a strange land. Humanly speaking, it was all without rhyme or reason.
ii) There is no hint of resentment against God. Her words, ‘would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria!’ strongly suggest that she did not blame God for her circumstances.
iii) God was in complete control of the situation. He was going to use her in a very wonderful way. Paul would similarly maintain in Philippians 1. 12, ‘But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel’. Paul was in prison! In an epistle written about the same time, he calls himself ‘the prisoner of Jesus Christ’ and ‘the prisoner of the Lord’, Eph. 3. 1; 4. 1. God had pronounced judgement against the throne of Israel in 1 Kings 19, but one of Ahab’s sons was still king, and it is a child that suffers. It all looks so terribly unfair. But as we shall see, this poor child was, notwithstanding, in the right place, at the right time, with the right objective, and in the right spirit to do the right thing. All the happy results that followed turned upon her words so fitly spoken, ‘Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy’.
iv) The little maid was evidently highly regarded. ‘She waited on Naaman’s wife’, and when she said ‘Would God my lord (i.e., Naaman), were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy’, people took notice. If she had been an unreliable, ne’er-do-well, it is extremely unlikely that her mistress would have bothered to think any more about it! As it was, Naaman went to the king of Syria about it! This is the sense of verses 4-5, where J. N. Darby renders it in his translation, ‘And he went and told his lord saying ‘Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Well! go, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel’.
Her commendable life, even as a slave, gave value to her testimony. How much does our conduct commend our testimony? See Colossians 3. 22-25, and Titus 2. 9-10.
Now consider her concern
She displayed no vindictiveness. She could have rejoiced in Naaman’s misfortune. After all, it was his army that had carried her away from home and family. But she was obviously deeply concerned about his welfare. Listen to her again. ‘Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy’. She seeks nothing for herself. Her master, with all he possesses, is more wretched than she, and her heart yearns over him for blessing. She knows the character of the plague that is destroying him, and that none but God can heal it. He is an idolater, and lost, and she longs that he should be with Elisha. Her philanthropy is of a high and far-reaching order. She says not, ‘Would God my lord were relieved of his misery’, but that he ‘were with the prophet’. That is the first thing with her; the bodily healing would follow.
What an example for us! Here is a slave, in the spirit of grace, desiring the blessing of her master. She is a daughter of Israel. He is an enemy of her nation. The Lord Jesus taught, ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye might be the children of your Father which is in heaven for he maketh his sun, (so the sun belongs to Him), to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust’, Matt. 5. 44-45. He was, of course, the perfect example of His own ministry, see Luke 23. 34.
The analogy between leprosy and sin is well established, and we are immediately confronted with the question of our concern for people stricken by sin. Do we really care that most of those we daily come in contact with are perishing?
Now view her courtesy
‘Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria!’ She refers to Naaman in the most courteous terms. Titus 2 again demands of us that servants ‘be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again’, v. 9.
Notice she is not without her convictions
Her words, ‘Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy’, speak volumes. As we shall see, she spoke with great confidence, but that confidence was based on convictions formed from her earliest years. Although in a foreign land, she had not forgotten early teaching. Her faith, tested by captivity, proved very real. Her early convictions helped and sustained her in captivity and bondservice. This should encourage us in several ways:
i) It shows the value of teaching the word of God to young people. Witness Paul to Timothy, ‘But continue thou in the things that thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus’, 2 Tim. 3. 14-15.
ii) It shows the value of receiving the word of God whilst young. The ‘little maid’ not only remembered what she had been taught, but she displayed her conviction that God could heal Naaman. Are we really people with convictions like that? Or do we just pay lip service to what we hear and read? There was nothing cosmetic about her faith!
We marvel at her confidence
It was her deep conviction that enabled her to speak with such confidence. ‘Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.’ The ‘little maid’ had no doubt about it, ‘he would recover him of his leprosy!’ She had an intelligent faith. She knew that it was by the prophet alone that her master could be blessed, and that if he were with Elisha, he would be blessed. Paul exhibited a similar confidence, ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth’, Rom. 1. 15.
i) She was a first-class ambassador. After all, an ambassador is away from home in a foreign land, and represents his (or her) home sovereign. The ‘little maid’ did this exactly. She spoke eloquently about the blessings and excellence of her homeland! She could almost sing: I am a stranger here, within a foreign land, My home is far away upon a golden strand. Ambassador to be of realms beyond the sea, I’m here on business for my King.
ii) She had confidence in God. ‘Would God my lord was with the prophet that is in Samaria!’ The words, ‘would God’, are a short wish or prayer.
iii) She recognized the ability of the servant of God. ‘Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy’. She was referring, of course, to Elisha. She acknowledged that he was a man of God, v. 8, who had the word and power of God. Perhaps she felt like the ‘great woman’ of Shunem who said to her husband, ‘I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually’, 2 Kgs. 4. 8-9.
iv) She was far greater in spiritual intelligence than both Naaman and the king of Syria. The ‘little maid’ made it quite clear that her master could only be blessed through, ‘the prophet that is in Samaria’. But Naaman was sent to the king of Israel armed with a letter from the king of Syria. It was addressed only to him and not to the prophet, ‘Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy’! No wonder the king of Israel panicked! The ‘little maid’ had ‘an unction (anointing) from the Holy One’, and knew ‘all things’, 1 John 2. 20. Compare 1 Corinthians 2. 6, ‘Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought’.
Now be thrilled with her compensation
i) God was honoured by her faith. We often forget that faith is always honouring to God.
ii) She initiated a series of events that led to Naaman’s cleansing. She was not involved in his actual cleansing. She did not play anything like the part played by Elisha, but it all started with her! Following her testimony, ‘one (i.e., Naaman), went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.’ She pointed out the right place to go, and the right person to see. She could not heal Naaman herself, but she knew who could! What is more, she didn’t keep it to herself. So it is with us as we read 2 Corinthians 4. 5, ‘For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake’.
We have the answer to the most serious human problem of all, but are we pointing people to Christ who can meet every need? The ‘little maid’ could rejoice that her seemingly little role brought such a marvellous result! She first linked Naaman with the living God whom Elisha served.
The lesson for us is clear. The Lord Jesus taught that, ‘he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth’, John 4. 36-37. We might feel very small and insignificant, like ‘the little maid’, but faithful witness for Christ will bear fruit beyond our wildest imagination!
We should not be surprised at her concealment
The Scriptures say nothing more about her, not here, or anywhere else. She has played the part given her by God, and now disappears. We do not even know her name! But although we do not know what ultimately happened to her, (did Naaman send her back home out of gratitude?), she will never be forgotten. God has made sure of that! Her record is ‘on high’ Job 16. 19, as well as in 2 Kings 5.
Hers was a hidden ministry. Not public like Daniel and his three friends, who were also captives in a foreign country. After all, Daniel, ‘continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus’, Dan. 1. 21. Some servants of God have a quiet and hidden ministry, others are constantly before the public eye. But both are vital. The work of sisters could be likened to the former, and the work of some brothers to the latter. But both are alike precious to God. Both are invaluable and essential. Both are mutually complementary.
The ‘little maid’ beautifully illustrates the exhortation in Ephesians 4. 16, ‘See then that ye walk circumspectly (carefully), not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil’. J. N. Darby points out that the expression ‘redeeming the time’ means ‘seizing every good and favourable opportunity’. She is an example to us all in doing just this.
AUTHOR PROFILE: John Riddle is an elder in the assembly meeting at Mill Lane Chapel, Cheshunt, and serves the Lord in written and oral ministry throughout the UK where his gifts are much appreciated. He took early retirement from business as a pensions executive.