GOD PROVIDED FOR HIS PEOPLE THROUGH MIRACLES
2 KINGS 4
The Bible tells us of many miracles performed through many different people. We should remember that the miracle is God’s power in action. That is why it is a supernatural event that cannot be explained in natural terms.
Although an individual performed the miracle from the human view point, it is God’s power on display through his chosen servant that brings the miracle about. This is the case with Elisha. He performed miracles, but he was the conduit for God’s power to accomplish God’s purposes.
A WIDOW IN NEED (4:1-4)
One of the prophets died, leaving a wife and two children. He also left debts. Prophets did not make much money. The widow was so poor, the only thing she had was a jar of oil. The creditor knew the widow could not pay the debt with her husband gone, so he came to collect the children in payment. They would work for him as slaves.
The widow came to Elisha for help. Normally, the kinsman redeemer would be responsible for the widow and the debt, but there may have been none. Elisha stepped into that role. He directed her to fill all the jars she could get with oil. God multiplied the oil so she could sell it and pay the debts.
This miracle reminds us Elijah’s miracle that provided oil and flour for the widow of Zarephath as recorded in 1 Kings 17:8-16. The ability to multiply food clearly belongs only to God. Therefore, when Jesus fed the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21, he testified that he was God’s anointed one.
RAISING A BELOVED SON (4:5-37)
HELPING A FAITHFUL FRIEND
A wealthy woman extended great hospitality to Elisha. She acknowledged him as a holy man of God (9). She fed him when he came through her village. Then she built him a room on the roof so he had a place to stay.
Elisha had good manners. In return for her great hospitality, he offered to do something for her. (11-13). Elisha was connected. He offered to speak to the king or the commander of the army for her provision or protection. However, she did not need these things. She was wealthy and needed no provision. She lived among her own people, so she needed no protection.
Notice that, in contrast to the widow, this woman did not ask for anything. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, informed him that she had no son and was not likely to get one from her old husband. It was important in those days to have a son to keep the property allotment in the family, carry on the family lineage and provide for the needs of the family. Barrenness was considered a sign of God’s disfavor.
Elijah decreed that she would have a son. God would give her a son. The Bible repeatedly shows this as God’s favor on a woman. It is a continuing theme in the Bible from Sarah, to Hannah all the way to Elizabeth, who bore John the Baptist.
This son would have been cherished, having been born when there was no hope of a child. So, when he fell ill and died it was devastating.
Note that Elisha was not omniscient, he did not know everything. Only God is omniscient. He hid this matter from Elisha until the woman came to tell him. (27)
Since the woman saw Elisha as the one who gave her the child, she went to Elisha for help when she lost the child. Elisha in fact raised the child from death and restored him to life. Only through God’s power could this be done and it testified to Elisha’s standing a prophet.
We are again reminded of Elijah. He raised the son of the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:17-24. He even stretched himself out on the boy (21) as Elisha did (34). The widow declared “now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth”. His use of the Lord’s miraculous power testified to his appointment as the one who spoke for God.
Jesus also raised people from the dead. He raised Lazarus in John 11 and it caused many to believe in him. It also caused the Pharisees and chief priests to plot to kill him and Lazarus.
PURIFYING THE STEW
2 KINGS 4:38-41
When you do not have enough to eat, you make stew. It is just a bunch of stuff boiled in water. We used to have stew once every week. It contained all the leftovers we had from the week’s previous meals.
Famine in the land was a sign of God’s punishment. Deuteronomy 28:22). We know that Israel continued to worship the golden calves.
Here one of the prophets poisoned the stew with a vine. The vine and its gourds looked similar to the edible vines and gourds. But they were poisonous. Similarly the worship of the golden calves was meant to approximate the worship of the LORD, but was not the proper worship the LORD decreed.
Elisha purified the pot. The flour was just a visible sign of God working to remove the poison. God’s power worked through Elisha and God protected his prophets through him.
MULTIPLYING THE BREAD
2 KINGS 4:41-44
A man brought bread and grain to help feed the prophets. He brought only enough for 20, but God through Elisha multiplied it to feed 100. This again foreshadows Jesus feeding the 5,000. Those who knew their scriptures well at the time of Christ would recognize God’s working in Jesus in a similar way to his working through Elisha.
God provides for his people. The Puritans called it his providence. The Westminister Shorter Catechism said ”God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerfully preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.” It encompassed both the provision of physical needs and the direction of their lives.
That is what God sought to do with Israel. If they would obey him, he would provide for them, guide them and protect them. He provided for them with manna in the desert and a land full of milk and honey to live in. He guided them through the desert with Moses, then a succession of prophets and judges in the promised land. Unfortunately, they rejected his kingship and chose to follow human kings.
God continues this work in the church. He provides for the church through spiritual gifts and offices, he guides us through the Holy Spirit and his Word and he protects us by preserving us for eternal life.
Both of these paths began with an act of redemption. God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. God redeemed the church from slavery to sin. Then he called both to follow him, obey him and bring glory to his name.
Romans 8:28-30 says:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.