Elijah and Elisha Message #16 “Widow’s Oil/Introduction” Ed Miller, April 12, 2023

Listen to the audio above while following along in the transcript below, which is also available for download in a Word document at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com

Welcome to our gathering, our flocking, I like to call it.  We’ve come to behold the Lord Jesus.  That’s why we’re here.  As we come to look in the word of the Lord, there is one principle of Bible study that’s absolutely indispensable, and that is total reliance on God’s Holy Spirit.  God has written this book, and God breathed it, and He needs to breathe it again.  Only God can reveal God.  We’ve come to see the Lord, so we’ve got to trust His Holy Spirit.

I want to share a verse from Amos 8:11, “’Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine in the land, not a famine for bread or thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.’”  I just want to praise the Lord publicly; that famine might be in many places on the earth, but it hasn’t hit us, yet.  We still have the privilege to hear the words of the Lord.  It’s a privilege to meet like we’re meeting, and we can’t take occasions like this for granted.  I think there’ll be a day when Christians will not be allowed to gather, as we are privileged to gather.  So, we meet at the Lord’s pleasure, and we have to praise the Lord for that.  Let’s commit our time to the Lord, and then we’ll look in His word.

Heavenly Father, thank You again for the indwelling Holy Spirit who searches the depths of God and reveals unto us the things concerning our peace and our salvation.  We want to see Jesus, and just ask that You would be so gracious to unveil Yourself, and then give us the grace to receive that revelation.  We know we all have different capacities, and we pray we might walk in the light as You reveal Yourself to us in the light.  We commit our study unto You, and we thank You in the name of our Lord Jesus.  Amen.

For those that are recently coming here, I just want to make a comment.  We’re in lesson #16.  Sometimes that frightens people.  They say, “I’m coming in the middle, or I’m coming at a different lesson.”  Not here, because our goal is to present the Lord Jesus.  So, every lesson stands on its own.  It’s true that it can build, but you don’t need the first fifteen lessons in order to see the Lord this morning.  So, we’re going to see the Lord together.

In the last session, I took a little bypass in our study.  We’re studying the ministries of God serving Elijah and Elisha, and we took a little bypass.  We’re in the study of Elisha, but let me explain what we did last week, and then bring us up to where we are now.  If we had been faithful to the chronological record, last week we would have looked at 2 Kings 2:23-25, and that was Elisha’s ministry at Bethel, and that’s the story of the two she-bears.  But the next story, the one that followed that record, took a whole chapter, the record of Jehoshaphat and the war against Moab, that whole chapter of chapter 3.  I didn’t want to start the bear story, and then have not enough time to do the whole Jehoshaphat story.  I didn’t want to end in the middle or three quarters through that story, so I jumped over the bear story, and we looked at Jehoshaphat last time.  I’m not going to review a lot of that, except to say that Jehoshaphat had a heart toward the Lord, and if you have a heart toward the Lord like Jehoshaphat had, even if you mess up like Jehoshaphat did, and even if you’re one who tries to do the right thing in the wrong way, like Jehoshaphat did, and even if you compromise like Jehoshaphat did, it’s never too late to call upon the Lord.

When we closed last time, I quoted Psalm 107:17 and then 19&20, “Fools, because of their rebellious way…cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions.”  I made a portion of that and made a little plaque and it’s hanging in my study, and it says, “Fools cried, and were delivered.”  The reason that’s hanging in my study is, I’ve been that fool, and I’ve cried, and God has delivered.  There’s never a time when you can cry, and God won’t deliver.  So, that’s what we looked at last time.

Where are we this morning, and where are we heading?  Here is the plan, Lord willing.  I still have a few closing observations to make about the Jehoshaphat story, so we’re going to return to that story just so I can mention three great life principles, and then I’m going to go back, and we’ll pick up the story we jumped over last week, the ministry at Bethel.  Then we’re going to introduce, and only introduce Elisha’s next ministry with the widow, the widow of one of the sons of the prophets, and her sad condition.  It’s only going to be an introduction, but it’s enough to give us the revelation of Christ.  That’s why you’ve come.  You didn’t come to learn about Elijah or Elisha or the book of Kings.  You came to see Jesus, and that’s why I came.  If we don’t see the Lord, we’ve all wasted our time.  That’s why we’re here.  That’s where we are, and where we’re going.

Let me return to the ministry that Elisha had with God’s servant, Jehoshaphat, that we looked at last week.  We know that whole chapter was about one man, and the reason we know that is because of 2 Kings 3:14, “As the Lord of host lives, before whom I stand, were in not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you.”  So, Elisha came for one purpose, to deal with Jehoshaphat.  Even though there are three different kings and three different armies in that story, and many, many people, the focus was on Jehoshaphat.  Jehoshaphat was a man, as I pointed out, whose heart was toward the Lord.  1 Kings 22:43, “He walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he did not turn aside from it, doing right in the sight of the Lord.”  That was the main direction.  Now, you can have the main direction correct, and yet we’re not perfect, are we?  There can be many bypasses.  By the way, any Christian, no matter how he has seen the Lord, at any moment in his life, if he takes his eyes off the Lord, is capable of anything any unsaved person is capable of.  David was a follower of the Lord, a Christian, when he committed adultery and committed murder.  So, let’s take heed and not think we’re able to stand in our own strength.

Jehoshaphat made many blunders, and in this present story he was put in a rather embarrassing situation because he had followed the ungodly.  They led him down a path that led to desert and dryness and emptiness.  2 Kings 3:9, “So the king of Israel went with the king o Judah and the King of Edom; and they made a circuit of seven days journey, and there was not water for the army or for the cattle that followed them.”  Jehoshaphat found himself in the company of the ungodly, a man whose heart was right toward God, and now he’s in the midst of the ungodly, listening to their advice, following their path, and ending up in a terrible situation. 

I want to call attention to three facts in the history that we didn’t mention last time, but I believe are instructive and carry life principles.  The first is this, that when God performed the miracle that rescued, that restored Jehoshaphat, we read in the 2 Kings 3:20, “It happened in the morning about the time of offering the sacrifice, that behold, water came by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.”  They were in a desert, and they had to dig trench.  Digging a trench is offering God nothing but an empty hole, and God is able to fill any empty hole you happen to bring to Him.  That miracle took place about the time of the morning sacrifice.  Remember when we were studying Elijah, and he was with his contest on Mt. Carmel against the prophets of Baal, we had the same thing, only it wasn’t the morning sacrifice.  That time it was the evening sacrifice.  1 Kings 18:29, “When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice.” 

The principle is clear.  The Bible in the Old Testament is full of pictures, symbols, object lessons, and the morning sacrifice told a story, and the evening sacrifice told a story, and the ocean of blood shed on Hebrew altars told a story.  Whether we’re coming to the morning sacrifice at 9 o’clock, or the evening sacrifice at 3 in the afternoon, the Lord is reminding us that His miracle takes place, and it’s based on the sacrifice, it’s based on the blood.  Whether it’s the first time you’ve come to Him, you need the blood.  Whether it’s the hundredth time you’ve returned to Him, you need the blood, the morning and evening sacrifice, and you need that one that pictures the one sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.  Every miracle that’s ever taken place in your life is because of the precious blood of Jesus.  Every miracle that’s ever taken place in my life is because of the precious blood of Jesus.  I think there’s a danger of those of us who have been brought a little deeper into the meaning of the atonement, that because we say that we now understand the exchanged life and it’s Christ living in us and it’s victory, that we can forget that it all depends on the blood of Christ.  It all goes back to the cross.  No matter how far you come in the Lord, don’t leave the cross.  We’ve got to continually go back.  Every blessing you’ve ever had since you’ve been a believer is because of the cross.

I’ve heard Christians say, “I left that particular church because all they do is preach the gospel every week; they just tell you how to get saved, every week the same thing.  We need to go deeper.”  I understand there’s a deeper message, but there’s no other word than the gospel.  The gospel is good news, and no matter how deep you go, we will never plumb the depths of the good news, but it’s all based on the blood of our Lord Jesus.  I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord, but no matter how much you’ve seen of Him, don’t ever lose focus on the blood.  In our particular fellowship where we gather, we’re reminded every Lord’ Day about the blood, and His finished work, because we remember in the cup of blessing which we share together.

Jehoshaphat is not getting saved in this passage; he’s being restored in this passage, but the Holy Spirit takes great pains to bring us back to the blood, to bring us back to the work of Christ.  That’s one of the things I appreciate about Lewis Jones’ great gospel song, “Power in the Blood.”  The reason I like it is because it starts with getting saved: “Would you be free from the burden of sin?  There’s power in the blood, there’s power in the blood.”  But then it ends with the Christian life: “Will you do service for Jesus your King, will you live daily His praises to sing?  There’s wonderful power in the blood.”  And that blood will never lose its power.

So, Jehoshaphat is being restored and God reminds us that it’s based on His perfect work, His finished work.  Praise God for where you are in the Lord Jesus, but never take your eyes off the reason for where you are in the Lord Jesus.  Don’t say, “That’s elementary; we want to move on to deeper things.”  It’s been a lot of years since I recited or said my ABC’s.  I haven’t sung my ABC’s in a long time, but those are elementary.  I’ve never left my ABC’s.  I use my ABC’s every day in different combinations.  You couldn’t speak without your ABC’s, and that’s fundamental to all communication.  So, the blood is just as fundamental.  That’s the first thing I wanted to call attention to. 

The second thing is in 2 Kings 3:20, “It happened that in the morning at about the time of the offering of the sacrifice, behold, water came by way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.”  I call attention to the miracle was based on the blood, but even though the story is all about Jehoshaphat, and he’s in the middle of a company of ungodly, the ungodly profited from that miracle.  They also were saved from dying from thirst because of that miracle.  So was the army of Israel and the army of Edom.  Jehoshaphat’s miracle, his miracle of restoration had a sanctifying effect on the ungodly that were all around him.  I mentioned on the level of earth it must have been embarrassing for Jehoshaphat to have to be restored in the company of those renegades.  If I mess up, to be honest with you, I’d rather be restored in my closet in private where it’s just me and the Lord Jesus.  I don’t want to be exposed as the sinner I really am.  I try to cover that up; I don’t want people to know that what is flesh is flesh and it will always be flesh, and I’ll never improve.  No matter how long I’ve known the Lord, I’m still me, and that’s what the flesh is. 

That’s what Paul said in Romans 7, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is my flesh.”  What is my flesh?  It’s me; it’s you.  That’s what the flesh is.  It’s embarrassing enough to have to be restored in the presence of God’s people who love you and know you and identify with you.  In the front of my Bible, I have Psalm 69:6, and I pray it very often.  It says, “May those who wait for You not be ashamed through me, oh Lord God of Hosts.  May those who seek You not be dishonored through me, oh God of Israel.”  I don’t want God’s people to be hurt because of my life and my turning from the Lord.  How much more do I not want the testimony of the Lord Jesus to be sullied by my actions in the eyes of the unbeliever.  Romans 2:24 says, “The name of God is blaspheming among the gentiles because of you.”  That’s a dreadful thought, just to think that we can tear the testimony of Christ down.  That’s only one side of it.

The other side is illustrated in 1 Corinthians 7:14, and the illustration there is marriage, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband, otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”  In other words, when a believer lives in union with Christ among an unbeliever, there’s a sanctifying influence.  Whether one member of the family is unsaved, by living in union with Christ, it has an affect on the kids.  It’s a sanctifying influence.  A sanctifying influence is no guarantee that they’re going to turn to the Lord.  It’s their best shot, but it’s no guarantee that they’re going to turn to the Lord.

Jehoshaphat was humbled by having to be restored before the eyes of the ungodly, but the miracle that saved him had a tremendous effect on all the ungodly, the two ungodly kings and their armies that were around them.  They also, witnessed the miracle of the Lord.  I know there are a lot of questions about the early part of Hebrews 6, but let me just give you this verse, Hebrews 6:4&5, “In the case of those who have once been enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift, have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…”  It’s possible for the ungodly to taste, to experience, to live in the presence of, to feel the anointing, and God opens their eyes, and they understand, and then turn and walk away, to reject it.  I’ll just tell you that Jehoshaphat could have been embarrassed when he was restored, but it’s not me or my reputation that matters, and God doesn’t really care if my reputation goes down in flames, or your reputation.  It’s not your name, it’s not your reputation.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s all about Him.  It’s about His name and about His renown and about His glory and it’s about His testimony.  Everything is redemptive, and Jehoshaphat’s restoration was redemptive.  The sad record is that they didn’t respond that well to that, but they still tasted it.

Don’t think for a lonely moment that if you mess up and blow it and the Lord is gracious enough to bring you back, that you’re coming back to the Lord, not how embarrassing it’s been for you, don’t think it doesn’t have an effect on all those around you, and even those who are blinded by sin.  You say, “My testimony is just a whisper.”  It may be a whisper to you, but it’s a thousand thunders in their heart.  You don’t know what God is doing when He restores you.  You can tell how deep a hole you’ve been in by measuring the length of rope it takes to pull you out.  Think about that, because the rope that pulled you out started in heaven.  That’s a long rope, and you were way down, and the Lord pulled you out and pulled me out.  We can thank Him for such love and patience and compassion and mercy.  His arm was not shortened that it could not save.  Psalm 51:12&13, I love David’s repentance, he said, “Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit,” and then he added, “then will sinners be converted unto Thee.”  So, in your restoration, it’s redemptive and we can praise God.

I want to make a third comment about the Jehoshaphat story, not only is your restoration based on the precious blood of Christ, not only is your restoration redemptive and has a sanctifying influence on all around, even the ungodly, but the third observation is in 3 Kings: 11, “But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?’”  He sought the Lord, but it was a last resort, but he finally sought the Lord, “And one of Israel’s servants answered and said, ‘Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.’”  This was one of the king’s servants, not the King Jehoshaphat, but the king of Israel, one of King Ahab’s servants.  Of course, at that time it wasn’t Ahab; it was Jehoram. 

We know that Israel had their own prophets.  We know by the comment Elisha made to Jehoram in verse 13, “Now Elisha said to the king of Israel, ‘What do I have to do with you?  Go to the prophets of your father and your mother.’”  Ahab and Jezebel had their prophets, but somewhere in the army of Israel there was a soldier in the camp, or a special servant to King Jehoram, somewhere there was someone who knew the prophet of the Lord, because when he said, “Is there not a prophet?” this guy stood up and said, “Elisha is in the camp.”  Elisha must have been well-known; he must have had a testimony.  Even though he slipped into the camp without anybody knowing it until Jehoshaphat sought him, this unnamed somebody, this unnamed person recognized that he’s in the camp.  In verse 12 again, “Jehoshaphat said, ‘The word of the Lord is with him.’  So, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.”

Let me make a couple of observations.  The first is this.  I’m going to mention this again when we come to the bear story and his ministry at Bethel, but I want to make it now, and that is that God has His people everywhere.  This is a tremendous truth.  Sometimes you’re shocked to death when you see where Christians appear.  You say, “Are there Christians in Hollywood?”  There are.  “Are there Christians in Washington, D.C.?”  There are.  “Are there Christians in athletics?”  Indeed, there are.  “Are there Christians in the military?”  Yes, there are.  “Are there some Christians caught up in the cults?”  I believe there are.  They’re in Communist countries and they’re in Muslim countries.  Christians are everywhere.

One of my favorite verses in Philippians is chapter 4:22 as you come to the end, it says, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”  Imagine Caesar’s household having saints there?  So, I just want you to notice that this man, unnamed, we don’t know who he was, he’s in the army or at least in the kingdom of the ungodly king where they have false prophets, he’s very much aware of the true prophet of the Lord.

One of the kings of Israel’s servants, the whole story depends on this unnamed guy.  If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have the rest of the story.  How precious is the Lord!  So many of the works that God does and the miracles He does are because of somebody, and we don’t have a clue.  There’s some wash woman praying at the sink, and we have no idea of the unnamed saints of God that are so crucial in the work of the Lord.  So, praise God for this!  In fact, Jehoshaphat is in the Messianic line, and I wonder if that unnamed servant had a part in Bethlehem.  We have no clue.  You might say, “Well, I’m not famous and I’m not a good speaker and I’m not this and that,” but you know an unnamed somebody who knows somebody who knows Jesus.  You know Jesus, so you can be used of the Lord.  This guy just recommended, “Here’s a good prophet.”  You can say, “I don’t know the answer to your problem, but here’s a good book, here’s a good church, here’s a good pastor, here is someone you can ask.”  You can do that; that’s what this guy did, and it was a mighty influence for good.  Everything is based on the blood of our Lord Jesus, and restoration is redemptive, and God has His people everywhere.

I want now to revisit the story that we jumped over last week.  I’m going to read, only a couple of verses, 2 Kings 2:23, “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!’ When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord.  Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.” 

When I introduced this story some weeks ago, it was in terms of the firs two ministries of Elisha, Micah 7 and so on and Corinthians, where God sometimes uses His people positively, like he used Elisa in Jericho, and sometimes He uses His people negatively.  As a remnant we can be like dew from the Lord and showers on vegetation, or we can be like a lion among the sheep.  Don’t rebel; I know my natural heart wants God to use me as dew.  I want to be a blessing all the time, but sometimes you’ve got to take a rugged stand, and sometimes He’s going to use you as negative, as in this case here in Bethel.

I’m going to enlarge on that truth, that sometimes our ministry will be positive, and sometimes negative.  I want to go back about ten years in the record, when Elijah was recommissioned by the Lord after his restoration.  It’s in 1 King 19:15-17, “The Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram (or Syria); and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Aberl-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.  It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.’”

Well, as we read the history, we read about the sword of Hazael.  We read about how God used his war machine, his army, to purify the house of Israel, and we read about the sword of Jehu, and we see how God used him in a special way to show judgment against the house of Ahab, but where is the sword of Elisha?  It speaks about Elisha, “The ones that these two don’t kill, then Elisha will kill.”  Verse 17, “It will come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.”

The only indication that we have of that negative ministry is here in the bear stories.  Let me suggest that Elisha had a different kind of sword than Jehu or Hazael had; he had what we know as a two-edged sword.  Hebrews 4:12, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword,” and I’m suggesting that one edge is positive, and the other edge is negative, and we have that sword.  Elisha had the word of God.  He didn’t have authority over bears.  When he cursed them in the name of the Lord, if God didn’t control those bears…  Elisha had no power over those bears.  That was a judgment of the Lord, and what Jehoshaphat referred to when they said, “There’s a prophet here, chapter 3:12, “Jehoshaphat said, ‘The word of the Lord is with him.’”  That was his sword, that double-edged sword.  Ephesians 6:17, “Take the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The story of the two female bears makes more sense since we did the Jehoshaphat story, and we know the background of Bethel.  2 Kings 2:23, “Then he went up from there to Bethel…”  At this point in the history, you remember last week we pointed out Jeroboam, the first king of the ten tribes, the split kingdom, 1 Kings 12:29, talking about a golden calf, an idol, “He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.”  It seems a little strange that five hundred years have passed since Aaron made a golden calf, and now here we are again with golden calves in Israel.

You might be familiar that the name “Bethel” means “house of God”, that’s what it means.  When Elisha went to Bethel, Bethel was no house of God.  They had a golden calf there.  That was a place of idolatry, the seat of idolatry in Israel.  The prophet Hosea makes a play on the word “Bethel”, and I want to show you that.   Hosea 10:5, “The inhabitants of Samaria will fear for the calf of Beth-aven.  Indeed, its people will mourn for it, and its idolatrous priests will cry out over it, over its glory, since it has departed from it.”  He took the name “Bethel” and dropped off the “el”, and “el” is El Shaddai.  He dropped off God, House of God, and he added “aven”.  The word “Beth-aven” means the house of vanity.  The house of Bethel, the house of God, had become the house of vanity, Beth-aven.  When Elisha went up there, don’t just think, “Oh, he’s going up to witness to an unevangelized group.”  They’re unevangelized alright; they’re a bunch of idolators and they hate God and they hate the message.  They’ve already kicked Him out under Jezebel and Ahab. 

Don’t think that this group of young lads was a spontaneous response, that all of a sudden Elisha shows up and then a big crowd forms.  It was not spontaneous.  He came and he met a mob.  They were waiting for him.  They were prepared for him.  Again, verse 23, “He went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead….”  Now, we know there were more than forty-two of them because the Bible says at the end, he tore up forty-two lads of their number.  There were more than forty-two.  We don’t know if there were fifty or sixty or a hundred.  We don’t know how many, but it was a set-up from the beginning.  They knew Elisha was on the way.  He had come to Jericho and they had already received the report.

You might read the record and say, “How cruel that God would allow bears to tear up little children.  Verse 23 says “young lads”.  How old were they?  You don’t know from the Hebrew word “young lads”.  When Abraham’s servants accompanied him up to Mt. Moriah, his servants were called “young lads”.  When Joseph was in the pit, and we know he was 18 or more than that, he was called a “young lad”.  When Solomon was 20 years old, he was called a “young lad”.  Soldiers are described as “young lads”.  When Rehoboam received from the younger people the ungodly counsel, they were called “young lads”.  We don’t know the age.  I’m not saying there were no kids there.  I can’t imagine a crowd gathering and kids not stepping in the crowd.  There may have been.  When Isaiah described the Millennial kingdom, he spoke about the day coming when a little child will lead the leopard and the wolf and the lamb together, and it was a little child.  We’re assuming it was a very young child.  We know, whoever these young lads were, that they showed tremendous disrespect.  They showed scorn and irreverence.  If there were children among them, I think we can say something about their parents to allow them to be so rude and say such terrible things.  No one can be certain of their age.  That’s the point I’m making, the ones who were mauled by bears.  If there were children, boy, that was also a judgment against their families and against their parents.

This organized mob was rejecting the message of the Lord, they were rejecting the Lord, and they were rejecting the messenger of the Lord.  This was a reference to Elijah, when they said, “Go up, you baldhead; go up you baldhead.”  Remember, he was caught up in the fiery chariot.  They didn’t see that.  They only saw a tornado.  They just saw the whirlwind come.  They didn’t see what was really there.  What they’re saying is basically, “I hope you get struck by lightning.  I hope a tornado comes and carries you away.  I hope you drop in a sinkhole.  Get out of here.  We don’t want you.  We have our calf, we have our idolatry.  When they were rejecting, they were rejecting the Lord and the Lord’s messenger.

Now wouldn’t you think after such a horrible scene… I went to school at Moody Bible Institute for a season, and right down the hall there was a very grotesque looking student.  Half of his face was gone.  It was all scarred and horrible.  He had been mauled by a bear.  I got to be friends with that man.  He wasn’t in the woods or anything like that.  He just climbed over a fence and went up to the bars at a zoo and the bear reached through the bars and mauled him.  I can’t imagine forty-two being mauled, and I’m sure the rest scattered.  I don’t know if many died, but it was a terrible thing.  Wouldn’t you think that after such a thing, that Elisha would be afraid to continue on into Bethel, because how the people would turn against him in violence and blame him, “Look what you’ve done.  You’ve taken our young lads and you’ve called this bear out.”  But I think it was like what God did for Moses and Aaron.  He said, “I’ve made you like a God to Pharoah.”  This put a fear in their heart.  This made people around not ready to raise a hand against him.  It’s like what God did for Joshua when he crossed the Jordan.  The people of Canaan, the Canaanites began to tremble. 

So, God puts a fear in them.  I’m sure after the bears, the people hated Elisha even more than ever because now there are grieving families putting the blame on this man.  Forty-two dead, and I’m sure their families hated Elisha.  God gave him authority for his message.  I’ll tell you, when there is fire in heaven, and bears in the woods, God’s people are going to be respected.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting that God’s people won’t ever be persecuted and martyred, but when it’s redemptive.  This was redemptive to save at that time, Elisha, and other times it’s redemptive to let someone like James be beheaded.

God is holy as certainly as He is love.  He’s going to have mercy, but He’s also going to have judgment, and judgment is a call to repentance, and these bears were a call to repentance.  God is not going to share His glory with another.  What we’re seeing in our country with all the storms and all the tornadoes and all the earthquakes and floods and stuff like that, God is not going to share His glory with something man calls “climate change”.  This is God; this is calling people to repentance.  I think this gives Elisha authority in the face of the ungodly.

I told you I was going to emphasize a point made earlier, and that is that God has His people everywhere.  He had that unnamed person in the army or in the court of Israel, and now here at Bethel.  This is the seat of idolatrous worship.  God had a witness here.  Remember when Elijah walking his last mile before he was carried up into heaven in the chariot, on the way he stopped at several places where there were Bible schools.  2 Kings 2:3, “Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him…”  The sons of the prophets at Bethel; there was a Bible school in Bethel, right at the place where this idolatrous worship was.  At one end of the street, you had a golden calf, and at the other end you had a Bible school. 

I mentioned that for a while I attended Moody Bible Institute, and that’s located in Chicago, the heart of Chicago, and many, many dangerous streets all around it.  Maybe you’ve heard of the Pacific Garden Mission, a very famous mission.  Billy Sunday has claimed that he got saved there.  That’s where the Unshackled radio program comes from.  We have many ministries where students were assigned to the gospel missions, and I went to the Sunshine Gospel Mission in Chicago.  Like Bethel, Chicago had its Bible school, and Bethel had its little Bible school.  One block from one of the missions that I attended was Clark Street.  I wasn’t one hour in Chicago, and I was mugged and left on the street there, my suitcase torn open.  I got off a Greyhound bus and had to walk up to the school and went up Clark Street and I got mugged.  That was my introduction to Chicago, but God had a witness there, and praise God for that!

That’s all I have on the bear story, so I’d like to introduce it before we close this unique story.  2 Kings 4 is very unique because it has five miracles in it.  Verses 4:1-7 is this multiplied oil for the widow, and then in verses 8-17, God gave a supernatural son to this Shulamite woman, and then in verses 18-37 that son died and God raised that son from the dead, and then in chapter 4:38-41, the poison pot of stew that God healed, and finally at the end of the chapter, the miracle of the multiplied loaves.  That wasn’t only in the New Testament; that’s here, as well.  Those are the visible miracles in chapter 4.  There are some invisible miracles, and what I mean by that is that they’re not as obvious, like the miracle of timing, and the miracle of insight and the miracle of faith.  You see so much of that in here that’s not spelled out. 

I want to begin this story that comes next.  We’ve looked at Jericho, the positive ministry, and we looked at Bethel, and we looked at the joint expedition between Jehoshaphat and Jehoram, and now we come to the widow and the jar of oil.  So many rich realities in this story, and we’re not going to even suggest that we’re going to finish it this morning.  I want to introduce and give the great and prevailing revelation of our Lord Jesus.  That’s what we’ve come for; we want to see the Lord Jesus.  Next time, Lord willing, we’ll take it apart and dive a little deeper and look at the other principles.  The story is recorded in the first seven verses.  2 Kings 4:1, “Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘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.’” That’s the background.  Many miseries are piled up in that single verse: widowhood and poverty and the possibility of the future of her sons, and so on.  They could have become slaves.

This is different, this story, than the ones we’ve looked at already, because this woman is not a hypocrite like some were at Jericho and needed their spring purified.  This woman wasn’t mocking the messengers of the Lord like they were in Bethel.  She wasn’t trying to do the right thing in the wrong way, like Jehoshaphat was, she wasn’t hobnobbing with the ungodly.  This is a different kind of story.  It wasn’t an external enemy.  There wasn’t a Moabite in sight in the story of this woman.  Her husband died and she’s about, in her mind, to lose her two children.  Her situation is clearly the result of circumstances that are not her fault, circumstances that, in the will of God, came into her life.  Her great fear was, of course, for her sons.  The law required that if you couldn’t pay your debts that you would work it off, either you, your family or somebody.  Matthew 18:25, Jesus referred to that in one of His parables, “And when he had begun to settle them,” the debts, “one who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him.  Since he did not have the means to repay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had in repayment to be made.”

It’s enough this morning to give you her situation, which you already heard, and to answer the one question that Elisha asked her that gives us the revelation of our Lord Jesus.  I want to go straight to the question; it’s in two parts.  Verse 2, “Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you?’”  And I assume the verse 1 was her answer to that part of the question.  When he asked the question, the next part has to do with the whole narrative, and we’ll come back over and over to this.  He said, “What do you have in the house?”  I want to give you the answer that she could have given; she didn’t, and you aren’t going to find this in your Bible.  This is my imagination, but I think it’s based on logic.  She could have said this.  He said to her, “What do you have in your house?”  And I picture her saying, “You want to know what I have in my house?  I’ll tell you; there’s a lot of sadness in my house.  That’s what’s in my house.  My husband died.  I’m empty.  I’m alone.  That’s sad, and I’m only left with my two sons and there is a good possibility I’m going to lose them.  What’s in my house?  I’ll tell you: tears, heartache, agony, grief.  That’s what I have in my house.  You ask, ‘What do you have in your house?’  I’ll tell you what I have in my house.  I’ve got a pile of unpaid bills.  That’s what I have in my house.  I’m bankrupt.  I’m insolvent, and there’s a great burden to satisfy those debts.  I don’t see a way out.  You ask what I have in my house.  It’s a growing sense of hopelessness.  That’s what’s in my house.  I don’t have what it takes. My breadwinner, my husband, in the will of God, he died.  He was a Godly man.  I don’t only have a house full of sadness and a house full of debt, do you want to know what’s in my house?  My heart that’s full of anxiety and full of fear, and I’m terrified.  The creditor is coming to take my two sons.  I don’t want that.  They’ll have to work off the debt.  I’m nervous, and I’m about to have a nervous breakdown.  That’s what’s in my house.  I don’t want to lose my sons because of debt that me and my husband got, and its our fault, and they’ll be slaves, and the only hope according to the Bible is some kinsman redeemer, some rich relative will come along and bail them out, and that’s not in our family.  I don’t expect that.  I don’t know how many years to the Jubilee, but it could be many years.  I don’t know.  I’m just in trouble.  So, in answer to your question, “What do I have in my house, I’ve got sadness, I’ve got debt, I’ve got fear, I’ve got anxiety.”

Notice her first answer in verse 2, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house…” Now, she may have meant, “I have nothing of value,” or some believe that “nothing” is literal, that she sold everything before she went to Elisha; she sold everything of value to pay off her debts, and there was nothing left.  That’s speculation, but that could have been; we don’t know.  But we know this widow was in a world of hurt, sadness and debt and fear for the future of her children, emptiness and confusion, she doesn’t know what to do, and anxiety; that was in her house.  But then she gave another answer, she said, “Your maid servant has nothing except a jar of oil.”

Now, that jar of oil is the thing that gives this story inspired space in your Bible.  If it wasn’t for that jar of oil, you wouldn’t be reading about this story.  That jar of oil became the woman’s salvation.  That jar of oil became everything.  Every truth in this story is going to revolve around that jar of oil.  Commentators believe, and I incline to agree, that it was olive oil that is being talked about.  There was a lot in that place.  Olive oil was very important in those days; it was a common commodity.  It was used for baking, and it was used for cooking, it was used for medicine, it was actually used as a cosmetic, like suntan lotion, it was used for fuel.  It had many uses, and it was used for investment; if you had a lot, you could sell some of it.  But the real value of that oil is symbolic.  God is not only telling a history, He’s writing a Bible, and you trace that word “oil” through the Bible, and you’ll know very clearly what that is picturing.  The oil was used on the sacrifices, the oil was used for anointing, it was used for anointing kings, and anointing priests, and anointing prophets.  In the New Testament it’s used for anointing the sick.  The symbolism was deeper than, “Oil is used for anointing.”  It points to the Anointer, the One who does the anointing, and like Elijah’s mantel —remember we traced out that symbol, and that was a picture of God’s Holy Spirit.  Three times in the New Testament, that figure of the Lord Jesus being anointed by the Holy Spirit is used: one in Luke 4, one in Acts 10 and then in Hebrews 1.  This is a picture of God the Holy Spirit.

I think the clearest reference relationship between the oil and the Spirit is Zachariah’s vision in chapter 4 of his book in the first 14 verses, Zechariah 4:3, “Two olive trees were by it,” that was by the lampstand, “one on the right side of the bowl, and the other on the other side,” and then they explained that vision.  Zechariah 4:6, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  The Spirit of God is the Life of God.  Some people say, “I have a body, soul and spirit.”  You don’t have a spirit; you ARE spirit.  That IS you.  You spirit is your life, and God’s Spirit is His Life, and when you have the Holy Spirit, you have the Life of God.  That’s what the Spirit is.

Even adding to her testimony, “I have nothing in the house.  I don’t have a job, I don’t have resources, I don’t have a lot of friends, I don’t have a life partner,” or, “I have one, but I may as well not have one because the life partner doesn’t seem like a life partner.  I don’t have hope, I don’t have strength, recently I don’t have youth, and I don’t have health, and so on.  Alright, let me ask you the question, “What do you have in the house?”  You have a bowl of oil.  What do you have in the house?  You have the Holy Spirit.  What do you have in the house?  You have the Lord.  That’s the revelation of this entire story; we have the Lord in every situation, every circumstance, every loss, every need.  She said, “I have nothing except a jar of oil.”  He’s not the last resort, brothers and sisters.  He’s our first line of defense.  You have the Lord and I have the Lord.

This widow is about to learn that she already had everything she would ever need for that moment and for the rest of her days.  It was already there, an abundant supply.  She did not need anything new; she didn’t need anything different; she didn’t need anything extra; all she needed, and she’s going to find out, she needs more emptiness.  The more emptiness you have, the more fullness you’re going to have.  She had the Lord, and the ministry of Elisha is going to show her the fullness of what it means to have a jar of oil, to have the Lord.  I’ll just encourage you, as we get ready to close, no matter what comes down the pike, what do you have in your house?  You’ve got the Lord.  We’ll pick up the details of that thrilling truth, but we’ve got the Lord, and that oil is in a vessel, and you are a vessel, and it’s Emmanuel, it will always be true, “The Lord with you.”

Let me quote 1 John 2:27, “As for you, the anointing you’ve received from Him abides in you; you have no need for anyone to teach you, as His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”  The word “Christ” means anointed, the Anointed One.  Do you know what an anti-Christ is?  It’s somebody that’s against the anointing.  That’s what an anti-Christ is, someone against the anointing.  So, you have Him.  This comment I read by an old Puritan in the early 1800’s, listen to this comment and then we’ll pray, “If I have everything, but I don’t have the Lord, I have nothing.  If I have nothing, but I have the Lord, I have everything.”  And then he added this, “If I have the Lord, plus everything, the everything has not added one bit to the Lord.”  Let’s pray together.

Father, thank You for Your precious word, not what we think it means, but all that You’ve anointed and inspired it to mean.  Work it all in our hearts and take us forward in a heart-knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We thank You, Lord, that we can trust You for this.  You desire it far more than we do.  We commit this lesson unto you.  Prepare our hearts as we continue in Your word.  Thank You that we have oil in the house.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.