5.75 2 Kings -- The Problem of Idolatry
No sooner did Naaman acknowledge the sovereignty of God than he faced a problem of competing religious loyalties. He thought ahead to his return to Aram, and the times when he must accompany his king to the temple of Rimmon (Baal). He realized that he would be required to participate in the familiar pagan ceremonies, but he no longer believed in them and feared giving offense to God. How to resolve the conflict between ceremony and truth? He offered a prayer for absolution in advance! "Lord, I'm going to have to bow before another god, please don't count it against me, because I don't really mean it" (2 Kings 5:17-19).
Elisha's response was brief but final: "Go in peace" (2 Kings 5:19). This too is amazing. If there is one sin that God really hates, repeatedly and consistently throughout the Bible, it is idolatry. For this sin He dispossessed the Canaanites, and later the Israelites themselves. But in this one example, where a man was caught between the requirements of his national religion and the dictates of his own conscience, God gave Naaman permission to "fake it," to pretend fidelity to the false god in the public setting. We cannot make a principle of this, it is surely an exception. But it goes to show that as Naaman tried the best he could to maintain a relationship with this true God who had given him a new life, so God fully understood the difficulties he would face returning to his own land, and met him more than half way.
The last thing we will say in regard to Naaman is that he exemplifies Jesus' teaching on the grateful Samaritan, also a leper:
When [Jesus] saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him -- and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Lk 17:14-18).
Only a man who has his heart set on more than healing will return to give thanks. This is a man who has found a living relationship with God.