Summary: Learning from the trials and testings of others to be strong and courageous.
The story of the Four Lepers is a story that we as believers personally might learn from, but we as a church should allow this story to teach us congregationally as well as we move in this New Year. It’s one of my favorite Old Testament stories that I have on other occasions used as devotional reflection when we are ministering at the Haven of Rest. I have found that God, each time, has given fresh and faithful inspiration and illumination as I have used this text. And this morning for this brief time (this is an hour service) that we have together; I would hope that you too will be blessed by the narrative of this story. But more than that, perhaps you and I will allow this story to marinate in our own hearts and commitments as we walk and work as a church in this New Year.
Allow me to set the context of the story; the story actually is connected to the proceedings in chapter 6 of the book. In verse 24 of chapter 6 the King of Syria besieged the city of Samaria (between 24 and 25 is an extended time period), because the besiege creates a famine in Samaria. The Syrians were masters at this strategy of war fare; they were large enough as a military force to surround a city and provided continued relief to its army so that no soldier was ever tired. They were wealthy enough to sustain a military besiege for however long (they possessed the wealth and the valuables for their army to keep them on a besieged mission), and they were patient enough to watch how their enemies often fell to insanity, surrender, or how mutiny took place with their foe. King Jehoram was the King of Samaria (Northern Kingdom), and it was a bad situation. It’s so bad that when you read verses 25-29, the famine had escalated the cost of meat to an enormous price, and the people were paying for the dung of birds, and even two women had turned to cannibalism of their children. They were even ready to blame the Prophet for their predicament. The Prophet Elisha sees something that only can be seen by faith and direct communication from God. He says in 7:1 in essence, by tomorrow, things will be better... And some person, who hears this word spoken by him, says, “Only if the Lord opens the windows of heaven might this thing be”!!! I need to remind you that God is still in control of the windows of heaven; God is still seated upon the throne of this world.
In spite of what the previous year has been, and its been trying for many, its been scarce and scary for many, its been a famine for many, there are those who have been besieged by the armies of pain, the armies of fear, the armies of frustration and failure, there have been those who have had to face the armies of life’s crucibles and circumstances. There are those who have been surrounded by mishaps, mistakes, misery, and perhaps murky and muddy situations, but some how, some way, here you are. And I need to tell you that God just may have something else to teach you through your famine, through your frustration, through your fears, even through your failures. You might have to deal with some of the same stuff, but, perhaps you will learn to deal with it differently this year.
There are four Lepers outside the city, they have been put out because of their leprosy, and while they are out, the famine, the besieged, the surrounding of their city takes place. Their leprosy is a death sentence, they are going to die from the disease, they are hungry, and there is a famine, so they will die from hunger, if they go in the city, they will die, they have nothing in the city. If they are caught in the city, they could be stoned because they have been excommunicated. But its in verse 4 that we learn from them:
If we say, We will enter the city, then the famine is there, if we sit still here we will die, now let us therefore go into the enemy camp, if they kill us we die, if we live, we live.
The lepers provides us with really 3 choices:
I. Retreat ( Go back to a situation that is no better.)
Backwards is not always better!!!!
They were keenly aware of the consequences.
A. The famine was in the city
You do not want to go where you know there is a famine. There is nothing wrong with going back if it looks better, if it appears to be different, if there is a glimmer of hope and healing.