[Women of the Bible 3] The Widow's Oil: When Bad Things Happen to Good PeopleRelated Media
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. 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.
Some of you have left a comfortable lifestyle to come to seminary! You came trusting God to supply all your needs, and it hasn’t exactly been fun. 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. Your husband is working in a really low-class job, and he’s a gifted professional. 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! I hope you hear that! Not always, as we’re going to hear from our study today!
Now, the woman we are studying 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, and why not? 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.
Israel had been about to enter the land 600 years before. I want you to really listen to me carefully—a lot of the misapprehension and the wrong teaching that we have today about health and wealth being the evidence of spiritual rightness is taken from a misconception of this. Now, I want you to hear it carefully. 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!
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.
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!
Now, I know you are saying, “That’s easy for you to say! You have a husband, and you have five children, and you don’t have any problems!” Five children without problems is a misapprehension! But I know that this is true from experience. My father died when I was seven and my sister was five. There was no insurance, and there was no Social Security in those days. In fact, Social Security didn’t even begin until a year later! I can remember my mother saying over and over, during our lives growing up: “God has promised to be a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless.” My sister and I really believed her, and we saw him provide for her and for us, from that day 52 years ago, until now—so I know that this is true. 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!
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.
Girls, 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, girls, 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, girls. 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?
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 evangelical churches to accept the divorced single. There’s an interested article, I’ll read a little more to you. I just got it yesterday in the mail, and the cover article is on the single parent. It’s a Moody Monthly. It has some very insightful letters in it that I’m going to share with you.
I want you to turn for a minute to 1 Timothy 5:16:
“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 the way is. There are small repairs that a handy man can do: a “handy man,” not a “handyman,” but a “handy man;” boys that need a good role model (male role model); women that would be alone on holidays unless we invite them and share ours with them; good clothes that can be handed on. There are countless things that we could do.
Let me just read you a couple of things. This is a very interesting one. Is says, “No Place for the Single Parent.” The article is excellent. There are two articles. There are several letters that came in from single people around the country. Let me just read a couple of excerpts.
“Single parents who are divorced need help with the stress of parenting, not condemnation. Believe me; we already have enough guilt to last a lifetime.”
“One Sunday school class turned our entire half-acre of weeds into a lawn.”
“One team in the church came to our house one afternoon a week to baby-sit for my toddlers.”
“An adult Sunday school class planned a weekend camping trip and invited us to go with them.”
“I would have appreciated another family inviting us to the caravan with them to Disneyland or Yellowstone.”
“Sundays were a difficult day for me. I appreciated dinner invitations, especially on that family day.”
Listen to this—I’m afraid some of us might be guilty of the same type of thing. “One Sunday not long ago should have been my anniversary—twelve years. I had a very difficult time sitting through the service. The pastor’s wife came up to me afterwards and asked, ‘How are you doing?’ Normally, I would just have said, ‘Fine, fine,’ and covered it up, but that day I couldn’t. ‘Really, things are not going very well,’ I said. And she said, ‘Oh, come on! Put a smile on your face and say you’re wonderful!’ I won’t tell you what I felt like saying! I thought, ‘You don’t care about me! You don’t care that I’m hurting! You just want to hear for your sake that I am wonderful.’”
Another one says, “In the past six years, no Christian man has offered to spend time with my son—to play ball, teach him to fish, hunt, camp, give him a man’s perspective, show him how to be a husband and father himself one day. I had to turn to a secular organization to have that need met in his life.”
“My father was killed in the war when I was five, and my mother raised three children alone. With all my heart, I believe that the greatest contribution the church could make to single parents would be for a person of the sex of the missing parent to adopt the children for periods of time: a weekend once a month, perhaps, or an evening. The church failed my brother in this, and let it never be said that little girls don’t need their fathers, too!”
Pretty strong stuff, isn’t it? Every one of us has something to offer these people. This church has about a thousand singles that we minister to. Why don’t you ask the Lord to give you a heart and a vision and a sensitivity so that you might be able to use yourself and your resources to meet some of those needs?
Now in the privacy of her own home she stood with her two boys, surrounded. I imagine that the room was filled with empty jars. Elisha had said to shut the door. This was not going to be a public spectacle! This was going to be a very private miracle to show God’s personal love for this widow and her sons. God was being a husband and father in a very tangible way to this little family. I hope you use your imagination when you study! Can you imagine the suspense as she took the first donated jar and her small, half-filled little jar of oil and started to pour. And the oil kept coming until the big jar was full. And then they got another one and she filled that. And the next one and she filled that. As she filled them, the boys would take and put them to one side. And on, and on she went.
Look what it says (2 Kings 4:5-6):
She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one."
But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.
You see, the basis for the miracle was her own resources! God will multiply what we surrender to him—multiply it beyond our dreams. I am really amazed at how the Lord gave me an example of this. I got this in the mail last night; we stopped at our post office box. This gal was in my Bible study at Faith Bible Church for six years. The last couple of years she had not been able to come because she was homeschooling. She sort of chased at this in the beginning, but she called me about two months ago to tell me that they were moving to Maryland, and that God had really done something very special for her. One of the things that they’d had trouble with all the time I knew her was financial problems. In the course of home schooling, she put together a schedule for herself and then she shared it with some others. It was so good that the homeschooling association has asked to publish it. This is her folder. It’s called A Time Minder: A Homeschool Organizer Designed by a Homeschooler for Homeschoolers, and she says that she is amazed at the response to this.
Now, this was something that she did not even know she had, but God gave her the opportunity to do this. She was a homeschool mother. God gave her the insight and the wisdom and she used her own skills to put this together. She found out that something she put together for herself is something that’s a need in the whole homeschool movement, and now it’s going to be a resource for income for her family. Plus, just from her letter to me, her own self worth—she’s always had some problems with that--was so elevated that it was wonderful. She said she just feels so excited that God is giving. She’s going around speaking. She’s sharing this. She’s going to conventions. God took what she had that she didn’t even know she had and multiplied it to meet real needs. Many of you have the same kind of resources within that you are not even aware of.
I want to ask you something: what effect do you think this had on her sons? They had a tangible demonstration of the love and care and the power of the living God. You know, I think sometimes that (I’m saying “we” because I feel guilty about it myself) we need to share with our children what God is doing in our lives. You know, how in our quiet time we keep our little journal. We talk about it; we talk to the Lord; we tell our friends; but we don’t say to our children, “You know, God is teaching me this. This is a problem I’ve had. God is meeting my needs.” You are the major source of information about God! Don’t make the mistake of thinking the public school’s doing it, or even Sunday school once a week. You are the major source of knowledge about God. It’s up to us to let them know that God is real for us, and he’s real for them.
And listen, gals, we need to know how to lead our children to Jesus Christ at an early age. Don’t condition them to behave like little Christians without the Holy Spirit resident within. They’ve got to be born before they can grow! Some of you need to learn from Child Evangelism Fellowship how to lead your children to Christ. In fact, I’m hoping that is going to be one of our electives this next coming time. That’s something, if you have young children, that you want to plan to take.
Notice how she never stopped pouring the oil until there was not one jar left, and the supply never ran out until there was no more need. See, God always works things out perfectly.
2 Kings 4:7: “She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” You notice, he gave her two commands. He said, “Go, sell the oil.” You see, she still had work to do. She still had to take the initiative. She still had to be creative. Then he said, “Pay your debts!” That came first! That came before the new sofa, the new T.V., the new car, the new clothes. Pay your debts!
I got a book in the mail just yesterday--yesterday was a great day in the mail—by Ron Blue, Managing Your Money. If any of you have problems with your money, get it. It’s excellent, and one of the first things that he says is every Christian should aim to be debt free. Don’t buy the system. Don’t buy the credit card, the plastic, system. We need to be debt free! We really do! We need to learn how to live beneath our income. It’s a great book. I’d certainly encourage all of you young women to get it, and some of you older ones I’m sure can use it, as well. I always assumed that at a certain age we know everything, but that’s not true! You notice, he had a promise for her. He said, “You and your sons can live on what is left.”
Now, what did she ask him for? She had asked for her debts to be paid so her sons would not be taken as slaves. That’s what she’d asked for. But look what she got: God supplied enough so there would be no future debt or risk of loss for her or her children. He gave her security for her future, as well. God is so creative; he has his own way of doing things, and he does much more than we ask.
But I want to ask you something: how did this all start? It started with sorrow, loss, poverty, adversity, anxiety. It continued with injustice and oppression. This woman’s situation went from bad to worse and there was no human help available. It was her very extremity that brought her to cry to Elisha for help. In doing so, she was really crying out to the living God, and throwing herself upon him for his help, and he rescued her—not only from the immediate danger, but from future poverty, as well.
Why do bad things happen to good people? I think there are some very practical reasons. I probably won’t have them all, but there are enough for us to think about.
In the first place, it’s the normal experience of life. It’s the human condition. We live in a fallen world. Things that happen to other people happen to us. Being a Christian does not exempt you from the normal experiences of life: sickness, death, accidents, financial reverses! 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us this, but it also tells us that we have a resource that people who do not know the Lord, do not have:
No temptation [that word can be “trial.” No trial or temptation] has seized you except what is common to man. [Other people experience it.] And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
What does he give us? The ability to endure, or the way to escape!
The second one, I’m sure all of you will testify if you’ve gone through this, is that these crises in our lives are what God uses to bring us to an end of self-reliance. There’s a great passage in 2 Corinthians 1 that I’d like to share with you, starting at verse 8, in the middle of the verse. Second Corinthians 1:8b-11a:
We were under great pressure [Paul is speaking], far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. [Have you ever felt that way?] Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.
I think that passage also tells us how much we need each other. We need other people to pray for us. This says we need to share our needs and not be too proud to let people know we have a problem—because it’s other people’s praying for us that enables us to get through, as well. But do you notice: it teaches us to stop relying on ourselves, but to rely on God. Nothing will bring you to this place unless it’s something that’s too big for you to handle. Isn’t that true? Because I’m telling you to use every resource that’s available to you. And so, God allows that for this reason. And then what happens? When we come to the end of our rope, we turn to him. As we obey his Word, our faith increases. God works for us; our faith increases more. We rely on him more. It has a very beneficial effect.
The third reason that bad things happen is that it enables us to know God personally. You see, these heartaches and adversities are the means that God uses to reveal himself to us. He becomes more than a creed, more than a series of theological doctrines that you believe. He becomes, in reality, by demonstration, a loving Father, a sympathetic Savior, a caring God, and a very real presence. Do you remember what Job said when God spoke to him after he had gone through that terrible, unexplained suffering? In Job 42:5, he says: “’My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’"
That brings us to the fourth point. You know God personally, but you know yourself realistically. We know ourselves better. We are aware of our faults, our limitations, our wrong responses and attitudes. When we see God at work in our lives, when we study his Word and believe his promises, we not only get to know him better--we get to know ourselves better, both negatively and positively. We will find we have resources we didn’t know we had—skills, talents, that God has given us. If we surrender them back to him in all our helplessness, he will multiply them to meet our need.
And then, a very important one: James 1:2-4 has a great insight into the reason for suffering. I’d like you to turn to James 1:2-4.
Consider it pure joy [the word “pure” means “unmixed”—unmixed with sadness, unmixed with doubt, unmixed with bitterness, unmixed with grief. That’s tough! Consider it pure joy], my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance [the ability to stick it out and hang in there]. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The only thing that is going to make us mature and give all the facets of the personality that we need spiritually, is suffering! In fact, Philippians 1:29 says that not only were you called to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for his sake. So, suffering is part of it. The people that tell you, “All you have to do is just believe on Jesus and life is a bed of roses from then on”--are forgetting that roses have lots of thorns. That is a lie! Do not believe it! The Scripture does not support that at all! The difference for us is that God will take all of these hard things that we would willingly avoid from a human perspective, and he will turn them into gold for us if we keep on trusting him.
You see, these very things that we hate are what make us resilient. They toughen us to stand against the storms of life without crumbling. They strip us from the materialism and the lesser values of our culture, and we begin to have God’s value system. The spiritual is more important than the material. The eternal is more important than the temporal. Character is more valuable than appearance. Relationships mean more than money. People mean more than things. When we begin to have this value system, it’s evidence that we are becoming mature. That is the ultimate result of suffering.
The last one I want to mention is that suffering gives us a testimony. The things we suffer and the attitude we have through our suffering and the ability to endure are a testimony God uses to reach other people. Don’t you know that, first of all, her sons were permanently impressed? Her community, her neighbors, who had had to contribute their empty jars—they saw what God did for her. She was a testimony, and you and I are, much more so in adversity than in prosperity.
Think of the four women who lost their husbands so suddenly. Think about Lucy, who is teaching—would not stop. I said to her, “Lucy, you don’t have to teach!” and she said, “No, I’m going to go on.” Pray for these women. Even though they are radiant, they are suffering. They’re suffering, and they need our prayer! Don’t forget them just because the crisis is over.
I want to ask you something that we need to ask ourselves: think of what this destitute widow would have missed if she had not had her problem. What problem do you have now that has you reeling on the ropes? What grief have you suffered that you cannot find a reason for; that you are bitter about; that makes it hard for you to believe that God is a God of love? Are you willing to accept this terrible thing from God’s hand, because it’s tailor-made for you? Are you willing to believe that God will ultimately use it for your good, will reveal himself to you through it, will bring you to maturity? Will you consider it a mixed joy?
After all, if God could take the most unjust and tragic event in the history of the world and make it a blessing to all, he can do the same with you. Jesus Christ did not deserve to be falsely accused! He did not deserve to be sentenced to death, to be beaten, to be spit upon, to be mocked, to die the agonizing death of the cross. He willingly endured this so that you and I could be forgiven our sins and have a relationship with God that will last forever. God is an expert at taking tragedy and turning it into triumph.
Have you accepted the salvation that he paid such a great price for? The Bible says that as many as received him [the Lord Jesus], even to them that believe on his name, to them God gives the right to be children of God (John 1:12). You may do it right where you are sitting! You may say, “Lord, I realize I am a sinner. I realize I have no right to ask anything from you, or to walk into your presence; to ask for your help; to call myself your child; unless I have first trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior. He died for me, he rose again, and I do that right now.”
That’s as simple as it is. You can talk to God right where you are sitting. I would love it if you came and talked to me afterward—told me—so I could give you some encouragement from God’s Word. And then, when you do that—and most of us in here have done it—you can know you are God’s child, and you are his personal responsibility. You can turn your sorrows, your adversities, your injustices over to him and know that he will act on your behalf—to give you the ability to endure, to deliver you, to reveal himself to you, and to bring you to maturity.
Now let’s look at our theme overhead. God’s Woman –and that’s what we all are, and certainly want to become, more and more. This woman was God’s woman. She was unique. She was responsible to obey God, even in that strange command, and her obedience resulted in her deliverance. She influenced her sons, her community, and she’s a continuing influence, even to this very morning.
You are God’s woman. Every one of you is different and unique. Every one of you is responsible to God in the place where he has you--to love him, to obey him, and to serve him. Every one of you is influential in that very sphere. How’s your influence been this week? Ask the Lord to make you count for him this coming week. No matter what the situation is, no matter how your heart is crushed, no matter how despairing you feel, tell the Lord that you are willing to trust him to use all of these difficulties to bring blessing into your life.
2 Kings 4:1-7
1. What was the spiritual condition of the northern kingdom, Israel, as exemplified by her kings?
2 Kings 1:-3; 3:1-3
2. Write down what you can deduce about the widow’s husband from vs. 1.
3. The Mosaic Law provided for paying off debts by working? How did God limit the practice? Lev. 25:39-41
4. What responsibility did God place on the entire community regarding widows and orphans?
Ex. 22:22-23; Deut. 14:28-29; 24: 19-21. Did Israel obey God in this? Is. 1:17, 23; 10:1
5. What does God promise to do for the widow and orphan? Deut.10:18; Ps. 68:5
6. Why did the widow come to Elisha? What was especially pathetic about her situation?
7. What does Elisha’s response tell about his character? How do you respond to those in need?
8. What do you learn from the fact that he used what she had as a resource? Compare Ex. 4:1-5; Mark 6:35-44. Write a principle that you can derive from this. Can you make a specific application of this principle to your own life now?
9. List all the things that Elisha commanded her to do. Why do you think he had her ask her neighbors for jars?
10. What impact do you think this had on her sons? In what practical ways can you show your children what God is like and that He answers prayer?
11. What had she asked Elisha’s help for? What did she actually receive? What can you learn from this?
12. What is your responsibility today to the orphan and widow? To the single parent? 1Tim. 5:16; James 1:27. See also Acts 9:36-42. What do they need besides material provisions? What practical things can you do to help them? Is there someone in your family, the church or community whom you can reach out to this week?