Summary: Part 4 of the Sermon Series, "God of Elisha"
The brief account of the widow’s oil illustrates Yahweh’s blessing of those who are faithful to the Mosaic Law. Yahweh provides a means of income for the widow, a “pastor’s wife,” and her family.
In the miracle of the widow’s oil, we learn valuable lessons on how to receive God’s blessing of provision in times of need. We shall find out how to desire, expect, and take hold of God’s supply in difficult times.
We will walk through the severity of the problem of the widow, the size of the potential of the widow’s faith, and the scope of divine provision.
The Severity of the Problem
The story begins with a cry for help from one of the wives of “the sons of the prophets” (2 Ki.4:1). Who were these sons of the prophets? They were not physical sons, but spiritual sons of the great prophets, Elijah and Elisha. They were male students of these men of God. They were junior prophets and future prophets. They are what we would call today, Bible college or seminary students who are preparing for ministry. They lived in small faith communities throughout the land—similar to the seminaries of today.
Some of these sons of prophets were married. Like the Old Testament priests and Levites, they could marry. They could live with their wives. God does not require celibacy from His servants.
Do you know that many Bible college students struggle to pay for their tuition and meals? Are you on the look out for needy Bible students? Maybe you assume that they are like you—sufficient. No, they are not. Rather, they badly need your prayer and financial support, especially married students.
That is the situation in verse 1. A pastor’s wife is left with her husband’s debt. Unfortunately, he died before he could pay off his debt. It is now up to his grieving widow to pay it off. The problem is—she could not pay it. Being a widow means poverty in those days. She had no source of income. She could not pay her bills. She faced two overwhelming problems—death and debt.
Now the creditor is coming to get her two kids to become his servants, to pay off the debt. Such is the severity of the problem. You might think that this is a terrible way to pay the debt. In the Law of Moses, if you could not pay your debt, your creditor has the right to claim payment by taking your children as servants. They will have to work for him until the year of Jubilee. But servanthood is not forever. In the year of Jubilee, the creditor is required to release them (Lev. 25:39-41; Ex. 21:7).
It is possible that the father pledged her two sons as guarantee. It is also possible that economic oppression has caused this situation (Amos 2:6; 8:6; Mic. 2:9). The creditor now comes to collect by taking the two sons.
Does this sound familiar? Have you experienced severe problems with no solution? What do you do when you face problems that you cannot solve?
The widow did not say, “Lord, is this how you reward your servants who fear You?” She did not complain. She did not borrow money from other people. She did not turn to family or friends. She turned to God. In spite of the severity of her problems, she trusted God. Like her husband who feared God, she walked by faith. She may have lost everything. Yet she has not lost God. So she turned to God. She turned to Elisha—the prophet of God, the man of God, the representative of God.
When you do not understand why things happen, have faith in God. When you run out of solutions, keep trusting God. The Psalmist said, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2). Even though you do not understand everything, keep believing in God. Your help comes from the LORD of heaven and earth. Even though you will lose everything, you will never lose one thing. You will never lose the God of love and the love of God. So keep trusting in the God who cares for you.
The Size of the Potential
Notice what Elisha did not tell her. Elisha did not say, “Ok, you should let go and let God.” Elisha did not say, “It’s okay. God will provide.” Instead, Elisha makes her participate in a miracle of God. He asks the first question, “What shall I do for you” (2 Ki. 4:2)? There is a note of Elisha’s decisiveness to meet a need here (2:19-22; 4:1-7; 6:1-7).1 Yet there is more to it. Elisha seems to be saying, “As the prophet of God, what shall I do for you, in behalf of God?” In asking this question, Elisha is making her take part in a miracle. He is opening the windows of heaven for her. God has heard her cry. God is about to do something for her.