The Midnight Expedition: Chapter 20

2 Kings 7:3-20  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
When brave and trustful people do lose heart and courage, they are often very depressed. Martin Luther, the great Reformer, was a comforter of many. His bright, cheery face and his words of hope helped those who came to tell him their troubles. Before he listened to their tale of woe, he always said, “Let us sing together Psalm 46, and then we will talk about it.” Yet Martin Luther himself once lost faith and was terribly depressed. All seemed to be going wrong. His work, he thought, was a failure; his plans were upset; his hopes were disappointed; the future looked gloomy and dismal. He became disheartened and very miserable. His wife, troubled over it, determined, if possible, to show him his mistake. She did this in a very strange way. Luther had been away from home for several days, and on his return he expected to find his wife watching for him as she always did, but she was nowhere to be seen. He went upstairs and found her seated in her room, dressed in deep mourning and holding her handkerchief to her eyes. In great alarm and fearing that one of the children must be dead, he asked her what was the matter. Her answer was, “God is dead.” “What do you mean?” he asked, thinking that she must have gone out of her mind. “God must be dead,” she replied, “or you could not be so cast down.” Martin Luther accepted the lesson and remembered that God was indeed his refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Am I ever full of doubts or fears? Am I ever cast down and depressed? Let me ask myself this question: Is God dead? If not - if God Almighty still lives - “why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
God has His own way, and His way is the best way. The unbelieving lord had mocked, saying, “If the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” but the people of Samaria found that God had His own way all ready.
Let us stand on the wall of Samaria and look around. All is going on just as we saw it before. Inside the walls are crying children and starving people; outside is the huge camp of the Syrians.
Just outside the city gate are four hungry and miserable men like those inside the city wall. They are outside, for they have the horrible disease of leprosy. It may be that so long as food remained in the city, bits had been thrown over the wall to them, but no morsels have been sent for a long time now.
They are discussing the matter. “What shall we do?” they say. “We cannot stay here any longer. A few more hours of this suffering will kill us. Let us make one last effort for our life. We are not allowed in the city, and it would not matter much if we were, for they are starving on that side of the wall, just as we are on this. Suppose we go down to the enemy’s camp. If we stay here, we must die. If we go there, we may die, but there is a chance of life. We will go.”
So these lepers, having argued the case out to their own satisfaction, gather their rags around their poor bodies, and as the night is coming on, they set off for the Syrian camp.
Tremblingly they start, leaving the walls of Samaria behind, standing out darkly against the evening sky. Very slowly they move, for at any moment - they know it; they feel it - they may fall into the enemy’s hands. They must surely be getting near the Syrian camp. Some sentinel may fall on them with his sword. They may have no time to explain why they have come and be killed immediately.
Still on they go, so far, in safety and no one disturbs them. Now they can see the white tents looming in the distance, yet no sentry has challenged them - no one has spoken to them. At length they are actually up to the enemy’s camp, yet they see no one and they hear nothing. They walk among the tents, but to their astonishment, they find that the tents are empty. The camp, which they had seen at sunset teeming with troops of soldiers, is deserted.
When no one appears and nothing terrible happens, they begin to grow braver. Stepping inside a tent, they find a meal spread out on a table. The poor, famished lepers gather around it and eagerly devour the meal that had been prepared by and for others.
When their cravings of hunger are satisfied, they begin to help themselves to other spoils. They take off their leprous rags and array themselves in fine Syrian garments. They help themselves to gold and silver and treasures of all kinds. They carry these outside the camp, find a hiding-place for them, and then return for more.
Finally one of the four cries out to his companions, “We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Here we are, eating and drinking, while our countrymen are dying of starvation. In this camp is enough and to spare for them too, yet we are helping ourselves and leaving them to perish.”
“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.” “No good will come to us if we keep the matter secret. Let us go at once and tell the good news to the starving people in the city.”
As we watch those four lepers hurry back to the city, surely God would have us learn a lesson from them. God, in His wonderful mercy, has given to us food in abundance, food for the body and food for the soul. Many of us live in a so-called “Christian” land with the Word of God freely and publicly available to us. And many of us have tasted of the good food and can say, “Jesus has satisfied me; He is the Bread of Life to my soul. I have come to Him; He has clothed me in new raiment, His spotless righteousness. He has given me freely of His treasures - pardon, peace, comfort and blessing.” But do we also say, “That is all I want now. I am content; I can sit down and enjoy the good things God has given to my soul”?
Stand up and look around. What do you see? Close by lies a starving world, shut in by Satan and his mighty host; close by you are souls dying-perishing-for want of Christ, the Bread of Life. Will you be so selfish, so utterly heartless, that you will take no notice of them? Will you not say with the lepers, “We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace”? If we tarry till the morning light, when the Master shall come, what will the Master say? How shall we answer Him, if we have folded our hands and done nothing to bring others to Him?
But see, the lepers have reached the city gate. Now once more they are hammering on the door. They not only knock, but they call to the porter who keeps the gate and tell him their good news. Inside the city the king is roused from his sleep, and the lepers repeat what they said at the gate.
At first the people are inclined to laugh at the story. But the lepers urge them to accept their statement and bid them notice their appearance. They stand before them altered men, completely changed. Before they were starved; now they are satisfied. Before they were in rags; now they are arrayed in magnificent clothing.
And it is what we are more than what we say that influences others. If those around see us different from what we were before - happy where we used to be discontented - kind and unselfish where we used to be self-seeking and thoughtless - then they see what the Lord Jesus can do. What they see leads them to wish that He would do the same things for them also.
The king of Samaria thought himself very clever. He was quite prepared to explain the whole story. “Oh,” said he, “I see through it; do not listen to these lepers. It is a clever trick of the enemy. They know we are hungry, so they have left their camp, teeming with food, to tempt us to go out. No doubt they are nearby watching. As soon as we go out, they will destroy us.”
But the famine-stricken people are not at all ready to accept the king’s explanation. Let five horses left in the city be mounted and scouts sent out to examine the Syrian camp and surrounding country, to find out if it be safe to venture out of the city. At last the king consents to allow two of the precious horses to go out.
“They took therefore two chariot horses; and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see.”
What did they find? The camp was deserted; the Syrians were indeed gone. All along the road to the Jordan River they found garments and gold and silver vessels which the Syrians had thrown away in their haste to escape quickly. The two scouts return with their good news.
Yes, God, the Almighty God, had frightened those Syrians as easily as we could frighten a fly which had settled on our table. In the dusk of evening He had caused them to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, the rolling and rumbling of wheels, the tramping and steady march of armed men. Hearing these sounds, they had said to each other, “Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.” They felt that not a moment was to be lost, and in mad haste they left their camp and fled towards the Jordan.
The Syrians were gone, the besieging army had vanished, and as the sun rises there is a mighty exodus from the famine-stricken city. The people are hurrying out to obtain the food for the lack of which they are dying. So great is their haste - so hungry are they for bread - that, as they crowd through the gateway, the man who was appointed to stand at the gate is trampled to death.
And who is he? He is the very lord who had sneered and scoffed at the Word of God, brought to him by the prophet. It is the very man who had said, “If the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be!” He saw it indeed with his eyes, as the prophet had foretold; he beheld plenty of food, abundance of bread coming into the city, but he never tasted it - he died before a single bite passed his lips.
“So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel [in the old marketplace, even the gate of the city], according to the word of the Lord.”
“Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass.”