S (Scripture): 2 Kings 4:1 Now a wife of one of the prophets appealed to Elisha for help, saying, “Your servant, my husband is dead. You know that your servant was a loyal follower of the Lord. Now the creditor is coming to take away my two boys to be his servants.” 4:2 Elisha said to her, “What can I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” She answered, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a small jar of olive oil.” 4:3 He said, “Go and ask all your neighbors for empty containers. Get as many as you can. 4:4 Go and close the door behind you and your sons. Pour the olive oil into all the containers; set aside each one when you have filled it.” 4:5 So she left him and closed the door behind her and her sons. As they were bringing the containers to her, she was pouring the olive oil. 4:6 When the containers were full, she said to one of her sons, “Bring me another container.” But he answered her, “There are no more.” Then the olive oil stopped flowing. 4:7 She went and told the prophet. He said, “Go, sell the olive oil. Repay your creditor, and then you and your sons can live off the rest of the profit.”
O (Observation): Today’s lesson from 2 Kings reminds us that utter dependence on the Lord is exactly where The Lord’s provision tends to show up.
In the wake of the death of her husband (who was a prophet), a widow is about to lose her sons to some debtors. Elisha hears of her difficulty and The Lord provides oil. Her oil jar becomes a cornucopia of oil, flowing endlessly, until she runs out of jars. And this is expensive stuff! So expensive that she is able to get out of her debt and have extra to live on.
Provision in the midst of dire needs is a characteristic of The Lord that we see time and time again in the Scriptures.
Living in a time in which women were systemically restricted from work, she had no real means of income. So she had no way forward. Instead of leaving her to her own devices, The Lord intervenes.
A (Application): A lot of times we feel that we need to be deep into acts of loving kindness in order to receive a blessing from The Lord – that the only times we are rewarded is when we give first. This text gives us no indication of why the widow is in debt, other than the fact that she cannot get out of debt.
I liken this to the situations in our nation in which people feel “stuck”: struggles over minimum wage, wars between races, unemployment, homelessness.
Sometimes, no matter how hard people try…they are just stuck. Children are raised in poverty and know no other way to live. Children raised in homelessness, are worried about their next meal, rather than how to diagram a sentence. Children grow up in segregated neighborhoods still, and we wonder why they are suspicious of people whose skin color is not the same.
The congregation I serve is fairly homogenous. Well, EXTREMELY homogeneous…which makes it safe and comfortable and lessens tension. But maybe that tension is what is called for. Maybe that tension brings to light the fact that we still have to rely on The Lord to grow us into part of our vision: “To welcome and accept all people.”
And quite like the widow, we will be coming to The Lord with very little hope or joy in light of our shortcomings…and maybe, just maybe, as we strive for a posture of welcome and acceptance, we will receive the necessary Spirit and resolve to follow through on this vision.
Is your setting (family, neighborhood, church, school) fairly homogenous? Is that reflective of where you live? What are some ways you are intentionally stretching your boundaries and comfort zones?
Remember, as you are stretched, the Lord will provide.
P (Prayer): Lord, I come with a repentant heart this Advent season. May we know of your grace – free and undeserved. May you send your Spirit in our time of need. Amen.