Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. 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 any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art 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 stayed. 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 of the rest.
We love miracles. But miracles don’t just happen. Miracles in the Bible were for specific purposes and for specific people. And some of the miracles recorded in Scriptures don’t anymore happen today. Don’t expect any more parting of the Sea. But I believe that miracles still do happen today as God pleases for a purpose. I posted on FB the miraculous 6-day war between tiny Israel against all Arab neighbours in 11June 1967. Israel had more doubled its size in just 6 days.
In the 2 Kings 4:1-7 that we have just read is a miracle of God through Prophet Elisha for the Shunammite widow who was in dire need. Btw, miracles are for use, not for show like we see on TV today. This was God’s act of charity. Like the miracles Christ did, they were not only great wonders, but actually great favours to whom they were given. That’s how God magnifies his goodness with His power.
We read here how a poor widow solicited Elisha’s help. This Shunammite woman, who had two sons, was actually a prophet’s widow. And out of care and concern, Elisha paid careful attention to her request, perhaps because her husband was one of the prophets under him, like he was once under Prophet Elijah. I am confident that he knew her husband very much.
Now, by the crying of this poor widow for help in (2 Kings 4:1), we are made to understand that not only that he was well known to Elisha but that Elisha himself had the responsibility to care for his subordinates, to know their character and state. In my study, I found that Elisha knew her dead husband to be one that feared the Lord, and that he had the reputation of a godly man.
He probably was one of the 7000 that stood and kept his integrity from bowing and bending their knees to Baal. But now, he’s dead, although a good man and a good minister, no one lives forever. It doesn’t matter if you are the most well known men of God- we all die. And not only that he died but he died a poor man, living some debts for his wife to pay.
But I don’t think he incurred those debts by excessive spending and luxury or riotous living, because he was one of the prophets that feared the Lord. Men of God should live above what they have, nor to spend more than what God gives them.
It may be the lot of those that fear God to be just reliant on God’s provision, not as filthy lucre as Titus 1:7 or 1Timothy says. In fact, I have seen ministers of God in the Philippines that are in bad debts, some are insolvent, probably because- as Jesus says in Luke – the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
I remember Tessie’s mom when she learned that I became a pastor said to Tessie, Unsa man intawy ipankaon ninyo anang pastor? But, these prophets were perhaps poor by persecution during Jezebel’s rule.
They were so poor that the creditors were very severe with her two sons. And so this widow cried to Elisha because her two sons could end up as slaves to pay for their debt. It was a practice in the olden times, even if you read Exodus 21 that they could become bondsmen to work out a debt. So those that leave a load of debt to their families know what trouble they entail.
But in dependence to God’s promises, that the seed of the righteous shall not be forsaken, this poor widow approached the right man. And so, through Elisha this poor widow’s distress was given relief, and eventually she was out of debt and was able to maintain for their future. But Elisha did not just utter magic words like, abracadabra, money is in your hands now, but he gave her instructions from God.
As Pastor, I am resolved not just to preach but to go and help those in need of help. And I know it is not easy sometimes because somehow humanly you would expect that those that were helped would be faithful to God in the church. But many of you know that this does not happen all the time. Nevertheless, I have also made it a point that those helps I did were done as unto the Lord and not for any vested interest.
But this poor widow was blessed from bankruptcy to now selling oil. All by the grace of God! I want you to notice God’s method of helping in love that Elisha did in his instructions to this poor widow. First, he asked the widow- tell me, what hast thou in the house? I remember almost the same question God asked Moses when he was in trouble, What is that in thine hand? Moses had a rod. And that’s what Moses used for victory.
When you ask God something, He will always start with what you have. Lord, I want to know you more! God will say, do you have a church? Do you have a Bible? Start there! Lord, I need some money! How much do you have? Lord, that’s why I am asking because it’s not enough. God says give it to me! Keep this in mind always. God’s Principle is Give and it shall be given unto you. (Luke 6:38) Empty yourself first so that I can fill you.
There was a project in the Philippines that instead of giving the poor… fish, they gave them fishing rods and nets and taught them how to fish. And the people says, we’re hungry. The government says, Go and fish!
Here, Elisha after considering her case, directed her what to do. Perhaps it was possible for Elisha to go to the temple and start asking for collections for the widow knowing that God can touch people’s heart to respond to supply her needs but no, he didn’t do that. He instructed her instead to engage herself in God’s way and his instructions.
And so, to start with Elisha asked what do you have to make money of. In v2 she replied she had nothing but one pot of oil. If she had some hidden Chinaware or Ikea furniture, he would have asked her sell it, for her to look justified to the creditors. God knew she still have that little means for her to start with. My dad use to demonstrate this to people; He says it is easy to ask but if you cannot let go with what you are holding how can I give you. Let go, meaning show me you’re empty so I could fill your emptiness.
I am very sure that if she had not had that pot of oil at all, God would have another way to supply her needs. But, having this, God had to work on what she had to engage her in continual activity than just give where she’d be asking again after the debt was paid off. That is how God works to teach us to make the best of what we have.
Elisha, knowing her to have a good standing with her neighbours, told her borrow from them empty vessels (v3). Emptiness is how God is going to fill us. Are you empty enough not to miss Sunday School to be filled with the blessings of God’s promises? Then he told her to shut the door so that they will just be her and her sons, while she fills all those empty vessels. Perhaps, to allow them to pray and sing praises God undisturbed. Don’t you know that God longs for some quiet time with you so that He can fill you?
What is interesting is, the oil was to be multiplied in the continual pouring. If she stops pouring the oil to the vessels the flow of oil will also stop. And so, if you want God to continually bless you, continue coming, continue serving, continue giving. I have to be absent in church because I have home works to do. I don’t have enough time. Why don’t give that time to God and see how He blesses you in your endeavours?
This tells us that the way to increase is to use what we have. Perhaps this is the explanation to what Jesus said when He said in Matthew 13:10, “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.” So, if you look at it, it is not hoarding time and your talents, but trading with them, that doubles them. This is also consistent to the parables of the talents.
Another thing is, as I was reading this I have noticed that only her, not the Prophet Elisha, nor by any of the sons of the prophets, to pour the oil to those vessels. I can see here that God is interested to see her heart through her own diligence in trustfulness and obedience. God knows that giving is personal and what we have in our own hands will increase best when it’s coming from our hearts.
She did as she was told. She did not argue with the prophet saying are you making a fool of me? She firmly believes God’s divine power and goodness. In pure obedience to the man of God, she did as she was told. I can imagine how her two sons were so amazed to see the pots, like a fountain of living water; they were flowing, and never ending. They cannot explain why the oil keeps on flowing. They cannot see the spring that supplied it, but they believed it to be from God. Perhaps like Job when he said in Job 29:6 the rock poured me out rivers of oil.
In v6, the oil continued flowing for as long as she had any empty vessels to receive it. Folks, we are never impoverished with God. In his power and abundance, and the riches of his grace; all our worries are our own making. It is our faith that fails, not His promises. He gives above what we ask: were there are more empty vessels; there is enough in God to fill them—enough for all, enough for each.
Then in v7 the prophet directed her what to do with the oil she had. She must not keep it for her own use, to enrich herself or beautify herself but she must pay her dues with the money she received for her oil and live content with her children. It is one of the fundamental law taught by our Saviour to Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. So, what are God’s? I know that everything belongs to God even every earnings we have but there’s something He calls His own that we must return because if we don’t He says we are robbers.
Don’t you know that God said in Malachi 3:8-10 – Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
The tithe is so little. It is only 10cents of every dollar. Return it to the Lord and never stop returning to see your vessels filled. Empty it from you so could be filled. Remember that when you stop pouring the flow of the oil will also stop. Let’s pray.