The story of Naaman emphasizes that the God of Israel is the only God. No other God could heal leprosy. The power of this God, exhibited through His prophet, is seen in this cluster of stories in Kings, but more than that is also seen the need to believe in this God. A poor widow in desperate straits is given oil to spare, but the oil she is given is limited to the number of containers she believes God can fill. The Shunammite provides for the prophet of God and, despite the fact that her husband is old, she becomes pregnant. When her son dies, her faith in God sends her to the prophet who restores the boy to life. Poison stew is rendered harmless with a handful of flour and a hundred men are fed from twenty barley loaves of bread. All this happens when people do what God (through His prophet) tells them.
Naaman is persuaded to do a very simple but detestable thing: dip seven times in a muddy river Jordan. He does it in response to the command of Elisha and is cured.
Naaman, like other people of His day, believed that the god of a people resided in their land; that’s why he asks for two mule loads to take with him back to Syria. In taking the dirt, he is taking a link to the God of Israel who he believes is the only God. Though his understanding of God’s reach is faulty, he does understand this: if Israel’s God is the only god, then it would be blasphemy to worship any other God – so he asks for forgiveness in advance because his job requires him to accompany his king to the temple of the Syrian god Rimmon and worship.
This latter point is crucial to the readers of Kings. They are captives in a foreign land, but their God is not confined to their ancestral land. They believe that. They, then, should act like they believe it and worship only the God of Israel. Naaman understood that. Why can’t they? Why can’t we?