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2 Kings 7:1-17
Then said Elisha, Hear ye the word of the Lord.
The famine in Samaria
The emphasis of the teaching of this account of the Samaritan famine should undoubtedly be placed upon the complete fulfilment of the word of God. The prophet specified the time when plenty would reign in the city. He named the price that would rule in the markets for breadstuffs. Elisha, the prophet of the Lord, since he left his twelfth yoke of oxen in the field to follow Elijah, had not watched carefully the prospects for a good crop in the valley of the Jordan. He could not have told the value of the freight arrived in Damascus by the last caravan from Persia. There were no bulletins that he had lately been consulting as to the outlook for a good harvest on the plain of Sharon or in the Nile valley. He had received no private advices of the number of cattle herding on the hills of Bashan. The ships that arrived at Tyre and Sidon with corn from Africa did not report their invoices to the herdsman’s son in the beleaguered city. There was no private wire in the house of the man of God, that announced the arrival of rich convoys at the Red Sea ports, and which were now on their way to Samaria. Elisha was alone with the elders. The only messenger that came was one to take his life. Ignorant thus of the world outside, and yet undaunted, the prophet spake in the name of the Lord, telling the price of even the fine flour that only luxury could afford. On the morrow the humble workman could buy the barley for his frugal meal, and the high-born dame the necessaries for a feast. “Tomorrow about this time, shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.”
I. The flight of the Syrians. The besiegers of Samaria did not deliberately gather their equipments and stores and return to their own country. They left everything, and that suddenly. The threatenings that came to them were such as to destroy all thoughts of anything but the safety of their own lives. Thus it was they left literally the spoil. The inhabitants of Samaria, if the enemy had slowly departed, might have gathered grain from other cities. This would have taken time, however, and the quantity that a country could furnish which an army had foraged over would have been small. The Syrians came for a siege, not simply as horsemen to make a wild foray and then retire. They were well equipped. Fine flour, that must else have been brought from far, or slowly ground from the corn, was already on hand for the perishing people. All this preparation, however natural it seems, was of God’s planning. When the soldiers of Syria enlisted for a long campaign against Samaria, and the commissary trains gathered luxuries for a permanent encampment, the thing was under the eye of God. Emphasise the miraculous as we will, we must not forget God’s provision for all results that seem to us so strange. God has His hand on the springs of all action and the sources of supply. Long before the Syrians began to prepare for the siege of the city, God had laid His trains to oppose them. If we think of God as a Father and Provider for mankind at every step of life, we shall be helped in our faith in Him as one who can work miracles. Faith is not difficult when we daily mount upward on steps of Providence.
II. The conduct of the lepers.
1. It was wise. There was only death if they returned within the city. There was one hope. They followed it. On a much greater question than that before the lepers, how many have decided so wisely as these outcasts? The teaching of this world and of men’s hearts is that there is no salvation possible unless outside of self and mankind. The lepers seized their opportunity. It proved life for them. The future is not clear to any man, but it offers something real in Jesus Christ. Each of us has more to encourage us to accept Christ than the lepers had to go to the army of Syria. Let a man act on his best convictions instead of sinking down to die. He will find a boon more precious than that which the lepers found.
2. The conduct of the lepers was magnanimous. Men who are outcast from their fellows often feel, when good fortune comes, like retaliating upon those who have neglected or wronged them. A young man who has seen hardship in his early days is often tempted in the beginning of prosperity to show others that he can do without them. This bitter feeling because of neglect on the part of others often becomes a motive for effort towards success. It is ignoble for a man to cherish any of the wrongs he has endured. He ought to try and erase the scars that sorrow and hardship have wrought on his heart. The lepers were mindful of their duty to their fellow-men. They resolved to hasten back with the good tidings. No man, however poor or successful, neglected or exalted, but owes more to the world than he can repay, There is ever an unfailing obligation on every man to do all that lies in his power for the race Christ died to redeem. Learn of the lepers to be magnanimous. They showed they were still men with noble instincts that sorrow and neglect could not crush. There is always a temptation to keep the good to ourselves. We keep back the money, the kind words, the comfort that men need. If it is not done with malicious purpose, it is done in our stolidity, our indifference to others’ necessities.
III. The blaspheming Lord. Over against the hope just held out by the man of God, the courtier places his sneer at all Providence. How many hearts would sink at his words? The widow still hiding her son from death will now conquer her maternal instinct and sustain life on the horrible sacrifice. Those who have been roused to hope will go back to deeper despair. A single day adds multitudes to the victims of the plague or famine. The blood of children, of men, and of women is on the head of the scorner. That the words of the king’s favourite had a terrible effect upon the distressed city, we may infer from the manner of his death. When plenty came, the maddened populace trod to the earth the blasphemer and destroyer of hope. (Monday Club Sermons.)
2 Kings 7:2
Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned, answered the man of God.
Around Samaria is drawn the fiery girth of Assyrian vindictiveness. Siege is laid to the city, and soon famine, most ghastly and horrible, appears. In the modern bombardment of a city, there is a grandeur mingled with the terror. The toss and burst of a bomb-shell kindles the eye of the artist, while the citizens perish. But there is no imagining the desolation of a city approached by an old-time siege, through years of starvation. The judgment-day only can reveal the anguish endured when Hamilcar besieged Utica, and Titus Jerusalem. Alas, for Samaria! What a crowd of hollow-eyed and staggering wretches filled the streets, crying for bread. So great was the scarcity of food that an ass’s head was sold for twenty-five dollars. Mothers cooked their children, and fought for the disgusting fragments. And still hunger pinched and drank up the life of the great city and lifted its wolfish howl in the market-place, and shovelled its victims into the grave. In the midst of all this, Elisha, in the name of God, said, “Tomorrow the famine will be gone, and you will get a peck of flour for five shillings.” A nobleman, who was the confidential friend of the king, stood by and laughed at the idea. He said, “If a window shutter could be opened in the sky, and a lot of corn pitched out, you might expect it. Hal ha! you silly prophet; you cannot fool me!” The prophet replied to the taunt by saying, “Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” Before we come to the more cheerful phase of the subject, let us attend the funeral of that scoffer who was trod on in the gates. The obsequies shall be brief, for we have not much respect for him. I knew him well. You all knew him. He was an out-and-out Rationalist. Elisha, at God’s command, had prophesied plenty of fine flour on the morrow. “Preposterous!” said the sceptical nobleman. “Where is it to come from? Why, every hole and corner of the city has been ransacked for flour. We have eaten up the horses. There is no prospect that the Assyrians will lift the siege; and yet, Elisha, you insult my common sense, and my reason, by telling me that to-morrow the market will be glutted with bread supplies. Away with your nonsense!” Yet, notwithstanding it seemed unreasonable, the fine flour came; and, because of his unbelief, the Rationalist of Samaria perished. At this point the great battle of Christianity is to be fought. The great foe of Christianity to-day is Rationalism, that comes out from our schools, and universities, and magazines, and newspapers, to scoff at Bible truth, and caricature the old religion of Jesus. It says, “Jesus is not God, for it is impossible to explain how He can be Divine and Human at the same time.” The Bible is not inspired, for there are in it things that they don’t like. Regeneration is a farce; there is good enough in us, and the only thing is to bring it out. Development is the word--development. What is still more alarming, is that Christian men dare not meet this ridicule. Christian men try to soften the Bible down to suit the sceptics. The sceptics sneer at the dividing of the Red Sea, and the Christian goes to explaining that the wind blew a hurricane from one direction a good while until all the water piled up; and, besides that, it was low water, anyhow, and so the Israelites went through without any trouble. Why not be frank, and say, “I believe the Lord God Almighty came to the brink of the Red Sea, and with His right arm swung back the billows on the right side, and with His left arm swung back the billows on the left side; and the abashed water stood up hundreds of feet high, while through their glassy walls the sea-monsters gazed with affrighted eyes on the passing Israelites?” “Oh,” you say, “these Rationalists would laugh at me.” Then let them laugh. The Samaritan sceptic laughed at Elisha; but when, under the rush of the people to get their bread, the unbeliever was trampled to death, whose turn was it to laugh then? The moment you begin to explain away the miraculous and supernatural, you surrender the Bible. Compromise nothing! Trim off nothing to please the sceptics. If you cannot stand the jeer of your business friends you are not worthy to be one of Christ’s disciples. You can afford to wait. The tide will turn. God’s Word will be vindicated; and though it may seem to be against the laws of nature and the rules of reason, to-morrow a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel; and then as the people rush out of the gates to get the bread, alas, for the Rationalist! he will be trodden under foot, and will go down to shame and everlasting contempt. You know that all the nations are famine struck by sin. They are dying for bread. Here comes through the gates a precious supply--not one loaf, but an abundance for all; pardon for all, strength for all, sympathy for all comfort for all! Will you have this bread that came down from heaven and which, if a man eat, he shall never hunger? Glorious gospel! So wide in its provisions. Whosoever! Mark you that God stopped Samaria’s famine, not with coarse meal, but, the text says, with fine flour. So the Bread of Life, with which God would appease our hunger, is made of the best material. Jesus was fine in His life, fine in His sympathies, fine in His promises. It means no coarse supply when Jesus offers Himself to the people saying, “I am the Bread of Life.”--“Fine flour for a shekel.” That day when the gates of Samaria were opened, why did they make such excitement about the flour? Why did they not bring in some figs, or pastry, or fragrant bouquets instead? The people would have run down the bouquets, and thrown away the figs, and trampled upon the pastry in the rush for bread. Effort has been made to feed those spiritually dying with the poesies or rhetoric, and the confectionary of sentimentalism. Our theology has been sweetened and sweetened until it is as sweet as ipecacuanha, and as nauseating to the regenerated soul. What the people need is bread, just as God mixes it--unsweetened, plain, homely, unpretending, yet life-sustaining bread. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Presumptiveness of unbelief
What surprises me, what stumbles me, what frightens me, is to see a diminutive creature, a little ray of light glimmering through a few feeble organs, controvert a point with the Supreme Being; oppose the Intelligence that sitteth at the helm of the world; question what He affirms, dispute what He determines, appeal from His decisions, and, even after God has given evidence, reject all doctrines that are beyond his capacity! Enter into thy nothingness, mortal creature! What madness animates thee? How darest thou pretend, thou who art but a point, thou whose essence is but an atom, to measure thyself with the Supreme Being--with Him whom the heaven of heavens could not contain? (J. Saurin.)
A Divine teacher and a haughty sceptic
Here are two objects not only to be looked at, but to be studied:--
I. A divine teacher. Two circumstances connected with this promise will apply to the Gospel.
1. It was a communication exactly suited to the condition of those to whom it was addressed. People were starving, and the one great necessity was food, and here it is promised. Mankind are morally lost, what they want is spiritual restoration, and the Gospel proclaims it.
2. It was a communication made on the authority of the Eternal. “Thus saith the Lord.” That the Gospel is a Divine message is a truth too firmly established even to justify debate.
II. A haughty sceptic. Here is one of the most contemptible of all classes of men, a courtier, a sycophant in relation to his king, a haughty despot in regard to all beneath him. When he heard the prophet’s deliverance, he, forsooth, was too great a man, and thought himself, no doubt, too great a philosopher to believe it. It was the man’s Self importance that begot his incredulity, and this perhaps is the parent of all scepticism and unbelief. (Homilist.)
The sin of unbelief
One wise man may deliver a whole city; one good man may be the means of safety to a thousand others. The holy ones are “the salt of the earth,” the means of the preservation of the wicked. Without the godly as a conserve, the race would be utterly destroyed. In the city of Samaria there was one righteous man--Elisha, the servant of the Lord. Piety was altogether extinct in the court. The king was a sinner of the blackest dye, his iniquity was glaring and infamous. Jehoram walked in the ways of his father Ahab, and made unto himself false gods. The people of Samaria were fallen like their monarch. In this awful extremity the one holy man was the medium of salvation. The one grain of salt preserved the entire city; the one warrior for God was the means of the deliverance of the whole beleaguered multitude. “To-morrow,” would they shout, “to-morrow our hunger shall be over, and we shall feast to the full.” However, the lord on whom the king leaned expressed his disbelief. We hear not that any of the common people, the plebeians, ever did so; but an aristocrat did it. Strange it is, that God has seldom chosen the great men of this world. High places and faith in Christ do seldom well agree. This great man said, “Impossible!” and, with an insult to the prophet, he added, “If the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be.” His sin lay in the fact that, after repeated seals of Elisha’s ministry, he yet disbelieved the assurances uttered by the prophet on God’s behalf. He had, doubtless, seen the marvellous defeat of Moab; he had been startled at tidings of the resurrection of the Shunam-mite’s son; he knew that Elisha had revealed Benhadad’s secrets and smitten his marauding hosts with blindness; he had seen the bands of Syria decoyed into the heart of Samaria.
I. The sin. His sin was unbelief. He doubted the promise of God. In this particular case unbelief took the form of a doubt of the Divine veracity, or a mistrust of God’s power. Either he doubted whether God really meant what He said, or whether it was within the range of possibility that God should fulfil His promise. Unbelief hath more phases than the moon, and more colours than the chameleon. Common people say of the devil, that he is seen sometimes in one shape, and sometimes in another. I am sure this is true of Satan’s firstborn child--unbelief, for its forms are legion. At one time I see unbelief dressed out as an angel of light. It calls itself humility, and it saith, “I would not be presumptuous; I dare not think that God would pardon me; I am too great a sinner.” It is the devil dressed as an angel of light; it is unbelief after all. A fearful form of unbelief is that doubt which keeps men from coming to Christ; which leads the sinner to distrust the ability of Christ to save him, to doubt the willingness of Jesus to accept so great a transgressor. But the most hideous of all is the traitor, in its true colours, blaspheming God, and madly denying His existence. Infidelity, deism, and atdeism are the ripe fruits of this pernicious tree; they are the most terrific eruptions of the volcano of unbelief. Unbelief hath become of full stature, when quitting the mask and laying aside disguise, it profanely stalks the earth, uttering the rebellious cry, “No God,” striving in vain to shake the throne of the divinity, by lifting up its arm against Jehovah. I am astonished, and I am sure you will be, when I tell you that there are some strange people in the world who do not believe that unbelief is a sin. Strange people I must call them, because they are sound in their faith in every other respect; only, to make the articles of their creed consistent, as they imagine, they deny that unbelief is sinful.
1. And first the sin of unbelief will appear to be extremely heinous when we remember that it is the parent of every other iniquity. There is no crime which unbelief will not beget. I think that the fall of man is very much owing to it. It was in this point that the devil tempted Eve.
2. Unbelief not only begets, but fosters sin. If man did but believe that the law is holy, that the commandments are holy, just, and good, how he would be shaken over hell’s mouth; there would be no sitting, and sleeping in God’s house; no careless hearers; no going away and straightway forgetting what manner of men ye are. Oh! once get rid of unbelief, how would every ball from the batteries of the law fall upon the sinner, and the slain of the Lord would be many. Again, how is it that men can hear the wooings of the Cross of Calvary, and yet come not to Christ? What is the reason? Because there is unbelief between you and the Cross. If there were not that thick veil between you and the Saviour’s eyes, His looks of love would melt you. But unbelief is the sin which keeps the power of the Gospel from working in the sinner., and it is not till” the Holy Ghost strikes that unbelief out, it is not till the Holy Spirit rends away that infidelity and takes it altogether down, that we can find the sinner.
3. Unbelief disables a man for the performance of any good work. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” is a great truth in more senses than one. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Faith fosters every virtue; unbelief murders every one. Thousands of prayers have been strangled in their infancy by unbelief. Unbelief has been guilty of infanticide; it has murdered many an infant petition; many a song of praise that would have swelled the chorus of the skies has been stifled by an unbelieving murmur; many a noble enterprise conceived in the heart has been blighted ere it could come forth, by unbelief. Many a man would have been a missionary; would have stood and preached his Master’s Gospel boldly; but he had unbelief. Once make a giant unbelieving, and he becomes a dwarf.
4. Our next remark is--unbelief has been severely punished. Turn you to the Scriptures, I see a world all fair and beautiful; its mountains laughing in the sun, and the fields rejoicing in the golden light. I see maidens dancing, and young men singing. How fair the vision! But lo! a grave and reverend sire lifts up his hand, and cries, “A flood is coming to deluge the earth-the fountains of the great deep will be broken up, and all things will be covered” See yonder ark. One hundred and twenty years have I toiled with these my hands to build it; flee there, and you are safe.” “Aha! old man; away with your empty predictions! Aha! let us be happy while we may! when the flood comes, then we will build an ark; but there is no flood coming; tell that to fools; we believe no such things.” See the unbelievers pursue their merry dance. Hark! Unbeliever. Dost thou not hear that rumbling noise? Earth’s bowels have begun to move, her rocky ribs are strained by dire convulsions from within; lo! they break with the enormous strain, and forth from between them torrents rush unknown since God concealed them in the bosom of our world. Heaven is split in sunder! it rains. Not drops, but clouds descend. A cataract, like that of old Niagara, rolls from heaven with mighty noise. Both firmaments, both deeps--the deep below and the deep above--do clasp their hands. Now, “unbelievers, where are you now?” There is your last remnant. A man--his wife clasping him round the waist--stands on the last summit that is above the water. See him there! The water is up to his loins even now. Hear his last shriek! He is floating--he is drowned. And as Noah looks from the ark he sees nothing. Nothing! It is a void profound. “Sea monsters whelp and stable in the palaces of kings.” All is overthrown, covered, drowned. What hath done it? What brought the flood upon the earth? Unbelief. By faith Noah escaped from the flood. By unbelief the rest were drowned.
5. And now you will observe the heinous nature of unbelief in this--that it is the damning sin. There is one sin for which Christ never died; it is the sin against the Holy Ghost. There is one other sin for which Christ never made atonement. Mention every crime in the calendar of evil, and I will show you persons who have found forgiveness for it. But ask me whether the man who died in unbelief can be saved, and I reply there is no atonement for that man.
II. Conclude with the punishment. “Thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” It is so often with God’s own saints. When they are unbelieving, they see the mercy with their eyes, but do not eat it. Now, here is corn in this land of Egypt; but there are some of God’s saints who come here on the Sabbath, and say, “I do not know whether the Lord will be with me or not.” Some of them say, “Well, the Gospel is preached, but I do not know whether it will be successful.” They are always doubting and fearing. Listen to them when they get out. “Well, did you get a good meal this morning?” “Nothing for me.” Of course not. Ye could see it with your eyes, but did not eat it, because you had no faith. If you had come up with faith, you would have had a morsel. But, let me apply this chiefly to the unconverted. They often see great works of God done with their eyes, but they do not eat thereof. A crowd of people have come here this morning to see with their eyes, but I doubt whether all of them eat. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
In this comparatively trifling event we see the end of the whole economy of nature as we know it. Tragical facts have overpowered us, have indeed almost blinded us as to the possibility of spiritual presences being in the universe, and we have said deliverance is impossible, and out of all this chaos God Himself could scarcely bring order. Looking upon the nations of the earth with their moral darkness, their barbarities, idolatries, cruelties, superstitions; observing how men hate one another, and delight in the shedding of blood; studying the whole map and plan of wickedness all but infinite, we have again and again said, though the Lord should open the windows of heaven--though the Lord should come in all His great might, yet surely this chaos could not be brought into order and peace even by the voice of Omnipotence. Looking upon the Cross of Jesus Christ as the medium of the salvation of the world, we have not wondered that men should account it foolishness. There seems to be no proportion between the cause and the effect, the means and the end. To the last, men passing by the cross shall wag their heads, and say to him who expires upon it, If Thou be the king or Saviour of the world, save Thyself, and come down. We are quite aware that the scoffer has an ample ground for mockery, if attention be limited by visible boundaries. It is not surprising that gibers should taunt believers, and that the prophets of Baal should turn round upon the Elijahs of the world, and in their turn enjoy the use of ironical appeal, saying, Cry aloud to your Christ, for he is king of the Jews; cry mightily to his God in heaven, for he has espoused him as his father; pray on still,--perhaps if you are not answered in the morning, you may be answered at night; cry lustily with growing energy to the supposed God of the heavens, and let him come out in reply if he can. We must submit to the taunt for the present. In our impatience we desire a manifest and decisive answer, yet all things proceed calmly as they were from the beginning. But our faith has been sustained by a doctrine corresponding to the prophecy,--namely, the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness: for a thousand years are in his sight as one day, and one day as a thousand years. We are the victims of miscalculated time. We do not know the meaning of to-day or to-morrow: my soul, wait thou upon God; yea, wait patiently for Him, and comfort thyself with the truth that things are not what they seem: that immediately after human extremity there arises a light in heaven, and that in the midday of despair angels are sent with special messages from God. (J. Parker, D. D.)
2 Kings 7:3-8
And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate.
The men at the gate
The city of Samaria was in sad plight. Ben-hadad, the King of Syria, had gathered all his armies together with the determination to conquer Israel and make it a subject province. He brought all his force against Samaria and besieged the capital city. He cut off all their communication with the surrounding country and was slowly starving them to death. Now, while this was going on in the city of Samaria, four lepers, who lived in little shanties outside the gate, and were not allowed to come inside, talked the situation over with one another. They were starving to death and there was not much choice for them. It was certain death if they stayed where they were, and it was probable death if they went anywhere else. So they said to one another, “Why sit we here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.” So in the early twilight they rose up and staggered along till they came to the camp of the Syrians. They saw no one as they drew near, no sentinels on guard, and no one about the doors of the tents. It seemed strange to them, and at first they thought everybody was asleep in the tents. Now the secret of this strange occurrence was that through the prayer of Elisha God had interposed to save Israel, and He had caused the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses until they were sure that a great army was coming to the relief of Israel, and the officers of Ben.hadad, King of Syria, deceived and confused by what they thought they heard, said one to another, “Lo, the King of Israel hath hired against us the-kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.” And they were so sure of it and so demoralised with fear that they arose and fled in the darkness and left their tents just as they were. These old stories are gold mines of spiritual truth where we shall not fail to find wealth if we search with humble and earnest hearts. Let us look at some of these nuggets of spiritual truth suggested to us in this theme.
I. The man who feels his sin the keenest is the most likely to find salvation. Of all the people of Israel these four leprous men were in the most pitiable condition. Ordinarily, when there was plenty, food was let down over the wall to them; but when food became scarce, it was easy to forget the lepers on the outside. They decided to take their chances because they felt so keenly the extremity of their condition. This illustrates what Jesus meant when He said to certain people in His day that the publicans and the harlots would go into the kingdom of heaven before themselves.
II. Inaction is often as bad as positive wrong-doing. See in this case. These four lepers used good logic. They said one to another, “Why sit we here until we die?” They did not need to take poison in order to commit suicide; they did not need to do any violence on themselves in order to bring about death. They were far gone on the way of starvation. They could just stagger about a little. Let them only sit still a day or two more and there would not be any help for them, they would surely die. Their only hope was in immediate action, and if they were to act there was only one way open that had any promise of relief. So they decided to act in the one way open to them that had a chance of relief. I pray God that some of you who are without God and without hope in Christ may learn this great lesson. When you are wrong, when you are failing to do your duty, to sit still is to die. You do not have to do anything more in order to make sure that in the great judgment day you will be shut out of heaven and condemned. No, you have just to sit still to be lost. You do not need to get worse; you do not need that the stream of your evil thoughts or your wicked conduct shall grow wider and deeper and more soiled, as it undoubtedly will if you live longer unrepentant; you need only to sit still just as you are to have the gate of heaven closed before your sorrow-stricken eyes and to hear the awful words of doom from the tender lips of Jesus, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” All you have to do is just to sit still, and in the very nature of things death must happen. But if you want to be saved, then you must awake, and arise, and act.
III. Salvation can only come through definite decision. These men considered what was open to them and decided that there was just one way that had a ray of hope. It was by no means bright; but, if followed, there was a possibility that it might mean food and life. They made up their minds to take the one chance, and they followed that chance to safety. How much better is the outlook for you when I invite you to forsake your sins and come to the feast of Divine love. You do not have to come following such a forlorn hope as did these poor men.
IV. The spiritual feast is already spread. The lepers found food in abundance in the Syrian tents. The Gospel feast is ready. The invitation is, “Come, for all things are now ready.” (L. A. Banks, D. D.)
Deliverance from death
I. The lepers sought deliverance from death. “Why sit we here until we die?” (2 Kings 7:3-4).
1. They sought deliverance under very solemn feelings. They were perishing of hunger, and so were their friends whom they might never see again. Unless the Syrian granted immediate relief, they would die. The hour was dark and solemn. Solemn too are the feelings of a sinner when fleeing from the city of destruction he cries, “Life, life, eternal life!” He looks at the law, and feels, “I have broken that”; he looks towards heaven, and feels, “I have forfeited that”; he looks towards hell, and feels, “I have deserved that.”
2. They sought deliverance in the face of discouragements. They were the subjects of a disease the most repulsive. They had no promise of help. They knew that the Syrian was the avowed foe of Israel. What could have been more discouraging? Had they been sound in health, had they been going to a friend, or had they but one promise of relief, it would have been different. But notwithstanding all, they sought deliverance. Sinner, are your discouragements greater in relation to spiritual life than were those of the lepers in relation to temporal? What are your discouragements? Bring them forward. “I am defiled by sin”; but Jesus can cleanse you. “I am condemned by law”; but Jesus can justify you. “I am outside the fold”; but Jesus is the good Shepherd, and He is come to restore you.
II. The lepers found deliverance from death. “And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver and gold,” etc. (2 Kings 7:8).
1. They found a more abundant deliverance than they expected. What did they seek? Deliverance from famine. What did they find? Deliverance from famine, nakedness, and poverty. And such a deliverance! How great the surprise of the lepers to find the treasures of an army in their custody! How changed their condition now! Famine was now fled; poverty fled; fear fled; obscurity fled. So with the sinner when he comes for salvation to Jesus; he always finds more than he expected;--more mercy, more peace, more blessedness, and more glory. Bartimeus comes for bodily eyesight; he obtains that, and spiritual sight too. A paralytic is let down through a roof with the hope of receiving power to walk the ways of earth; and not only is that granted, but power also to walk the ways of heaven.
2. These men found a deliverance more divine than they expected (verse 6). Whether this noise was in the air or in the imagination I know not. Evidently it was God that wrought this wonderful deliverance. Little did the lepers expect a deliverance so divine. So when a sinner is delivered from spiritual death he sees more of God in salvation than even he expected. If a man denies the divinity of the Christian redemption he only proves that he is a stranger to it.
3. These men found deliverance more easily than they expected. They counted on commending themselves to the favour of the Syrian by earnest appeals. They thought that, do what they might, possibly they could not awaken his compassion; they might, after all, be put to death. How great their mistake! Nothing was more necessary but to arise, go forth, and partake of the abundance which kind Providence had provided. When a man trusts in Jesus, he feels astonished that he should ever have made a difficulty of believing. “How strange,” he feels, “that I could so long have closed my eyes to the truth.” “By grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
III. The lepers announced deliverance from death. They went and announced the “good tidings” to the king’s household, and through that household to the city.
1. They announced deliverance under a sense of duty (2 Kings 7:9). They felt that silence would brand them with the charge of heartlessness and expose them to the lightnings of justice. If these men felt it their duty to announce deliverance to a perishing city, how much more should Christians feel this to be their duty as it respects a perishing world?
2. They announced deliverance without delay. Feeling, as they did, that solemnly on them was flung the duty of saving Samaria, and that to delay, even till the sun again reddened the forehead of the eastern sky, was to sacrifice life, they lost no time in heralding “the good tidings.” Oh, ye that are at ease in Zion, is it enough that you have been blest with the Bread of Life? Does not Heaven solemnly call on you to announce without delay “the good tidings” to others? “ If you tarry till the morning, some mischief will come upon you.” (F. Fox Thomas.)
The dying lepers
I. What was the state of the lepers, and what were their reflections? They were in a state of disease and want, perishing with hunger, and afflicted with a loathsome and grievous sickness. And what is our state by nature? The striking language of the prophet Isaiah well describes it: “The whole head is sick.” Such are we naturally--we are spiritual lepers; and we have every reason to cry oat, when we view ourselves in the glass of God’s Holy Word, and see what we really are, “Unclean, unclean.” But these lepers were not merely afflicted with this sore disease, and had no whole part in their body, but they were also perishing with hunger--disease and famine were their portion. Sad state, you may exclaim. But our spiritual state by nature is in no wise better. The wholesome food of God’s Word, which is the support and nourishment of the soul, lies untasted by our lips; it is food for which we have no relish or appetite; and yet, if we eat it not, we must languish and die. But herein lies a difference between us and the lepers. They longed for food, but could not get it: we can get it freely, “without money and without price,” but we do not long for it. Let us turn next to the reflection of these men--“Why sit we hero until we die?” Oh, would that sinners perishing by spiritual famine would reason thus I--calmly consider their case, and see that if they remain unmoved--seek not for succour and support from Him who is able to save them from death--that death beyond a doubt will overtake them.
II. The effort of these lepers and their success. “Now, therefore, come,” said they, “and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians; if they save us alive, we shall live: and if they kill us, we shall but die.” They resolved no longer to sit in misery and apathy beneath the comfortless and inhospitable walls of their beleaguered and impoverished city, but to go directly to the enemy’s camp, and seek from their country’s foes that which their own people could not give. And here, in a measure, is portrayed the course of the awakened sinner. He sees that if he remains as he is, death is certain, that his dwelling is the city of want and destruction. But oh, how different is, the prospect and hope set before him! He is not fleeing to the camp of an enemy, but to the shelter of an Almighty Friend. He need not flee in doubt of welcome, or in fear of death; and though unbelief and sin may cause him to tremble lest he should be rejected, yet if his faith be true, there is no real ground of danger, and he may adopt the language of the prodigal, “I will arise and go to my Father”; and he will find that welcome which a Heavenly Father rejoices to bestow. These lepers had no reason to regret the step they took; they exchanged poverty and famine for wealth and abundance surpassing their utmost conception or desire. Just so it is with sinners who flee from the city of destruction, and “go forth unto Jesus without the camp, bearing His reproach.” When once they have made the effort, and advanced to the foot of the cross, and cast the burden of their sins on Him “who bare them in His own body on the tree,” how great the change! how wonderful the deliverance! They were sitting like these lepers in darkness and the shadow of death; but, as our blessed Lord Himself declares, they have “passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).
III. The conduct of the lepers and its happy results. Having feasted in abundance, and satisfied themselves with spoil, “then they said one to another, We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace; if we tarry till the morning light some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household.” So they went and announced the happy and unexpected news which at first appeared too good to be true. And are not far happier results brought about by the knowledge of the Gospel, and from other and higher motives? Selfishness appears to have chiefly dictated the lepers in their discovery. It does not seem that sympathy for their suffering brethren, anxiety to carry relief to those perishing by hunger within the city, urged them so speedily to the work of mercy as the thought that if they tarried till the morning light” some mischief would come upon them. But with the Christian it is altogether different. When he has had the burden of his sins removed, he is anxious to lead others to that Saviour he has found from the purest motives,--a zeal for the glory of God, a desire for the happiness of souls. (C. A. Maginn, M. A.)
The leprous men as the gate
1. Fulfilment of the Divine Word in opposition to human appearances.
2. Illustration of strange instrumentalities which God uses to accomplish His purposes. Here lepers. In Elijah’s case, ravens. “No restraint to save by many or few.”
3. God’s mercies must not be retained in a miserly or selfish spirit.
4. Unbelief will be confounded, while faith will be honoured. The case of these leprous men is, however, analogous to that of certain sinners. They are--
I. In a position of peril. What was likely to prove a fatal disease: “Until we die.”
1. Suffering from famine. Illustrate by Prodigal Son: “I perish with hunger.” Soul needs feeding as well as the body: “My soul shall be satisfied,” says the Psalmist.,
2. Isolated from the city and its supplies. Sin has separated from God the soul’s true satisfaction.
3. Pursuing a policy of inaction which rendered them more hopeless: Law of degeneration that is unerring; “Evil men shall wax worse and worse.” Nothing so inimical to spiritual interests as inertia. Illustrate by death of Professor Nettleship on Alps--powerless to move.
II. A glimmer of hope. (verse 4). Two ways were closed. One seems open--if it fail there is nothing to lose. The men were brought to this by reflection. Look where you are. Certain ways of deliverance are hedged in.
1. Self cannot save self.
2. By bitter experience many of you have proved the world is vain. Pleasure, riches, passion, have increased famine.
3. Christ may save. He professes to do so. At least He makes great claims. Will you try Him? Our duty is to examine probabilities. In discoveries men have followed this course. So in religion, “Then shall we know if we follow on to know.” Look at the circumstantial evidence, it may furnish a clue. You may be like a drowning man with the last chance of life. Hope multiplies the chance.
III. The unexpected satisfaction (verses 5, 6, 7), Probable becomes possible, possible becomes actual. “Now none but Christ can satisfy.”
1. God’s way of deliverance is miraculous. “If He should make windows in heaven.”
2. To the venturing soul there are constant surprises of blessing. Faith is a venture, but is honoured. The curtain rises on new scenes; we pass from famine to banquet.
IV. Songs of deliverance (verse 9).
1. Gratitude prompted.
2. Despised instrumentality used to testify.
3. Testimony begets faith and action.
It led the host to verification of the facts announced. Do we well to hold our peace? No. “I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath.” (J. E. Wakerley.)
Who found it out
The story of four leprous men inserted in the Book of the Kings of Israel: is it not singular? No; it is not singular for the Bible. Ii you were to take out of the Scriptures all the stories that have to do with poor, afflicted men and women, what a very small book the Bible would become, especially if together with the stories you removed all the psalms of the sorrowful, all the promises for the distressed, and all the passages which belong to the children of grief! This Book, indeed, for the most part is made up of the annals of the poor and despised.
I. A great work of god, which was entirely unknown.
1. The siege was raised from around Samaria. Armed men had stood in their places and kept the way, so that none could go in or out; but they are all gone, not one of them is left. Yet in the city of Samaria they thought themselves cooped up, and set their warders on the wall because of fear in the night. They were as free as the harts of the wilderness had they known it: but their ignorance held them in durance vile.
2. The Lord had also defeated all their enemies. They had run for their lives; they had fled because of a noise in their ears as of horses and of chariots. He that could first get across the Jordan, and interpose that stream between him and his supposed pursuers was the happiest man. Without aid from Hittite or Ethiopian, the God of Israel had driven the whole host of Syria like chaff before the wind.
3. God has provided plenty for them. The wretched Samaritans drew the hungerbelt more closely about them, and each man hoped that he might sleep for many an hour, and for-act his bitter pangs; yet within a stone’s throw there was more fine flour and barley than they could possibly consume. Was not that a strange thing? A city besieged, and not besieged; girt with enemies, as they thought, and yet not an enemy left; starving, and yet near to a feast! See, what unbelief ,can do. They had been promised plenty right speedily, by God’s own prophet; but they did not believe the promise, nor look out for its fulfilment. Had they been upon the watch, they might have seen the unusual movement in the Syrian camp, and noticed the absolute stillness which succeeded it. I know a sad parallel to this. The Lord Jesus Christ has come into the world, and has put away the sin of His people; and yet many of them are complaining that their sin can never be put away. The Lord Jesus Christ has routed all the enemies of His people, and yet they are afraid of innumerable evils. It is said that drowning men catch at straws: would you not have thought that famishing men might have caught at the word of Elisha? I grant you the promise did seem too great to be true: that lord who scoffed at it was not the only one who judged it to be impossible of fulfilment; and yet when men are brought so very low, they are apt to catch at any hope. How hardened was the unbelief which refused Jehovah’s word!
II. When you have realised the picture of the city abiding in sorrow though its deliverance had already come, I want to remark upon a very singular band of discoverers. A choice quaternion at last found out what the Lord had done, proved it for themselves, and made it known to their fellow-townsmen. Is it not remarkable that these discoverers were lepers? Ah, grace! it is thy wont to dwell in most unlikely places! You would have supposed that surely the king would have gone forth to see, or that yonder great lord who had ridiculed the prophet might have relented, and gone forth to observe. But no; there are last that shall be first, and the Lord in His providence and grace pitched upon lepers to be the discoverers of His marvellous miracle. Even thus the keenest observers of grace are those who have the deepest sense of sin. These men could not hope for a welcome from the Syrians, poor objects that they were, they would be hated as Israelites, and abhorred as lepers; yet they went, and in that camp they found all that they wanted, and much more than they expected. Am I not speaking to some who are saying, “For me to go to Christ would be all in vain: I can suppose His blessing my brother, or my friend, but He never will receive one so altogether unworthy as I am”? I speak to those of you who feel that you have no right to mercy: you are the very men who may come boldly for it; since it is not of right, but altogether of favour. You that have no claim to the mercy of God, you are the very people to come to Him through Jesus Christ; for where there is the least of anything that is good and meritorious, there there is the most room for generous gifts and gracious pardons.
1. These discoverers of the Lord’s work were a people who dared not have joined themselves to God’s people. They were not allowed inside the city walls: their wretched hospital was without the gate. How often does it happen that those who are rejected of men are accepted of God!
2. To describe these discoverers yet more fully, they were men who at last were driven to give themselves up. They said, “We will fall unto the Syrians; and if they kill us we shall but die. Blessed m that man who has given himself up, not to the Syrians, but to the Lord!
3. These discoverers I would liken to Columbus, four times repeated; for they found out a new world for Samaria. These four lepers went to the Syrian camp, and saw for themselves: lepers as they were, they came, they saw, they conquered. I think I can see them in the dim twilight, stealing along until they come to the first tent, expecting to be challenged by a picket, and wondering that they are not. They heard no sound of human voice. The horses and mules were heard to stamp, and draw their chains up and down, but their riders were gone, and no noise of human foot was heard. “There are no men about,” cried one of them, “nor signs of men! Let us go into this tent.” They stepped in. A supper was ready. He who had spread that table will never taste it again. The hungry men needed no persuasion, but immediately began to carve for themselves. They took possession of the spoils of war left on the field. After they had feasted they said, “To whom does this gold and silver belong? The prey belongs to us, for our enemies have left the treasure behind them.” They took as many of the valuables as they could carry, then went into another tent: still no living soul was seen. Where lately a host had rioted, not a soldier remained. There was no sound of revelry that night, nor tramp of guard, nor talk around the watch-fire. The lepers tasted more of the forsaken dainties, drained other goblets, and took more gold and silver. “There is more than we shall know what to do with,” they said; so they dug a hole, and banked their gains after the Oriental fashion. Who can conceive the delirious joy of those four lepers in the midst of such abundance? Do you see what these men did? First, they went and saw for themselves, and then they took possession for themselves. The whole four of them did not own a penny before, and now they are rich beyond a miser’s dream. They have enjoyed the feast, and they are filled to the full. They are fully qualified to go and tell the starving city of their discovery, because they are clear that they have made no mistake. They have satisfied their own hunger, gratified their own desire, and tasted and handled for themselves, and so they can speak as men who know and are sure. He knows the grace of God best who, in all his leprosy and defilement, in all his hunger, and faintness, and weariness, has come to Christ, and fed on the bread of heaven, and drank the water of life, and taken the blessings of the covenants, and made himself rich with hidden treasure. Such a man will speak convincingly, because he will bear a personal witness. The leper, fed and enriched, stands outside the city gate, and calls to the porter, and wakes him up at the dead of night, for he has news worth telling. The experienced believer speaks with the accent of conviction, and therein imitates his Master, who spake with authority. “Why,” says the porter, “I used to speak to you over the city wall; are you the leper to whom I said that there was no more food for you? I have thrown you nothing for a week, and thought you were dead--are you the man?” He answers, “I am: I do want your wretched rations now; I am filled, and where I have fed there is enough for you all. Come out, and feast yourselves.” “I should not know you!” says the porter. All four join in saying, “No, you would not know us; we are new men since we have been to the camp. Believe the story, and tell it to all in the city, for it is true. There is enough and to spare, if they will but come out and have it.”
III. How they came to make this discovery. These four lepers, how did they come to find out the flight of Syria? First, I suppose, they made the discovery rather than anybody else because the famine was sorest with them. Let but some men feel the burden of sin, and they will never rest till they come to Jesus. John Bunyan says that he once thought hardly of Christ, but at last he came to such a pitch of misery that he felt he must come to Jesus anyhow; and he says that he verily believed that, if the Lord Jesus had stood before him with a drawn sword in His hand, he would have rushed upon the point of His sword rather than stay away from Him. These lepers were driven to go to make the discovery because they felt that they could not be any worse than they were. They said, “If we sit here we shall die; and if the Syrians kill us, we shall but die.” That feeling has often driven souls to Christ.
1. These people saw that there was no reason why they should not go, for they said one to the other--“Why sit we here until we die?” They could not find a justification for inaction. They could not say, “We sit here because the king commands us to stop where we are.” He promises that He will receive you, and therefore He cries, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?”
2. These lepers went to the camp of the Syrians because they were shut up to that one course--“If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also.” Only one road was open. I am always glad when I am in that condition. If many courses are open to me I may make a mistake; but when I see only one road I know which way to go. It is a blessed thing to be shut up to faith in Christ--to be compelled to look to grace alone.
IV. May not some sad hearts imitate these lepers, and make the same discovery? “I am afraid to believe in Christ,” says one, “for my sins, my many sins, prevent me.” Look at the lepers, and see how much better the Lord was to them than their fears. It is twilight, and they steal into the camp trembling. One cries, “Softly there, Simeon! Your heavy tread will bring the guard upon us.” Eleazar gently whispers to the other, Make no noise. If they sleep, let us not arouse them. They might tread as heavily as they pleased, and talk as loudly as they wished, for there was no man there. Do you know it? If you believe in the Lord Jesus, your sins, which are many, are all forgiven--there is no sin left to accuse you. You are afraid they will ruin you? They have ceased to be: the depths have covered them; there is not one of them left. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Your sins were numbered on the scape-goat’s head of old. Jesus bore your sins in His own body on the tree. If you come to Christ, confessing and believing, no sin shall destroy you, for it is blotted out. Perhaps these men feared when they were going into the tent--“A Syrian will meet us at the tent door, and cry, ‘Back, what business have you here? Lepers, begone! Back to your dens and die!’” They entered into tent after tent: nobody forbade them: they had the entry of every pavilion. They were also possessors of all they saw. When I came to Christ, I could not believe that I might take the promises; but I did, and nobody said me nay. Perhaps the leper felt some little question when he saw a golden cup, or a silver flagon, or a wellfashioned cruet. What have lepers to do with golden cups? But he overcame his scruples. No law could hinder his sharing the leavings of a runaway enemy. Nobody was there to stop him, and the valuables were set before him, and therefore he took what was provided for him. The lepers grew more and more bold, till they carried off as much of the booty as they were able to hide away. I take up my parable, and without scruple invite you to deal thus with salvation. When I came to Jesus, I hardly dared to appropriate a promise; it looked like stealing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Never say die
“Why sit we here until we die?” That is a plain question that these poor wretched people put to themselves, and after failing to find an answer, to confirm them in their sitting still, they rose up and went forward, and in doing So there came upon them abundant relief and blessing. I trust the vision I have had concerning some of you, whom I have invited to come to this gospel service, has come to pass. My brother, my sister, I invited you to God’s house, and you have come. You have not been in place of worship for a long time, and I am glad to see you here. You have come in here in a sort of despairing mood. You can’t say you have come here expecting to be blessed. You have said, something like the leprous men, “Well, well, my life has got more and more weary since I kept, away from the churches and the preachers. Certainly since I became an outcast.” (and you cast yourself out) “I have become darker and darker and more and more wretched.” And when you got my invitation you said, “Well, I will go once more to the church, for it can’t be worse for me.” The grand thing is to get done with our sitting still. That is the killing thing--doing nothing. Young and old, rich and poor, let the days and months and years come and go, and sit still doing nothing for their, souls. The grey hairs, are gathering fast on some of you, and you are not a bit further forward; but a little older, and a little heavier, and a little more damned than you were some time ago. “Why sit we here until we die?” Why, there is power enough in that thought to begin a great revival of church-going and a great revival of salvation all over London, throughout its whole circumference. “Why sit we here until we die?” And no one of the four could get any better answer than that they had sat still long enough. Now the Gospel, the glad tidings coming out of this is, that when the soul begins to awaken out of its benumbed, dumb state of dark despair, and deplores its starving condition; when it says, “It is time I made a shift, for life is slipping away, and my leprosy is not diminishing, my death is getting more deadly every year I live,” the true state and condition is realised, and the soul being convinced that there is no hope in sitting still, is determined to arise, to flee for refuge to the only hope in the Gospel. The lepers said, “We will go into the camp of the Syrians.” They expected death, but when they came to the camp a wonderful thing had happened. I think I see these four wretched lepers approaching; I see them arrive at the edge of the camp, expecting the challenge of the Syrian guard. But, lo! no guard was there. Everything was most unnaturally quiet, and in they slipped, and as they moved in farther and farther and saw no one, their courage grew, and they realised that they were in a deserted camp, surrounded with food and plenty, the spoils of the departed host. Now, don’t you see in this the Gospel story? The sinner, when convinced of his lost, ruined, guilty state, has with this conviction a wrong idea and impression of God and salvation. He has the notion--the mistaken notion--that God is full of anger and wrath, and that in coming to Him he will be destroyed. Just like the lepers, they thought the Syrians would kill them. But, us it turned out to the lepers, instead of finding enemies and death, they found food, and all they needed; so, instead of the sinner being smitten with God’s justice, God’s mercy is revealed to him; and instead of death, he receives the gift of eternal life. That’s the English of it; the Gospel of it. These poor starving leprous men came to the Syrian camp, upon the provision of a hundred thousand men, shall I say? Ear more than that. So come to Christ, and there is more in Him, far more than you and I and a million of us could possibly need. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Dear me! Surely the great ocean is big enough for a sprat like you, isn’t it? And that “My grace” is sufficient for thee individually. Try--ay, trust! And I am not minimising your sin or mine. But I am magnifying “the grace of God that bringeth salvation unto man.” (J. M’Neill.)
The sinner’s only alternative
I. Some have an alternative presented to your consciences. Time was when you were careless about eternal things. That time has passed. You can look back but a few weeks and remember when the Sabbath was to you a day of revelry, when the house of God was utterly neglected, when the Bible was a book which you would not have read if you had not been flogged to it, and when prayer was a duty which you utterly despised. But now your conscience has been somewhat awakened. Though not thoroughly, still partially, roused up, you begin to perceive that the Scripture is true, that we have gone astray like lost sheep, that our iniquities do prevail against us, and that our righteousnesses are filthy rags. Well, now, you perceive that you are in just this particular state, that you have a choice of two things before you; you can sit still, but then you must perish; you can go to Christ, and your fears tell you that you, will perish then. This, however, at any rate, your conscience may say to you, You can but die, whereas if you go not to Christ you must die. Even should you believe in Him, you think you might, after all, perish; but if you do not believe in Him, then there is no hope. Should you repair now to Him in prayer your fears tell you that He may repel you, that He may say: “Get you gone! You that once cursed Me, what right have you to expect My favour? You who have scorned My grace a hundred times, and defied My law, what do you here on your knees seeking My mercy? Begone, thou ungrateful wretch, and perish in thy sins.” But still there is this presented to your mind, that if you perish there you do but perish, for it is quite certain that you must perish where you are. You believe--you must believe even if you reject the Word of God, you must believe that God is just. If there be a God, He must punish men for sin. How can there exist a moral government if sin shall go unpunished, if virtue and vice shall bring the same end to men? On the other hand, look at the other side of the alternative. There is, at least, some hope; even your poor, trembling heart admits that there is some hope--that if you seek mercy you may obtain it. I know that there is not only hope, but certainty. Jesus casts out none that come to Him, and He is willing to receive the vilest of the vile. But I put the question now as your unbelief puts it; it is not even to you an absolute certainty that Christ will reject you--is it? It is not quite certain that if you pray to Him He will refuse to hear your prayer. At least, it does not admit of positive proof that if you were to trust the blood of Christ you would perish. Look at the question for a moment in another light. It is certain that if you perish as you now are, you will perish without pity and without mercy. The law under which you are convicted knows nothing about forgiveness. Condemned already because you are under the law, the law provides no sacrifice for sin. But now, do you not feel that even if you could perish after coming to God through Christ, yet you would not perish without having some ray of pity? Would there not be at least this consolation for you--“I did what God counselled me; I did come to Him and ask for mercy; I did plead the precious blood of Christ, and yet He rejected me”; and do you not think that this would be a balm to you? Yet further, you ought to remember that all those who have continued in a state of nature have, without exception, perished.
II. The cogitation of these men ended in action. I wish the like were true of all of you. How many resolves have been strangled in this house of prayer! How many good thoughts have been murdered in those pews! Look, see, can you not find their blood upon your own skirts? Many a time that tear which betokens the first rising emotion has been wiped away, and the emotion with it. May it not be so to-night, but oh! may God grant that, like the lepers, we may put into action that which we shall think over, and accomplish that which, by the help of God the Holy Spirit, we shall be enabled to resolve upon.
1. Undoubtedly the action of the lepers was bold. Cowardice would have sat still. Cowardice would have said, “Well, it is true we shall perish if we sit here, but still we will not go just yet; we are very hungry, but we may bear it another hour,” and thus only an extreme pinch would have driven them out. Now, it seems a very bold thing to you, my unknown but trembling hearer, to think of going to Christ by faith. “Why,” say you, “I have not the impudence to do it: look at what I have been.”
2. But while these lepers did a bold thing, I pass on to notice that they did it unanimously. It is not said that three of them went, but that the other said, “No, I will not go yet.” It does not say that two said, “When we have a more convenient season we will go.” It was a mercy for them that they were all hungry, for if they had not been they would not have gone. It was, probably, a great mercy for them that they were all lepers, or else they would not have been decided, and would never have dared to go. What a mercy it is for you, sinner, to know that you are a sinner! No, no; we sow much, but we reap little, compared with what our hearts desire. Where stands there the man or the woman here who intends to sit down and die? Well, if you do choose it, choose it deliberately.
3. Bear with me while I remind you again that the action of the lepers was also instantaneous. They said, “We will go,” and at once they went. Many say, “ I go, sir,” but they go not. We can all of us remember times before our conversion to God when we have been impressed under solemn sermons, and some of you can recollect how you have made haste home, and have gone upstairs, and have shut the door and prayed; but idle conversation dissipated the serious impression. And how many more there are who, while their hearts have been searched under the Word have said, “Please God to spare me another day, I’ll think over those things.” But where are you now?
4. How well they were all of them rewarded for what they did. Not one of them perished. They were all saved; not one came back empty-handed; they were all enriched. Nor shall one of you--my life for yours--not one of you seeking mercy through Christ shall be refused it. You shall all be blessed, all adopted, all saved, who are by the Spirit of God led to put your trust in Christ at this welcome moment.
III. These lepers no sooner found what was good for themselves than they straightway went off to tell it to others. And if you have found Christ, after you are sure you have received Him, and have rejoiced in Him for a little season, and fed upon Him, and enriched yourselves by Him as your hidden treasure, it behoves yon to go and tell to others of His grace, and your joy. This Gospel is not to be stifled. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
To sit still is to die
Their case seemed hopeless. Yet they rightly judged that to remain inactive--to sit still--was the unwisest thing they could do--left them not one chance of life. The same principle will hold good in every man’s history. There are critical periods in his life when his whole future hangs on his personal decision as to his course. Various courses suggest themselves, and he is often in doubt and perplexity which to adopt. But decide he must, and decide he does, for weal or woe, in time and in eternity. To sit still and do nothing in these critical periods is suicidal.
1. It is so in the ordinary business affairs of this life. Thousands are ruined by inactivity--by, lack of incisive, heroic resolution and effort in the crisis of their affairs. They “sit still” till the opportunity to retrieve themselves is lost; till the tide of irresistible fate sets in against them.
2. It is so in the formation of character. There are critical periods when to “sit still” and let things take their course, is to forfeit all self-control, to put yourself, soul and body, at the mercy of evil associates, demoralising principles, and ruinous habits--in a word, to make shipwreck of character.
3. It is so with the awakened sinner. It is the most critical period of his life. Decide now he must the most momentous question that ever trembled on human lips, “What must I do to be saved?” He cannot evade it. He cannot postpone it, without infinite peril.
4. It is so with every sinner living under the Gospel. To “sit still” is certain death. To do nothing, absolutely nothing, in the way of inquiring after truth, repenting of sin, seeking Christ, obeying the Gospel, is to make our “damnation sure”! It is a great mistake which many fall into, that positive hostility and active resistance to the Gospel are necessary to ensure condemnation. The negative position and conduct is amply sufficient. Not to believe--not to accept Christ in the relations offered: not to possess the character and bear the fruit of the Christian life--is to render one’s salvation impossible. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (J. M. Sherwood.)
Sitting still to die
Last night when I was thinking upon this subject, I had a half-waking dream, and I thought I stood along the Hudson River Railway track, and I saw a man sitting on that track. I went up to him, and said: “My friend, don’t you know you are in peril? The Chicago express will be along in a few moments.” I found he was deaf, and did not hear. I tried to pull him away from that peril, and he resisted me and said: “What do you mean by bothering me. I am doing nothing. Am I disturbing you? I am doing nothing at all. I am just sitting here.” At that moment I heard in the distance the thunder of the express train. A moment afterwards I saw the head light of the locomotive flash around the corner. I held fast to the rocks that I might not be caught in the rush of the train. Like the horizontal thunder-bolt it hurled past. When the flagman came, five minutes after, with his lantern, there was not so much as a vestige left to show that a man had perished there. What had the victim been doing there? Nothing at all. He was only sitting still--sitting still to die. So I find men in my audience. I tell them the peril of living without God. They say, “I am not doing anything. I don’t lie. I don’t swear. I don’t steal. I don’t break the Sabbath. I am sitting here in my indifference, and what you say has no effect upon my soul at all. I am just sitting here.” Meanwhile, the long train of eternal disaster is nearing the crossing, and the bridges groan, and the cinders fly, and the driving wheels speed on, and there is a blinding rush, and, in the twinkling of an eye they “perish from the way, when God’s wrath is kindled but a little.” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
2 Kings 7:9-11
Then they said one to another, We do not well.
Public testimony: A debt to God and man
You are not surprised to find that, when those four lepers outside the gate of Samaria, had made the great discovery that the Syrian camp was deserted, they first satisfied their own hunger and thirst. End quite right too. Who would do otherwise? It is true that they were bound to go and tell other hungry ones; but they could do that with all the louder voice, and they were the more sure of the truth they had to tell, when they had first refreshed themselves. It might have been a delusion: they were prudent to test their discovery before they told it. Having refreshed and enriched themselves, they bethought them of going to tell the besieged and starving citizens. I would advise every soul that has found Christ to imitate the lepers in this matter. Make sure that you have found the Saviour. Eat and drink of him; enrich yourself with him; and then go and publish the glad tidings. Personal enjoyments of true godliness assist us in our testimony for truth and grace. But the point I desire to bring out is this: if those lepers had stopped in the camp all night, if they had remained lying on the Syrian couches, singing, “Our willing souls would stay in such a place as this”; and if they had never gone at all to their compatriots, shut up and starving within the city walls, their conduct would have been brutal and inhuman. I am afraid that some of my hearers have never yet confessed the work of God in their souls. It should not be a matter of one solemn occasion, but our whole life should be a witness to the power and grace which we have found in Christ.
I. To hide the discovery of Divine grace would be wrong.
1. For, their silence would have been contrary to the Divine purpose in leading them to make the discovery. Why were these four lepers led into the camp that they might ]earn that the Lord of hosts had put the enemy to the rout Why, mainly that they might go back, and tell the rest of their countrymen.
2. Thee people would not only have been false to the Divine purpose, but they would have failed to do well. They said one to another, “We do not well.” Did it ever strike some of you that it is a very serious charge to bring against yourselves, “We de not well?” “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
3. Besides this, had those lepers held their tongues, they would actually have been doing evil. Suppose that they had kept their secret for four-and-twenty hours, many hundreds might have died of starvation within the walls of Samaria: had they so perished, would not the lepers have been guilty of their blood?
4. Again, these lepers, if they had held their tongues, would have acted most unseasonably. Note how they put it themselves: they say, “We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace.” O, has Jesus washed your sins away, and are you silent about it?
5. One thing more: silence may be dangerous. What said these men? “If we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us.” That morning light is very close to some of you. If you tarry till to-morrow morning before you have spoken about Christ, some mischief may come upon you.
II. If we “have made the blessed discovery of Christ’s gracious work in routing our enemies, and providing for our needs, and if we have tasted of the fruit of that glorious victory ourselves, we ought to make a very explicit avowal of that discovery. It ought to be confessed very solemnly, and in the way which the Lord himself has appointed.
1. This ought to be done very decidedly, because our Lord requires it.
2. Next, if you have found Christ, the man who was the means of leading you to Christ has a claim upon you that he should know of it.
3. Next I think the church of God has a claim upon all of you who have discovered the great love of Jesus. Come and tell your fellow-Christians. Tell the good news to the King’s household. The church of God is often greatly refreshed by the stories of new converts.
4. Besides that, a testimony decided for Christ is due to the world. If a man is a soldier of the cross, and does not show his colours, all his comrades are losers by his want of decision.
III. This declaration should be continually made. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Missionary sermon to young men and women
On three grounds it is imperative upon us that we should carry that secret as far as we can, and as deep as we can, to hearts of our brother men.
I. On grounds of principle. “We do not well”; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace. It is one of the obvious arguments for foreign missions that brotherhood and generosity, and the prodigality of the Great Message itself, all alike demand the widest proclamation of the Gospel. That is true, and can never be otherwise than true. There is a wealth of joy and of moral quickening in the good news of salvation, which it were an everlasting shame to limit by any miserable parochial barriers. Good news of this character is, in its very nature, expansive--universal. “We do not well,” which being interpreted means, we are not acting honestly; we are revelling in sudden and incredible wealth. But it does not belong to us. It belongs to all; it is meant for all. There is no monopoly in the Gospel. Judaism is the historic example of the principle of religious monopoly at work, and Judaism measured swords with Christianity only to receive its deathblow. There are diversities of gifts; there are principles of election and selection at work undoubtedly; there are varieties of opportunity; but there is no diversity, no election, no variety, in regard to the destination of the Gospel. When the crass wails of Judaism fell before the outburst of the river of life the whole world was open to the hurrying stream, and thank God could never more be severed or shut up from it again There is no hint in all the Divine programme that an Englishman should make a better Christian than a Chinaman, or that wisdom might die with Western civilisation. The broad fact which the gospel bears upon its front, the fact to which Christ witnessed in so many suggestions and assertions, is this: that He comes to seek and to save the lost of all nations, that differences of race count nothing before the boundlessness of His compassion and power, and that nobody on earth can predict--only the great day will declare it--which race or language or colour may rise to the noble pre-eminence of revealing most perfectly the bloom and the fruitage of a divine life. Indeed, we do not well in holding our peace. The spirit of our faith demands that we be not silent, and if we are, do we not repeat in a more subtle, but not less deadly, form the sin of which every worldling is guilty? But there are other grounds on which we ought to have a greater zeal for this work, and I mention secondly--
II. On grounds of policy. If we tarry till the morning light, our iniquity will find us out. Of course it will. A fine philanthropy may often be stimulated, and not unworthily, by some stirring of the instinct of self-preservation, when their craven deed of the night came to be known--and the morning would make it known inevitably--they would get but short shrift from those who at last came to their own; their wisdom lay in communicating the secret and sharing in the common lot of enrichment and of joy. And it seems to me that here there lies enshrined a warning of the gravest consequence to Christian people and Christian nations to-day. Expansion with concentration is the condition of a vigorous and worthy life. Concentration without expansion means sterility and death.
III. On grounds of personal obligation to Jesus Christ. The parallel of our text may not carry us quite so far as I would go, yet it carries us a good way. “Let us go now and tell the king’s household.” There was clearly in the mind of the lepers some thought of loyalty to the king at this great crisis in national history, and for us Christians it is true that supreme above all other considerations, whether principle or policy, it is our personal obligation to Christ to see that His last words are obeyed to the letter. Our King’s household is a great company--a multitude that no man can number. They are waiting in every country--among the jungle villages of India, under the sultry southern skies, amid the teeming millions of China among the islands of the sea, waiting to have their heart-hunger appeased by the Word of Life; waiting for the one splendid disclosure that can make the whole world new. And you possess the secret. You do not well nor wisely to hold your peace. Run, cry about for joy in the ear of all nations, Christ is King, and His mercy endureth for ever. Now, when the time comes you will be saved from all mishaps, end from that hand which is worse than any mishap. There will be no sweeter words spoken by the lips of the Master in the great day than these: “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did unto Me.” (A. Connell, M. A. , D. D.)
Christian privilege and duty
I. First, the blessedness of gospel times. It is “a day of good tidings.” Mark the goodness of the tidings which the Gospel brings. When these lepers drew year to the porter of the gate of Samaria, there was no doubt it was a gospel which they had to proclaim. Now, instead of famine, there should be abundance; instead of darkness, light; instead of terror, peace; instead of despair, hope. And is not this the very character of the tidings which your ministers bring to you from Sabbath to Sabbath--good tidings of great joy? If, then, Samaria was told that a mighty enemy had been affrighted, and that Samaria need no longer fear, so now I bring you the tidings that Satan, our great enemy, has had a fright. He has heard the approaching footsteps of One stronger than he, and now there is enough and to spare for all hungry and thirsty souls. Let me once more proclaim this Gospel to every one of you. I have good tidings for every soul in this assembly. Guilty spirit, listen! “The Blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.’” Struggling spirit, listen! “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Bewildered spirit, listen! “All things work together for good to them that love God, and to them that are called according to His purpose.” Tired, weary spirit, listen! “I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go I will come again, and receive you to Myself, that where I am ye may be also.” These are the tidings I bring to you. Thus much for the goodness of these tidings; a word as to their newness. Why, even at this moment “They are a new tidings to a very large portion of the inhabitants of our world.
II. The evil of selfishly enjoying these gospel times. “We do not well,” these lepers said to one another; we do not well; “this day is a day of good tidings and we hold our peace.” “We do not well”; we show a wart of common benevolence if we simply receive the Gospel and make no effort to diffuse it. There is a close tie between man and man. Reason and Scripture both tell us of a bond of brotherhood which unites me to every other individual of my race. I ought to abound in sympathy, to rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep. The second commandment is not repealed by the Gospel, it is sanctioned, enforced, confirmed--“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Now just suppose that these lepers had revelled down there at the bottom of the hill among the luxuries of the Syrian camp and sent no tidings into Samaria. Suppose that by some accident one of the Samaritans heard that there were these men revelling, and that there was enough and to spare, and they had sent no tidings into the city: how the selfishness of these men would be cursed! What a howl of indignation would ring through all the streets and homes of Samaria! We do not well, for there is a want of loving obedience in this. We do not well, for we rob ourselves of the highest enjoyment of the Gospel. There is nothing, that appears clearer to those of us who have got into middle age, and are getting on to the end of life, than this. I never can be happy if I simply try to make myself happy. Selfishness always defeats itself. (F. Tucker, B. A.)
The lepers of Samaria
I. The times in which we live. “This day is a day of good tidings.” And is it not a day of good tidings? What are the peculiarities of the day in which we are called to live? There are these four peculiarities in it; the first of which I will now mention:--that Jesus Christ has obtained a complete conquest over all our enemies. And this is the great and especial truth which is published in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Moreover, “this is a day of good tidings,” because Jesus Christ has procured an ample provision for all our necessities. The spoil is ours; the glory is his, The conquest was made by Himself, and through that conquest all the benefits of salvation are now amply provided and amply presented to our use. But there is another point connected with this good tidings, and that is this that Jesus Christ has led many of us who are present to participate in the provisions of his love. And this makes it “a day of good tidings” to us. The four leprous men exemplify our condition. Like them we were cast out of the congregation of the saints; like them we were loathsome in our own eyes: like them, we were infectious to our neighbours: like them, we were under the ban and curse of God; but, like these leprous men, He filled us with views of our own misery, made us discontented with the state in which we were, raised a spark of hope in our bosoms, that for us there might be hope, and that we might, as we could not be in a worse condition, be better, by application to His mercy and grace. But there is another point connected with the day in which we live--that Jesus Christ has opened channels for the publication of these good tidings to others. This day may be emphatically called, indeed, “a day of good tidings.”
I. The text reproves our indifference to the miseries of others. “We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings.” Certainly, then, “we do not well.”
1. For let it be remembered that while this disposition exists in the mind, we dishonour our character. What is our character? If we have believed in Christ, we are the sons of God; we are united to Christ, our Elder Brother, and we are under infinite obligations to his boundless love, inexpressible obligations to His gracious care and love to us. Now, all He asks us, in return for His love to us, is, to love Him in return--not to be ashamed of Him; to establish His kingdom, and to give ourselves up to His service.
2. But we not only dishonour our character, but we disobey Christ’s command. Our prayers have been, Lead me into Thy truth, and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation: Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” has been our cry. Now this is His instruction: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, beginning at Jerusalem.”
III. The text pronounces our punishment if we delay. “If we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will befall us.”
1. If we delay this work our eyes shall see the destruction of our kindred. When our beloved Lord had used all efforts to evangelise Jerusalem, by preaching, by miracles, by residing amongst them, by various conversations, and yet, after all their misery affected His heart; He could not look upon them without tears. Many times He wept in His prayers; but there are two scenes only recorded where He publicly wept; the one was at the grave of Lazarus, His dear friend; and the other was when He looked over Jerusalem, and saw the people perishing--people who had discarded the prophets that had been sent them. Now what should our grief, beloved, be, to see souls brought every hour to the brink of hell, and know that, if they die, they must fall therein, and to reflect that we have used no adequate means to succour and save their souls! There is however, another point to consider.
2. The evil that shall befall us shall be this--our souls shall want the joys of God’s salvation.
3. Again: our conduct shall receive the condemnation of Christ. I refer now to the last day. That is so plainly spoken of, that it needs no illustration: “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.”
IV. The text would, in the last place, suggest the conduct which you ought to adopt under present circumstances. “Let us go,” the text says, “and tell the king’s household.” And, brethren, let us go and carry the Gospel to our poor brethren and sisters in England that are perishing for lack of knowledge. It suggests that we should go and tell of these glad tidings, because success is certain. Success is certain, what though many of your dear missionaries, who toil night and day in the work, have not had extended encouragement of their heart’s desire which you could wish--will you give up? Finally, let us furnish, this gospel to our countrymen, for our opportunities are vanishing. Time is hastening on; health is inconstant; the fashion of the world passeth away. This, this is the only time we can use our strength, and talents, and time, and money. (J. Sherman.)
The right and the prudent
I. The right. The silver and the gold which they had discovered they had hidden away; and now, perhaps, conscience told them it was not right. It is not right for us to conceal the good we have discovered, or to appropriate it entirely to our own use, let us communicate it. The distribution of good is right. Every man should be ready to communicate. The monopoly of material good is a huge wrong, and the crying sin of the age. Monopolies in trade, in land, in power, political and ecclesiastical, must be broken up, the wants of society and the claims of eternal justice demand it. What is truly “glad tidings” to us we should proclaim to others. The rays of joy that fall over our own lives we should not retain, but reflect.
II. The prudent. If these poor men felt it was right to communicate to others the tidings of the good they had received or not, they certainly felt it was prudent. Not to do the right thing must cause some “mischief,” mischief not only to the body, but to the soul as well, to the entire man. There is no true prudence apart from rectitude. What is wrong in moral principle is mischievous in conduct. He who is in the right., however outvoted by his age, is always in the majority, for he has His vote, which carries all material universes and spiritual hierarchies with it. Right is infallible utilitarianism. (Homilist.)
Religion to be made known
Burner, in his History of our own Times, quotes Lord Shaftesbury of the seventeenth century as saying: “People differ in their discourses and professions about theological matters, but men of sense are really of one religion.” When asked “What is that religion?” the Earl rejoined, “That, men of sense never tell!” This may be the religion of the worldling and cynic, but the religion of the regenerated man cannot but utter itself. Its light shines-it cannot be hid. Life must out. Divine life is irrepressible.
2 Kings 7:17-20
And it came to pass as the man of God had spoken.
God’s promise realised and His truth vindicated
We have here an instance of two things--
I. God’s promise realised. In the first verse of this chapter Elisha had said. “Hear ye the word of the Lord, Thus saith the Lord, To-morrow, about this time, shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel.” The morrow had come, and here is the fine flour and the barley selling in the gate of Samaria. Here is the Divine promise fulfilled to the letter. God is ever faithful Who hath promised.
II. God’s truth vindicated. The haughty courtier said to the prophet yesterday, when he was told that a measure of fine flour would be sold for a shekel, “If the Lord would make windows in heaven, then might this thing be.” As if he had said, “Do not presume to impose on me, a man of my intelligence and importance. The intellectual rabble may believe in you, but I cannot.” Whereupon the prophet replied, “Thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” And so it became. Here are the flour and the barley, and there lies dead the haughty sceptic. Truth has ever vindicated itself, and will ever do so. Men’s unbelief in facts does not either destroy or weaken facts, the facts remain. Though all the world deny the existence of a God, moral obligation and future retribution, the facts remain. (Homilist.)
The people trode upon him in the gate, and he died.
The fate of unbelief
1. We see that God will punish unbelief. There is an impression in the minds of many that the old dispensation was one of works, and that belief or faith in God is a doctrine only of the new. It is, however, the teaching of the entire Bible, and for all time, that in the eye of God the great sin of man is unbelief. The language is clear and unmistakable. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” He that cometh unto Him must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that seek Him. He must believe that when the necessities of His kingdom on earth, or the wants and salvation of His people demand it, no laws of nature can stand in the way of His giving relief.
2. We note that this man’s final doom was pronounced at least one whole day before his death. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin, and yet there is such a thing as a sin that shall never be forgiven. I believe this is oftener committed by what the world calls moral men than by the desperately wicked. I believe it consists in a deliberate and persistent rejection of God’s truth with the heart, while that truth is clearly known with the head. It is a combination of light in the understanding and determined darkness in the will. This man had been privileged to walk with God’s servant, but would not walk with God.
3. We note that this man perished in sight of blessing. It is possible to realise truth too late. It has been forcefully said, earth is the only place in God’s universe where there is any infidelity. Hell itself is nothing but the truth believed too late. The fabled Tantalus was placed in sight of water and food, yet left to die of thirst and starvation. Dives lifted up his eyes in torment and saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, and there is such a thing as rejecting the offers of Jesus and then being compelled to witness the delight of those who are foolish enough to believe God’s promises and wise enough to accept them. (W. H. M’Caughey, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Kings 7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany