The online journal of Luke Dockery

Naaman and the Commands We Don’t Understand

As a kid, one of my favorite Bible stories was the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. I think I had some sort of children’s storybook version which probably influenced my preference, but it has remained a story that I enjoy as I’ve gotten older.

Do you remember the story? Naaman is an important man, the commander of the army of Syria, but he has leprosy. An Israelite slave girl who works in the service of Naaman’s wife suggests that Elisha, a prophet from Israel, could heal him. Naaman relates this to Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, and then the king sends him to Israel, laden with gifts, to seek a cure. Eventually, Elisha gets word of what is happening and sends for Naaman, who arrives at Elisha’s house with his horses and chariots.

But Elisha doesn’t even come out to see Naaman; instead he just sends a messenger to tell him that his health will be restored if he goes and washes in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman is enraged by this response. He had expected Elisha to come out and do something dramatic, and he doesn’t even begin to understand how washing in a dirty little river could cleanse his leprosy. Furious, Naaman prepares to depart for home, but his servants basically point out that he has nothing to lose by obeying Elisha’s commandment, and so Naaman goes to wash and sure enough, his leprosy is cured.

Grateful for his healing, Naaman renounces Rimmon, his former god, and accepts the God of Israel, pledging to worship no other god in the future.

By personality, and by heritage as well, I like to understand things. If someone makes a decision that affects me, I want to understand why the decision was made. If I am told or required to do something, I want to understand why it is a good thing to do. The same thing is true in my approach to Scripture as well. I come to Scripture wanting to understand it, wanting to figure out what it means, and wanting to discern the correct interpretation of a certain passage.

And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, except this: even when I don’t understand Scripture, I still have to obey it.

And honestly, there are a lot of things in the Bible that I don’t really understand. Why does God choose to save people the way He does? Why is He so particular about some things and not about others? Why are some practices so abhorrent to Him? How exactly does the Trinity work? I have some ideas, but ultimately, I don’t know.

But I don’t have to understand everything, I just have to obey. Just like Naaman.

God is more interested in my trust than my knowledge.

He is more interested in my obedience than my understanding.


  1. Justin and Heather Bland

    Fantastic post – something that hits close to home. Many find that if there is not a logical explanation for everything than nothing is true in the Bible.

    This is an arrogant conclusion.

    But there also must be balance as well – the CRUCIAL things we must (and can) understand: There is an Almighty, Creator GOD, HE sent HIS Son to live and die for us, He was raised to life on the 3rd day – and because of this we have an opportunity for redemption. We must respond be confession that Jesus is LORD and being baptized for the remission of sins.

    ..details can be worked out in time.

    Thank you for the reminder!

  2. Luke Dockery


    You’re right of course—there are definitely essentials of the Christian faith that people must understand. I guess another way of summarizing my post would be to say that one of those essentials is an unwavering trust in God, even when we don’t at all understand what or why.

  3. Anonymous

    As pigeons and doves can see more colors than us and as some illusory structures can be drawn but not built, so the Trinity may be three in one but not conceivable to the human mind. The clues are there for the atheists to make the connections, whether they do or don’t.

  4. Luke Dockery


    Thanks for the comment.

    The Trinity is a mystery, but also a truth to which Scripture attests. I am thankful that I don’t have to understand it fully!

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