At Christmas, all over the country people will be going to church. People who don’t normally go to church. That’s brilliant! They will hear Good News being spoken about. But the Bible’s Good News always addresses bad news, bad days, hard times – that’s what makes it so good.
And while we’ll have some fun, some nativities, lots of carols, etc, we need to remember that the coming of Jesus really is good news for hard times – 365 days a year, always.
We have Good News for the gritty realities of life. News you need to hear; news you need to share.
Good News is for sharing (2 Kings 7)
2 Kings 6 & 7 go together as one long event. Samaria was the capital city of the northern country of Israel. Samaria was under siege by the Arameans. It was awful. No food coming in meant silly prices for the scraps on offer (2 Kings 6:25 “a cup of dove’s dung sold for five pieces of silver”)
Jim Waterworth took us through the grim events of 2 Kings 6 a few weeks ago. He pointed out the king’s political impotence – the people were in a mess and politics (the government) couldn’t solve it.
For a range of possible reasons, the king ordered the execution of God’s prophet, Elisha. But in return, what he actually got was a message from God through Elisha. The message was ridiculous. Unbelievable, even.
Read 2 Kings 7:1-2.
The chapter then switches abruptly to some outcast lepers standing outside the city near the city gate.
- The lepers are starving like everyone else. They have a choice: Die in the city, or take their chances with the enemy. Certain death here, or likely death there? Great.
- So they go to the enemy camp and find it empty.
- Read 2 Kings 7:5-7.
- The ridiculous, unbelievable prediction is coming true!
- Note especially that it is God that made it happen.
Christmas has arrived for the four lepers! Happy days! They feast, they steal, they laugh – it’s amazing! But their consciences get the better of them in the end.
A day of good news
Read 2 Kings 7:9.
- “This is a day of good news” – they know the whole city will be relieved and overjoyed to hear it.
- They’re even a bit worried they’ll get in trouble if they don’t share the good news.
- Good News is for sharing. Everyone must know, because everyone is already sharing in the hard times.
The prediction of it in v1-2 was unbelievable. Now it’s happened, the reporting of it is still unbelievable in v10-11! In v12, the king is openly sceptical. It’s a trick, he thinks. He’s persuaded to send some men to check it out, and by the time they return the whole city is alive with the news!
As soon as the all-clear is given, they riot out of the city. But the man who had said to Elisha the day before that that won’t happen – he came to a bad end. As predicted, he saw the camp but didn’t taste its food – he was trampled by the crowds at the gate.
How can we summarise what happened in those awful days?
- God spoke, saying that deliverance would come – however unlikely it might seem.
- God acted, miraculously delivering the city from threat.
- Good News was passed on by the unclean, the unlikely.
- That Good News was then even checked, verified, shown to be true – and then thoroughly enjoyed by those saved!
- But where the Good News simply wasn’t believed, there was judgment – also as the Lord had said.
This is the work of the living God, bringing salvation to the weak, deliverance where governments fail, and glory to himself.
Good News is for sharing. Also:
Good News must be shared (Luke 2)
All this talk of “Good News” in December surely reminds us of a familiar Christmas reading, doesn’t it?
Read Luke 2:8-15.
The shepherd weren’t unclean (like the lepers), but they were certainly unwashed! They were, to be frank, still very unlikely recipients of such earth-shattering, universe changing news! But hearing Good News is one thing, but even if you hear it from an angel you want to see for yourself. “Let’s see this thing that has happened,” they said.
What did they do with this Good News that they’d heard? Read Luke 2:16-18.
Their reaction is to tell. And they tell everyone. What do they tell?
- Not: “I’ve just seen an angel army – it was cool!” (“Yay – go you”?)
- Rather, they told everyone what the angel had said “about this child”. The Good News was Jesus, Messiah, Lord.
Good News foretold
Just like Elisha foretold some Good News, this Good News had been foretold over and over for centuries.
- Elisha had a message from God that salvation for Samaria was coming. But throughout the Old Testament God had also been promising a greater salvation for the world.
- In Isaiah 6 you can read about Emmanuel, God With Us, to be born to a young virgin.
- In Isaiah 9 you can read about how a child will be born, a son given to us, who is Mighty God, Prince of Peace.
- 2 Samuel 7 tells you this child will be a descendant of King David, to rule God’s people for ever.
- Ezekiel 34 says that descendant of David will be God himself, a Good Shepherd to care for his people.
- Turn to Micah 9 to read how he will be born in Bethlehem.
- Read Zechariah to see the Messiah entering Jerusalem on a donkey, being betrayed for silver coins, and pierced for others.
- Go to Psalm 22 to read about the cross from the perspective of one crucified.
- Read Isaiah 53 to see how the Saviour, Christ the Lord, died as a sacrifice in place of his people, taking the punishment due to us in our place.
All that foretold and more. Words from God himself.
More dark days
And then… silence. 400 years of no word. Foreign invasions. Then Roman rule. No king (except Herod, a brutal puppet king installed by the Romans). And then, amazingly, Good News to nobodys on a field near Bethlehem. Good News spread abroad: A son is given.
And Jesus would be a point of division for all humanity. You are either for him or against him, this Son of God. He came and fulfilled all those prophecies, bringing salvation to all who will receive it – and condemnation to all who reject him.
Jesus is the Good News. The shepherds spoke about him. Later, fishermen and tax collectors and political activists and all sorts of men and women would speak about him. And all who rejected him were rejecting God who sent him.
As sure as that soldier was crushed to death at the gate of Samaria, so too everyone who rejects the Good News of Jesus will be crushed by God’s judgments.
Jesus is the Good News. Told by shepherds and fishermen. Rejected by kings and authorities. A rejection that ultimately leads to being rejected by him. The news about Jesus divides humanity still, because Jesus will judge us all. That’s why this Good News must be shared – because without hearing about salvation in Christ, no-one will be saved.
Share the Good News about Jesus (1 Cor 1)
This Good News still reaches the unclean, the unwashed, and the unlikely!
Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.
Do you wish you were a bit more gifted for God? Would you like to be a better evangelist? Do you wish you were a bit cleverer, ready for hard questions?
- But are you less able than those 4 lepers?
- Are you less capable of opening your mouth than a bunch of Bethlehem shepherds?
Look at how God delights to work! Remember that unnamed servant girl who did her bit on the way to getting Naaman healed in 2 Kings 5. God is glorified when he accomplishes amazing things through the obedience of his humble people.
Would you like loads of gifts and abilities like the apostle Paul? His gifts and abilities were actually a problem to him:
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 “to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
No-one could say that Paul was successful because he was a brilliant speaker or impressive in any way. In truth, he was a scarred-up, unimpressive man. And in that, God was glorified when he did amazing things through Paul – and through the whole early church.
Don’t make excuses to yourself about why you can’t tell people about Jesus (too old, young, ill, worried, etc). God chose you. He has appointed you to your situation and your abilities for a reason. There will always be unbelief, but the news is too Good and too important to keep to yourself.
You must share the Good News about Jesus.
Unless, of course, you’ve never actually heard it properly. But remember Samaria. Remember Bethlehem.
In each case, God had spoken beforehand.
In each case, what God said came true and was verified by those on the scene.
Your God came down to save you. He took on flesh to die in your place, to take the punishment you deserve because of your rebellion against him!
You can turn to him now and all your sin against him can be forgiven – because of Jesus punished in your place. Trust him; take him at his word. Then thrill at so great a salvation!
And whether you are a leper, a shepherd, a fisherman, retired, a housewife, an office worker, or anything else – be who and where you are and tell people the Good News about Jesus!
Since God has provided a saviour for the world, then this is too important and too good to keep in – it’s for everyone to hear.
Everyone who rejects will be rejected. Be sure to trust this Good News for yourself. Jesus is the Good News to trust in.