Posted by: arieliondotcom | May 15, 2013

Holy Helpfulness (2 Kings 4)

Holy Helpfulness
(2 Kings 4)

I know the older folks hearing “Holy Helpfulness” will be tempted to insert the word “Batman” at the end of the phrase. But the distinction of holy helpfulness is important. Throughout the Bible, holiness always results in helpfulness. But not all helpfulness is holy, or even helpful. In this chapter we see several examples of the differences.

Back in the days of EliSHa, there were prophets throughout the 12 tribes of Israel and Judah. And one of these prophets died. Being holy men prophets were usually poor and this man was no exception. But he left behind a wife and children. The wife is terrified her children would be sold off into slavery by those her husband and she owed money. So, desperate, she begs EliSHa for help, since he’s the leader of the prophets and the only authority figure she knows. And knowing, as we know from previous chapters, that EliSHa can be tough, she begs for help not for her own sake, but for her godly husband’s sake and for the sake of her boys.

EliSHa can’t help fast enough. He asks her what he can do but immediately starts making suggestions himself, asking what she has in the house she might be able to sell. She explains that she only has a small bottle of oil. This would be a bottle like you’d put on the table to pour olive oil on salads, or even smaller, like a perfume bottle.

Oil was extremely important in Israel in these days (and still is throughout the area). And, as with olive oil today, it could range in quality and cost. It was used, depending on the type, from anointing the body, to cooking, to healing lotion. And the value could vary widely.

EliSHa tells the woman to go around to all of her neighbors and borrow pots…big, empty pots…the bigger the better. And to borrow as many as she possibly can. Then she is to lock herself and her sons in the house and fill up all of the pots with the oil from her small bottle!

This woman wasted no time. She didn’t stop to ask how that could be, she didn’t stop for anything. In fact Scripture jumps right over her borrowing the pots to show her in her house filling pots. As quickly as she filled one a son would bring another until she finally called to bring another but is told by her son they’re all full.

Now the widow has a house full of pots full of oil! But what can she do with it? Even with all that oil was used for she could never use all that oil. Asking EliSHa, she’s told part B of the plan: sell all of the oil and she and her sons will have enough to live on for the rest of their lives. According to Hebrew scholars there’s a play on the words here where it says the quality of this oil is so good that the money the widow makes off of it will be enough for the widow and her sons to live on until the dead are raised!

Throughout the Bible, oil is used to symbolize blessing. Blessings from GOD, and blessings of life. And we have seen that it is used in various amounts and qualities. That can be applied to helpfulness, too.

Anyone can be helpful, even nonbelievers. There is common grace, like common sense. GOD lets rain fall on the just and the unjust. Good and evil both benefit from certain blessings in life. And nonbelievers give to some charities as Christians do. The difference is the source.

The widow had to borrow the pots to fill from neighbors but using what she had from GOD she was able to make what others had exponentially more valuable to them and to herself. She had only a tiny bit of blessing, but the more blessing she poured out the more came until there was nothing…or no one…left to fill. The Hebrew says that when there were no more pots to fill the oil in the little bottle literally stood still.

In the next story, EliSHa is the recipient of the helpfulness. He makes regular rounds throughout the towns and whenever he passes through the town of Shunem he’s fed by a prominent woman in the community and her husband. This is the town where the beautiful virgin, Abishag, who kept King David warm when he was shivering from old age and too old to have sex many years earlier was from. Some say this woman was a relative of Abishag.

EliSHa stopped off by the home of this woman and her husband that they built him a fully furnished little room on the roof where he could rest and refresh himself after they fed him on future visits. When he has his servant, Gehazi, ask if EliSHa can repay them for their trouble by putting an influential word in with someone in power, the woman says that she’s surrounded by family and needs nothing. (Even as Believers we are told by the Apostle Paul that our helpfulness should start at home. First to our immediate family, then our family of other Christians, then others.) EliSHa is stumped but is determined to find some way to bless this woman. Gehazi suggests that she’s childless and her husband is old, so EliSHa promises her she’ll be holding her son by that time next year. She tells him not to get her hopes up or phrase it that way. She’s suspicious that there’s a “gotcha” in the blessing. She thinks the son may be in her arms, but dead. (Some people will be suspicious when you try to help. They may have been hurt by those who said they’d help in the past. Help anyway.) It all happens, just as EliSHa had prophesied.

However, years later, the woman’s worst fears are confirmed and the child dies. Notice that she doesn’t confirm the death to her husband or even EliSHa’s servant until she can get to EliSHa the responsible one. (We all need help from time to time. Rather than crying to. those who couldn’t help, the woman only told the person who could. Notice, too, that she knew where to find him and rushed to get there.)

EliSHa first sends Gehazi ahead to see if he can raise the child from the dead using EliSHah’s walking stick. But it didn’t work. EliSHa had to go himself. And even then he had to literally lay his body on the dead boy’s body. He totally identified with the boy, making himself ceremonially unclean. He invested himself. (It’s easy, and good, to drop a check in the mail to a charity. But there are people you meet every day who need your help. Invest yourself, personally, into other lives.) The boy is raised from the dead and returned to his mother.

Moving on, EliSHa comes to a town where there’s famine and a group of fellow prophets have gathered. He sends one of them off to gather food and the helpful fellow gathers from the forest and prepares them all a soup…of poison mushrooms! (The person trying to help meant well. But his ineptness nearly killed those he was trying to help. You’re not called to drive your neighbor shopping if you don’t know how to drive. When you help others, help them with what you know, what you’re good at doing. Meaning well is not enough.) EliSHa throws flour in the pot and the poison is removed.

In the final story, a man brings EliSHa the best food around. It’s only enough to feed at most a few people but EliSHa insists not only on feeding others before helping himself but feeding all of them! Gehazi protests there isn’t enough but EliSHa insists that the LORD has promised to multiply it and, sure enough, the food, like the oil in the first story, is increased until every man, like every pot of oil, was full.

JESUS warns us to always count the cost and know what will be expected of us. That goes for helping others, too. But we must always make sure we’re not serving others out of our own need to be needed, sense of importance, or other agenda. It must always be the natural byproduct of the love of GOD pouring out of you. If you try to help others by pumping from your own strength you’ll exhaust yourself and frustrate yourself and those you’re trying to help. But if you lead them to the waterfall of GOD’s Love flowing through you so they can meet Him for themselves, the Living Water direct from JESUS will sustain them when you’re gone.

True Christians will always have the GOD-given desire and ability to help others around them: family, fellow Christians, and others in Christ’s Name. But in order to be truly helpful it must be done GOD’s way, in His Power, not ours.

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