Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lessons From Lepers

How do you view yourself?  Do you have trouble believing you have a place in God’s heart and a purpose in this life? 

What about your view of others?  If someone doesn’t have the same income as you, or lives on the wrong side of town, do you think less of them than someone who makes more money and lives in an upscale neighbourhood?

I think anyone who speaks honestly will answer, “Yes”, to those questions at some point in their lifetime.  We’re all human, and these thoughts are part and parcel of the human condition.

But, a few weeks ago I came across a story in the Old Testament that taught me to re-think the, “Yes” answer.

You find the story in 2 Kings, chapter 7.  Here’s a bit of background…

Israel is suffering the effects of their rebellion against God.  The Arameans (enemies of Israel), having attacked one of Israel’s cities, are holding its occupants hostage.  Food is in short supply and people are becoming desperate.

Four lepers reside outside the city gates.  Lepers are considered highly contagious and “unclean”.   Anyone exhibiting signs of leprosy is banished from the city, forced to eke out a miserable existence by begging outside the city walls.

Life isn’t treating these lepers well.  The starving people inside the city don’t have warm, fuzzy, charitable feelings towards the beggars outside its gates.

The four lepers are trapped between the walled city and the attacking army.  They know they’re chances of survival are about as good as that of a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  In a fatalistic decision they decide to take their chances with the attacking army.

Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates.  ‘Why should we sit here waiting to die?’ they asked each other.  ‘We will starve if we stay here, but with the famine in the city, we will starve if we go back there.  So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army.  If they let us live, so much the better.  But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.’ “  2 Kings 7:3-4 (NLT)

In typical God fashion, He decides to use the four lepers, the “untouchables” of the Israelite population, as messengers.  He throws panic into the Aramean army.  When the lepers show up the Aramean camp is abandoned and overflowing with store houses of food, silver, gold, and other plunder.

They gorge themselves on food and wine, stashing away silver and gold.  But then they remember the plight of the walled city and their fellow Israelites.  Instead of holding a grudge for the way they’ve been treated by the Israelites, the lepers return to the city, telling the gatekeepers about their treasure.

“Finally they said to each other, ‘This is not right.  This is a day of good news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone!  If we wait until morning some calamity will certainly fall upon us.  Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.’ “  2 Kings 7:9 (NLT)

Israel feasts that day because the lepers choose to share their abundance.

I love this story because three valuable nuggets are hidden inside.

  • If God can use four “unclean” lepers to save a city from starvation.  He can use you, too.  Never discount yourself because of your past, or your present.  You’re never so “unclean” that God can’t clean you up.  Broken lives are restored by the grace and mercy Jesus offers us through His sacrificial death on the cross. 

  • We live in a “me” centered society.  How much money can I make, how many TV’s do I need, how expensive a car can I drive?  We put our trust in material things, panicking and hoarding when we can’t get them.  At first the lepers go into hoarding mode, but then they reconsider, realizing it’s better to share the unexpected wealth than to squirrel it away from themselves.  This is true not only of material blessings, but also our time, talents, and faith.  We weren’t blessed with gifts to hoard them.  We’re meant to share them for God’s glory and His kingdom.

  • The third take away from this text is to remember not to judge people.  We can’t discount ourselves from being a messenger of God and we shouldn’t discount others simply because of the way they look, dress, or speak.  God will use anyone He wishes to put in your path to help you learn and grow.    Don’t be hasty to discount someone you feel “beneath” you.  They just might be able to teach you something.

Things To Think About…

Do you struggle to believe you matter to God?  Do you hoard gifts and blessings?  Do you judge people by their appearance before you know their heart?  Please share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

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