Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Elisha's Identifies the Need - Elisha and the Widow's Oil - Lesson 3

In our last lesson about Elisha and the Widow's Oil we saw that a widow was in distress because of a debt and reached out to the church for help.We looked at her situation and the main points to consider for us today:
  1. She does not have any close family and so she comes to Elisha as her pastor and in the role of kindsman redeemer. Leviticus 25 describes this process.
  2. Her husband was a Godly man "one of the sons of the prophets" part of Elisha's team. Bad things can happen to godly people.
  3. The young couple had gotten into debt, perhaps student loans to tide them over until he could get a job as a prophet or a home loan that was underwater. 
  4. The seriousness of debt hits home, the children are to be sold to pay the debt obligation.
  5. The young husband did not have adequate life insurance or an emergency fund to care for his young family.
In this lesson let's look at  how Elisha handles the situation.

2 Kings 4:1-7

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves." And Elisha said to her, "What shall I do for you? Tell me; what you have in the house?"  And she said, "Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil." Then he said, "Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.  Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside."

So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured he brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another vessel." And he said to her, "There is not another." The the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest."
  1. Elisha asks the widow to identify her need. He says, "What do you want me to do for you?" She had come to the point where she needed to ask for help. Elisha wanted to know what she saw as the problem and what she needed him to do for her. This simple assessment is a great place to start with someone in debt. Organize the debts smallest to largest. In her case it was one big debt.
  2. Elisha asks what resources she has inside the house. He asked her to make a simple budget. He says what do you need? Then asks, "What do you have in the house?" What resources do you have available? He asks her to look inside herself, what God given talents, what raw materials, what personal energy, what training, what faith did she have. She looks around and identifies a jar of oil. A jar of oil can be a very significant thing when used by God. It was all she had but it was also all she needed...almost.
  3. Elisha asks the widow to go outside the house for part of the solution. Seems like an odd request. Go get some empty containers from your neighbors. The neighbors get to help, but only by contributing empty jars slated for the recycling bin. Elisha says to get a lot of empty jars. Look in every recycling bin in the neighborhood. Knock on every door. Dig out every piece of Tupperware in every closet. How big is her faith? How many vessels can she find? The provision will come in proportion to how many vessels she gets. 
  4. She is responsible for both searching the house for resources and for going outside the house to find vessels. Elijah didn't ask Gehazi (Elisha's servant) to check the benevolent fund or call the book keeper for the "school of the prophets" or ask her to go door to door and beg oil from her neighbors. He asked her to be a part of the solution, to exercise her faith. Yes, the purpose of this whole process was provision for the widow.  So why didn't Elisha just give her the money, get her a couple of jobs, or shame the lenders into forgiving the debt?
Let's take a look...

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