Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. He only is my Rock and my Salvation: He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved.”
Psalm 62: 5, 6
“The answer to prayer may be approaching, though we discern not its coming. The seed that lies under ground in winter is taking root in order to see a spring and harvest, though it appears not above ground, but seems dead and lost.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, ‘Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondsmen.’”
II Kings 4: 1
“When Bad Things Happen to Good People”
“If you are a child of God whose heart’s desire is to see God glorified through you, adversity will not put you down for the count.”
What adversity is in my life right now which has knocked me off my feet?
Have I given this problem to my heavenly Father to solve?
“At the darkest moment in your life, you need to see that God is always in charge. He never loses control of the situation. He is always working behind the scene carrying out His plan.”
“Everybody has secret pain. Everybody has something that hurts.”
It was a terrible situation. A wife and the mother of two boys found herself widowed and laden with debt. What’s worse, she had no way to pay the creditor and so he demanded the servitude of her two children.
If you have been coming to the Garden for sometime, you’ll recognize that we have studied this particular story, found in II Kings 4, in the past. But rather than skip over it or repeat a previous devotional, I asked God to please help me look again at this story with fresh eyes and with new thoughts. As I read Today’s Study Text, I was profoundly delighted by the fact that heaven’s beam brought to my attention a part of this text which I had read before but never really studied.
Half way into the first verse, there is this phrase: “Thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord.”
A little background relating to this incident would be appropriate at this point. This widow was the wife of a prophet. The Bible commentator Matthew Henry offers this insight about the situation: “to whom therefore should she apply, but to (Elisha) that was a father to the sons of the prophets.” It is apparent that Elisha in his position as the head of the Schools of the Prophets, knew this man, most likely he knew the entire family. What’s more, the man who died had a reputation as a Godly individual. Certainly his wife confirmed this fact and Elisha did not contradict her word.
During the time of Baal worship, this man “feared” the Lord. We can easily come to the conclusion that he was a man of integrity at a time of widespread apostasy. And now, this good man, a minister and father and husband had died.
I also want to point out that during his years of service, this Godly man didn’t focus on earthly gain. He put his effort into the work of God. I want to again go back to the way Matthew Henry describes the predicament: “The prophets did not live forever. Those that were clothed with the Spirit of prophecy were not thereby armed against the stroke of death. (This man) died poor, and in debt. More than he was worth. He did not contract his debts by prodigality (extravagant wastefulness), and luxury, and riotous living, for he was one that feared the Lord.”
Then Matthew Henry goes on to note that it may have been likely that this man and his family suffered impoverishment because of the persecution by Jezebel against God’s followers.
No matter the reason, a bill collector demanded the only payment possible, the lives of the widow’s two boys who were to become servants until the debt was worked off.
As I shared with you, the vital words in this passage of Scripture for me are these: “thy servant did fear the Lord” (II Kings 4: 1, K.J.V.). I don’t believe there is a one of us that hasn’t had someone taken from us in death and not thought to ourselves, “Why did God let this good person die?” Or to expand on this thought, we might ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Before I share some insights I gained as I studied this passage, I just want to clarify the fact that I don’t have the answer to why good people suffer. I don’t understand why a young mother dies, leaving behind three precious children. I don’t get it. And closer to home, I haven’t uncovered any good thing that has resulted from my precious dad’s sudden death. I needed him in my life. I treasured his love but also his immense friendship. He was my pal. And not a day goes by that I don’t miss him or think about him in one way or another, over twenty-five years later.
Please let me be clear, I’m not feeling sorry for myself for I know that so many of you are going through unspeakable trauma in one way or another. This is why I shared Beth Moore’s tremendous words with you, “Everybody has secret pain. Everybody has something that hurts.” What a true statement! And the joy and fellowship I’ve found in Transformation Garden is that God gives you and He give me the wonderful opportunity to help lift the burdens of others, people we don’t even know. And in some amazing way, by praying for others, it helps ease the hurts and aches we each may be feeling too.
So while I can’t explain why bad things happen, I do know that the encouraging hands of friends and the loving arms of my heavenly Father, can make an unbearable burden, easier to carry.
At this time in the story in II Kings 4, if we open our ears to hear the cry of this widow woman, we may find ourselves expressing the anguish we find in our own hearts. In his fabulous commentary on II Kings, author and pastor Dale Ralph Davis, whose books on I and II Kings are some of the best I’ve ever read, offers such an expressive view of the situation we encounter in II Kings 4:
“This disciple of Elisha and servant of Yahweh had bucked the religious trends of the day; he swam against the stream of his culture and government. And yet his loved ones faced disaster. Do you feel the rub (the widow) expresses? Don’t we meet this in a hundred different ways? Here is a Christian woman who has served Christ sacrificially and now her cancer has returned. Here is a farmer in the Mississippi Delta who confesses Christ openly and yet his crops have failed two years running and he is going to lose his farm. Or here is an earnest Christian husband and father who is raising and teaching his children in the fear of the Lord, and a drunk driver smashes into his wife and children when they were returning from a school basketball game and kills them all. ‘Your servant was fearing Yahweh, but the creditor is coming.’ This woman faces this perennial mystery and seems to be asking if Yahweh has any provision for them in this fix.”
It may be that today you are asking this very same question, “Does God have any solution to the situation I face today?” From all outward appearance, the fog that has descended upon your life today may be so thick there’s simply no hope in sight.
Well, I have some wonderful news to you: our God knows how to lift a fog bank and reveal the sunlight. Our God can send wind during our darkest night and make a dry path through a raging sea. Our God can carry us in the safety of the palm of His hand and bring us through every adversity we face. In the words of poet Susan Coolidge:
“Let all who are sad take heart again;
We are not alone in our hours of pain;
Our Father stoops from His throne above
To soothe and quiet us with His love.
He leaves us not when the storm is high,
And we have safety, for He is nigh.
Can it be trouble that He doth share?
Oh, rest in peace, for the Lord doth care!”
What God Hath Promised
“God hath not promised
Skies always blue,
All our lives through;
God hath not promised
Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.
But God hath promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Annie Johnson Flint
(We will be studying II Kings 4: 1-7 all this week so if you know someone who needs encouragement in their life right now, why not invite them to come to the Garden this week.)
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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