A Thanksgiving Devotional — “Fourteen Lepers”
By Larry Steen
The story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus in Luke 17:11-19 is a familiar one. We are inspired by the one leper who returned to give thanks. And we are shamed by the nine who failed to do so, reminding ourselves of our own frequent ingratitude, our resultant need for repentance, and the Lord’s desire that we continuously live with thankful hearts.
The ten lepers remind me of another Biblical account that occurred about a thousand years earlier. The incident took place in the same general vicinity in Samaria and this time the incident involved only four lepers. The account is recorded in 2 Kings 6-8.
Ben-Hadad, King of the Arameans, laid siege to Samaria. Food became so frighteningly scarce that desperate mothers conspired to eat their own children (2 Kings 6:28-29). In time, Elisha the prophet prophesied that the famine would come to an abrupt end — overnight — and few believed that possible! He said that by the next day food would be both plentiful and inexpensive! That is where our four lepers come in. Let’s read their story:
“Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, ‘Why stay here until we die? If we say, “We’ll go into the city”—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.’
At dusk, they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!’ So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.
The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.
Then they said to each other, ‘What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.'” (2 Kings 7:3-9 NIV)
And that they did. The abandoned Aramean encampment amply supplied the need of the entire population of Samaria. Food was suddenly abundant! Inflated food prices collapsed. God had worked a great miracle, routing an as-yet undefeated, veteran army with merely the sounds of approaching chariots and horses. God is great!
And here is something to think about. Did the four lepers or even the people of Samaria, know that day what the Lord had done? When did they learn that the Lord had terrorized the Aramean camp with the sound of an approaching army? There was no Aramean left in the camp to tell them the story on that day. Did the Israelites learn some days or weeks afterward from a captured Aramean soldier what had happened in the camp? Or did God simply reveal this to the prophet Elisha? The text gives no indication that the four lepers knew why the camp was deserted. Like the nine lepers healed by Jesus, there is no record that they gave thanks to God and there is not even an acknowledgment that a miracle had taken place. For all we know they may have simply thought they stumbled that day into some amazingly good luck, and they felt obligated to share it with the inhabitants of Samaria. God was at work, but there was no acknowledgment on their part that He was.
The fact is, we often (usually? always?) face situations in which we do not see the full picture of God’s hand at work, yet we are confident in Romans 8:28 (KJV), “… we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Let us give thanks to God, not only for that which we see but for that which we do not see, the workings of God behind the scenes of which we remain unaware and may remain unaware until we arrive at our eternal home.
Larry Steen serves as the director of missions for the Mid-Maryland Baptist Association