For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [Romans 10:13-14 (ESV)]
The king of Aram was at war with Israel, Samaria was under siege, and there was a great famine in the city. Even food that wouldn’t normally be eaten was prized. For example, the head of a donkey, considered an unclean animal, sold for about two pounds of silver. The situation was so dire that some people had even resorted to cannibalism. Without the intervention of God, there was no hope in sight.
Unwelcome in the city, four lepers, the outcasts of society, sat outside the city gate. The men were desperate; either they would die of starvation where they sat or violently at the hands of the enemy. Having nothing to lose, and on the off chance they might even be spared, they decided to surrender to the Arameans.
That evening, the lepers entered the enemy camp only to discover that it had been abandoned. As the prophet Elisha predicted, God had intervened; the Aramean soldiers, thinking they heard the sounds of a great army approaching, had fled the camp in panic. Although the camp was deserted, food, tents, clothing, livestock, silver and gold remained. The men went from tent to tent, enjoying the spoils as they ate and drank their fill and gathered up riches. The four then realized they had to let the townspeople know that the enemy had fled. These pariahs may well have been the last to receive any food had it become available. Nevertheless, fearful that something bad might happen to them if they didn’t share the good news and bounty of the deserted camp, they returned to the people who had shunned them as the “unclean.” The men told the city’s gatekeepers the good news that the siege was over and abundance lay just outside their gate.
We’re unlikely to be under siege and facing starvation in a walled city or to be considered “unclean” lepers and forced to sit outside the city gates, yet I wonder if this story might apply to 21st Christians. The lepers knew they were obligated to share the good news and that it was wrong not to share God’s blessings with the people of Samaria. If they hadn’t, the city could have starved while blessings lay just outside their gates. Their story teaches us about forgiveness and not bearing a grudge and is a reminder to share our blessings. Could this also be a lesson about evangelism? Do we have good news that should be shared? Do we know anything about the living water and bread of life that can feed a starving people and give them eternal life? Could those four lepers also be showing us the importance of sharing the good news of the gospel?