Overcoming In Hard Times
2 Kings 4:1-7 (READ)
We want to discuss four thoughts from our text this morning.
1. First we want to notice: The providential dilemma (verse 1).
We see that the woman in our text was the wife of a prophet.
I just want to say that I think few people realize what a prophetís (or today, a pastorís) wife goes through. She has the cares of raising the children, keeping house, managing the business of the home, plus the added cares and burdens of the ministry. They get far too little appreciation.
Next, we see that her husband was a poor prophet.
He was a faithful servant that feared God. He was one of the seven thousand that God reserved, who did not bow the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). He did not compromise with the idolatry that was notorious in Israel in his day. He refused to comply with the king of Israel, and condone and tolerate idol worship in the land.
He was known as a man who feared God. She said to Elisha ďthou knowest that he feared God.Ē He had a reputation of being a God fearing man. That is, he lived as one who feared the Lord.
As a result of his faithfulness and his stand for the truth, he lost all worldly advantages that might otherwise have been afforded him, and he was barely able to provide for his family. He then died and left his family in poverty and in debt.
Finally, the creditor was going to take the children for bond slaves. In those days, children might be taken as payment of oneís debts. Donít get any ideas now parents!!! The bank wonít take your children to pay off your mortgage!!! But in all seriousness beloved, this world is merciless to Godís people and prophets. Can you imagine doing such a wicked thing to the family of one of Godís true and faithful prophets? Beloved, this world is no friend of Godís people.
Now I would like to pose a question to us. Was this prophet a wise man, or was he a fool?
What would the world call this man for denying himself and his family the benefits of the world? What would most of Christendom call him, who for the love of money compromise the truth? But what does Godís Word call him? Well, he was a servant that feared God? We learn in Proverbs 9:10 that ďThe fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.Ē Therefore we conclude that this prophet was a wise man in Godís eyes. And beloved, that is what really matters.
To conclude this thought, we want to notice a few other implications from this verse.
First of all, Godís most faithful saints and servants experience hard and dark times in their lives. Sometimes we are called upon to suffer and to grieve, and like this woman, we are compelled to cry out to God and His people for help. Godís faithful people experience tragedy, and death, and even poverty, just like other people do; and even more so!
Next, not all hard and dark times are a punishment for our sins. This is evident from this passage. Many times beloved, these are the mysterious works of Godís providence in our lives. We didnít cause them, and we could not have prevented them! God is sovereign in the affairs of men, especially in the lives of His children. He has a purpose in our dark times, that are known only to God Himself. We must simply believe and trust that they are for His glory, and for our good.
The third implication is, this old world does not love and honor Godís people or His prophets. They donít respect and appreciate our work of faith and labor of love. They would most gladly place our children, and us, into bondage. This world is not our friend, and it is not our home.
And so, this good family of the Lord found themselves in a providential dilemma. The widow woman then cried unto Elisha, Godís great prophet of Israel, to find help from the Lord- and as we will see, she found it! Today, beloved, we cry to our Great Prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ, to ďobtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,Ē Hebrews 4:16. And beloved, when we cry unto Him for help, we will find it!
2. Secondly we want to consider the question: What do you have in your house? (verse 2).
We notice here that Elisha asked the woman what he could do for her. It was Elishaís place and purpose to help this faithful, godly family in any way he could. It is also the pastorís place and desire to help the members of his flock in any way that he can, especially those who are faithful, and that fear God. Now, pastorís canít help the incorrigible, and those who will not be helped.
Also is this verse, Elisha asked the woman what she had in her house. Her answer was a pretty common answer that people give. ďNothing!Ē was her answer, ďexcept for a pot of oil.Ē That is a typical answer from the saints of God in hard times. When we are down and out, we typically see ourselves as bankrupt and destitute of any good and profitable commodity.
Beloved, I believe that God has given all of his children both physical and spiritual resources for our provision, even if we donít see them. The question is, what do we have? Iíll give us a hint, its not the big things, but most often God uses those little things to bless us and to provide for us.
Consider the rod of Moses, which I suppose was just a plain and simple walking stick. But God used that rod to pour out his plagues upon the nation of Egypt, and to part the Red Sea and deliver the nation of Israel on dry shod, and to smite the Rock from which gushed out a river of water in the wilderness, which was a precious type of Christ.
Consider Davidís sling and five small stones. There was nothing so special about these. But David used these to slay olí Goliath, that great giant of the Philistines, who defied the armies of Israel, and the God of Israel. Yes, God uses small things to do great things!
And of course, there was the widow woman in our text and her pot of oil. It wasnít much, and she certainly didnít think it was much. But the Lord used this pot of oil to pay her debt, and to redeem her sons from bondage, and to provide for her family in days to come.
Next there was the young lad in John 6, who had five loaves and two small fishes. This wasnít much food for a multitude of hungry people. But the Lord used these to feed five thousand.
And finally there was the widow who cast her two mites into the treasury in the temple. Two mites was only worth about fifty cents in todayís money. But Jesus said that her two mites was more valuable than all the money that the rich men cast in of their abundance.
We could give many other examples, but these will have to do for now.
So we see the Lord often times uses the little things that we already have, to bless us and provide for our needs. These might be our material belongings, or our mental or spiritual faculties, or the talents, and gifts that He has given to each of us. What do you have this morning? Please beloved, donít say ďnothing!Ē God has given us all some things, may He then reveal them to us.
3. Thirdly we want to notice: Elishaís advise to the widow woman (verses 3-4).
We want to mention just two things from these verses.
First, I believe this passage teaches us that when we ask God for His help in a matter, we should expect great blessings, and be prepared to receive them. Elisha said ďborrow empty vessels, not a fewĒ. ďBe prepared for God to pour you out a gracious and bountiful blessing!Ē
Beloved, we have seen that God often uses little things to bless His people, but He often uses little things in a big sort of way. Our God given faith ought to expect and prepare for great blessings from the Lord. How often are we guilty of expecting meager blessings form our great God?! Beloved, this is an insult to the Almighty! Therefore, come expecting great blessings!
Next, Elisha told the widow woman to shut the door upon her and her children. In other words, she and her children were to be shut up with the Lord in private, and there experience Godís blessings in secret, just between them and the Lord.
I believe that most of Godís blessings and miracles to His people are done in secret, in the regions of the heart and soul, and in the private, secluded places of our lives. He works where others canít see, but we alone know that it was the Lord that performed a mighty work for us.
This is so contrary to the charismatic movement, which attempts to make a public spectacle of the works of God, most of which, if not all, are nothing more than fakes and frauds. No beloved, let us seek the Lordís help and blessings in the private places of life.
I donít mean that we shouldnít ask prayer of the church, or ask help from the pastor or other members of the church; that is what we are here for! Nor do I mean that we shouldnít tell others about the miracles and works of the Lord in our lives. But we need to be careful in this, not to boast or exalt ourselves in any way whatsoever, but humbly exalt and glorify God alone.
4. Fourthly this morning: The woman obeyed the instructions of the prophet (verses 5-6).
How many times have people come to the pastor and asked for advice or instruction, and then they turn away and ignore our advice and instructions to them. Beloved there are no blessings or benefits if the needy saints will not hearken, and follow through what they are instructed to do.
This woman in our text, however, did just as Elisha instructed her. She followed through in every detail. And do you know what, God blessed her in her deed!
What do you suppose would have happened if the woman would have ignored Elisha, and not followed His instructions? I believe that her two sons would have been taken as bond slaves, and perhaps even the woman herself would have become a bond slave to her creditor, as she was not exempt.
Beloved, week after week we give Biblical advice and instructions to the saints of God. We study and prepare, and pray that God will give us the words that you need. But it is up His people, what we do with that instruction. If we believe that the preacher is only preaching his own thoughts and words, then we might just as well ignore most of what he says.
But if we believe that the Lord speaks to us through His minister, then I recommend that you listen intently, and put to use the instruction from the Word of God. No, we are not the pope. But† we are called of God to instruct, to teach, to admonish and exhort the saints of God in the way.
In conclusion, in verse 7 Elisha told the woman to sell the oil and pay her debt, and then to live off the rest (read verse 7).
Beloved, when God hears our cries, and answers our prayers favorably, and blesses us with those things we have need of, we are then responsible and accountable to God to follow through with what we have committed to do. In this case the widow woman was to pay off her debts. What if she decided to buy a new camel or a new living room suit for her tent, instead? Oh yes, she would have been in big trouble with the Lord, and with the creditor!
How important it is for Godís children to behave responsibly in this world, and not misuse and abuse the blessings that God gives us. Iíve told this story before, but once a friend of mine told me that his wife told him, that if she knew the Lord was coming tomorrow, she would go out and run up every charge account she had! Now, that is a humorous story, but it certainly isnít a godly or responsible attitude for a Christian to have. Well, she might have been kidding, I donít know.
Beloved, Godís people can and will overcome those hard and dark times in our lives. Spiritually, He has already given us all that we need. He has given us the oil of His Holy Spirit in our earthen vessels. He bids us gather together all the empty vessels of our spiritual needs. And as we bring them unto Him in the quiet solitude of our heart, with the door shut behind us, He fills them up with the oil of His manifold graces, so that we have all the grace we need to pay all our debt of sin, and to live on until He comes again for us.
May we bring our empty vessels not a few. May we come expecting, and prepared to receive the manifold grace of God that we need as Godís people. What is your spiritual need? Bring that vessel of need to the Lord and He will fill it.
If you are unsaved, your vessel is wanting of the oil of the Spirit. You donít have within you those things you need to free you of your sins, and give you eternal life. You must look outside of yourself. You must see that you are destitute and found wanting before God. You must then look to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. You must believe that He died for your sins, was buried, and rose again for you, and He will forgive you your sins and give you life eternal.
It is only by His Holy Spirit that you can believe in Jesus, but if you believe, then you have the blessed assurance that the Spirit dwells in you. And if the Spirit dwells in you, then you can also have the assurance that He will provide for your needs as well, and you too may take all of your troubles and cares to Jesus, and He ďshall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.Ē Phil. 4:19.
Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!