Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household." 2 Kings 7:9, ESV
By the way, the image above comes from a blog called mrbiblehead. If you teach or work with children, you should check it out.
This is another of those Old Testament stories that practically shouts the Gospel. Actually, let me rephrase: the story of the four lepers in the Assyrian camp LITERALLY shouts the Gospel. Check this out.
Desperation: There is a famine in the city. They are surrounded. Samaria cannot save itself. This is the reality of who we are without Christ. 2 Kings 6 describes in gruesome detail just how desperate the situation was:
24 Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. 25 And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove's dung for five shekels of silver. 26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” 27 And he said, “If the Lord will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?” 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body— 31 and he said, “May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today.”
For reference, a shekel was about .4 ounces of silver. This means that, at today’s exchange rate, a donkey’s head (NOT a delicacy) was selling for 32 ounces of silver, or $640. And a cup of dove’s dung (also not a delicacy) was going for $40. Things were so desperate in the city that two prostitutes flipped a coin to see which of their children they would eat first.
Salvation: God accomplishes the victory. 2 Kings 7:5-6 makes it clear that it’s the Lord who causes the Assyrians to flee. And the Israelites never even fire a shot:
5 So the diseased men got up at twilight to go to the Arameans’ camp. When they came to the camp’s edge, they discovered that no one was there, 6 for the Lord[e] had caused the Aramean camp to hear the sound of chariots, horses, and a large army.
Celebration: the four lepers come o the point of surrender. Whatever they have been doing isn’t working. So they decide to give themselves to the Assyrians, saying “What have we got to lose? If they kill us, we shall but die” (2 Kings 7:3). So they go, expecting to lose their lives. And in so doing, they find them. They pass from death to life, and experience a greater abundance than they could ever imagine!
8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them. (2 Kings 7:8)
Obligation: At some point, they remember there are people in the city that are still starving. They say to each other, “This is a day of good news, and we can’t keep it to ourselves.”
In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew scripture, the word for good news is euangellion. It’s where we get our word evangelism. It’s the word the New Testament translates as Gospel.
So the lepers return to the city, proclaiming the good news that the war is over, the siege is lifted, that God alone accomplished it, and that salvation and abundance are available for all who believe the message.
It’s all there! And dear Lord, how often I have found the good news and hid it–kept it to myself without sharing it with anyone. Let the light dawn for me and my friends. Bring us to the realization that we are not doing right. And that if we don’t share the good news, disaster will overtake us. Our churches will die. The gospel will become irrelevant because we have kept it to ourselves instead of sharing it with those who are starving for it within the city.
Lord, let me follow the lepers’ example. This good news is too good to keep to myself. Let me proclaim salvation to those who have not yet heard that the war is over.