It is one of the most graphic displays of human suffering in all of the Bible! You can read about it in 2 Kings 6:24-7:2. In the end, it is also one of the greatest displays of God’s power in all of the Scriptures, as well. The nation of Syria had come against the city of Samaria and cut off all food supply entering the city. The people within the walled city were starving. The Bible says that they were selling heads of donkeys and dung from doves for large amounts of money for people to eat (can you imagine?!). The king of Israel at the time was King Jehoram, and one day he went walking through the city and a woman tells him the story of boiling her young child to have something to eat. The Bible says that when the king heard the story, he tore his clothes (a sign of great grief) and under his clothing he was wearing sackcloth (2 Kings 6:30). There is much we can say in regards to this story, but consider the king’s wearing of sackcloth and its significance for us even today.
Sackcloth was known to be a coarse material often made of woven goat’s hair. It was known to be uncomfortable and would often lead to skin itching, irritation, and chafing. Whenever it was worn, it was a sign of affliction.
Life has a way of bringing affliction and difficulty –God knew that it would. That’s why it is important for His people (the church) to be those who can lean on each other and to be strong for each other. King Jehoram was wearing sackcloth under his clothing, no one could see the pain and discomfort he was experiencing because it was covered up. There are lessons to be learned even for us today.
1. What you see is not always what you get. Isn’t it true that many people only show what they want others to see? That often it is the case that struggles might be going on, but on the surface, all appears to be calm and going just fine. We shake hands and hug and ask how each other is doing and we get the answer we are looking for when they say, “Fine” and we move on the next hand or shoulder. Let’s be careful how we judge others, because it might be true that we have no idea they really are wearing sackcloth under their clothing!
2. We need to be transparent with each other. In Galatians 6:2, we are told to bear one another’s burdens in order to fulfill the law of Christ. We are to be burden-bearers –but it is difficult to help with a burden no one will tell you they need help bearing, isn’t it? We strive for independence and this is not always a bad quality. However, there are times when this becomes an issue of selfish pride. We must learn to quit hiding our sackcloth and to learn to be more transparent with one another as God’s children!
3. We need to look deeper and be available. In the parable, the priest and Levite saw the need, but passed by on the other side. The Samaritan looked deeper and made himself available. He bandaged his wounds, placed him on his animal and paid for his care (Luke 10:25-37). Let us learn to be good neighbors, too! People are wearing sackcloth under their clothing, strive to be one who provides help and support.