One of the biggest fears that we have in this life is being left alone to fend for ourselves. God ordained the family as a place of protection for children, a place of community so that we would not be alone. One of the worst things that can happen to a family, other than divorce, is when the leader of the family, the man, dies and a wife and children are left to fend for themselves. In our modern society, this scenario is not as devastating as it was throughout most of human history, especially during Bible times. At a time when there seemed to be no hope, God intervened and made a promise to orphans and widows. This idea is both in the Old and New Testaments. We do not live in a perfect world because of sin. God created everything perfect and we would have been able to live in perfect harmony with the world around us had our ancestors, Adam and Eve obeyed God instead of trying to do things on their own. As a result, we live in a fallen world where suffering reigns. That is the bad news. The good news is that God has made a way to provide for the orphans and widows. In fact, He has proclaimed that He will be the Father to the fatherless (for whatever reason).
5 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. (Psalm 68)
I. God knows your needs and waits for you to come to Him for help
In II Kings 4, we find the story of a widow who is in debt and about to have to sell her children into slavery because of her debt. She has nothing. She needs help. They cannot overcome their problems. According to the Old Testament, the people were to provide a way for a widow to be taken care of, yet the people were not being obedient. As a family, they were in trouble. They had no hope. They had no where to turn. That is when God intervened.
22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 “If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry (Deuteronomy 22)
We see this very thing happen with the widow and her children in II Kings 4. According to the Law, God set up a way to provide for the poor, for the widows, and for the foreigners who could not provide for themselves.
22 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest ; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’ ” (Leviticus 23)
Handouts were not God’s answer. Social justice was not God’s plan. He commanded that those who owned fields and made their livings off the goodness of the earth were to leave some of the harvest on the vine so that the needy could come and work for their bread just like everyone else. We see this exemplified in Ruth and Naomi.
2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers ; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. (Ruth 2)
The widow in II Kings 4 was being oppressed. She had no where to turn so she ran to the man of God, Elisha, and God provided. This reminds me of the Lord’s prayer, the prayer that He taught to His disciples when they asked Him to teach them to pray.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6)
God wants us to humble ourselves daily and come to Him for our daily needs. He is ready to provide for us but we have to come to Him. We do not demand it. We request it. For most of us, He provides our daily bread through the fact that He has given us the ability to work. For others, they cannot and must receive it from Him directly. The widow in II Kings 4 is in the second category. Do you care about widows and orphans? What are you doing to help widows and orphans? What is the relationship to your faith and widows and orphans?
27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1)
To visit literally means “research the situation”. In order to help widows and orphans, you must know what is happening to them and seek to help. Just throwing money at the problem will not resolve anything and it is not Biblical. Paying the government to provide for widows and orphans is not Biblical either. God wants you, personally to intervene, research the situation, and then help as you can.
II. Follow God’s advice and He will provide for your needs
God wants us to learn to trust Him with what we have. The only thing that the widow had was her oil. That was all that God needed. In fact, He did not even need that. Like the boy with the 2 loaves and 5 fish, she gave all that she had to the Lord and He performed the miracle. The advice that Elisha gave did not make sense. She had just a little oil yet he had told her to seek out containers to hold a lot of oil. She was obedient to him, sending her sons out to collect what they could. This reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus taught specifically on the subject of not worrying about your life, but, instead, seek first the kingdom of the Lord and allow Him to provide for your daily needs. That seems so foreign to us. In our “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” American culture (or it used to be anyway) we are taught to make it happen for ourselves because no one else is looking out for you. God says, “I am looking out for you. Just walk with Me and watch what I will do”. The widow obeyed God’s advice. Are you willing to follow God’s advice today and allow Him to provide for your daily needs in which ever way He chooses? Now, the widow and her children also had a part in this entire process. They were to trust God. They were to run to Him for help. They were to do exactly as He said. Finally, they had to put forth some effort. Look at how the passage ends.
7 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 can live on the rest.”
They were to take the oil that God had provided and sell it. With the money, they were to pay off their debts and then live off of the rest until they were able to get back on their feet. Once again, God does not simply give a handout. He provides a way for the widow and orphans to care for themselves. Do you expect God to provide for you or do you know that He will provide a way for you to provide for yourself?
III. Be grateful for God’ provision
The widow and orphans did not complain because they had to work. They were grateful for God’s provision. They did not make themselves perpetual victims, demanding that society care for them. They realized that they had no where to turn and that God provided. They were grateful, doing exactly what He said. As I studied this passage and arrived at this point, I immediately thought of a few people in the Bible who were ungrateful. The first person who comes to mind was Lot. Another passage that came to mind was Psalm 50. God knows if we are grateful or not. The Israelites under Moses’ leadership. Also, 9 of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus is a perfect example of a person being grateful.
In conclusion, God knows your families needs. He has made provisions in His Word for orphans and widows to be taken care of. If the people do not obey God’s Word, He has promised to intervene on your behalf. He wants you to turn to Him for help and do exactly as He says. Finally, He wants you to be grateful for His provision. Are you grateful to the Lord for His goodness to you, no matter what situations you face? May God help us run to Him as our strong tower in our time of need.