2 Kings 4 is a series of stories about the Prophet Elisha. First, a widow with two sons. They would be sold into slavery unless her debt could be paid.
And Elisha said unto her, “What shall I do for thee? Tell me, what hast thou in the house?” And she said, “Thine handmaid hath not anything in the house, save a pot of oil.”
Then he said, “Go, borrow thee vessels abroad from all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou hast come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.”
So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, “Bring me yet a vessel.” And he said unto her, “There is not a vessel more.” And the oil flow ceased.
Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children on the rest.”-vs. 2-7
The first observation here is that it took faith to ask of the neighbors. Their backs were against the wall, though. They had no other option than faith, and sometimes that’s the only time we’ll do something that by Earthly standards is nuts.
The second observation is how God worked. He could have just as easily caused gold to appear somewhere in the house. He could have caused some type of windfall to occur, but notice what he does.
He puts her to work for her living. Her sons have to go to the neighbors and collect the pots. And once she has the oil, she’s got to load it up and sell it.
Time and time again throughout scripture, God gives people temporary help. He sent ravens to feed Elijah and a widow who was taking care of Elijah had oil and meal provided for her through the time she took care of him. But, this case suggests something different. This woman was not going to be actively in service to God. She was going to take care of her children. So what does God do? He has her work as a long term solution.
I believe that when it comes to that long term help, God’s preference is that people work somehow. You notice that the man of God asked her, “What do you have in your house?” If you find yourself in financial difficulty, you may find the answer is, “I have enough stuff to hold a garage sale.” or “I’ve got a lawnmower in the back yard.” As a long term solution, God will then help you take what you have and make money with it. Short-term, there are different things, but long term God wants us to work if at all possible, because we’re created to do that.
And there was a day that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God who passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed and a table and a stool and a candlestick. And it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”
The Bible tells us that this was a great woman. And what made her great? She was attentive to God. She says, “I perceive.” She was sensitive to the Spirit of God and saw where He was moving. More than that, she responded to God’s guidance with what she had.
Some people would think, “God gave me a big house and money and servants so that I could live the good life.” Yet, she said, “God gave me this, so I could bless His servant.”
So she was a great woman indeed. After some time, the prophet Elisha wanted to bless her and sent his servant to find out what she needed and she told him she dwelled among her people, which means she didn’t need anything. She wasn’t doing this because she wanted God to bless her; she was doing it to be thankful to the God who had blessed her, but Elisha was persistent and a need was recognized by Gehazi:
And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.”
And he said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
And he said, “About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son.” And she said, “Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.” vs. 14-16
This is a reminder to never, ever say that God can’t do anything. She didn’t seek it, she didn’t demand it, she didn’t name it and claim it. God gave it to her because He loved her and wanted to bless her.
We serve a God of blessing. We don’t have to demand material blessings. We don’t have to lust after material gain. God will take care of it. We don’t have to do anything but live our lives according to God’s will and with the wisdom that God has given us. He’ll take care of us and give us our daily bread and everything above that
The blessing, though, came with tears. The child was in the field and died. She went to see Elisha:
And she called unto her husband and said, “Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God and come back.” And he said, “Why wilt thou go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” And she said, “It shall be well.” (vs. 22,23)
Some people are like the husband. They have the attitude that you can’t go to God except at a specific time, but she understood that the time to go to God was the time of need. The time to go to God was right then. So, she approached to where Elisha was:
Run now, I pray thee, to meet her and say unto her, `Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child?'” And she answered, “It is well.”
And when she came to the man of God at the hill, she caught him by the feet; but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, “Let her alone, for her soul is vexed within her; and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.” (vs. 26, 27)
This is important. I’m asked all the time, “How are you doing?” If I’m not feeling well that day, I’ll say, “Good.” I’ve learned over time that, “How are you doing?” doesn’t really mean people care and even if they care on some level, it doesn’t mean I want to talk to them.
We have to be sensitive in the Spirit to what’s going on and what people really need. Gehazi was thinking, “If it’s well, what business does she have distubring Elisha?”
Because, it’s not well. Sometimes, people just don’t feel like going into it. We need to be people who’ll see pass polite colloquialisms to what a person’s really feeling. We have to listen to their voice tone and look at their body language and if that tells us, something’s wrong, we need to ask, “Are you really okay?” “Is it really well?” Sometimes, the Spirit will lead us, if we’ll listen. If we’re determined to be a blessing and to serve.
She came with questions, but God healed her son through Elisha and he was raised from the dead.
There’s another miracle of bad stew being healed, but I won’t go into that one. This one at the end was important and it wasn’t done by Elisha:
And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, “Give unto the people, that they may eat.”
And his servitor said, “What, should I set this before a hundred men?” He said again, “Give the people, that they may eat; for thus saith the LORD: `They shall eat and shall leave some thereof.'”
So he set it before them, and they ate and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD. vs. 42-44
This, of course foreshadows Christ’s miracle of feeding 5,000 with far fewer loaves and a couple fish.
It also teaches us something about giving. Many people will say, “Why does God allow poverty?” A question must be asked back, “Have you given to God?” Have you brought your firstfruits out, be they little or much, have you opened your wallet book to the men of God?
And I’m not talking about giving money to some televangelists. No, I’m talking about opening your wallet to a local church or organization that is caring and compassionate towards the needs of others. I see the efficiency of the Idaho Food Bank in feeding people in my community or the way the Boise Rescue Mission turns people’s lives around. How do they do that? Because, a few people are willing to bring fruit. But, so many more don’t.
In a time of famine, how many farmers had crops? How many of those would tithe of those crops to the man of God? Yet, if this farmer had not done it, people wouldn’t have been fed. As the song says, “Little is much when God is with it.”
The second point is that the man of God is to care for the needs of others. Elisha could have said, “You know, I could really use this bread and corn. It could take care of me for weeks.” No, he poured out what God had given him to meet the needs of others. For the man of God is not just to be a receiver, but a giver and to bless others with what God has blessed him with through the gifts of others.