A story is told of a man who was lost in the woods. Later, in describing the experience, he told how frightened he was and how he had even finally knelt and prayed. Someone asked, “Did God answer your prayer?” “Oh, no,” the man replied. “Before God had a chance, a guide came along and showed me the way out.”
Opportunities for Thanksgiving
Like that man, many people are blind to the blessings that God daily showers upon them. Whether you are a believer in Jesus Christ or a person who does not even believe in God, the fact is, God has blessed you far more than you realize and far more than you deserve. It is important to understand how to respond properly to God’s abundant blessings. To be oblivious to the fact that God is blessing you or, even worse, to take credit for His blessings as if you earned them by your own efforts, would be to slight God. The only proper response is to glorify Him from a thankful heart.
These two responses, the proper and improper, are illustrated for us in the account of Jesus cleansing the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus is traveling somewhere along the border between Samaria and Galilee, where He enters a village and encounters ten leprous men. According to the Law, they keep their distance but they recognize Jesus and cry out to Him for mercy. Rather than drawing near and touching them, as He did with the leper in Luke 5:13, Jesus simply instructs them to go and show themselves to the priests. There would be no point in such action unless they were cleansed of their leprosy, and yet at this point they were not cleansed. They had to act with obedient faith. As they were going, they were cleansed. But only one of the ten turns back to glorify God and give thanks to Jesus for His great mercy and power.
In the Bible, leprosy is a dreaded disease that is a picture of sin. The Bible wants all of us to see ourselves in our natural state as spiritual lepers in God’s sight. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9), sick with sin, unclean before the holy God.
The proud refusal to acknowledge our true condition as spiritual lepers is one of the main reasons people do not receive God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. We all are prone to say, “I may have my faults—after all, I’m only human—but I’m not a terrible sinner. I’m basically a good person.” That’s what the Pharisees said about themselves, and they missed God’s Savior. Indeed, who needs a Savior, if you’re basically a good person?
Cry Out to God
The lepers pleaded, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” By crying out for mercy, these men were acknowledging that they did not deserve healing. They weren’t claiming, “We’re lepers, but we’re pretty good lepers. We think we’re worthy of being healed.” They knew that there was nothing in themselves to earn healing or to commend them above others. This is the only way that we can come to God for deliverance from the leprosy of sin: to acknowledge that we deserve God’s wrath, but to appeal to His great mercy.
The good news is that God delights to show mercy to those who cry out for it! He is “rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:12-13). The cleansing of these lepers pictures what God does to the souls of those who call out to Him for salvation. He instantly cleanses us from all our sins. He clothes us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus. He restores and heals our souls.
Faith is the Key
The only condition to receive God’s healing for our leprous souls is that we take Him at His word, that whoever believes in His Son Jesus will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Just as these lepers did not first try to clean up and make themselves presentable, so we are to come to Jesus just as we are. Just as these lepers had a faith that obeyed Jesus’ word, so we must exercise personal obedient faith in Him with regard to His promise to save us from our sins.
The thankful leper represents the full fruit of saving faith, namely, lips that give joyful thanks to His name. He “with a loud voice glorified God” (Luke 17:15). If before his voice had been hampered by leprosy, it was now freed up and he exercised it with full force! Others may have been embarrassed by his exuberance, but he didn’t care! Jesus had healed him and he was going to make it known! This leper’s glad praise should be that of every person whose heart has been healed by Jesus’ mighty power.
Spurgeon points out that while ten men prayed, only one praised. There are far more people who will pray in a time of need than praise God when He meets that need. If the Lord has delivered our souls from judgment, we ought to let others know about it. I have to remind myself that “Praise the Lord” is not just a slogan or something nice to do; it is a command. If my life is not marked by frequent praise to God for His many blessings, I am not being obedient. Those who have experienced Jesus’ cleansing power should glorify Him!
—Steven J. Cole, condensed