June 3, 2008

"We are not Doing Right"

2 Kings 7 tells an amazing, comical, and convicting story. It contains all the elements that would make for an award winning, satirical short film. So, every time I read it I find myself chuckling, but also moved by the poignant manner in which it pokes spiritual truth into my side.

The story actually begins in chapter 6, when the neighboring Arameans besiege the Israeli capital of Samaria. So long and so effective was the siege that there began to be a fuel and food crisis within the walls of Samaria. People were starving. The enemy was unrelenting. Death seemed to be certain. But in chapter 7, verse 1, the prophet Elisha predicted that, by the time the next day was through, food would be selling at all time low prices, the abundance would be so great!

How on earth could a deadly food crisis turn into an unprecedented food surplus in one day? That is the amazing part. The Lord caused the army of the Arameans to hear the sound of heavy cavalry in the sky. Perhaps it was the army of the heavenly host marching. Perhaps it was just a strange and distant thunder, or an earthquake. But, whatever the phenomenon, the Arameans mistook it for an approaching army. ‘The Israelites must have snuck a messenger out to go and bribe the Hittites and the Egyptians into ambushing us from the rear.’ Terrified, the Arameans fled, leaving their enormous camp, with all of its food rations, sitting empty outside the walls of Samaria.

So the famine was over and food was readily available just a few miles outside the city gates. But how would the Israelites have known it? They were all locked tight in the city. They might have sat for days, even weeks, without realizing the coast was clear. But here is the comical part! Four hapless lepers (they remind me of Puck and the other artisans in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) woke up one day and said to themselves: ‘If we stay in the city we’ll starve to death; and if we go to the Arameans looking for food, they probably kill us. But maybe they’ll be nice and offer us a sandwich.’ Fat chance. But off they went to what seems like a foolish end. But as they walked the little road to the Arameans’ camp, they found clothes and gear discarded all along the road where the Arameans had fled. And when they reached the camp they found fresh food just a-waiting for them! So they sat down and began to gorge themselves. You can picture them – four men sitting in a camp meant to feed perhaps 40,000 - with gravy dripping down their rotten chins, laughing and offering one another toasts! Look at them them scrambling around, gathering jewelry and jerky, silver and sandals - and hiding it all under this rock, and in that cave, and here and there and everywhere … like children hiding their candy so little brother doesn’t find it! The turn of events and the characters involved are really quite hilarious if you picture it all on the movie screen of your imagination.

But there isn’t just comedy in this story – there is conviction. Listen to what the lepers said to one another over their lamb-chop dinner (v.9): “We are not doing right. This is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household.” Wow! I don’t know that many of us would think that way if we stumbled upon a pocket of oil in our back yards. But here are these goofy characters getting their theology exactly right! God blesses us, not so that we can keep the rack-o-lamb to ourselves, but so that we can bless others.

I was particularly convicted by verse 9 this week as it relates to the gospel. Fool that I am, I find that God has prepared an undeserved, unearned, unexpected, lavish banquet for me in Jesus. But very often I find myself “keeping silent” – content to feast on the Lamb of God myself, but not always too eager to “go and tell.” Do you feel the same? How often we come to banquet on Sunday mornings and don’t bother to invite our fellow neighbors, who have no idea that there is a feast awaiting them in Jesus. And how silly we must sometimes look from the vantage point of heaven – 50-60 people sitting around a banquet table that could seat 200!

I am not belittling the day of small things. And I know that some of us are indeed reaching out, gong and telling. But I find myself convicted by this story. If we are content to feast on God’s Lamb alone, “we are not doing right.”

2 comments:

Jeremiah said...

Great application, Kurt. That never occurred to me. How much I need to realize more the truth of Romans 15:4!

Glad you made it back from Ethiopia and that the time was beneficial to the pastors there. You guys were in our family's prayers.

One blessed leper,
Jeremiah

Kurt Strassner said...

Jeremiah,

Thanks for your prayers for Ethiopia ... and for your consistent encouragement via this blog. The trip was, I believe, a great success. !