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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Three Stories of Trust (2 Kings 4)

    Despite their name, 1 and 2 Kings, these books are not entirely about the kings whose names are written down in the books. These books record the kings names, and some of what they did while they were the king, and also if they did evil in the sight of the Lord or walked in David’s ways. But really, the books of Kings are about God’s power displayed through the lives of two prophets: Elijah and Elisha; God’s power to call His people to Him, His power to save, His righteous might. God did many mighty things through Elijah and Elisha that were meant to show the people in the Northern Kingdom of Israel that He is still God and that He was calling them to leave their lives of sin and trust in Him.
    1 Kings mostly chronicles Elijah’s ministry to the Northern Kingdom. 2 Kings starts with Elijah’s final days and his mentoring of Elisha, who would take over Elijah’s ministry. A careful examination of Elijah’s ministry will show that Elijah walked closely with the Lord. So closely that he audibly heard the Spirit speak to him to guide him and direct him. When we look at stories like Elijah’s big showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, though it’s not stated explicitly, what is implied is that Elijah gave the impossible instructions that he gave because he was being directed by the Spirit on what exactly he should do. This was how he was able to say with great confidence that he knew God would act in that situation, because God had already told Elijah through the Spirit what He would do to show He is God.
    In fact, Elijah walked so closely with God, and heard His voice so clearly that Elijah was given a great honor, an honor given only to one other man in the entire Bible. Elijah did not die. He was taken up into heaven on a chariot of fire drawn by fiery horses. He and Enoch were the only two people in the Bible to experience this, and the reason they were given this honor was because of how closely they walked with the Lord.
    Before Elijah was taken up, in 2 Kings 2:9, he asked Elisha if there was anything he could do for him. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit which we know in reality was the Lord’s spirit. 2 Kings 3:15 tells us that indeed, the spirit was given to Elisha. Elisha knew that he would not be able to minister with any sort of power or effectiveness without the same spirit that Elijah had in him. Elisha was indeed gifted with a DOUBLE portion of the Spirit. That is your first blank in your bulletin if you want to take notes and follow along. All that Elisha did was through the power of the Spirit.
    2 Kings 4 gives four stories, and the first three all have a common theme to them. These three stories are all stories of how God took a burden that was really heavy for the persons in the story, and He gave them victory over that burden. They’re stories of how we can trust God with every burden we might carry.
    The first story is found in 2 Kings 4:1-7, the story of Elisha and the widow. Her story starts like this, “Now a 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 has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
    Without her husband, who had been a prophet and man of God, the widow had no way to pay her family’s debts. She would not have been able to work outside the home, unless it was work doing something unsavory. She had no hope, and so she became consumed with anxiety over the situation and fear that she was about to lose her children. This was her burden, rooted in anxiety and fear, and when she cried out to Elisha it was from a place of heaviness and hopelessness.
    But God demonstrated to her that He could be trusted with her burdens. No doubt directed by the Spirit, this is what Elisha told her, “So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow containers elsewhere for yourself, empty containers from all your neighbors—do not get too few. Then you shall come in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour into all these containers; and you shall set aside what is full.” So she left him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they began bringing the containers to her, and she poured the oil. When the containers were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another container.” But he said to her, “There are no more containers.” Then the oil stopped. So she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
    She had nothing of value left, no doubt she had sold much of what she already had to pay the creditor, but it wasn’t enough. So with the one thing she had left that would have some value, a jar of oil, Elisha told her to go to all her neighbors houses and gather up as many empty containers as she could. He told her not to get too few! Get many. Then she was to come back home and pour the oil into the empty jars, and keep pouring it until all the containers were full. Elisha assured her it would that the oil would be enough to pay off her debts and live off what was left.
    She brought her burdens, her anxiety and fear over her financial situation, to the Lord, and He blessed her. In this story, the blessing came in the form of a financial blessing that eased her anxiety and fear, but we must be careful not to assume that this is always the case. God finds many ways of blessing us to calm our anxiety and fear, and those ways are limited only by the imagination of the Creator of the universe.
    The words in Psalm 55:2 are probably words that we have all said in some way when we’ve been anxious or fearful, “Hear me and answer me. My thoughts upset me. I’m very troubled.” When things don’t work out the way we think they should, when we’re burdened with worries about tomorrow and fears of the unknown, God urges us to bring these burdens to Him.
    His Word tells us to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Cast means that we’re meant to throw them as far as we possibly can. He wants us to trust Him with our anxieties and fears because He promises that He cares for us and can handle our burden.
    The widow learned that as well, that God cared for her and He was capable of handling her heavy anxiety and fear, and to ease her burdens, He blessed her. We read that her blessing was limited only by her FAITH, which is your next blank in your bulletin. The amount of oil she was blessed with to sell was limited only by the number of containers that she had collected in faith that God could be trusted with her burden.
    The second story in 2 Kings 4 you can read about in verses 8-17. It’s the story of the Shunammite Woman who showed kindness toward Elisha. As Elisha would travel throughout the area, the Shunammite woman took not of him and, knowing that he was a man of God, her and her husband prepared a room where Elisha could stay and rest when he traveled through the area.
    Elisha was so touched by the care that she continuously showed him, that he had his servant Gehazi go to her to see what kind of favor he could show her for all her kindness. She wanted nothing in return, no fame, no reward. When Gehazi returned to Elisha, Elisha said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “It is a fact that she has no son, and her husband is old.” (2 Kings 4:14).
    Though the woman asked for nothing in return for her kindness, Elisha’s servant was able to discern what the woman’s burden was: she was barren. She had no son, and her husband was old, so it was not likely that she would ever have a son.
    In our time, this is not as much of a social stigma as it would have been then. We understand today that there are many reasons why a couple may not have children, and none of them indicates that the couple are failures as people. But for the Shunammite woman, a lack of children would have been seen as a failure. She would have been seen as a failure by the society she lived in, maybe even by her husband, or even herself. In this time, her failure to not have a child was her failure and hers alone. Women alone were responsible for child-bearing.
    Along with the Shunammite woman’s failure to have a child would have come a considerable amount of guilt since the fault for her failure to have a child rested entirely on her shoulders. This was her duty, and failure to do so likely left her with feelings of guilt over that failure.
    What happened next shows just how hopeless the Shunammite woman thought her situation was, “He then said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, “At this season next year, you are going to embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, you man of God, do not lie to your servant.” (2 Kings 4:15-16).
    The Shunammite woman had lived with her failure and guilt so long that even when Elisha, a noted man of God told her that she would have a son, she was slow to believe it. In fact, she thinks he may even have been lying to her. Her failure and guilt had long overcome any hope that she had that life might be different someday.
    Who hasn’t felt the sting of failure before, and the guilt that often follows after? I try to teach our kids that many times, failure is a part of learning how to do something, but there are times when I see the look of defeat on their faces.
    The Lord did indeed give a son to the woman, just as Elisha had said, but the Lord gave her more than that. The son He gave her was an extension of His grace toward her. That’s your next bulletin blank, that she was given GRACE. Grace covered her failure and her guilt, and grace restored her hope. Grace restored her trust in the Lord.
    This is what God says to us in our times of failure and guilt, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. His grace is sufficient to cover our weaknesses, our failures, our guilt, and to turn those things into strength.
    Psalm 73:26 gives a similar word to us, “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” He gives grace when we fail and His grace covers our guilt, so we can trust Him with these burdens because His grace will lighten our heaviness.
    The third story is found in 2 Kings 4:18-37, and again deals with the faith and trust of the Shunammite woman. “When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father, to the reapers. And he said to his father, “My head, my head!” And his father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” When he had carried him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then he died.” (18-20).
    She came to Elisha and fell at his feet, “Then she said, “Did I ask for a son from my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not give me false hope’?” (28). Her feelings here are unfortunately, too easy for us to understand. She had been given grace by God, and then felt like that grace and blessing had been ripped away. Her burden became grief and loss.
    This is a heavy burden. The burdens of grief and loss may be some of the heaviest burdens we will ever have to carry. When Jesus experienced the death of his dear friend, Lazarus, it drove him to tears. We get the shortest verse in the Bible when Lazarus died and we’re told that, “Jesus wept.” The word for “wept” is meant to give us the idea that Jesus’ was in pain and anguish because of the loss of his friend.
    In the case of both the Shunammite woman’s son, and Lazarus, the Spirit of God worked to bring the dead back to life. These were extraordinary circumstances where God showed His power, but what it accomplished in addition to showing that God is Almighty, was it comforted those who were grieving from loss. That’s your last bulletin blank this morning, the Lord COMFORTED her.
    The loss and grief may not always be caused by physical death. Sometimes grief and loss comes in other forms: loss of a job, grief over a soured relationship; there are many reasons humans may experience loss and grief. But, if we trust the Lord with those burdens as well, we will find comfort.
    1 Corinthians 15:55 does address death, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” And here the Lord reminds us that even the heavy burden of death loses its victory and sting when we place that burden at the foot of the Cross.
    Matthew 5:4 broadens it a little and Jesus told us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Mourning, grief, loss, God is worthy of our trust even when it comes to these burdens. He will bring comfort.

1. Read Matthew 17:14-20. How is this story similar to the story of the widow and the oil? How might God’s work be limited in your life by limited faith?

2. God gave grace to several women in the Bible who were considered “failures” by their society. Look at these passages: Genesis 11:30; 17:16-19; 25:21-26; 29:31; 30:22-24; Judges 13:2-5, 24; Psalm 113:9; Isaiah 54:1; Luke 1:5-25. What do these passages tell us about God’s character?

3. What does 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 say about comfort? What are we to do with the comfort we receive? What part does our grief and loss take in our ability to witness to others?

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