The other day I came across this amazing chapter in 2 Kings. (Yes, 2 Kings. I know, you usually blow through that book, if you read it at all. Of course, being a history nut, I tend to enjoy some of those Biblical books that seem dry to others.)
2 Kings 4 tells four short stories from the life of Elisha the prophet. Four scenarios that are very different, yet, surprisingly, so very much the same.
Scenario 1: A widow of a prophet is destitute, about to be taken into slavery along with her two young sons. She appeals to Elisha. Elisha asks her what is in her house. “A little oil,” she replies. Then he gives her three tasks to do: gather empty jars from her neighbors, shut herself in her house with her boys, and pour the oil into all the jars, filling each one.
None of those tasks met her immediate need, which was money. But when she did what Elisha asked of her, the Lord multiplied the oil to fill every jar she’d collected. Then the oil stopped flowing. She sold the oil to first pay her debts, then support her small family. God did the miraculous, but He did it after she’d obeyed His instructions, ones that probably made little sense to her in the moment.
Scenario 2: A woman graciously feeds Elisha on his trips past her house. Then she builds him a small room so he can stay whenever he wants. He wants to repay her gracious hospitality. She and her husband are childless. Elisha tells her she will have a son. Fast forward several years. The son falls ill. He dies. The woman seeks out Elisha and throws herself at his feet. He returns to the house with her, prays, and the son is restored to life.
The Lord used Elisha to breathe new life into the woman’s son. But didn’t receive him back until she asked. And my guess is that the humility with which she appealed to Elisha, who then appealed to the Lord, had much to do with His answer. Again, an action on her part followed by a miracle on God’s part.
Scenario 3: While eating with the prophets, poisonous plants get put into the stew. The men are dying. Elisha throws flour into the pot— an ordinary substance— and suddenly it is okay to eat. Two interesting actions in this story. Elisha had to throw the flour in the pot, but the prophets with him had to chose to eat it again.
Once more, faith put into practice resulting in a work only God could perform.
Scenario 4: A man brought bread to Elisha. “Give it to those with me,” Elisha says. A hundred hungry men. Only twenty loaves. Reluctantly, the man did as Elisha instructed. The bread not only fed the men, but they had left overs. (Sound familiar?) Another simple act of faith that didn’t solve the predicament. Another instance of God’s hand providing for the need.
Why did this chapter jump out at me? I guess because as I walk this journey of life and writing, I’m understanding more and more that the Lord asks me to do something before He shows His power in a given situation. Often the task set before me seems inconsequential or maybe even ridiculous. And it certainly won’t remedy the situation in and of itself. But once I have made that step of faith to trust and obey (yes, there is no other way!), His all-powerful hand can work. It isn’t that He couldn’t act prior to my action, it’s that He chooses my action to be His invitation to step in and do what I cannot.
What has the Lord asked you to step out and do today?