Naaman’s Dirt Written By Rev Jason Hefne
“And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.”
“But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.”
“And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? For thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD.”
“In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.” – II Kings 5:15-1
A People Dispersed
To properly understand Naaman’s story, we need to recognize how the Israelites and other ancient nations viewed the territory of gods. Naaman believed that his nation had a specific god that they were to serve in a certain geographical location. He would have also believed the same for the nation of Israel.
After the tower of Babel, God became angry with the people. God determined that if the people were not going to be obedient to Him, He was not interested in being their God. Thus, the story of Babel is the inception of many nations as the people were dispersed according to language and territory.
Just as in the days of Noah, God’s anger had brought a monumental change in human trajectory, and yet His mercy advocated for the choosing of one just man. After Babel, a man named Abraham became the vessel through which God would bless all nations. In Deuteronomy 32, Moses writes of when God divides the nations.
This song of Moses references the giving up of the nations according to their inheritance. Because of a rebellious people who had refused to worship, their God gave them over to other gods. In place of the true God, author Michael Heiser notes that God released them to serve other powers and authorities. In contrast to this, however, God’s blessings would multiply through the family of Abraham. Through this one man, all the nations would be blessed. We see this worldview throughout Scripture.
In I Samual 26:19 we read, “Now therefore, I pray thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If the LORD have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering: but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the LORD; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the LORD, saying, Go, serve other gods.” David, during this time in life, had been running from king Saul and had been forced out of the territory of Israel at times.
David pleads with Saul because being driven outside of Israel communicated that he was to serve other gods. Being outside of that territory placed him outside of the geographical territory to worship Yahweh.
In I Kings 20:28, a man of God comes to king Ahab and speaks of the Syrians. Within the text, the Syrians are predicted to be defeated as they had claimed that Israel’s God was, “…God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys…” The Syrians believed the God of Israel was territorial and tied to geography. He might have power in the mountains, but surely not the valleys, sea, or other nations.
Reflecting back to Naaman and his worldview of geography-tied gods, we find him as a commander of the Syrian army. He is also a man with leprosy. The Syrians had raided Israel and taken slaves back to Syria. Naaman had acquired an Israelite maiden, and she, knowing of his leprosy, was able to get word to him that a prophet in Israel could cure him.
A Miraculous Healing
With this knowledge, Naaman traveled to the home of the prophet, Elisha. Upon his arrival, Elisha did not come to the door, but sent a message for Naaman to go and dip seven times in the River Jordan. A travel-worn Naaman became frustrated, as he was not even greeted in person, and then was asked to go dip in a dirty river.
A wise servant encouraged him to perform the simple task as Naaman had nothing to lose. This act of obedience restored Naaman’s skin to that of a child. This experience transformed the Syrian commander, and his thankfulness revealed that he was never going to forget what had transpired in this foreign nation of Israel.
Naaman responded to this miracle by offering payment to the experienced prophet. Elisha politely refused, as acceptance of payment would take the glory away from Yahweh who had performed the miracle. Upon Elisha’s refusal, Naaman had one more request to make.
Bags of Dirt
II Kings 5:17 identifies his request of two mule-loads of earth, because from now on, he would no longer be offering or sacrificing to any other god but Yahweh. Naaman’s life-changing and supernatural encounter with the God of Israel resulted in his taking with him a couple of bags of dirt.
Naaman was going back to Syria and its god, named Rimmon, who he previously assumed had complete authority. Naaman’s encounter with the true God, however, had changed his heart, and upon his return, he refused to serve any other god than the God of Israel. He would never forget what this God had done for him while he was in Israel. If he couldn’t worship this God in Israel, he resolved to take Israel with him.
We do not know exactly what Naaman did with those bags of dirt, but many believe he took it back to Syria and made an altar. Perhaps he spread it out in an area where he would pray and sacrifice. Regardless, we do know he took some dirt from his experience and said, “I remember what God did for me when I walked on this ground. I remember what Yahweh did for me when I was standing in Israel, so my home is going to be a place where I can experience that same God.”
A God Beyond Geography
Naaman took his encounter to his foreign land and invited the presence of God into his own home, and to his own family. He wanted to experience Israel there. Sometimes the only time we encounter God is when we are in Israel, per se. The only time we have an experience with God is when we are at an altar in church. This is not the way things have to be or should be.
It is time we have an encounter with God, and then take it home with us. We need to take a couple of “bags of dirt” to our home, because church should not be the only place we experience God, feel His presence, or worship Him. We should never leave church empty-handed or the same way we entered. Our homes need to be a place where Jesus has authority and is going to be worshipped.
Naaman’s actions were a memorial so that he would remember what had happened to him while in Israel on that holy ground. His memorial was a living statement that declared Jesus was served in that home.
Geographic worship was no longer an obstacle, for Naaman had resolved that the God of Israel would be served regardless of geographic territories. His home belonged to Israel and the true God. Rimmon would no longer be the god of his home and he had no authority.
We often battle going to church and worshipping the God of Israel and then returning to a home where other gods reign and have authority. Gods of addiction, money, sickness, violence, disunity, and depression consume our homes. It is time we decide to evict these gods. Our homes may be in the world, but they do not have to be under the authority of the gods of this world.
A Higher Authority
We find later in the text that Naaman extended his request beyond the dirt. He knew that he would be expected to assist the feeble king as he entered the temple of Rimmon for worship. He asked Elisha for grace in this situation as he would have to enter and bow his head to assist the king, but would no longer participate in this worship in his heart. He would only worship the God of Israel, but there would be times he would have to step out of his home.
Ephesians 6:12 relays that, “…we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Most of the “gods” mentioned in Bible times still exist, just not in carved images. Paul in I Corinthians 8:4-6 does not deny the existence of other so-called “gods.” He acknowledges that other gods are worshipped, but they are not significant when compared to the God of Israel. They have no power as there is one God that has power, authority, and control overall. Naaman thought Rimmon had power in his home, and so he did have influence. If you know that God supersedes all other gods, then the idea of other gods becomes of little consequence.
We as the church will have to leave our homes to go to work or complete tasks, but His grace must be in our lives. We do not have to fall prey to the gods of addiction, depression, or pornography any longer. Everywhere we go we can take His spirit and His authority with us. He reigns omniscient and unrivaled. His redemption is worldwide.
Once you walk inside your home you should step into the authority of Jesus and a place where Jesus is worshipped. Just as Naaman’s memorial stood as a beacon in a territory of other gods, so our homes should stand as memorials to the God of Israel in this world.
We have returned home too many times empty-handed. We must come home with a couple of “bags of dirt” after church. We need to remember that our restoring experiences are not reserved for the altar alone. They can occur within our own homes as well. Jesus must have control in our homes and have all authority
Reverend Jason Hefner currently serves as the Purpose Institute administrator at the Pentecostals of Nashville in Nashville, IN. He and his beautiful wife Alyssa, have welcomed baby Deacon to their family and are Associate Missionaries preparing to return to Slovakia in 2022.