Have you ever had the feeling that God just wasn’t on the job? That he wasn’t keeping promises in the Bible that you counted on to be true? Have you ever been disappointed in him? Bitter? Are you blaming God for some sorrow or adversity that has happened that you don’t really think you deserve? Don’t be afraid to admit it! There are things in life that none of us really understands. Are you sick of some saint quoting Romans 8:28, “Oh, God will work it for good,” is sometimes like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound: it doesn’t always do the trick.
Many of God's chosen or called people have left a comfortable lifestyle to attend a seminary or take course in theology. You came trusting God to supply all your needs, and it hasn’t exactly been fun. You thought that when you answered God's call to preach the gospel, that things would ease up at home, on your job, in your ministry, oand in your relationships. But instead, things got worse.
You may have lost your job, your wife of husband wasn't down with this Jesus thing and they left you, You might have lost a close friend or a dear relative to some terrible disease; your best friend, that you thought had your back, lied on you and told others that you are a different person from the one that they see in church every Sunday.
Once you lost your job and your wife or husband left and abandoned you, things started really getting tight financially.In fact, it’s getting kind of old to wonder each week if there is going to be enough money for food, for those unexpected illnesses that you have to pay the doctor for. Well, maybe that is not your scenario, maybe your husband stayed. Your husband is working in a really low-class job, and he’s a gifted professional. But now you ask the question, "Why hasn’t God given him a better job? After all, you gave up everything to serve him, didn’t you? Why do bad things happen to good people? Isn’t trouble usually a punishment for sin? Not always! that is not necessarily the case. sometimes God is testing your faith.
Now, the woman in this text lived in the ninth century before Christ in the Northern Kingdom—the ten tribes that called themselves Israel. The moral and spiritual state of the country was deplorable. Baal worship was officially recognized by the court. The king was the son of Ahab and Jezebel, who had introduced Baal worship into Israel. And King Jehoram not only tolerated Baal worship, but he encouraged the worship of the golden calf instead of fidelity to the living God of Israel.
There has been a lot of wrong teaching concerning the biblical teaching on the appropriations of health and wealth, based upon the spiritual righteousness of a group or people or an individual person. Six hundred years before, Moses had given the people God’s conditions for blessing in the land. It was simply this: worship the Lord only and obey his commandments, and you will prosper. You will be blessed in every way, materially and spiritually. But if you turn from the Lord and you worship idols, you will be cursed in every way, materially and spiritually. It sounds like simple cause and effect, doesn’t it? It was saying that if you saw a prosperous person, you would know that they were following the Lord. If you saw a poor person, you would know they weren’t following the Lord. But it wasn’t that simple.
Even though the nation was characterized by idolatry, everyone in Israel had not been seduced by idols. In fact, in several cities—Bethel, Jericho, and Gilgal, for three--there were what we would call today Bible schools, where men came to study God’s word. These were religious communities established for mutual encouragement and instruction, and they were called either “the sons of the prophets” or “the company of the prophets.” Now, God’s major prophet in the land in that time, whether it was Samuel or Elijah or Elisha, had a very close connection with these schools. In fact, they were the professors. They would teach them what they knew.
Elisha, who was God’s prophet at this time, had an itinerate ministry over Israel. He would visit these schools regularly and instruct them. These men were the faithful few who swam upstream against the current. Surely God would demonstrate through them the material prosperity that he had promised to the faithful. That would just make sense! But instead, 2 Kings 4 explodes with all its seeming inconsistency before our eyes. Look at 2 Kings 4, starting at verse 1 (NIV):
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."
Can you just see her, facing Elisha? “Your servant, my husband, revered the Lord! You know him! He is your student! You know that he was a godly man. Now he’s dead!” What was her problem? “Why has this calamity happened to us? Why didn’t the promises of prosperity to the righteous come true for us? Why did my husband die in the prime of life before he could straighten out our financial difficulties and provide for his family? It’s not fair!” Have you ever thought that? “I’ve lost a good husband, and now I’m going to lose my sons to pay his debts, and they are going to become slaves! Someone else is going to own them like property!” She had a valid complaint! She, no doubt, had supported her husband’s vision and his goals. She had been an efficient housewife. After his death she used up all their resources to pay their debts, and now she was reduced to nothing. There was nothing left!
I don't know if you ever felt that way, but I did. After my husband died, fear set in. I was left with two mortgages to pay in addition to the regular fixed expenses. There were repairs that needed to be done that couldn't wait any longer. There were other personal things, too personal and private to talk about in this piece of writing. Three weeks after my husband past, my son Trevor and his finance went on with their marriage plans. I had to put on a happy face at the wedding and pretend that I was fine, when I was dying inside. This new life that awaited me was forced upon me when I had already been weakened by the death of my only daughter a hear before. Talk about getting hit when you are already down. Now only was a widow within 25 days of my husband entering the hospital, but I felt the pangs of a second death with the losing of my son to marriage. You know the Scripture: "A man shall leave his mother and father and be joined to his wife." I wasn't feeling that Scripture too well at the time. I have always been an independent woman, but I wasn't looking forward to having to make every decision about my life and everything that went along with my daily living.
I had to think about how I was going to keep up with the mortgage and the other bills on one income. I was feeling burnt out as a teacher, having taught for over 36 years and I made preparation to retire. After having gone through the death of my daughter and my husband, I could not take it anymore. I finished out the school year and retired in September of 2012. I didn't stay to get full retirement from the state of CT, I just wanted to come out alive, still in my right mind, without having to hurt my reputation or hurt anyone else because of the pain that I was feeling deep inside. I had to get my head fixed up, so I sought counseling.
The word of God is our road map and there are all kinds of instructions that deal with our livelihood, finances, and relationships. In Leviticus 25, starting at verse 39, is the line of provision in the Mosaic Law for payment of debt when you had no money. I’ll summarize it for you: you worked it off in labor! That’s perfectly valid! But God was very, very careful to place a limit on the time you could serve. The most you could serve was six years, and you had to be released in the seventh. You see, God’s rationale was, “You were once slaves in Egypt, and you will never be slaves again. Certainly, you will never enslave your own brothers!” This is why, in the Year of Jubilee, these people were released. Not only that, they were never to be treated as slaves, but as hired workers.
Now the pathetic plight of this widow was that, not only had she lost her husband, now she’s going to lose her sons—her family. That was bad enough, but it meant something else. You see, it meant that in her old age, she would have no security. It was sons who took care of their aged parents. So, it meant that she faced loneliness, bereavement, destitution, despair, and even an early death because of the oppression of a creditor that violated the Law of God. That was my fear when I lost my husband and when my son got married, I knew his first responsibility was to his wife. I can imagine how this poor widow felt.
You see, God has made special provision for the widow and the orphan in Scripture. They were the responsibility of the community. First off, the husband’s family was to take care of them (if he had a family). Secondly, the community was. Special tithes were taken that were to be provided for their care. They were supposed to glean in the fields and vineyards to get food. They were not to be oppressed or taken advantage of. Look at Exodus 22:22-23 for a minute. It states that very, very clearly. "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.” And then, in Deuteronomy 10:18: “He [God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow ….” He defends their cause. This widow cried out to Elisha because he was God’s representative, but who is she really crying out to? God, the defender of the fatherless and the husband to the widow.
Some of you are widowed—through death, through divorce, or through permanent singleness. Isaiah 54:5 is a verse that you can safely trust. That verse says, “…Your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name ….” He is your husband! He is the one who loves you. He is the one who will provide for you. If you need human beings to do it, he will bring them into your life. He will supply your every need! I am a true witness to that. the Lord has given me some great friends. My best friend and her husband have assisted me on many occasions, doing various things for me in and outside of my house. He has sent me a male friend that I enjoy spending time with and he is there for me when I need this thing or that. Lol. Stay with me now, I hear you thinking!
Don’t ever be ashamed or afraid to cry out to God in your need. He is a God who wants to meet that need, whatever it is--whether it’s loneliness, or security, or daily provision, or guidance, or comfort, or victory over sin, or peace, or wisdom that you need. He is both husband and father! I wasn't even looking for a friend or companion, but God sent one anyway! Lol. He knows what we need even If we don't ask for one. The Lord did not want me to just sit at home pining away because of the deaths of my daughter and husband. H wants me to have a good life, He wants me to experience some peace, joy and happiness too.
Elisha’s response to this woman rightly reflected God’s attitude. Now to 2 Kings 4:2: “Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you?’” You see, he was sensitive, he was concerned, he was compassionate, he was willing to be involved, and so is God! He asked another question which I really love. He said, “Tell me, what do you have in your house?" (2 Kings 4:2b) This was an important question to ask. You see, this would be no welfare handout! God would use what she had to start with.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a principle here that is supported all through Scripture. God multiplies what we surrender to him. Remember when Moses was terrified about meeting Pharaoh and telling him to let Israel go, and God said, “What is that in your hand?” Moses’ shepherd’s staff became the rod of God, a symbol of God’s power. Remember when Jesus fed the 5,000? He started with a little boy’s lunch, which he multiplied to feed a multitude of probably 10,000 people, because it was only 5,000 men that were counted. God will use whatever we surrender to him, no matter how insignificant it seems.
Now, notice her answer. She says, "Your servant has nothing there at all … except a little oil" (2 Kings 4:2c). All she had was olive oil. That was a very necessary commodity in that culture. They used it for food, for cosmetic, and for medicine. But she had so little—not even enough for herself, and so she disparaged what she had! Do you ever do that? God says, “I want you to trust me—to live by faith. I want you to serve me. I want you to accomplish this task or finish this project.” And we answer, “How can I? I don’t have any talents! I don’t have any resources! I have nothing.” But you see, people of God, God never made a “nothing.” He never did. He asks you to surrender whatever you have, and whatever you are and he’ll multiply it to accomplish what he has chosen for you to do.
You see, God doesn’t want us to be passive, but actively cooperating with him and depending on him. There is always a market for olive oil—all she needed was more! Now notice Elisha’s instructions. 2 Kings 4:3-4: 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."
Now, why did he tell her to do this? Why couldn’t the jar be multiplied, as well as the oil? That would have been such a simple solution. One reason is that it required faith to go around to every neighbor and ask for empty jars. It couldn’t have been easy: everyone knew her plight! It took faith to obey Elisha. Was she nervous? Was she fearful that maybe it wouldn’t work? Have you sometimes not told somebody you were praying about something because you were afraid it might not be answered, and then you didn’t want to look like God didn’t come through? You see, it didn’t matter how she felt; she acted with her will to obey Elisha. Her boldness and her personal effort combined with her faith, and that’s always a necessity. Can’t you see her and her two boys as they as they hurried from house to house, asking for jars, getting them, bringing them back home until there were no more to get? Some of us have too much pride, we don't want people to know that we have a need, we wear too many mask in the church, even those who wear a turned back white collar. We have issues too.
I think the second reason that Elisha required that she do this, is that he wanted to remind the community that they had a responsibility to her which they were not fulfilling. You see, they should have helped her! They could have all pitched in and helped pay the debt so that her sons would not be taken. They were simply not obeying God’s law in any way. And now, every family in the community was involved in contributing something. Before we get too self-righteous, I want to remind us that we, too, have a responsibility for the widows and the orphans in our church, in our community. Some people are widowed through death, divorce, or lifelong singleness. Don’t forget that! Don’t discriminate because a person is divorced. It has been the hardest thing in the Catholic churches to accept the divorced single. In 1 Timothy is says: “If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.”
Some of you have had to take care of aged parents, and you’ve been sort of champing at the bit a little bit, because you think, “Oh, if I didn’t have to do this, I could go out and serve God!” But you are serving God when you care for those in your family who no longer can take care of themselves. Certainly, widows, aged mothers, aged fathers need our care. This may be the only ministry you can do for a while. Remember, you are ministering. Let God give you a joy as you do that, because you are definitely obeying him.
James 1:27 is very, very clear. He says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” There are many things that we can do for people who are widowed, in whatever that way is. As I get older, I've watch my Mom grow older and move slower. The things that I use to see her do with ease, she now struggles with. She use to complain about being too hot all the time, now she dresses in layers and cannot tolerate the east coast autumn and winter seasons that she lived in for over 40 years or more. We must remember that when our storage is empty, there are people who do care. We must not cut ourselves off from the help that is available to us through our churches, our neighbors, our friends and family. As Christians, we must be Jesus's hands and feet. We must remember to give a cup of water in Jesus name!
That way our widows, orphans, our aged parents will have what they need to survive the harshness sometimes cruelness of what the world has to offer. As we grow older God will give us a grace to help us to ask for help, so that pride does not interfere with our being blessed. Our faith and trust in God's provisions will carry us through the times when we don't understand why God allows us to go through bad times.
I do know this: that the God we serve is at work constantly turning the good and the bad for our good; in that He in the business of transforming us into the image of His dear Son, if we allow Him to.
Have a Blessed Day and:
"Don't Forget To Say Your Prayers!"