Summary: A preacher’s wife dies leaving a debt she can’t pay. The creditor is on his way to collect her two sons as payment. What to do? God has ways.
Helping Needy People
Elijah and Elisha are very unique prophets in the Old Testament. They both served the Lord in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This was after the division and civil war broke out in Rehoboam’s reign. If you are familiar with the history of Israel, you remember that when Solomon, David’s son, turned to idols, God caused the nation of Israel to be divided into two nations. Sort of like northern and southern Korea today. The kings of the north were almost all wicked and idolatrous men. It was during the time of these kings that Elijah and Elisha appear. We see then that even though the kings were wicked, there were faithful followers of the Lord in the land, still. Among them were prophets, or preachers of the will of the Lord. If you read the end of first Kings and the first part of second Kings you will meet some of these as you also read about Elijah and Elisha who are the foremost figures among them.
Our text today is about what happened to the family of one of these prophets after he died.
Listen to verse 1.
4:1 The wife of a man from the company of the 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."
I have heard that preachers are often terrible managers of money. In fact, when I first began to preach, we received a check each month, and I never thought about taxes. We got our check and spent it all. At the end of the year, I remember doing our taxes and realizing that nothing had been withheld from our income. We hadn’t saved a penny! With a new baby and a big car bill and rent payments and another baby on the way, it was scary.
I felt a little like this widow when she said, “The creditor is coming!”
I realize that our situation was nothing to compare to this poor woman in 2 Kings 4. Think of her loss! She has lost her husband, and it appears that he left her with a large debt. It is “his creditor” who is coming. Besides the loss of her husband, she now faces the possible loss of her two sons. This is difficult to even imagine.
Many of us here today have experienced great losses. I suppose all of us have felt some loss, but some of you have been hit extremely hard. It is amazing how in the valley of the shadow of loss and grief, some have taken the hand of the Lord and found strength, but others have turned away from the Lord and become bitter. The same heat that refines the gold, burns up the dross.
Just who is this woman?
A wife of a prophet who has died. A mother of two sons. A woman saddled with her deceased husband’s debts. A mother is terrified at the prospect of losing her two sons to this creditor to become his slaves. I mean, just how bad can it get?
What does she do?
She cries out to Elisha. She reports her terrible condition to him. Notice, she doesn’t ask him for anything directly. Her circumstances do that for her. And I would like to point out something here that seems important. God can use our deepest needs to give us his richest blessings. This poor widow is in the position to receive and be filled up, precisely because she is so empty.
God can fill the empty life. But what happens if your life is full of other things. Where is the room in your life for God’s fullness? Jesus said, “blessed are the poor in Spirit… blessed are those that mourn… blessed are the meek… blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness… These are empty people! God’s blessings are for the empty, needy, sick, and hungry, thirsty people of this world. Don’t let stuff fill your life. Don’t let yourself be trapped in the illusion that life is good when you don’t feel the need for God. That is a trap and a lie.
This widow felt the intense need for God’s blessing. She cried out to God’s spokesman.
And I love Elijah’s response and the conversation that follows: verse 2. Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?" "Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil."
Let me just stop here and analyze this just a minute…
Elijah’s response turns her attention off of what she has lost to discover what she still has.
This is the direction we need to take in order to receive God’s blessings. It’s perfectly normal and good to grieve over loss and think about it. But we need to come to that time where we again survey our assets. If we can turn our attention to what we still have, we may discover what God’s will is for us during this time and find peace and strength to recover from grief and trials. This is a great principle. It is a spiritual principle. Emptiness is not ultimate and complete loss. In fact, it may be the very place God has carved out in our lives where we can meet with him and he can and show us his care and love and blessing.