All Her Days
The widow awoke, her stomach filled with cold despair before she opened her eyes. This was the day she had dreaded since the death of her husband. He had been a good man, a servant of God, but he’d left her with debt that she could not pay. Today, the creditors were coming to collect what was due. Because she had no money, they would take the only thing of value left to her. They were coming to take her sons, the precious boys she’d loved and nurtured since birth. Tonight, her children would begin their lives as slaves.
She rose from her bed and went about the morning routine despite the raw, gaping whole in her heart. She fed the children – so young, so trusting – what little food they had, but took nothing for herself. The lack of nourishment didn’t matter. She could not have swallowed even if there had been some scrap left to eat. She wondered how any mother could possibly go on eating and drinking and living when her children were lost to her, possibly forever.
Why was this happening? Hadn’t her husband, a prophet in Elisha’s company, served their God with a whole heart? Hadn’t that God provided laws for the protection of widows and orphans? How would her boys be treated by their master? Would they be allowed to work together, or would the creditor sell them to different households? What if they were sold to travelers? Would she ever see her little ones again?
With sorrow choking her, she ran to the only source of hope she could find. Elisha, a prophet of Israel, was God’s mouthpiece. She cried out to him,
“Your servant, my husband, is dead. You know he revered the Lord, but now his creditor is coming to take my boys as slaves.”
“I wonder how I can help you,” Elisha replied. “What do you have in your house?”
“I have nothing,” she explained, “except a bit of oil.”
The widow returned home, wondering at the strange instructions she’d received. In an act of obedience and pure faith, she and her boys borrowed every jug and bowl her neighbors could spare. When they were finally alone behind the locked doors of their home, she reached for the lonely oil jar she’d returned to a high shelf just that morning. Refusing to consider the slight weight of the nearly empty vessel, she tipped it against the rim of the first borrowed jug and poured out the remaining precious drops of oil.
What happened next was a miracle the neighbors would discuss for years to come. She filled the first empty jug, and then turned to a second and a third. Somehow, the little bit of oil left in her pantry filled every bowl and crock that she’d borrowed. In fact, the oil continued to flow until every available container was filled to the brim.
The widow threw open the door of her home and raced back to Elisha. “I did as you instructed,” she told him, “and every container is full!”
“Sell the oil and pay your debts,” Elisha told the wide-eyed woman. “You and your sons will live on the coin that remains.”
Sometimes, like the widow from II Kings 4: 1 – 7 (MSG), we face futures that are shrouded in mystery. A job is lost and we wonder how we will pay the rent and put food on the table. A loved one dies, and an endless, dark abyss replaces the once bright future we expected.
Questions pile one on top of the other, and we struggle to find answers and meaning in the midst of suffering.
Thankfully, we serve a God whose vision knows no limitations. He waits on the other side of every black valley, his knowledge of the future sure despite our questions.
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalms 139:16, NIV)
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