"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
June 12, 2013
In 2 Kings 4:1-7 we read the following story:
"The wife of a man from the company of prophets cried out to Elisha, 'Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.' Elisha replied to her, 'How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?' 'Your servant has nothing at all,' she said, 'except a small jar of olive oil.' Elisha said, 'Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.' She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, 'Bring me another one.' But he replied, 'There is not a jar left.' Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, 'Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.'"
This woman had lost her husband, then was facing the potential of losing her two sons to slavery. The scripture doesn't say whether or not she knew of her husband's debt prior to his death, or if the creditor showed up on her doorstep afterwards demanding payment. It also doesn't give the details of how large the debt was or what it was for. But apparently it was large enough that the creditor was going to take her two sons to use as slaves as repayment of the debt. The ages of the two boys also isn't given. I am assuming that they were fairly young and not yet old enough to get a job in order to help support their mother.
The woman was desperate, for she had no income and no resources to repay this debt. She likely felt very overwhelmed dealing with the grief of her husband's death, having the creditor showing up at her door demanding either cash or her sons as repayment of the debt, and having no way of saving her sons by paying the money owed.
Her husband had been a prophet who ministered with Elisha. The widow went to him, as her last hope, and told him what her situation was. Elisha asked how he could help, and asked what she had in her house. He likely had no money either and no way of paying her debt for her. When asking what she had in her house, he may have been wondering if she had something of value that could be sold and used as payment.
All the woman had was a small jar of olive oil. It was probably all that she had left to mix with wheat or flour, in order to make small cakes for meals for her and her sons. She may have been looking at her meager supply, wondering what she was going to do for food when the jar ran out.
Elisha told her to go around and ask all of her neighbors for empty jars; and not to just borrow a few, but as many as she and her sons could possibly get their hands on.
They obeyed, then went inside their house and shut the door, as instructed by Elisha. They began to pour oil into the empty containers and fill them, one by one. As the woman began pouring oil from her small supply in her little jar, it never ran empty. But God miraculously kept the oil flowing until all the containers were completely full, then the oil stopped flowing.
Elisha instructed her to go sell all the oil in order to get the money to repay all her debts. That way the creditor would be paid off and not have reason to take her sons as slaves. Then to take the remaining money for her and her sons to live on and pay their day to day expenses. God not only met her immediate need of paying off her debts, but He also provided what she needed financially for future needs.
When reading this, some may tend to think, "Wow! Had she known what the miracle was going to be, the woman and her sons probably would have been more diligent in gathering even more empty jars than they got." The human inclination is, "Had I known what God was going to do, then I would have been more diligent so that I could have gained more than I did!" Sometimes we only do the bare necessity in order to appease our conscience and think, "Okay! I obeyed God!" Then when God answers, we are amazed at His generosity and blessing. But if we're not careful, we can also have a mindset of being selfish and wanting more.
The woman and her sons had no idea how God was going to provide for them, but they were willing to obey the word of Elisha and do what he asked them to do. They trusted the prophet, but they had faith in God. They would have been excited and relieved had God provided enough to pay off the creditors so that that debt wasn't hanging over their head and the threat of the two sons being sold into slavery was gone. But God blessed their obedience and saw that their need was greater than the creditor, for they also needed provisions for the following days. So He continued pouring oil into that little jar so that the supply didn't run out until all vessels were completely filled. Once all the empty containers were full, then the oil supply was diminished and stopped flowing. At that point, the woman had all that she needed.
Sometimes our situation can look hopeless and we don't know what we're going to do. It may come down to the eleventh hour, and we still don't know how God is going to answer. But when we believe and don't doubt and are willing to do whatever God asks us to do, even though it may seem foolish in our eyes or we don't understand why, then He will come through and give us the needed answer and provision. Many times it may come in an unexpected way, but God works in ways that exceeds our thinking.
Why did Elisha have the woman close the door while pouring the oil from her little jar into all the empty containers? Perhaps he knew the curiosity and nosiness of the neighbors. They probably wondered why this woman and her sons were going door to door borrowing all the empty vessels they could find. Had the door been open, they may have been tempted to go peek inside the house to see what was going on and to try and find out what the woman was doing with all those borrowed containers. And when they saw how God was miraculously multiplying the oil in the widow woman's small jar, then perhaps they would have tried to duplicate the miracle for themselves. Or perhaps they would have demanded their full vessel back, thinking that they could go sell if for their own use. Or they may have tried to sell the oil at a high price as a "miracle oil". People tend to get strange notions at times when they see God do miracles. Someone may have even tried to sneak into the woman's home when she was gone and steal the small jar, thinking that it had some type of miraculous power.
Whatever the reasons may have been, the woman obeyed and shut the door to her home. Only she and her sons saw the miracle that God did that day as that little jar of oil kept multiplying in order to fill all those empty vessels. But the miracle wasn't about impressing the neighbors or getting acclaim for themselves or Elisha. It was about God meeting a desperate need and supplying what the woman had need of.
Don't lose faith; don't lose hope; and don't let your circumstance become bigger than God! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Just as He met the widow woman's need, He will meet yours.
One of the interesting things about this miracle that I don't remember in any other is that how much the widow received from the miracle was proportional to how much she acted on her faith. We don't really know whether they collected all the jars and other vessels they could get. But the more they acted on the faith that they should, the more oil they received. If they went around dumping water out of their jars to have more, they got more oil than if they skipped a jar so they wouldn't have to go fetch and purify the water (there was a long ritual for purifying water before drinking it).
It's important to act on faith completely. But I think it's also important to remember that she knew Elisha, and knew that he truly was a man of God. She wasn't acting on the faith of someone she'd just heard shouting on a street corner, but it was someone she had known and who had proven himself as a true prophet.
(This is one of my favorite summer fruit salads.)
1 small pkg. White Chocolate Instant Pudding
4-5 apples, peeled and diced
1 large carton Cool Whip
1 can Pineapple Chunks or Tidbits, with juice
1 Banana, sliced
1 cup Miniature Marshmallows
Stir dry pudding and Cool Whip together in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and fold together. Refrigerate.
I have unofficially been hearing numerous reports that this year is going to be a bad summer for snakes, ticks, and mosquitoes. Here are some home remedies that are supposed to help with these problems:
Spreading moth balls around a perimeter is suppose to ward off snakes.
Carrying a dryer sheet with you is suppose to help keep pests (such as mosquitoes and ticks) away.
Using Skin So Soft from Avon is supposed to help keep mosquitoes from biting you.
Put Listerine Mouth Wash in a spray bottle and spray the area outside where you are going to be and it will keep the mosquitoes away. (This does seem to work, but you have to do it each time -- it doesn't last for a long period of time.)
Chickens eat ticks.
Time spent on the knees in prayer will do more to remedy heart strain and nerve worry than anything else.
- George David Stewart
We love you!
Loretta & Jon