Lesson Three, The Miracles of Provision, includes Miracle #7, The Widow and Oil; Miracle #11, Bread Multiplied for 100 Men and #10, The Healed Pottage.
Today we are going to look at three specific miracles of Elisha which relate to God’s provision for His people. The first to be presented is Elisha’s Seventh Miracle: Increase of Widow’s Oil, found in 2 Kings 4:1-7. In this story, one of the sons of the prophets died, and his widow was left without any provisions for herself and her two sons. Apparently, the prophet had no insurance for them, and though he was a good man, he left them penniless. The Mosaic Law gave creditors the right to take the person and children of a debtor as bondsmen if the debtor was unable to pay the creditors. In this case, the creditors wanted their money and threatened to take the widow’s two sons as bondsmen or servants. What a pitiful state that widow would have been left in if the two sons were also taken from her.
But God did not allow the widow’s sons to be taken. This widow cried to Elisha, who was now the head of the schools of the prophets, concerning her situation. Elisha gave her specific instructions about what she should do. He told her to go and borrow all of the vessels that she could, then pour into them from the little pot of oil that she had in the house. Notice that this miracle was based upon what she already had.
The widow did just what the man of God said. She borrowed vessels, closed herself and her sons off from prying eyes, and filled the vessels until she had no more vessels to fill. When she ran out of vessels, the oil stopped flowing. She was then able to sell the oil, pay her debts and live on the rest. What a notable miracle! What a good God we serve.
What beautiful lessons this miracle taught the widow’s two sons.
- They learned that if they trust God, He will meet their needs.
- They saw the handiwork of God as He supernaturally provided for their needs.
- They learned from their mother’s behavior to strictly obey the Man of God and watch God work for them.
- They learned that God is real and that He cares for them.
- They can attest that one’s little becomes much when placed in God’s Hands.
The next miracle related to God’s provisions is Miracle #11, Bread Multiplied for 100 Men, found in 2 Kings 4:42-44. A man from Baal-shalisha donated about twenty loaves of barley and some ears of corn to the sons of the prophets. The problem was that there were over 100 men to be fed on so little. When Elisha said, “Give unto the people that they may eat,” his server (servitor) asked the question, “How am I supposed to feed 100 men with this small amount of food?” Elisha responded again and said, “Give the people that they may eat: for thus saith the Lord, they shall eat and leave thereof. 2 Kings 4:43”. And just as he said would happen, verse 44 tells us, “So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the Lord.” This story is similar to what Jesus did when He fed the five thousand with five barley loaves and two little fishes in Matthew 14: 13-21 and the 4000 in Matthew 15:29-39. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
This story reminds me of my Granny, who had five grandchildren to feed, my Grandpaw, and my father. Sometimes there would even be an extra guest to feed. When the money got thin, but the people still needed to eat, I would wonder, “What on earth is she going to do to get everybody fed?” But somehow, with her skills, she would make homemade biscuits and thick onion gravy along with buttered and seasoned mashed potatoes and a few pieces of chicken (or seasoned chicken skins at times) or crispy fried salt jowl and Brer Rabbit syrup and s-t-r-e-t-c-h those meals. Sometimes she would make fried apple pies with just a few apples, which we thought was a special treat. We would all come away from the table full and happy. Sometimes there was even something left over.
If God provided for the 100 sons of the prophet in Elisha’s day and for the 5000 and 4000 in His day, we must never forget that He will do the same for us today. Watch God provide.
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Psalm 37:25
The last of Elisha’s miracles related to God’s provision is Miracle #10 Pottage Healed, found in 2 Kings 4:38-41.
38 And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.
Following the dramatic miracle in which the Shunammite’s son was restored to life, Elisha returned to Gilgal, where there was a famine in the land. He had a place to stay that the Shunammite had prepared, and I imagine that because she was so grateful that he brought her son back to life, she, being wealthy, would have taken care of him for the rest of his life. But Elisha was an honorable man of God. Instead of laying around in his nice bed, reading by his candle, He went back to his responsibilities to the sons of the prophets. When he got back to Gilgal, all men were waiting for him.
He told his servant (possibly Gehazi) to go and start dinner because that night, they were to have pottage (soup or stew boiled in a pot).
39 And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.
I imagine that the cook knew precisely which veggies, gourds, and herbs to collect for the pottage, but he had an inexperienced helper who gathered what he thought looked good. What the inexperienced helper gathered was actually a deadly poison. He didn’t ask anyone with wisdom. He just cut up the poisoned gourds and mixed them with the good food. As every cook knows, if you over-salt a pot of food, you’ve ruined it. Once it’s in, you can’t get it out.
40 So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.
Because of the famine, the men were probably starving and glad to see the bowls of pottage set before them. Then suddenly, after they started eating, someone recognized that the food was filled with poison and not edible. Now, what were they to do? They had already consumed some of the pottage, which might have started to make them sick (possibly stomach cramps or diarrhea). Anyway, they could not continue to eat the pottage in its current state.
41 But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.
Did Elisha panic? Was he fearful that the 100 men’s families would sue him for killing the men with poisoned pottage? No. He did none of those things. He simply cast a handful of meal (a coarse flour) into the pot, healed the pottage, and told them to eat. The men had a decision to make. They could (1) not eat the healed pottage and possibly become very sick or die from the poison that was in their bellies, (2) not eat the healed pottage, or take a chance that they had not consumed enough to die from the poison, but die of starvation, or (3) have faith in the Man of God, trust the healed pottage and live. Since we have no record of any men who died, we must assume that they had faith in their leader, ate the healed pottage, enjoyed the miracle, and lived.
Some valuable lessons were learned by the sons of the prophet as well as those of us who read the story today:
- Just as you can’t eat everybody’s cooking, you can’t follow everyone’s preaching. Be very cautious about the preaching of anyone who does not believe that the Word of God is infallible. There is poison in that pot.
- Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. In like manner, a little poison poisons the whole pot.
- It takes the Word of God (the Bread of Life) to destroy the negative influences of the devil.
- Trust a true man of God. If he doesn’t panic, don’t you panic.