In Steve Mattison’s devotion this past Sunday on 1 Kings 17 he pointed out the difference between God providing for the needs of those who love and serve Him compared to God providing an easy life to those who love and serve Him. One can be counted on, but not the other. We can always count on God to provide what we need, but that is not the same as never being in need. In fact, it is during the more difficult times in our lives that we have the opportunity to put all our faith – and our deeds – into His hands to see how He will provide once again. Those difficult times are faith building opportunities.
2 Kings 4 includes two women with impressive stories of how God provided for them in their time of need through the prophet Elisha.
The first account is of a God-fearing widow with two sons and demanding bill-collectors. She has already lost her husband but now if she can’t pay her debts the bill collectors will take her sons to pay off her debts. Her life has been far from easy. But I love how God would show Himself faithful – working with her and her generous community. God could have just supplied all the coins she needed in the mouth of a fish or something – guess He was saving that “trick” for later. When God provides, it doesn’t mean we just sit and watch, often there is a job for us to do to get things rolling. Sometimes it might mean going out to catch the fish with the coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:24-27). For the widow, Elisha asked her what she DID have. God can use the little bit we are thankful for and recognize we DO have to then multiply our blessings.
In this case, the widow was also to ask her neighbors for help – she needed their empty jars. Her community had the opportunity to play a part in supporting her. They weren’t going to be the ones paying the debt for her, but they were providing part of what she needed in order for her to faithfully fulfill her role so God could pour out the blessings like only He can do. Elisha told her, “Don’t ask for just a few (jars).” (2 Kings 4:3). If she would have had a bad attitude and said, “This is stupid, I don’t want to ask my neighbors for jars, I don’t like relying on others, how is this going to help? I will just get a handful of jars” then she would have just experienced a tiny miracle and she wouldn’t have had enough to pay off the full debt. God doesn’t need to bless the bad attitudes. Watch your attitude. When the man of God says, “Don’t ask for just a few”, then go out and ask for a lot! The size of her miracle was going to depend on how faithful she was, and how big her view of God was. If she thought God could only help a little, only a few jars would be collected and only that much oil would have poured from her little jar of oil. Thankfully, it appears she collected quite a few, so that so much oil poured from her little jar she would be able to not only sell the new full jars to pay off the debt but then also live off of the rest. God supplied even more than what she needed at that time – because she was faithful to do her part and had a big view of what God could do – and so she listened to and obeyed the man of God.
The second woman in 2 Kings 4 is a well-off woman with a husband but no sons. She recognizes Elisha as a man of God and practices hospitality (first inviting him several times for supper, and then even creating an addition on their house – a small room on their roof – so he could stay overnight.) Their town of Shunem was about half-way between Elisha’s hometown and Mount Carmel, which Elisha still visited regularly, so Elisha would come and go – and was always well provided for when he was with them. So, Elisha promises her a son, a miracle from God as her husband is old and she had resigned herself to a life without children.
The baby is indeed born, but a few years later he dies in her arms, struck with some sudden severe ailment. She carries her dead son to Elisha’s room and lays him on the bed, and then tells her husband in the field that she will need a servant and donkey as she is going to travel to find Elisha. A commentary suggested she didn’t tell her husband of the death of their son for fear that he would have him buried right away as it was hot harvest season. Instead, her faith spurs her on to action. She needs to speak to the man of God. It’s a great story that I can’t tell as well as the writer of 2 Kings – so make sure you read it to see how the story ends…
God provides. He doesn’t just hand out the easy life. Be prepared for difficulties. They don’t mean God is not there, or He doesn’t care. Even in the trials, God provides. He calls you (sometimes through the men and women of God) to step out in faith – still believing even when you are in pain. When you feel at a loss, keep your big view of God and all He can do. God provides.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- How have you seen God provide for you? What might He have asked of you in order to receive the blessings He wanted to give to you? How did others play a part?
- How can you help those in your community who are in the midst of difficult times?
- How would you rate your hospitality? What blessings have you (or might you) receive from welcoming others? How can you show hospitality this month?
- Why did God allow the death of the Shunammite’s son? Look ahead to 2 Kings 8:1-6 for even more insight. How does God provide even when the dead are not raised – right away?