Sermons

Summary: Once upon a time there was story in which the poor and little people teach us about gratitude and generosity.

“But my dear - the bible is quite clear ‘Do not fear’ - That’s what God says my dear, do not fear’

Eleven years earlier when Judith had fallen in love with and married Reuben, one of the things that had attracted her to Reuben was his faith - that and his stunning good looks. Judith had so admired the strength of his convictions. He came from Baal- Shalishah. The town’s name said it all. A place where people wore their faith so lightly that they were happy to call their town after a pagan deity. BAAL shalishah.

But Reuben wasn’t like that. Aged 17 he had had a profound religious experience that had led him to become a devoted follower of the God of Abraham. “God rescued me” he had told her - "Just like God rescued our ancestors when he brought them out of Egypt and fed them with Manna in the wilderness." He had been a man of principle … when so many of the boys of his age had seemed to be after just one thing.

But now they were arguing.

“It’s all very well you and your God” she shouted at him - “But will that put food on the table? There’s famine in the land. We are so lucky that are farm has produced some crops. Down the road at Eliphaz’s homestead - there youngest died last week from lack of food. We can’t go giving away what little we have. We have six young mouths to feed in this family Reuben. Do you want one of our babies to die because you’ve done what your God says? None of the other families are giving their first fruits to God and his servant Elisha.

“Judith darling. It’s not like that - if we don’t give what the bible says we should give to God we are robbing God. These first fruits that we have - these twenty loaves of Barley and fresh ears of grain - where do you think they come from? God made them grow. There is famine in the land - yet God gave us these first fruits. And Judith my dear - he also told us “Do not fear”

“If we keep these few loaves of Barley and ears of grain for ourselves - it’s like holding a little bird so tightly in your hand that you crush it to death. The bible says take your first fruits and give them to the Lord. If we don’t trust God and take our first fruits and give them to Elisha the man of God- what will happen next? Twenty loaves of Barley won’t feed us for a fortnight. Then what? Do we expect God to give us more when we have robbed God?

Eventually she gave in. They would probably die anyway - what was the point of arguing over a few loaves. Let Reuben die happy.

So they packed their bags, and the kids, and set off for Gilgal - the Shrine of Elisha the man of God. On the way they met travelers who told them tales - of how Elisha had found a starving widow who was about to have to sell her children into slavery. How he had told her to borrow empty jars from all her friends - and he told her to take her tiny jar of olive oil - a jar that would have fed her for a couple of days at most - pour that tiny jar into your neighbours' jars. She had done so and jar had kept pouring until every vessel in the village was full. And the sold oil had paid all her debts and fed her family. Had she kept that oil to herself then like the bird held so tightly in the hand that it is crushed, she would have died - but she trusted God and his servant the Man of God with it - and there was more than enough. “See” said Reuben to Judith “We mustn’t rob God of what the bible says we should give him”

Other travellers told of how a bunch starving prophets had made a stew out of herbs - which turned out to be poisonous herbs. But Elisha, the man of God, had thrown a touch of flour in and done his miracles - and the stew was fine to eat. “See” said Reuben to Judith, “death can be staring us in the face, but when God is here, do not fear”

And so they reached Gilgal. There were lots of people there but no one else seemed to be bringing offerings. There were children with swolen bellies. Old men with bones showing. There must have been a hundred people there. All starving.

Judith and Reuben took their offering - the first fruits that had grown on their farm that year - twenty small loaves of barley and and some fresh ears of grain in a sack and they gave them to the Man of God’s servant. They saw the relief on his eyes - it would be a meal for him and his master. The servant took the sack to Elisha -and the Man of God said “Give it to the people and let them eat” “How can I set this before 100 people?” “Give it to the people and let them eat for thus says the lord “They shall eat and have some left”. Judith was amused - the servant was number two at the Shrine and he seemed to have less faith than her unimportant husband. But the servant eventually did what he was told.

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