Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Least of These

They were the nobodies, the shadow-people, the ones that everybody overlooked, and nobody cared for. People turned aside with loathing from the marks and sores upon their skin, the loss of their fingers and noses and toes; few were willing to admit in these sophisticated days that the greater cause of terror was their empty eyes. To be a leper was to be already dead while you still walked in the living world: dead to all those who had loved you, dead to your property and the skills by which you had earned it, and, worst of all, dead to the worship of God and the spiritual life of your people. Many believed, in the face of such incomprehensible misfortune, that they must be dead to God as well. They were the least in Israel, and in a time of siege and famine, nobody gave them a thought.

They huddled at the entrance to the city gate of Samaria, and considered their options. Within the gate there was severe famine in the city of Samaria; outside the gate was the besieging army of the Arameans. If they stayed where they were, neither in nor out, they would surely die; if they entered the city there was only death by starvation; perhaps the enemy army was their only hope. So, they decided, they would go and surrender to the Arameans. They might well be put to the sword, but death was a certainty anyway, and at least there was a chance this way that their lives might be spared.

So, in the grey light of dusk the grey men crept through the confusion of shadows to the enemy camp, quietly as the flight of owls, for they expected that their lives could be forfeit at any moment. But their caution was needless – there was no one there! The lepers had no idea that the prophet Elisha had prophesied the lifting of the siege, or that the hand of Almighty God Himself had caused the Arameans to imagine they heard the sound of war chariots, so that they fled in terror, for they were the outcasts, the least of men, and knew nothing of these things. All they knew was that only the horses and donkeys remained, the men had fled, and the deserted tents were full of their riches and an abundance of food. 

So they took for themselves all that they wanted and more, and only when they were sated did they remember the great need of their countrymen. They looked sheepishly at each other. “This isn’t right,” they said, “the whole starving city should be told about this good news! We would be culpable if we waited till daylight. Let’s go to the palace and tell them now!”

So they went back towards the city, no longer shrinking into the shadows of fear, but shouting out this miracle of sudden abundance. The gatekeepers took up the message, and soon the whole city knew. It was from the mouths of the disregarded and shunned, the least of them all, that that the truth of their deliverance came. And the city rejoiced.

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