August 11, 2019

2 Kings 7:3-9

Did you know you cannot win the lottery anonymously in Georgia? If you want to win the lottery and remain anonymous, you need to buy tickets in Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Carolina.

Most states want their lottery winners to make media appearances because that’s good for business. They want others to see how the lottery changed the lives of people living off welfare, or how the common laborers at a local plant pooled their money to buy a bunch of tickets to win.

They even want you to hear about that wealthy person that wins to show you that people in all economic brackets purchase tickets. They want you to identify with the winners and go out and buy tickets.

I’m still waiting for that Baptist preacher to win and now has to explain to his congregation his theology about winning the lotto. He might have to begin with, “Well, the Lord said the devil had that money long enough.”

Of course, the lotto system never shows you the numbers of poor people versus other economic brackets that purchase lottery tickets or the number of people that are addicted to buying lotto tickets. The debate will rage on about its good verses its destruction.

This sermon isn’t about whether you should or should not purchase lotto tickets. I suppose if you are buying them, and you win, I hope God helps you manage your life and the money wisely because it’s been shown that your good fortune could destroy your life instead of making it better.

When I read 2 Kings 7, I was reminded of the lottery because the lepers in this story sort of won the lottery of their day.”

At first, they thought their good fortune had solved their problems, and then it was like, “Uh, oh, our good fortune is going to get us into a lot of trouble.”

Here’s what happened.

The King of Syria gathered his army and went up and besieged Samaria and created a great famine in the city. The shortage of food was so significant that some of the people were resorting to cannibalism. Wow!

Four men with leprosy had been separated from the population and were cast outside of the city gates. The famine made their plight worse, and no one came to their aid. It was just a matter of time before these men died.

Instead of staying there and starving to death, they decided to go to the Syrian (Aramean) camp and hope they might get some food. It was risky but better than the alternative. When they got there, they found the gate of the camp open. There was no one in the city at all.

Chapter 7:6-7 says, “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!’ 7 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.”

Imagine what these lepers found when they arrived at this abandoned camp.

There was food in the tents which they helped themselves to. They found silver, gold, and clothes. They carried some of it outside the camp and buried it so that they could find it later.

As they walked cautiously inside the camp, they looked carefully, expecting someone to come out from behind a building or structure at any moment to harm them. But with each step deeper into the city, their caution eventually gave way to an abandonment of joy.

These starving lepers went from one tent to the other, eating and drinking, and carrying away more and more loot. It was like hitting the lottery.

Then reality set in.  They knew someone would eventually discover what had happened and discover them.  If they didn’t tell the right people, they would pay a high price.

“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 7:9

“So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, ‘We went into the Aramean camp and no one was there – not a sound of anyone – only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.’ 11 The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace. (10-11)

Now, what can we learn from this story?

The four lepers had an entire city of provisions at their disposal. They had done nothing to deserve what they found. They merely stumbled upon a deserted city. You can call it luck. You can say it was providence. You can say they came upon it because they had some initiative to get up and do something about their condition.

You can also say this is an example of grace. They sat down to eat food they didn’t grow, drink wine from grapes they didn’t grow, and took loot they didn’t work for. They eventually concluded that they needed to share what they had stumbled upon with the king and the people.

Once the king’s men found out the story was true, the news of the empty city spread quickly. It didn’t take long for the city to be picked clean of all of its food and its loot by the Samaritan people.

In a western movie, I watched not long ago, the Federal Government was opening a section of land to be reclaimed in a land grab.  The first people on the property to stake their claim to the land were the ones who got to claim ownership to it.

One man reached a 40-acre section of land section that had already been settled with a house and barn.  But instead of keeping it for himself, he gave it back to its original owners.  He could have kept for himself but in an act of grace, he gave it away.

When people act this way toward us, it releases within us gratitude and desire to tell others what they have done for us.

We want to tell somebody about it.

When God blesses us, we should feel the same way.

When God is the lighthouse that keeps us from crashing on the rocks, we ought to tell somebody.

When God is the well that keeps our thirst quenched, we ought to tell somebody.

When God is the sunshine that keeps the darkness from overwhelming our lives, we ought to tell somebody.

When God is the Great Physician who brings healing to our sin-sick souls, we ought to tell somebody.

When God is the compass that gives direction to our lives when we have lost our way, we ought to tell somebody.

When God is the eye that sees all that we cannot see, the mind that knows all that we cannot know, the ear that hears all that we cannot understand, we ought to tell somebody.

Tell me, when is the last time you’ve told somebody what God has done for you?

We have the choice of sitting down to a table of plenty and not inviting anyone to the party or we can tell people about the grace we’ve been given and invite others to join us.

Think about the blessings that you have in your life. Can you even count them all?

It’s easy to think that we have earned or deserved them all. It’s more realistic to think of blessings as extensions of God’s grace.

We are like the lepers sitting down to food and drink amidst tents of plenty this morning–plenty of grace, plenty of love, plenty of mercy, plenty of forgiveness, plenty of hope, plenty of direction, plenty of salvation.

One of the questions we need to ask ourselves is whether we will hoard God’s grace or whether we freely share it. Will we try and keep it all to ourselves, or will we realize that it’s not possible to keep it all. There is too much of it to hoard.

One of my favorite children’s books is “Stone Soup.”  It is about three soldiers who go through a community on their way home from war.

When one of the villagers see soldiers coming, she immediately runs through the town alerting the people, so they hid all of their food, so it would not be taken or demanded by the men.

The soldiers had no intentions of stealing from the people, but they were hungry. When they politely asked for some food, the villagers pretended not to have any.

So one of the soldiers announced that he would like to make soup from a stone, and he invited the people from the village to come and join them for a festive meal.

The soldiers borrowed a black pot, filled it with water and built a fire.

The soldiers then inserted a large, round stone, which drew a lot of interest.

Then one of them said, “This stone soup sure would be tastier if we had a few potatoes.”

At once, one of the villagers announced that he had a few potatoes stashed away in the basement. Off he went and retrieved them and into the pot they went.

Then another soldier said, “If we just had a few carrots, this stew would be among the finest we’ve ever cooked.” Soon, a women came back with her apron full of carrots.

The soldiers asked for ingredient after ingredient until the pot filled up with with a stew fit for a king.

The people who once pretended to have nothing to give found a contagious grace in offering what they had for a meal that benefited the entire village, not just the soldiers.

There is a great temptation to hoard and hold onto things because we are afraid that in giving them up, we will no longer benefit.

Jesus taught a different way. Jesus taught us to be gracious with our lives, which means our resources. It’s actually in giving ourselves away that the real benefit occurs.

Jesus’ example is of a life where he emptied himself, pouring out his life so that we might experience life in abundance and even into eternity. In doing so, he lived his life as God desired him to live it.

Emptying ourselves in such a way for others isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come naturally. While we do it sometimes for those we love, it’s a rare thing to do it for those we don’t.

Jesus’ grace was extended to us before we ever loved him, and Jesus challenges us to extend our grace to others before they ever love Jesus or us.

Jesus’ grace is so great, that should we try and hoard it all for ourselves, we ought to have the same kind of guilt come over us as the lepers did when they stumbled upon that city filled with wealth and tried to keep it to themselves.

God has blessed all of us. Everyone has something to give, something to offer, and something to contribute to the Kingdom of God.

Once we begin giving ourselves away and offering what God has blessed us with by His grace, our gift becomes contagious within the community of believers, and the Lord Jesus is glorified.

Have you been withholding something from God? Do you have time, money, devotion, commitment, resources, enthusiasm, service, a testimony, a gift, anything that you should be giving to God, but you are hoarding instead?

God has been gracious to you, but perhaps you have not been forthcoming with your obedience in giving to Him.

What are you holding back that you need to be adding to Kingdom?

Once you step forward and add what you have to the church and the kingdom what God has blessed you with, your gift will become contagious, and others will come forward with what they have, and the church will share a feast of love, hope, and goodness with the entire community.

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