God's Miraculous Provision - Part 2
(Part 2 of a sermon based on 2 Kings 4:1-7)
ACT OF DIVINE COMPASSION (vv. 3-6)
In the second place, I say that this provision of oil is an act of divine compassion. This widow has a Savior. Thank God! Believe me God was there in Israel, just as He is with us today and He looks after not only the affairs of the nations but also the needs of His own people. For some of you who are widows or widowers, I want to remind you that God sees your sufferings and He knows your every need. His gracious protection and provision will come as a response to your faithful cry for help. The psalmist says, “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (Ps.68:5).
Yes, this widow may have felt the whole weight of the world on her shoulder, but we need not ignore her boldness to approach Elisha for help. In doing so, she showed her faith in God. To those who walk by faith God shows Himself to them that with Him there are treasures of freedom and life, and in His mercy He graciously grants them.
Do you have the boldness to approach God in your helplessness or are you doubting whether God can help you in your desperation? Do you have faith in God to meet your need today? God assures you that if you walk by faith, believing His divine providence, you and I will enjoy real life and freedom that the world doesn't know. God promises great things in His Word but He also requires from us faith and obedience.
As we think about Elisha’s question to her, “How can I help you?” (v.2) we need to remember that Elisha was the prophet of God (v.7). In a very unique way, Elisha represented the person, power, and care of God. Now this widow is in the presence of Elisha. By crying out to him, she was seeking God’s intervention through Elisha, whose name literally means “My God is Salvation.” Elisha is like Jesus who is filled with compassion and looks at the oppressed with the heart of a shepherd (Matt 9:35-38).
In those dark days of apostasy, God had acted powerfully through Elijah and Elisha. Through His faithful prophets God authenticates His covenant care for Israel. When Elisha asked her, “How can I help you?” he was in essence saying, “What do you want God to do for you through me?” If you notice Elisha did not wait for an answer. He was eager to help her in her distress. It is obvious that Elisha bleeds for her. O congregation, your God is eager to listen to you and to act accordingly when you bring your troubles to Him. Do you have the confidence to cry out to God for help?
I am reminded of Matthew 6:8 and 32. God knows our needs before we ask. In fact He has known them from all eternity. And because of this we boldly ask and pray for prayer causes us to be dependent on Him. It demonstrates our faith and shows that it is He who ultimately meets our needs. To those of you who are in desperate need today, make your request known to God. Maybe you're wondering where to get the next payment for that housing loan, medical bill or rent. Or maybe your need is more than material or economic in nature. Do not be anxious. Pray in the name of Christ that God would meet that need. And when God meets your needs He shows that He cares for you, and you are led to thank Him.
The woman told Elisha that the only resource she has was a jar of oil. So Elisha instructed her what to do. He told her to go around and borrow as many empty jars from her neighbors. Then she has to go inside and shut the door, and start to pour the oil from her jar into the borrowed jars (vv.3-4). These are simple instructions that one can easily follow. But without faith in God, these words mean nothing at all. Who in his right mind would pour oil in empty jars out of a small jar of oil that was probably almost empty? That's crazy! But notice how the story continues (vv.5-6).
Though the text does not describe the woman going to her neighbors to borrow empty jars, we know that she did because she was able to acquire them. The narrative goes on with the widow shutting the door, filling vessel after vessel with oil from her jar. Elisha disappears from the scene. But we see the widow and her sons doing exactly what Elisha told her to do. I'm quite sure, boys and girls, that her two sons helped their mom in filling those empty jars with oil. I can just imagine how happy and amazed they were, seeing all those jars filled with oil. When all the borrowed jars were filled the supply of oil also stopped.
A miracle has taken place! It happened behind closed doors. No neighbor has seen the miraculous flowing of oil. No media coverage, so to speak.
This seems to be the way God operates in His kingdom. While the unbelieving world is blinded from the many blessings of God, His faithful people, on the other hand, are experiencing His gracious provisions. Israel, in her pursuit to serve Baal and everything he represents, has been missing the abundance of God's grace which this widow is now enjoying. It's just a matter of time that Israel would be banished from the Promised Land and be exiled to a foreign land because she persisted in her unbelief, unlike this widow who put her trust in God.
So this miracle, while it proves the goodness of God, also serves as an indictment to the unbelieving Israel who have forsaken her God for riches and 'good life' in the presence of Baal. For a while, this miracle was hidden but it would soon be known to the neighbors, and later in Israel, that this poor widow, whom some of them may have ignored and neglected, has been miraculously provided by God with a means to be freed from debt.
God said that the poor would always be with you. Both the OT and NT attest to their continuing presence in the society, even today. The poor and the needy are always there. They exist not as objects of our ridicule and judgment but as objects of mercy and compassion. We cannot simply say that the government is now responsible for them because we pay our taxes anyway. So we just turn our backs on them.
If we truly desire to serve God we would also be careful to hear and obey the teaching of James when he said, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (1:27). This is something that you and I as the Church of Jesus Christ need to seriously think about: How the widows and widowers, the poor and the needy among and around us are ministered? When was the last time you visited a widow or ministered to an orphan? When was the last time you brought gifts to the poor or the needy in their home?
Israel should have known that God would not allow the poor to be oppressed or ignored or the widows and orphans to be neglected. He doesn't want His people to be indifferent and unconcerned of the plight of the needy. When His people are in need and God hears their cry for help, He comes to their rescue.
Praise the Lord for He has sent the One who said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Thank God that He has sent His Son Jesus Christ to us, poor and needy as we are, like the widow, because of our sins.