II Kings 6 - 8
We've been concentrating on Elisha for the last few weeks. Let's review where we are in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
Who is the current (4th) king of Judah? Jehoshaphat - 25 years.
Jehoram next king of Judah - 8 years, slew his brothers and princes - married Ahab's daughter.
Who is the current (9th) king of Israel? Joram (Jehoram) son of Ahab and Jezabel - 12 years. Most godly king Israel has had since Jeroboam - Mopped up Baal worship after Elijah proved Baal a hoax. He did listen to Elisha.
I'm so glad we are doing this study. I've got some new favorite Bible stories. December 9 our studies included the battle scene in II Chronicles 20. The Moabites and Ammonites and Meunites came up against Judah and King Jehoshaphat for battle. The kingdom of Judah was terrified. They fast. Jehoshaphat prays a most beautiful prayer to God acknowledging they are powerless against this great multitude that has come up against them. He says, "You gave our forefathers this land. You told them not to destroy these nations, but now they are warring against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." God tells them "the battle is not yours but God's. You will not need to fight. Stand still and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf." Enough said. Jehoshaphat and Judah fell down and began to worship the Lord while the Levites stood up and praised the Lord with a very loud voice. The celebration began before the battle took place!
You remember the Lord set an ambush against Judah's enemy. The three kingdoms that had united against Judah destroyed each other. When the Israelites got there all they found were dead bodies and more spoils than they could carry away in three days. What a scene. The fear of the Lord came on all the kingdoms of the surrounding countries so that Jehoshaphat's realm was quite. God gave the godly nation rest.
Contrast that event with the impending battle scene in today's similar lesson - another favorite. These two stories probably happened within 5 years of each other. This time we are in the kingdom of Israel. And Joram, son of Ahab, is king. Joram's Samarian capital city in the northern kingdom of Israel is under siege by Benhadad, king of Syria. The siege must have lasted a long time for the city is out of food and some have begun to resort to cannibalism - a grossly tale that sickens King Joram and sends him into mourning. What worse fate could a king face? Elisha seems to think Joram is going to blame him for the country's woes, but the king comes to him and says, "Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?" Can you feel the king's anguish? "Where are you, Lord? Can't you see how bad the situation is down here?" I imagine the ulcers are flaring, the hands are wringing and the hair has been pulled out in clumps. We know he is in sackcloth. The battle hasn't even begun, but Joram feels that Israel is already defeated. God has abandoned them. He feels lost. Elijah replies, "Tomorrow things will be back to normal." Remember in the other story of Judah how they started worshiping and celebrating when they heard that their battle would be won tomorrow? All we see expressed here in Israel in today's lesson is scepticism and doubt.
Meanwhile four lepers are at the entrance to the city gate. That is a brave place for a leper to be. They are suppose to isolate themselves - Keep well away from normal, healthy people. Healthy people found them disgusting, putrefying! They were as dirt to the people. Rejected. Yet these lepers found themselves in a peculiar situation. If they go into the city, if the people don't kill them for contaminating their space, then the famine will kill them. If they stay where they are they are just going to die. Or the Syrian army will likely kill them. But if not, maybe they can get some sustenance from the camp refuge heap. Anyway, they reason, "We are going to die, so even though the odds aren't in our favor, we might as well go to the Syrian camp and give it a shot. What have we got to lose?"
You know the rest of the story. The Lord had again taken care of the situation. The Syrians had deserted their camp - ran for their lives, for the Lord had caused them to hear the sound of a great army approaching. The lepers just walk in. They found food, drink, clothing and riches to spare. It's party time! They rejoice and eat, carry off the spoils, hide, find more bravery and come back for more! What a story! The rejected, dirty lepers are saved. They are filled. They can clean up and dress snappy. They are happy - for a short time. Then reality sets in. They think beyond themselves to the citizens in Samaria and their plight. They feel remorse for keeping all this to themselves. Now they are dutifully thankful that they have been blessed with this great find. But did they owe the King and the Samarians anything? Was it their responsibility to share this food and wealth? They had been rejected and ostracized by these people, their own people. Why should they care to share?
But they care. Turn with me in your Bible to II Kings 7:9 and read with me what the lepers say to one another. The most beautiful verse in the Old Testament uttered by unnamed people, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news; if we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us; now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household." If we were doing memory verses in this class, this is the verse I believe should be committed to memory.
If you had been one of these lepers, would you have started this conversation? Would you share with those people who had locked you out of their city and their lives? Depriving you of your former life?
Let's analyze this verse.
Do you put yourselves into stories?
Yet, that is what I am without Christ. In God's eyes, my sin is enough to repulse God and keep me separated from His presence. I am lost. If I die in that state, I will be separated from God for all eternity. But if in my filthiness I go to Christ, He will feed me and let me drink of His everlasting water. He will cleanse me and clothe me in righteousness, and my life will be rich beyond measure. How can I not share that? How can I read verse 9 of our lesson today and not identify with the lepers? How can I not acknowledge wrong, acknowledge blessings, acknowledge fact in my life without coming to the same resolution the lepers did? Today is the day of Good News - Gospel of Christ. If I am silent, punishment will overcome. Now therefore, come, let us tell.
Who do you tell? Anyone in siege by sin. If we saw our neighbors or family on CNN under an actual siege, we would respond dramatically. Many souls are under siege all around us - with eternal consequences. Neighbors, family, friends, the poor and needy, those in our own city and those in foreign fields. How can I not tell?
Kathy Rosalez has felt the need to go tell the poor and needy.
How dare we not tell. How dare we keep the Good News of spiritual sustenance and revitalization from anyone. We must overcome political correctness and social stigmas. If they are keeping us from telling the Good News, then we know their source is Satan. The church here has a brand new ministry just beginning with the poor and indigent. If you can't find the strength to tell a neighbor, a friend, or don't feel the need to travel elsewhere, then get on board with this new, worthy ministry of telling the Good News to the poor.
What must be told is just like in the first story that I recounted today - The victory is won! It is time for worship and praise and rejoicing. And it is time to share the story of the Good News of God's redeeming grace. Without it, your neighbor's soul is starving to death. Your friend will die of thirst. The foreigner will never hear the Good News. This can be their day of Good News - the siege that Satan has on their souls can be lifted.
Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the Good News!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR