A children’s book written by H. S. Anderson titled The Emperor’s new clothes is a writing concerning self-perception and denial. What does this story have to do with Naaman?
“The name Naaman is derived from the verb נעם (na’em) meaning be pleasant, sweet, delightful, and beautiful” (Abarim Publications).
We can be sweet and delightful and still have a sickness. This man, Naaman, was the commander of the army of the King of Aram. The Bible describes him as a mighty man of valor.
“A great man in his master’s sight (Naaman) and highly esteemed because through him, Adonai had given victory to Aram. Though the man was a mighty man of valor, he had tza’arat (leprosy).’ (II Kings 5:1, TLV).
Naaman had the esteem of men, he was famous for possibly wounding King Ahab, but all his wealth, honor, and fame could not make him clean. Leprosy back then was not Hanson’s disease. It was something that erupted on the outside due to evil speech or unhealed things on the inside.
In this blog, we have two men, one is fictitious, and the other is real. In Hans Christian Anderson’s story, the emperor was also a great leader of an empire, but he was so consumed with himself that he had no time for his officers or kingdom. Every hour of every day was spent looking in the mirror and having royal garments custom-made for him to parade around town in so all the people could see him. This emperor had leprosy too, but he didn’t even know it.
“One day two swindlers came. They told everybody that they were weavers and that they could weave marvelous clothes. Not only were the colors and the patterns of their material extraordinarily beautiful, but the cloth had the strange quality of being invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office or unforgivably stupid.
“This is truly marvelous,” thought the emperor. “Now if I had robes cut from that material, I should know which of my councilors was unfit for his office, and I would be able to pick out my clever subjects myself. They must weave some material for me!” And he gave the swindlers a lot of money so they could start working at once.”
There is only one King who has the ability to see our garments and know whether they are unfit for His Kingdom.
“But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14“For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11-14).
The two thieves set up looms and act as if they are weaving beautiful garments, but secretly they have hidden the golden threads and fine silks. They are pretending to be able to dress the kingdom, but their hearts are greedy and interested in storing up riches here on earth where thieves break in and steal, where moths eat, and rust destroys. Vanities—chasing after wind, the wrong wind, instead of His Ruach Wind (Holy Spirit), these men chase after what holds no joy. Our Father feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the fields, and He has beautiful garments for us.
But, let’s get back to Naaman, the commander and leader of the king. Naaman was more than likely the talk of the town, both for his ability to shoot a bow and injure Israel’s king, and also for being leprous. He needs new garments, only his involve fleshly skin.
A little maid girl, a captive taken in war, a servant of Naaman and his wife, has a cure for this leprous man. This young maid is nameless, faceless, and dressed in servant attire. She should be angry at being captured and made to work. Some of us, if in her shoes, might have secretly swelled up with delight that our captor had leprosy. But not this young lady. She says, “If only my lord went before the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his tza’arat (Leprosy).” (II Kings 5:3).
This reminded me of Moses and his brother and sister. As they gossip about Moses, the Father hears it.
As Miriam turns leprous, Moses doesn’t say, “Aha! That’s what you get for messing with a prophet and leader.” No, he cries out and says, “O God, heal her, I pray!” (Numbers 12:13, NASB).
This is the heart the Father is looking for. Do you see your brother or sister and their condition? Have they spoken about you in a negative light? Or did they go to you in private? We need to address and handle situations the right way, if not, we may end up with a stinky mess.
The king of Aram sends a letter to the king of Israel, and with it, he sends ten talents of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, and ten garments. This just sings ten lost tribes, scattered, leprous, and in need of new garments. After 6,000 years, in the 7th year, we see completion, rest, restoration. Six days a week we work, and on the Shabbat, we rest and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Just as we wait for our King Yeshua to come set up His kingdom.
Naaman goes to the king who writes a letter and sends it to the king of Israel.
“And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.”
It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (II Kings 5:6-8).
Before we get to the climax of the story, I want to return to the emperor and his new clothes. The emperor was very inquisitive as to how his new garments were coming along, but he remembered that those who were stupid or unfit for office would not be able to see the material.
Everybody in town had heard about the cloth’s magic quality and most of them could hardly wait to find out how stupid or unworthy their neighbors were.
“I shall send my faithful prime minister to see the weaver,” thought the emperor. “He will know how to judge the material, for he is both clever and fit for his office, if any man is.” The good-natured old man stepped into the room where the weavers were working and saw the empty loom. He closed his eyes, and opened them again. “God preserve me!” he thought. “I cannot see a thing!” But he didn’t say it out loud.
The swindlers asked him to step a little closer so that he could admire the intricate patterns and marvelous colors of the material they were weaving. They both pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old prime minister opened his eyes as wide as he could; but it didn’t help, he still couldn’t see anything.
“Am I stupid?” he thought. “I can’t believe it, but if it is so, it is best no one finds out about it. But maybe I am not fit for my office. No, that is worse, I’d better not admit that I can’t see what they are weaving.”
“Tell us what you think of it,” demanded one of the swindlers.
“It is beautiful. It is very lovely,” mumbled the old prime minister, adjusting his glasses.
“What patterns! What colors! I shall tell the emperor that I am greatly pleased.”
The story continues until the evil thieves have taken all the money, gold, silver and fine silks for themselves. No one wanted to point out the truth. In doing so, they might be deemed stupid or unfit for kingdom work, so they pretended.
By the end of the story, the Imperial Majesty stands in front of a mirror, and the swindlers have him take off his clothes. He stands naked before them and his elected officials, but he doesn’t dare admit it. They fashion an invisible garment around him with a long flowing train.
A perfect fit!” everyone exclaimed. “What colors! What patterns! The new clothes are magnificent!”
“Well, I am dressed. Aren’t my clothes becoming?” The emperor turned around once more in front of the mirror, pretending to study his finery.
The emperor walked in the procession under his crimson canopy. And all the people of the town, who had lined the streets or were looking down from the windows, said that the emperor’s new clothes were beautiful. “What a magnificent robe! And the train! How well the emperor’s clothes suit him!”
None of them were willing to admit that they hadn’t seen a thing; for if anyone did, then he was either stupid or unfit for the job he held.
No one but a child!
“But he doesn’t have anything on!” cried a little child.
“Listen to the innocent one,” said the proud father. And the people whispered among each other and repeated what the child had said.
“He doesn’t have anything on. There’s a little child who says that he has nothing on.”
“He has nothing on!” shouted all the people at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he was certain that they were right; but he thought, “I must bear it until the procession is over.” And he walked even more proudly, and the two gentlemen of the imperial bedchamber went on carrying the train that wasn’t there.”
Oh, how very spiritual this story is. It is both a tragedy and a form of pride and being stiff-necked. We look in the mirror and never see what we truly look like.
The man Naaman becomes a lot like this Emperor. He has envisioned in his mind how things should come about. He thinks the mighty prophet Elisha will come out and possibly all the people, and he expects the mighty prophet in his mantle to call forth from the heavens and lay hands upon him and poof! Bingo! Ding! Ding! But, no, Naaman, like us, must descend to the bottom of the Jordan on his own, and then he will be cleansed. He must immerse himself in the laver, in the cleansing waters. He must dip seven times as instructed by the prophet, but he is angry and wounded—insulted even.
“How dare Elisha! Does he not know who I am? I’ve got better water, larger areas of water in my own area, he thinks proudly. Can Elisha not see my emperor clothes? Does he not know that I am over the whole army? I’m highly esteemed and a man of VALOR!”
Naaman is so stiff-necked, he turns and walks away in a rage.
“Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.” (II Kings 5:13-14).
A little child calls out the emperor in public. Pretending to have royal clothing on in front of the people, when in fact he was naked. What a fearful place to be in. We at times don’t know our condition, or perhaps, we look right in the mirror and see our nakedness, but like Naaman and the Emperor, we don’t want to confess to the people who have held us in esteem just how much we need to dip seven times.
There is a King who is very aware of our garments. He is preparing a banquet, and he will throw out those not dressed in wedding garments.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).
Sometimes the Father sends prophets to warn us but we leave in a rage. Sometimes the Father send little handmaids to warn those in authority of a condition that needs to be healed. Sometimes a little child has to proclaim the truth in the streets.
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:3-6, NASB).
May we clothe ourselves in garments of beauty before our King. May we become like the little maidservant and a child.
“And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet. Yet not one of them was cleansed— only Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:27).
NASB and TLV
I love the story of the Emperor with new clothes ! You did a wonderful job “weaving” in the biblical story!