On Sunday, July 24th, I shared a message in meeting for worship based on a story found in 2 Kings 6-7, the heart of which is found in chapter 7:3-9. It is about a time when the capital of the northern kingdom of , , was under siege by the armies of the Arameans. The siege was long and terrible. The city was starving to death. In that city lived four lepers, considered by everyone as the lowest of the low. Even the little sympathy and charity they received during good times was now long gone. People were driven by their hunger and the needs of the sick and poor were completely forgotten. So these four lepers decided that they might as well leave the city and surrender themselves to the besieging Arameans. “The worst they can do is kill us”, they reasoned “and that is certain to happen anyway if we stay here.”
So they left the city and went out to the camp of the Arameans. Unknown to them, the Lord had sent the Arameans packing by making them hear the sound of a large army approaching. The Arameans left everything behind, their animals, their weapons, their provisions, their tents full of plunder, including gold, silver and costly garments. The lepers were overjoyed! Quickly they went through one tent, eating the food and then hauling away the riches to bury for later retrieval. They did the same to another tent full of the same abundance. At first, they intended to sleep there that night and in the morning go tell the Israelite king and the people of the city of . But then they suddenly were struck with pangs of conscience. Even though it was close to nightfall, for they had ventured from the city toward the end of the day, they said We are not doing right. This day 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. (2 Kings 7:9)
When they got to the city they told the gatekeepers who then reported to the king and his attendants. The king was incredulous. He said that it was probably a ruse of the Arameans to lure them out into an ambush. But one of his servants suggested that they could send out a search party mounted on the few remaining horses who could make a quick getaway if the king’s suspicious proved true. So the search party went out and found it just as the lepers had testified. So it was that though the day was far spent and had begun as many days had already begun – with suffering, dying and hopelessness – it had now become a day of good news!
While this is an historical account and very interesting to read, it also contains some vital lessons for us today, especially those of us who know the gospel, the best good news that anyone ever heard. Those lepers had no doubt been terribly treated by their fellow countrymen. It would have been very easy for them to continue amassing wealth for themselves and then travel elsewhere to enjoy them. But their consciences would not allow them to wait even the few hours of night to tell their neighbors the good news and enable them to experience a wonderful deliverance. They knew they were not only accountable to their neighbors but also accountable to God. So it will also be when we realize what a wonderful salvation God has provided for us in His Son, Jesus Christ. At first, we revel in God’s grace, which has sometimes been defined as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. But then we soon realize that it would be wrong to keep the good news to ourselves and we start to tell our family, friends, neighbors and even strangers about what God has done for us.
When the lepers came to the city to tell the good news they did not report a mere rumor, hearsay, a report delivered to them by others. No, rather, they told what they themselves had experienced of God’s amazing work. So likewise, those who tell the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ should be able to tell others what they have themselves experienced. It is well said that the best salesman is a satisfied customer! Sharing the gospel is really just one starving beggar telling another starving beggar where they have found bread. Of course, their report may be met at first with disbelief and suspicion, as in our story. That is one reason many of us hesitate to tell others about what Jesus has done for us and can do for them. But for many, this initial rebuff will eventually be overcome as they behold us enjoying the good things of God’s table and patiently inviting them do the same.
Besides our fear of rejection, there are other reasons we do not share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. Could it be that we have only a hear-say knowledge of God’s saving work? That would certainly lessen our motivation to share it with others. Perhaps we have not ourselves yet tasted of the feast Christ died for us to receive. But perhaps we have indeed had a clear awareness of God’s amazing grace toward us – in the past. Somehow, over time, we slowly slipped into a state of forgetfulness, becoming little different than the starving beggar we used to be. Yes, the riches of God’s grace remain ours but we no longer have a vivid sense of them.
We need therefore a refreshing from on high, a renewal of our first love. We need to see again that we are starving beggars, spiritual lepers and that Christ has, at infinite cost to Himself, routed those who once besieged us and kept us from the riches and abundance God has for us. We need to realize afresh what Christ’s victory has won for us. As I prepared to give the message on July 24th, I quickly came up with a list of twenty-five things that are ours in Christ. I have no space to share them with you here but will send them to anyone who emails me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will also have copies on the table in the church foyer. These blessings, each one a vast treasure, is but a bare beginning to our inheritance in Christ and eternity would not suffice to list them all, let alone enjoy them!