Elisha and the Community’s Jars

Last month, as Amaris was preparing to teach the book of Kings in the Bible school we helped to plant in Tijuana, these events stood out to her…

In 1 Kings 17:9-16, Elijah has just prophetically imposed a drought on all of Northern Israel for their worship of false gods. Then God spoke to Elijah while he was camped out by the stream of Chinnereth, and sent him to a non-Israelite widow in Zarephath. This Gentile widow and her son were suffering from the famine that was meant for Israel’s punishment. Elijah’s reward for her faith was to bless her two jars- one for oil and one for flour- that they would continue to miraculously produce enough bread to sustain that household until God’s judgment of Israel was complete.

Years later, in 2 Kings 4:1-7, Elisha had been anointed as Elijah’s successor. He was ministering in Israel itself, when confronted by the widow of a faithful prophet in Elisha’s own prophetic community. As a result of her husband’s death, and the family’s subsequently mounting debts, the widow was facing the further loss of her two boys to “debt-slavery”, so she desperately sought out Elisha…

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”
Then he [Elisha] said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.”
So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.
When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

The clay jars collected from within that prophet’s community became a well-spring of financial blessing for the faithful widow and her boys. God had produced a temporary source of income- an olive oil factory- to pay off the widow’s debt and to replace the loss of her husband’s earning ability. He may have provided enough to sustain the family until the boys could begin earning their own living. Through His Word to Elisha, God was acting as the boys’ Father: He personally paid their Mother’s debts; He had purchased the boys’ freedom to live as a family; and had provided a way for them to grow and prosper in their community.
Interestingly, unlike Elijah’s miracle that fed the Gentile widow of Zarephath and her boy with their own jars, Elisha’s miracle required the cooperation of the believing community! The recently orphaned boys had to go door-to-door to families they knew, desperately asking for every empty vessel that could be found, probably repeatedly explaining what Elisha had commanded them to do. Thus, the amount of olive oil would be limited only by the number of jars that the neighbors entrusted to the boys. The more jars, or storage capacity, that the community willingly offered to this ridiculous proposal, the more God would provide for the widow and her boys.
Imagine the discussions that must have taken place at each door: “Give you all the storage jars for my household? And why????” First, these young boys had to have the courage to explain the promise the Lord gave them and their Mother. Then, they had to stand before their neighbors, waiting for the community’s generosity to determine their very freedom. In turn, the other members of the community were being asked to trust God’s Word to these boys, to discern whether it was consistent with His character or not, and if so, to offer their own property to be part of God’s provision for their embattled neighbors.
Wow! That’s a heavy message to put in a newsletter! When God brought this story to our attention, it clearly applied to the Word of the Lord that God had spoken to Amaris and I as we prepared for our marriage. Since we became a married ministry team last October (woot-wooot!), Amaris has been working for Trader Joe’s, and I’ve been handling legal work for a number of immigration cases. Yet, God has clearly called us to work within the “prophetic community” of missionaries here at YWAM Los Angeles. But our service within and through our YWAM community has proven to be highly demanding of our time and energy- and that’s good!
To do so, Amaris and I must now step out in faith and build a wider and healthier base of support among the “prophetic community” of our family, friends and churches. We are asking for our supporters to help us be “free”: to pour ourselves into the Bible schools we’ve already pioneered; to pour ourselves into the lives of our graduates who are now full-time missionaries; and to pour ourselves into those new communities around the world whom God has prepared for us to reach. This is why we are “knocking on your door”.
We are asking whether you can support God’s Word to provide for us, as apostolic Bible teachers for missions, by sharing your “jars” fit for God’s provision. Even in the midst of today’s financial challenges, in which many American households seem to have only “empty” storage jars, we are asking you to ask God if He will “fill” those jars for the Lord’s work through Amaris and I.

So, Amaris will quit her job at Trader Joe’s in just a few days.  Please pray for the Spirit’s continued guidance, and our growing trust…

Cliff

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