Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sitting in the gate

One of the interesting aspects of Shakespearian comedy is his use of a "chorus-like" troupe of fools.  It usually is a band of men who bumble around and accidentally forward the plot.  In "Much Ado about Nothing", the part is taken by the fool Dogberry.  With Shakespeare's fondness for appropriate nomenclature, with a name like Dogberry, you can imagine what kind of character he is.

I think Shakespeare stole this device from II Kings 7.  Israel had been in a siege by the Syrians for so long that there was a famine in the city of Samaria.  Hunger was so acute that people were threatening to turn to cannibalizing their own children.  Elisha, under threat of death by the king, had prophesied the end of the siege and the return of cheap food prices.  However, as night fell, the tents of the Syrians still surrounded the city.

At twilight (not the movie), a group of four disfigured fellows, lepers, stood at the gate of the city.  By Levitical law, they were not permitted to enter the city.  They began to reason with each other.  "We cannot go into the city, or we die.  We cannot stay here, or we starve.  Let's go see what's happening down at the Syrian camp.  If they spare our lives , we will live.  If they kill us, well, that's no worse than the consequences of staying here."

What these lepers didn't know was that the Lord had already finished the work of breaking the siege.  In the twilight (again, not the movie), He had cause them to hear the sound of thundering horses, chariots, and mighty men.  They assumed that Israel had hired mercenaries to attack them.  In their irrational fear, they chose not to fight, but to flee.  Away they ran leaving everything exactly where it was.  What little they carried, they dropped along the way.

Imagine this motley troupe stumbling out of the city and entering the outskirts of the Syrian camp.  The go to the first tent they come to.  Astonishingly, it's empty.  The horses are still tethered.  The chariots are still there, but there are no people around.  Inside, all the furnishings are still in their places.  In fact, it looks as if dinner is ready.  The four cannot believe their fortune.  They eat and drink and relax as they hadn't done in a long time.  They search the tent and find gold and silver.  Instantly, they had become wealthy.  Quickly they gather us as much as their diseased hands can hold and hide it in their secret stash.  They go to the next tent and repeat the process.

Having plundered two tents, they take a break and conference together.  "This isn't right.  This is a great day of deliverance for the city and we haven't told anyone about it."  They run and tell the watchman the good news.  The king doesn't believe it until he sends a reconnaissance team to investigate the situation.  When the truth is known, the people rush out of the gate so violently, that the officer who doubted Elisha's prophecy was trampled to death.

The gospel is the plunder of those of us who are lepers.  It satisfies our spiritual hunger and thirst.  It turns beggars into rich heirs of eternity.  The question is whether we horde it or share it with others.  It is not right for us to keep its riches only to ourselves.  The gospel is an even for rejoicing.  Woe to us if we let the city starve while we feast.

God uses the strangest people to do His bidding.  I like that.  Being strange and identifying with lepers, it assures me when God uses such as these that He also uses the likes of me.  I have to wonder though, does God use people who have nothing left to lose?  I think so.  These four had nothing to lose as the went into the enemy camp.  While not completely analogous, it seems to me that to attempt great things for God, we need to see ourselves as having nothing left to lose.  Perhaps better, in attempting great things for God, we have everything to gain.  In our minds, we need to understand that we have no other reasonable option other than to do what God has set before us.  Following God into the enemy camp may seem illogical to those who do not understand that He also opens heaven and chases away His and our foes.  If we live, we live.  If we die, we die.  Whatever happens, we will follow the one who saved us.


  1. Amazing the stories that God chose to place in Scripture. I'm glad we have the example of God using battered and broken men to bring the good news to disbelieving people. Today, we are hesitant because we don't want o embarrass ourselves. We are worried about our reputation or whether we are liked. We need the "courage" of these guys and Esther, who said, "If I perish, I perish."

  2. Good article! I'd love to read more posts like this.


    (I'm posting anonymously because I tried posting using my Wordpress account but it looks like it's easier this way)