Tucked into this rarely read section in the Old Testament of our Bibles is a compelling story that can motivate and mobilize New Testament believers for mission. God’s people in Samaria, Northern Israel, are besieged by their Syrian enemy and struck by a lethal famine. Prices are exorbitant; desperate people resort to cannibalism! To add to the commotion, God sends Elisha to prophesy that in 24 hours, grain will be plentiful in town. A captain mocks this possibility, but is warned of a coming judgment. Frustrated and furious, Israel’s King Jehoram blames God, vowing to behead Elisha.
At this juncture, four lepers decide to go into enemy territory and risk their lives for the chance to find mercy and some food. God uses the bold mission of these lepers to fulfill Elisha’s prophecy. He turns their footsteps into the terrifying sounds of a mighty army of chariots. The horrified Syrians leave everything in their camps and flee for their lives! The lepers help themselves to the supplies, hoarding their findings. Suddenly they realize: “We do not well, if we do not tell” (v. 9). They recognize that it is a day of good tidings and their time is short, so they go report this to Israel.
Israel discovers the lepers’ testimony to be true. They plunder the rich spoil; God’s Word is fulfilled, and grain is sold cheap at the gate. People rush to get a share and in the chaos the contemptuous captain is trod to death. God’s power and providence shows up best in weak people with audacious faith. And He does so on behalf of those who demonstrate they are unworthy yet graciously enabled to “go and tell” others. We do well to follow their example of faith for mission. The Gospel has an impelling “Go” in it!
We can maintain at least four different attitudes toward the divine mandate to “Go and Tell”:
1. Godless King of Samaria: “Go and Kill” (6; 7:12)
King Jehoram, when faced with a national crisis, threatens to renounce YHWH and attempts to kill God’s prophet. When things don’t happen our way, we often react by doubting God’s presence and promises. We tend to lose our faith in God and seek to destroy the faith in others! (1 Th. 2:15) This is common in the leaders of socialistic or humanistic nations in which missionaries serve.
2. The Skeptic Captain: “Go away, no way!” (7:2, 17-20)
The royal attending officer scoffs at the possibility of Elisha’s prophecy. He does not heed the warning, therefore doomed to face the dreadful consequence of faithlessness. Leaders who once trusted God but become cynical do well to realize that God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). God always has the last word! Leaders must fearlessly use their influence to guide people into trusting God.
3. The Probing Officer: “Go and Check Out” (7:12-15)
After receiving the good news, this particular servant of the king is still suspicious. Relying on his experience, he suggests they send two chariot horses to ensure this isn’t a deceptive strategy. The Gospel is not based or built on human reason, but it’s reasonable (Isa. 55:1). Faith is not a leap in the dark, but daily walking in the light of God’s Word. For our secular world, “seeing is believing,” yet as believers we know, “obeying is seeing” and rewarding!
4. Israel, God’s People: “Go and Spoil” (7:16)
It is sad to see how carelessly God’s people feast upon God’s abundance. We tend to gratify our own immediate wants, then selfishly store up for the future. The goodness of God must lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4). We must be living of sacrifices in order to be generous kingdom people! The lepers teach us that we are all like them spiritually—dirty, distant, and undeserving of grace.
Let’s Do Well and Go Tell
Often during a crisis we feel like we ought to “Go and Die!” And when blessed, we tend to, “Go and Hide,” but God’s grace mandates us to “Go and Tell!” God’s grace is lavished on believers. Why? Our obligation now is to “Go Tell” others and the urgency is to tell them while we still can!