story of a young widow: from rags to riches

This young woman encountered the worst tragedies anyone could think of: a sudden death of her husband -the sole bread earner of the family, and he left behind two young sons and a huge debt.  In those days a married woman was considered a mere property of the husband. Her social status came from being a man’s wife. The loss of her husband without any tangible inherited asset meant a total loss of status in the community and an overwhelming financial crisis. We had no knowledge whether she was trained for any commercial skills. If she had any, she would have proceeded to get an employment or make some income. But this woman had no economic solution on her own. Whatever she had in her house were used up to pay the creditor. The lender had the right to repossess everything and even take her children as payment. The creditor was coming to take her two young sons into slavery.

The case of this unnamed woman as recorded in the Bible:
What can we learn from her? How did she cope? What did she do right?

1. She heard God. Instead of waiting for the worst fate to arrive -her two sons taken into slavery by the creditor, she went to ask for help from the right person -her husband’s spiritual teacher and principal of the school of the prophets, Elisha, an accomplished true prophet of God. She told him honestly all she had left was a jar of oil and her two children.

2. She obeyed God. She did exactly what Elisha told her to do, to the minute details: borrow as many as possible empty vessels from all her neighbors, shut the door, together with her sons poured her only jar of oil into those vessels, did not stop until all the vessels were filled thereupon the oil would stop.

3. She believed God’s words through the mouth of the prophet. She and her sons thus witnessed God’s awesome supernatural power of multiplication of physical elements. (This was also miraculously done by Jesus later as recorded in the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-38)

4. The positive result: She became a woman of wealth*, debt free, and a successful oil business entrepreneur with ongoing profit to support herself and her two sons for the rest of their lives. She could also support their continuing education and training for their called prophetic profession just as their late father had pursued.

5. Whilst the multiplication of the oil was entirely miraculous, the level of the woman’s wealth depended on her faith and action in obedience to the words of promises of God she heard and received as true. At best she could have borrowed a few small jars if she had half believed. But she believed totally. She borrowed lots of big jars. That was why the Prophet Elisha told her she would remain wealthy for the rest of the lives of her and her sons. This revelation opens my eyes -Don’t limit God!

Bible verses: (2 kings 4:1-7)
A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.”
So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”
Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.”
So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.”
And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.”

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*Olive oil was considered to be one of the great sources of wealth in the days of King Solomon (cf. I Kings 5:11; II Chronicles 2:10). In biblical days an abundance of oil was a sign of prosperity and favor and a lack of oil was one of the many curses for disobedience (Deut. 28:40). The oil of olives was widely known and used during most of Bible History. It had a wide variety of applications, and was a valuable commodity. It was used for anointing the living and the dead, for sacred offerings, for lighting lamps (in the Tabernacle, Temple or in ordinary people’s homes), cooking and medicinally. It was also used in personal grooming, and as an ingredient in some soaps (as it still is).

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