The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 9
The Prophet Series: Elisha part 9
2KI 4:1-7 Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves." And Elisha said to her, "What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?" And she said, "Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil." Then he said, "Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few. And you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all these vessels; and you shall set aside what is full." So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing the vessels to her and she poured. And it came about when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, "Bring me another vessel." And he said to her, "There is not one vessel more." And the oil stopped. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest."
God directs the smallest things concerning man. We have not experienced one thing that has not been on the mind of God for millennia. Such love is manifest by the fact that He became a man of low estate, to be tempted in all things as are, and yet as conqueror, He was without sin.
Nothing happens, even of the slightest importance without His active knowledge. To some this occasions ridicule. They deride those who depend upon God for everything as foolish, childlike, and weak. But for those who know this truth, it brings undaunted courage, firm hope, and continuous joy.
Time is made up of moments and life of fleeting breaths. The highest life with God is like a mighty river. The mightiest river, however, is fed by many quiet streams. The mighty spiritual life with God is like this: made up of many seemingly insignificant moments. It is not in the few, great, monumental feats that a true life of service to God is found, but in the daily, unnoticed, quiet times of study, prayer, sacrifice, service, and sufferings. Such a life has the constant divine eye of providence upon it. God condescends to things of low estate. He is even concerned about the sparrows. In a word this is grace, and it has been taught to man by God from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses and throughout Old Testament history, reaching its apex in Christ and continuing through His servant Paul.
To the Christian, there is not one day where this condescension, this providential grace, is not beheld as rays of heavenly light. It is to this that the history of Elisha leads us.
From the noise of the battlefield, the narrative of Kings transports us far away from kings and armies to a poor widow and her two sons. She is very poor and about to lose what little she has. She is in debt, and despite that her deceased husband was of the school of the prophets and a godly man, her creditor is hard and cruel. Thus it was common in Israel, a land full of idolaters who are always soaked through with their own desires rather than God's compassion, for men to be callous and unmerciful.
According to the Law of Moses, the creditor may take her two sons as bondmen as payment for the debt. All who have experienced a sufficient amount of the world know of such creditors. Those who have experienced God witnesses the glaring difference in our gracious and longsuffering Land-Lord, and they would easily identify with David's prayer:
2SA 24:14 "I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man."
Why does the widow of the godly prophet suffer such harm while the wicked, like her creditor, prosper in the world? This question has been on the minds of God's people in every generation. It even burdened the mind of David.
PSA 73:2-3 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling;
Calamities have a much different effect upon the righteous than they do upon the wicked. The righteous draw closer to God while the wicked become more hard hearted and bitter. The answer to the above question is the grace of God.
The Lord is ever in the midst of His children. When this widow thinks she is most alone, she finds out that she is most blessed with an abundant company.
God brings us into straights not only for our good but also for our happiness. "Surely the happiest moment to a Christian is when utterly unable to find any help around, he finds grace and relief in the simple faith to cast his burden on the Lord, and being quite content to leave it there, and quite certain that He is faithful in whom he has believed. The what and how of deliverance form no longer the subject of care." [Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet]
In this is rest. Thus we come to live by faith. Many such moments in a believer's life are the many quiet streams that have converged to make a torrent river of faith. It is our happiness. When we become forgetful and our fellowship with God becomes more rare and restrained, small burdens seem to become too heavy to bear and they drive us back with repentance with the result that true joy is restored anew at the throne of grace.
The interpositions of God are often done by using some small means in our position, which alone is inadequate. God used the little oil that the widow possessed. We might ask why He uses it. Why did the Lord use the provisions available to feed the 5000 and the 4000? In the same vein we could ask why God uses Elisha or any other person. Couldn't God have spoken directly to the poor widow and then filled her barn with gold? God uses people and He uses our earthly things. It's not that He needs them or us, but in His magnificent grace He has privileged us to be a part of what He does. Due to this preferred procedure by God, the world misses the miracle. The world traces out the person or the article and blinds itself to the hand of God upon them. The world only looks for a miracle in the coarsest form. The clouds must part, the heavens must open, and the help or power must visibly descend. The world therefore denies the possibility of a miracle. Even if they were to see what they claim to be miracle quality, to whom or what would they ascribe it? The world won't believe that God works in men or through man's means but they will believe in the dark arts of magic which possesses neither goodness or a spiritual Author. Jesus came from heaven and showed us the reality of His miraculous power.
By using the small amount of oil in the house, the widow is being taught to trust in the Lord who gave the house and the oil. In the process, her faith is tried. "Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few." To a person without faith, such an instruction is cruel. A number of large empty pots in the house sitting next to a small vessel of oil only magnifies the problem. But to the person of faith, each empty jar, as it passes by the threshold, is seen by the eyes of faith as becoming full. When the Christian of strong faith sees someone or something that needs to be filled, he only sees potential and not despair, and he sees God filling it. He may have emptiness all around him and all he wonders is how magnificently God is going to fill it. Jesus asked the attendants at the wedding to fill the water jars and then to bring them to the headwaiter knowing certainly that they would be full of fine wine. The widow in our narrative is a woman of faith. She does as the prophet requests.
She is told to shut the door after all the empty pots have entered, "behind you and your sons." She is shutting out the world and shutting herself in with God. Jesus told us to go into our inner room to pray to our Father in secret. With God she starts to fill - the first pot, the second, the third - and as she goes from one to the next with her little jar, she marvels at the increase. As we use the gifts that God has entrusted to us, God will employ and increase them. And remember, the fruit of your production always belongs to God. We are not to wait for more gifts, but to employ into service that which we have and watch God increase it.
Like the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 every basket was full after all were satisfied. Such is the grace of God. There was no limit to the number of pots she could gather. She was simply told not to get a few. If she had borrowed one more it would have stood full. This reveals that the only limit to the grace of God is what we put on it. Was she able to get more pots, but thought it too excessive? Faith moves mountains, but land excavation is not a part of the plan of God for us, moving all obstacles to faith and goodness is.
Let us gather our vessels, not for the deposit of our own glory or desires, but for God's glory and purpose, and let us shut the door and dine with our Lord. This is certainly the oil of gladness.
What latent power there is in every Christian and in every church. Too often it lies in great measure unused because they look to earthly resources and human calculations.
MAR 9:23 "All things are possible to him who believes."
1TI 6:17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
At the beginning, what she is to do with the copious oil is not told her. She must return to Elisha and ask. So we must do one thing at a time, live one day at a time, and wait for tomorrow's directions. God guides us day to day. Don't worry about tomorrow.
The woman was instructed to sell the oil, pay the debt, and live off the rest. She was given complete relief. Whenever her next trial would come, her faith would be stronger and her trust more enduring.
In His strength and courage,