Thursday, February 5, 2015

God's Solution - Elisha and the Widow's Oil - Lesson 4

In our last lesson about Elisha and the Widow's Oil we saw that a widow was in distress because of a debt, and she 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.
  6. Elisha asks the widow to identify her need. 
  7. Elisha asks what resources she has inside the house. He asked her to make a simple budget. 
  8. 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
  9. She is responsible for both the searching the house for resources and for going outside the house to find vessels. 
In this lesson, let's look at  how God provides for the widow.

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 do 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 tells the widow to shut the door. This was a private encounter, it was just between her and her God. No one watching, no one to temper her reaction or to impress. Can't you just hear the squeals of delight when the oil keeps coming and coming and coming and coming? Can't you hear her praising God and moving from vessel to vessel in amazement? A miracle has happened and her deep sadness has turned to joy. Emmanuel, the God who seemed so far off is here in her house. 
  2. Her Creator provides generously for her need. This was olive oil and just like the wine at the wedding in Cana in Galilee it was no ordinary oil. This was first rate organic cold pressed extra virgin oil. We see from the previous chapter that this was spring, "when kings go out to war" and this abundance of oil from the Creator comes at the time in the year when everyone was running out of last years oil. The good oil was gone and there were a few dregs of oil around but they would start to get rancid at this time of year. She now had hundreds of gallons of the best oil that people in her town had ever seen, it showed up in the off season and she was able to get a premium price. Enough to pay off her house and to completely pay her student loans with enough to live on for many years.
  3. The Holy Spirit, the spirit of generosity, pours out a blessing for her and her sons. None of this would have happened without her obedience and her faith.
  4. She seeks instruction from Elisha after the oil stops. He doesn't tell her to give a tithe, he doesn't tell her to fund her 401K. He tells her that the debt is the number one priority. She sells the oil to her neighbors and there is so much that she sells the rest on Criagslist and pays the creditors. From this, we learn that even though God has provided, that doesn't change the laws or obligations. She has to repay the debt. The Savior has redeemed her, but the debt still has to be paid.
  5. The creditors are not portrayed as evil or having taken advantage of this family. They are morally neutral and operating within the law and cultural norms.
  6. Not only is the debt paid, but she now has money to live on. God wasn't mad at her, He loved her so much he redeemed her future and her family.
This is a lesson of hope from a God of love. This isn't a parable or a fable, this is a real life example of the terrible bondage of debt. Here are the modern day parallels:.
  1. Our culture and our churches are plagued by the slavery of debt. We are living beyond our means. Statistics tell us that 70% of the people in our congregations are living paycheck to paycheck just like the "son of the prophets".
  2. Thankfully, today creditors don't throw us in debtor's prison or sell our children into slavery. However, culture tells us that we should line up for more debt: house loans, cars, credit cards, and student loans, which enslave us just as much as the debts of this widow. We need to be content with what God has given us and repent of this non-Biblical foolishness.
  3. Many in our churches have just as much hardship as this widow, but God has provided a way just as amazing and miraculous as the widow's blessing and just as sure.
  4. God has provided for this miracle through our incomes and here is how it works. We get on a disciplined spending plan, spend less than we make, and pay our debtors. It is a simple and Godly recipe for God to pour out his blessing on us. We can dance the dance of the widows oil when we declare "WE'RE DEBT FREE". 

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