Bath Time with Naaman…Following Strange Instructions

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            The story of Naaman is an interesting one, with a couple of quality take-away elements for children. The Bible tale itself has entertainment value for its odd Jordan River bathing and skin disease factor. But as a teaching tool it is also great to remind kids of the importance of being willing to follow God’s instructions, even when they sometimes sound strange. It is also a neat way to see that God can use anyone and everyone for His purposes.

Lesson focus: We can do great things for and with God when we submit to His will and choose to obey whatever commandments He gives us.

Passage: 2 Kings 5:1-14

Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th grade

Materials Needed: White boards and dry erase markers, paper bags, decorative materials, baking soda, small boxes, papers, Bibles

Lesson Opening: Here are a few potential ideas for openers, which can be used all at once or sprinkled within the lesson:

  • Decorate children with “leprosy”: make a paste with baking soda and water, and place it on skin to look sort of like the spots of leprosy. Describe the skin disease and let students keep their “spots” for a bit during the story. Wash it off when describing the healing.
  •  “Elisha says do it again”: have students play Simon Says, but do things seven times (“Elisha says tap your head” means tap your head seven times!)
  • Play “heads up, seven up” (if students and resources allow)
  • Play “wash Naaman” game: Have a picture of Naaman on a white board. Students can take turns wiping the spots off Naaman.

Explain that today’s story will feature a man who was very sick and had to do something that seemed odd to get better. Ask kids how they get clean at home. What happens when we take a bath? We get clean on the outside. Is there ever a bath that can cleanse us on the inside??? How might that be possible?

Bible Lesson:

Have you ever been asked to do something that seemed strange? Ask students if they can think of any times in the Bible that people had to follow directions which at first seemed strange. God can do some pretty incredible things when we are willing to follow His instructions. Today’s story has to do with some intriguing instructions, and with a man called Naaman. He was an important soldier, but he had a problem. Explore the story in the Bible, or with a children’s version Bible.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.[a]

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.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents[b] of silver, six thousand shekels[c] of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

-2 Kings 5:1-6

So Naaman had been an important person in the army. The Lord had used him to bring victory to the army of God. But he had a problem: leprosy. Describe how leprosy was a horrible disease that affected people and was highly contagious. Sometimes it even made skin decay or body parts fall off! Naaman was desperate to find a cure. And that’s where God used an interesting source: a slave girl. When this Israelite was captured from her people and taken to serve Naaman’s wife, she probably did not anticipate being used by God. But she remembered someone with the potential to help ease Naaman’s ailments. The king was willing to try anything and sent Naaman to Israel. At first, though, Naaman wend to the wrong person. He tried to approach the king of the people for help, when he should have been asking the King of Kings…fortunately Elisha caught word of what was going on:

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.”So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. -2 Kings 5:7-12

So why was Naaman upset at first? Well, the directions Elisha provided did not quite match Naaman’s expectations. He might have thought the prophet would say magic incantations or wave his hand across the man. Maybe he thought there should be a potion to drink or fancy water to wash in. Dipping in the Jordan River? Seven times? The Jordan was not the cleanest of rivers. And repeating the process seven times over probably seemed absurd. Do we ever get angry when our expectations are not met? Sometimes God gives us answers that are not what we hope for or anticipate. Naaman’s servants, though, advised him to re-think his stubborn frustrations:   

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. -2 Kings 5:13-14

Sometimes we just need a little friendly encouragement. Naaman was reluctant at first, but fortunately his servants advised him that the directions given were from God, just as much as lofty or complicated instructions would have been from God. So Naaman gave it a shot, and what were the results? He was healed! His skin was completely restored. Sometimes we have a hard time following directions, especially when things seem outside our comfort zone or expectations. But when we do as God asks, blessings follow!

*Option: for older students (or if you are feeling adventurous), feel free to delve into the final portion of the passage and describe the leprosy punishment imposed on Elisha’s servant Gehazi, due to his selfish greed and unwillingness to properly follow instructions.

Craft: To make a fun Naaman reminder, have students make “two-sided Naamans”…decorate a plate, paper bag, or popsicle stick as a fun puppet, with one side depicting a sad, leprosy-ridden “Naaman” face and the other a happy clean face. Attach a caption (see suggestion).

Or for a more generic activity, invite kids to make a special “tool box.” Have them consider tools or items at home that have special jobs. Each thing has a unique purpose. In a similar way, God has a purpose for each of our lives, no matter who we are. For the tool box craft, have children decorate a box or container of some sort. Write on note cards ways that we can serve God and one another. Place the “tools” for God service in the “tool box.”

Close with prayer and thank God for doing amazing things in unexpected ways. Ask for His help in serving Him and following directions, no matter how strange.

I will trust God’s words and follow His instructions…I know He will make me clean and spotless!

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