Today's Readings: 2 KINGS 4 | Jeremiah 52 | 1 Corinthians 13

Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.

Reading 1 - 2Kings 4:1-7

"The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, 'Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.' Elisha replied to her, 'How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?' 'Your servant has nothing there at all,' she said, 'except a little oil.' Elisha said, 'Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.' She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, 'Bring me another one.' But he replied, 'There is not a jar left.' Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, 'Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left' " (2Ki 4:1-7).

Widowed, childless, and past 80 years of age, Bill Cruxton wanted his $500,000 fortune to make a difference in someone's life. A 17-year-old waitress who had been kind to him seemed the perfect choice. So when Cruxton died on November 9, 1992 he left the bulk of his estate to Cara Wood, a high school senior who befriended him during the 13 months she worked part-time at a restaurant. Even after she quit her job, Cara kept in touch with Cruxton, running errands for him and helping him around the house. Because of his poor eyesight, she often helped him read his mail and pay his bills.

Like Cara Wood, the widow here became the recipient of another's wealth. But the riches she received came from the hand of God. The woman had known great heartache. She had lost her husband, who was of the men from the "company of the prophets". Soon she would lose her sons as well, since they were about to become slaves. The Mosaic Law gave a creditor the right to claim the person and children of a debtor who was unable to pay. They were obliged to serve as the creditor's hired workers until the year of Jubilee, when they were set free (Lev 25:39-41).

It was not a happy prospect, and the prophet Elisha, who knew her husband's devotion to the Lord, wanted to help this desperate widow. When he learned that she had nothing in her house but a small flask of oil, he told her to collect from her neighbors as many empty jars as she could -- leaving the number of jars, and the size of her faith, up to her. The woman was to shut herself and her sons inside the house and pour from her flask until all of the jars were full. Nobody else was to see or know about the miracle. Nobody needed to know about it, or Elisha would surely have been swamped with "business offers".

The woman did as Elisha instructed, and had enough oil to pay her debts and live off the rest. God's prophets were not only messengers of His judgment, but instruments of His miraculous provision for His people.

Reading 2 - Jeremiah 52, conclusion

Jeremiah's life is one of the loneliest and saddest in Scripture. His personal experiences were bitter; the message of disaster he had to proclaim was depressing and unwelcome; and the times in which he lived were of unparalleled calamity. His cause was lost from the beginning, because the people would not hear him. He was everywhere hated and misunderstood. While intensely loving and grieving for his countrymen and his nation, he was despised and persecuted as an enemy and a traitor.

In a short period of 40 years Jeremiah witnessed a temporary resurgence of true worship, saw it fall victim first to Egypt (Josiah's death), then to Babylon and finally watched it destroy itself while trying to break free from Babylon. His books reflect the tragic drama of the situation. Out of his agony, and the agony of his people, comes the sombre note of lamentation.

When Jeremiah began his ministry, he and Josiah were about the same age. It is truly touching watching these two young men -- prophet and king -- labouring to turn the nation to righteousness as the smoldering judgments of God hovered over the land; just as two young men -- a prophet and a king -- John and Jesus, did in the days of the nation's final judgment.

It is notable that Jeremiah's ministry began just forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple by the Babylonians, as recorded in the Lamentations. We remember that Jesus began his ministry just forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple by the Romans. In each case we see a period of final probation given to the city.

Jeremiah's mission was to witness for God against apostate and worldly Judah. But his work was not only as a witness of condemnation; it had a far more glorious purpose. It was to encourage and strengthen the scattered, faithful remnant -- of his own day and of all the ages since. And in our present time of crisis for the Truth, and imminent judgment, its message of comfort has great and sustaining power.

When the terrible judgments came, it would appear that God had completely rejected Israel, and that all hope was gone. But the lonely prophet with his message of eventual glory was a symbol that God was still concerned with them although they had been unfaithful, and his prophecies gave comforting assurance that those who held fast would never be forgotten, and that, though these dreadful evils should come, the latter end would be blessing and peace.