Last Sunday’s sermon was from 2 Kings 7:3-9. The setting is Samaria, under siege by the Arameans. The protagonists are four lepers sitting outside the city gates. The situation is about as bad as it could be, everyone is on the brink of starvation, and the Arameans show no sign of backing down. Only a miracle can save the people of Samaria now…
The lepers, on the brink of starvation, said to each other:
“Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’-the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” (vv 3-4)
Faced with the choice between certain death, certain death or possible death, the lepers, wisely, chose possible death. They crept over to the Aramean encampment, but when they got there, they found it deserted – God had caused the great and mighty army to hear what they thought was an even bigger army descending on them, and to a man they had fled the camp.
The lepers ate and drank their fill, then remembered their duty and went back to the city to let their fellow citizens know that the siege was over. No doubt they were hailed as heroes, having undertaken an act of great bravery, but in fact they chose the option which seemed easiest and most likely to bring success in the circumstances.
The point of the sermon was that when people are single-minded, when they have no other agenda, they can be used mightily to do great things for God.
Discussing it in life group on Tuesday, though, we found it hard to relate the situation to our lives. These men were in a life and death situation and chose the path of self-preservation. The things members of the group struggled with were more along the lines of how to honour God and really live for Him in our daily lives. How do we talk about our faith to a non-Christian friend without looking foolish? How do we find the line between wholehearted generosity and irresponsible recklessness?
Sometimes it is clear-cut; we know what God is calling us to do and we have a clear choice to make. Occasionally, it is a matter of life and death – another, perhaps better, Biblical example being that of Esther, who chose to enter the King’s presence uninvited, risking death, in the hopes of saving the lives of God’s people. Her choice was similarly ‘If I don’t go, I’ll be killed along with the rest of the Jews; if I do go I’ll possibly be killed’, but she was going out of obedience to God and to save her people, not simply to save her own skin – but this is incredibly rare!
Usually the thing holding us back is fear of rejection, fear of not being able to provide for ourselves and our families, fear of making a ‘career-limiting move’, and maybe fear of physical harm.
Jim Elliott (missionary to the Auca Indians) famously wrote “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim was to give his own life, but in doing so he gained the salvation of many members of that tribe.
I’ve also had a similar line going round in my head the last few days, but can’t find where it comes from: “He has nothing to fear who has nothing to lose.”
The four lepers could enter the enemy camp because they knew they had nothing to lose. We can have boldness in doing the hard things God asks for us when we realise that in Him, we have nothing to lose, but the whole world to gain. If I’m treasuring my own reputation amongst men more highly than the pleasure and approval of God, there’s something skewed about my image of God.
What have you got to lose?