Saturday, July 15, 2017

Being virtuous without wealth or power

I am in preparation for a sermon on 2 Kings 7.  A date less than a week away is set. Final preparations are being made.  It is a blessing to dwell on a particular part of Scripture.  {postscript: The sermon is now complete in fifteen slides commencing from this link
The Scripture contains a most startling indication of how four humble and broken lepers are virtuous.  

As the story opens the four lepers are stationed at the city gate.  That station is due of them by their disease.  It is a requirement of Levitical law.   The separation of the lepers from the community is a provision of cleanliness for the whole community.

Now, the lepers could accept their station with groans.  They could wail how unfair it is that they are cut-off.  They could make demands for their restoration.  After all, 2 Kings 6 concludes with news that he city is in such disarray that other Levitical laws are being breached.  Indeed, there is perhaps so much disarray in the city that the priests were unlikely to perform their duty of inspecting the lepers to see if they are healed.

Nonetheless, the lepers accept their lowly station at the city gate.  They accept their lot.  Why then do I conclude them to be virtuous?

There are four indicators of their virtue:

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.”

The first three indicators of virtue are evident in 2 Kings 7:9:
  1. The strongest indication is in their return to the city once they are aware of God's provision of the food in the enemy camp.  This indicates that they wish to share all that God has provided and that they care for their neighbours,
  2. The second indication is in how they act immediately.  They have travelled out from the city at dusk and seek to return before daylight. They hold it a priority to ensure good news is quickly shared with all, and,
  3. The third indicator is in the respect they have for the King and for order.  The lack of food was perhaps such a pressing thing that a message passed over the wall was called for.  Nonetheless, the lepers recognised the sense of reporting news in an ordered way to the King.
The final indicator of the leper's virtuous nature is found in the decision to travel at dusk.  While the lepers were least on the minds of the city folk, there absence from their station could perhaps be a sign of trouble.  That is, the lepers were unprotected by the city wall such that an attacking enemy would defeat them with ease.  The absence of the lepers from outside the gate - something that would be most noticeable in daylight - could herald danger.  The leper's travelled when their absence would be least noticed.

The virtuous nature of the lepers should bring joy to us all.  Even in our weakest ebb God provides for us.  Even we were are broken there is hope.  Even those who are outcasts can still show hold to integrity and respect.


Note: all links good as at 15 July 2017

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