(Read 2 Kings 6.24-25, 7.3-16)
A terrible famine wracked the city named Samaria. The Syrian army of Ben-hadad had the city under siege. The crisis behind the walls had grown so serious that the people were paying outrageous prices for what otherwise would have been considered completely unacceptable food – things like donkey heads! It grew so bad that mothers had turned to eating their own children.
Outside the city sat four lepers. Their uncleanness meant they had to remain outside the city, separated from others lest they contaminate them as well.
The lepers thought they faced a hopeless situation. Where they sat, they were starving. Even if they could enter the city, there was no food for them there. And in the distance burned the campfires of Ben-hadad’s army, eager to try their swords on anyone who ventured out from the walls.
The lepers decided to take their chances on the army. If the soldiers killed them, what was that but a quick relief from slow starvation? If they were taken prisoner, then surely the Syrians fed their prisoners.
The lepers were shocked at what they found. They were not only saved from starvation, but they found the food stores and wealth of the entire camp at their disposal. God in his power had intervened and driven off the powerful army that was about to destroy the city. The lepers found tents full of provisions and all the booty a marauding army could carry – all of it abandoned and just waiting to be carted off!
The four lepers began gorging themselves with food and carrying loot off to desert hiding places.
Then, quite suddenly, they stopped dead in their tracks.
“What we are doing is not right,” they said. “This is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent. If we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household.”
The lepers realized their brothers and sisters were still huddled behind the city walls, starving and fearful of the army they believed was about to destroy them. They realized they were enjoying their salvation at the expense of those brothers and sisters. They realized the sun would come up soon and the watchmen would see the enemy camp was empty. They realized how angry the king would be when he found out they had kept the good news of deliverance to themselves.
The lepers ran to the city, shouting at the top of their lungs the good news that God had already defeated the enemy. Their brothers and sisters were saved from starvation. And the lepers escaped the punishment the king would certainly have meted out. One suspects they even enjoyed a reward from his grateful hand.
Like the citizens of Samaria, our brothers and sisters huddle behind their walls, fearful of all the forces that threaten to tear their world apart. They wait in terror, dreading the end they believe is coming, not knowing that God has intervened and defeated the army they could not defeat for themselves.
God sent Jesus to show us how to live a life in harmony with our Father. When Jesus willingly endured the agony of the cross, he paid a price that opened the way for us to come back to God. When God raised Jesus from the dead, he proved he has the power to defeat the forces of evil that threaten us.
Like the lepers, some of us realized our only hope lay in the possibility that someone would have mercy on us. Like the lepers, we were rewarded beyond our wildest expectations and saved from utter ruin. We made the marvelous discovery that God had driven off our enemies for us and had placed at our disposal all the sustenance and riches we could ever need.
But how many of us have taken up residence in the tents of luxury and managed to forget our brothers and sisters who still live in fear and hunger behind the walls of the city?
And how many of us realize that keeping the good news to ourselves means the king is going to be angry with us when morning comes?
We must understand that God has not driven the enemy from our doorstep just for the sake of us lepers. He did not save us for our sake alone but for the sake of our brothers and sisters – every human soul that has yet to hear the good news of God’s deliverance.
Is silence golden?
The lepers thought it was, as they plundered the Syrian camp during the night. But when the sun began to rise, they realized that silence in a day of great good news means only punishment for the ones who fail their starving brothers and sisters.
Our silent Christian lives may seem to be golden as well, full of the blessings God has poured out on our lives. But we need to realize that daybreak on judgment day will bring bitterness, not sweet delight, for those of us who have kept secret the good news of God’s salvation.
We live in a day of great good news. The news we have is better than man has ever heard: news that God has rescued us from the evil powers that threaten to destroy us, news that God stands ready to put our broken lives back together.
Let’s run to our lost brothers and sisters – next door and around the world – shouting at the top of our lungs the good news that God has already defeated the Enemy and taken care of all our needs.
I promise you, the King will be most pleased.
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