For the week of November 7, 1998 / 18 Heshvan 5759
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 18:1-22:24
Haftarah: 2 Melechim / II Kings 4:1-37
"Your servant has nothing there at all,"
she said, "except a little oil"
In this week's portion is a story of a widow who was in desperate need. She was in risk of losing her children to her late husband's creditors. Because of her husband's past relationship to the prophet Elisha, she looked to him for help.
His response to her and what follows contains some wonderful lessons for us concerning our own needs and how God wants to provide for us.
First, Elisha asked her what she had. She replied, "Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil." (2 Kings 4:2). Notice how she says she had "nothing at all," referring to the little oil she had as an after thought. When we are in need we often cannot see that we do have the little bit we have. What it comes down to is that we do not see the value in the resources we have and conclude that they are worthless.
Her response may have also indicated she had no intention of doing anything with the last thing she had left. It may have been, in her mind, her last bit of material security.
So Elisha then tells her to go and borrow lot of jars from her neigbours and pour the oil she has into them. She would then be able to sell the oil for money. She does what Elisha says and everything works out. The small amount of oil miraculously multiplied.
Her obedience to the prophet's words was actually her expression of faith in God. She took the little bit that she had and put it in God's hands by doing what Elisha said.
Notice that God didn't provide her with the money out of nothing, nor did he change the minds of the creditors, both of which he could have done. She participated in the miracle. While what she did certainly did not cause the multiplication of the oil, God called her to offer what she had to him.
We can hardly imagine what God could do with the little bit that we have if we would put it in his hands.
Some of us think that we need to make it on our own, providing for our own needs. Others of us are always looking to others to provide for us. The lesson here is that God wants to provide for us, but we need to participate with him according to whatever ability we do have.
Let's not draw the conclusion that what this is saying is that things will work out according to our own effort. This is not one of those motivational stories convincing us that we can do anything we set our minds to. Naturally speaking the widow was in big trouble. Her little bit of oil and whatever business smarts she had would not save the day. It was God that worked things out through Elisha's words and the miracle.
As we struggle in whatever our needs might be, whether they be of a material nature like that of the widow's situation, or a health need, a spiritual need, or a relational need. Let us offer to God whatever little we have and trust him to take care of the rest.
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