Elisha and the Widow of a Prophet’s Son
“A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.” 2 Kings 4:1
Like Elijah, Elisha also has two stories of God’s supernatural provision and the ministry of healing and recovery from death. Both stories are found in 2 Kings 4.
There was a widow whose husband had been the son of a prophet serving Elisha. When her husband’s creditors come to take her sons into indentured servitude to pay her husband’s debt, she came to Elisha and petitioned him for help. There are several things that we can draw from this story. First we know the woman’s husband was known by Elisha and that he was a faithful servant and a man of sincere love for God. As a prophet he served his office with a deep awareness of the sovereignty and power of God.
That he was in debt when he died is not an indictment against him for poor fiscal management of his resources. Elisha as his superior (overseer) minister, so to speak, and as a spiritual father to him, because he was a son of the prophets, would have been well acquainted with his circumstances and would not have been disposed to assist her in such a dramatic way if indeed they were in some kind of rebellion or had wantonly wasted their resources on extravagances. The prophets lived very modestly and there is every reason to believe that they had simply fallen on difficult times and their meager and inadequate income at the time left him without the resources to pay all of his debtors before he died.
Now the widow was confident that her husband’s work and reputation with Elisha would warrant his consideration of her petition. So she came and told him the whole story, undoubtedly with some urgency because the creditors were already coming to take her sons away. She was desperate for relief.
Hearing her story the man of God asks her what she had in the house. More specifically what do you have of any value in your house that can be converted to cash to pay your debts? She told him she only had a jar of oil.
Now most of you reading this have heard this story many times and many messages have been preached about the miracle that took place. But is there more to be learned from Elisha’s encounter with this widow and her sons? I believe there is.
We know the prophet instructs her to go to all her neighbors and borrow as many vessels as she can, but there is no inquiry of how many vessels she already had in her house. None? A few? Several? It may be assumed that she had a least as many as would be necessary for ceremonial washing (1 or 2). Or we can assume she had at least a few empty pots, just as obviously her neighbors also had, being people of modest means because they did not live lavishly among the rich.
How ever many, she may have had, or not had, it was evident to the Prophet it was not going to be enough. So she sent her sons throughout the neighborhood to borrow as many large vessels as they could find. We don’t know how many they barrowed but the number must have been significant since they were told not to barrow just a few. Get all that you can.
When they brought all they could find into the house they did as the man of God said and closed the door. This was important so that no one could see how the miracle was manifested. The means by which God would provide for them supernaturally had to remain hidden from their neighbors lest they find themselves at the mercy of everyman’s whim to do the same for them, nor did God want them to be exalted in the eyes of their neighbors because of the extraordinary favor bestowed on them which could provoke them to envy and jealousy.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” James 1:13
Now in secret she began to pour out the oil from the jar into the vessels and she kept pouring until every vessel was full, then she called to her sons for more vessels, but there were no more. So she came to the man of God and told him, and he said,
“Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.”
The means by which God provided for this widow was to take her meager provision and multiply it as she poured it out in obedience to His word. With the great supply of oil He set her up in business so to speak. As often happens with God, His blessing to one person also results in blessings to many. The people who needed oil were blessed to find it locally. The ones who leant their vessels were rewarded for their use. The woman and her sons cashed in the abundant supply of oil to get enough money to all heir debts and then to live on the rest, maybe for the rest of their lives or at least for some considerable time.
Sometimes our desperate times are a set up for a great turn around in our lives, from want to an overwhelming supply of blessing and favor. The prophet understood the widow’s situation with the loss of her husband, and God sent her to the man of God so that He, God could show her compassion and in doing so also to honor her husband as a faithful servant of God by blessing his family, his wife and his sons and caring for them for the rest of their lives.
No situation is too hard for God to reconcile, reclaim, restore and established on a surer foundation.
The creditors maybe threatening today, but God has a plan to deliver you and to bless you with all that you need and more than enough. Ask Him and whatever He tells you to do, do it. And as you do, expect the blessing and more than enough.
Next: Elisha’s second story