Why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die. – II Kings 7: 3-4
Here is a classic example of what it means to be between a rock and a hard place. The Syrians came against the city of Samaria. But, since it was fortified by walls, they could not enter it. Therefore, these invaders decided to take the city by surrounding it and blocking the influx of food, water and supplies. Soon, there was a famine so severe within the city walls that the inhabitants ate donkey’s heads, dove’s dung and even their own boiled babies in order to survive. (II Kings 6: 25 -29)
At the time of this passage, we come upon four lepers who are sitting outside the gates of Samaria. They are between a rock and a hard place because death was staring them in the face from every direction. First of all, they were lepers and that was itself a sentence of death. Secondly, even if they had been welcomed to come into the city (which they were not), they would have died there because of the famine. Finally, choosing to go beyond the walls of the city also meant death because the Syrians had surrounded the city and were prepared to capture and kill anyone who left Samaria.
Today, one wonders what they would have done in such a situation. Yet, with death staring them down from, at least, three different directions, these lepers decided to live. They said: “Why sit we here until we die?”
1. They decided to live because death was not an option. Even though death was a threat, as far as they were concerned, it was not an option for them. They decided that they were going to get out of this predicament without having to die to do it.
2. They decided to live because as long as they were alive, they had a chance. Throwing a pity party and doing nothing meant certain death, but deciding to act gave them a chance to live.
3. They decided to live because even with leprosy, they believed that life was worth living. It is amazing what human beings have been able to live with and survive. Life is so passing, precious and priceless that even in pain and sorrow, life is worth living.
As the story continues in the rest of Chapter 7, the lepers did go to the Syrian camp hoping not to be killed, but to be made slaves. However, when they arrived at the camp, they found that God had gotten there before them. He made the Syrians to hear noises in the night which scared them away. The Syrians left so much food, supplies and spoils that the lepers could hardly handle it all. After they wallowed in the loot for a while, the lepers sent word back to the city about what had happened. The people of the city came out and were fed off of the spoils of the Syrians. In this case four men, who could have been desperate, refused to give up hope and their decision to live brought life to the very city which had rejected them.