Tag Archives: 2 Kings 4

The God of Leftovers

The God of Leftovers (CaD 2 Ki 4) Wayfarer

“For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.'”
2 Kings 4:43b (NIV)

“What’s for dinner?”

It’s one of the eternal, daily questions of life. There’s not a single season of my entire life that did not include a daily version of wondering what was going to be on the table for the evening meal. As a child, it was a matter of what mom had planned. As a college student, it was a matter of what was on the cafeteria menu. As a parent, it became a question of providing and sometimes cooking what was going to be on the table for the family. As empty nesters, Wendy and I now ask the question of what we want for just the two of us. Wendy is a planner, so she often prompts a semi-monthly conversation to scope out a two-week dinner plan. Nevertheless, the question comes up daily: “What’s on the plan for dinner?”

Leftovers are often the plan. In fact, we often make recipes designed for a group or large family. We simply divide and freeze the leftovers which are easy to warm up and serve.

Leftovers.

What a blessing, what abundance, to have so much, that there’s plenty left over.

Today’s chapter continues the adventures of the prophet Elisha, and it’s a sort of miraculous mystery tour. There are four episodes in which Elisha is an instrument of the miraculous. In each episode, the miracle is that of provision.

A widow can’t pay her debts and her creditor is coming to take her two sons as slaves in repayment of the debt. Elisha’s instructions miraculously provide enough olive oil to pay off the debt and enough left over to sustain her and her sons.

A childless young, foreign wife of an old man is facing the threat of poverty and destitution in that ancient culture. Children, particularly sons, were the only form of social security for widows. Elisha prophesies that she will have a son, and then when the boy dies God uses Elisha to raise the boy from the dead.

There is a famine in the land and Elisha hosts the company of prophets. When a servant mistakenly poisons the stew, Elisha miraculously makes the stew edible so that everyone could eat and none would go to waste.

A visitor brings Elisha twenty loaves of bread. In a foreshadowing of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fish, Elisha tells him to pass them out among the hundred men gathered with him. As with Jesus’ miracle, there was enough bread for everyone to eat and there were still leftovers.

In each episode, there was something lacking that threatened an individual or individuals. A widow, a foreign woman who was barren, and the company of prophets threatened by starvation amidst a famine. In each case, there was not just provision, but abundance.

There were leftovers.

I must confess to you that I have always struggled with a scarcity mentality. I fear there will not be enough. I doubt that things will work out. I assume that I will suffer loss rather than abundance.

In the quiet this morning, I was reminded of a quote from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way:

“Thinking like this is grounded in the idea that God is a stern parent with very rigid ideas about what’s appropriate for us. And you’d better believe we won’t like them. This stunted god concept needs alteration.

Jesus agrees:

“Which of you, if your child asks for bread, will give them a rock? Or, if they ask for a fish, will give them a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”

The alteration that needs to happen is not with God, but with me. As Cameron continues to observe, “Remember, you are the cheapskate, not God.”

I need that reminder.

In the quiet this morning, I wrote in my morning pages my heart’s cry to Jesus’ heavenly Father who knows how to give good gifts.

I proclaimed my trust in my heavenly Father who not only provides for His children, He’s the God of leftovers.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder AI.

Enough

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 small jar of olive oil.”
2 Kings 4:2 (NIV)

Many years ago I was pushing into my spiritual journey and trying hard to understand my feelings of shame, the deep, abiding sense that I was worth-less to the core. I have shared before about my friend and counselor who asked me to label my shame. He wanted me to give my shame a name tag; A moniker of my shame that would allow me to pick up my Sharpie and write on the my name tag at church: “Hello, My Name Is…” and write my shame right on there.

Not Enough” was the label I gave to my shame.

As I’ve continued on in my spiritual journey I’ve come to have more than a few head-slapping, eureka moments as I mull over my “Not Enough” shame moniker. Of course I feel “not enough” because it’s what culture and marketing have whispered and screamed to me so regularly since I was a toddler that I don’t even recognize it anymore.

You’re not athletic enough. Eat your Wheaties.
You’re not manly enough. Smoke a Marlboro.
You’re not beautiful enough. Wear brand “X”.
You’re not good enough. Work 24/7/365.
You’re not rich enough. Climb that ladder at all costs.
You’re not suave enough. Act like James Bond.
You’re not good enough. Stop sinning.
You’re not Christian enough. Only listen, read, and consume things labeled and marketed as “Christian” and sold by an acceptable, orthodox supplier.

You get the picture.

In today’s chapter the ancient prophet Elisha is approached by a widow who is in a desperate situation. Her husband died and was indebted to another man in the town. In ancient days, if you couldn’t pay your debts the creditor took whatever collateral the borrower had. Because the widow was left with nothing of real value her two sons were going to be taken from her to become the creditor’s slaves.

When Elisha asks the woman, “What have you got?” she replies that all she has is a small jar of oil. Elisha tells her to get all the empty jars she can find and borrow and pour the oil from her small jar into all the empty jars. Miraculously, the woman keeps pouring and the oil keeps flowing until her house is packed full of jars of oil. She is can now sell the oil and pay off the debts. And, there’s enough left over to provide for her and her sons.

What does this remind me of?

Oh yeah. Jesus fed the crowds (more than once) with just a few fish sandwiches that Peter and the boys could scrounge off a little kid whose mother packed him a sack lunch. The woman and her oil jars is kind of like that. In fact, it’s just like that.

I love it on my chapter-a-day journey when I begin to see patterns, themes and dots to be connected across the Great Story. This endless jar of oil is just like Jesus’ endless baskets of filet o’ fish sandwiches.

So, what is the point? What’s God trying to tell me?

In each case, God took the little that they already had and provided all that was needed. In fact, in both cases there were leftovers. The point is that what they already had was enough for God to work with. God can take what I am and what I have and it is enough for Him to work with to be all that I need, all that He needs, when it’s needed.

I don’t believe this means God is giving me an excuse to be complacent and slothful. It doesn’t mean that I have carte blanche to be foolish and stagnant. God wants me to keep progressing, keep pressing on, and keep pushing further up and further in. It’s important, however, to think about what I’m pursuing.

I’ve found that shame always calls me back. I constantly find my heart slipping off on paths that mindlessly pursue unreachable destinations. The more money I make the more I realize that there’s always someone richer, and I’ll never stop chasing after “just a little bit more.” No matter how skinny, ripped and ruggedly handsome I can make myself with wardrobe, workouts and organic male beauty products, I will still look in the mirror and fail to see Daniel Craig.

This morning I’m reminded that when I stick to the path in pursuit of God and God’s wisdom I find that what I already have is enough. It’s enough even if God has to, once in a while, miraculously stretch my enough to cover what’s needed in the moment.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 4

A dry and thirsty land. Elisha said to her, "This time next year you're going to be nursing an infant son."

"O my master, O Holy Man," she said, "don't play games with me, teasing me with such fantasies!" 
2 Kings 4:16 (MSG)

Promises feel profane to those whose life experience sit in opposition to that which is promised.

Mary was young and naive when Gabriel told her she would conceive and bear a son. We applaud her faith in joyfully embracing the message. Seriously, she had no concept of the pain of barrenness. That was not her journey. She would experience a different kind of barrenness and pain 30 years later.

The promise of a child is another thing altogether to a woman who has believed and hoped for years, and has nothing to show for it. Promise that woman she will conceive and you'll be met with Sarah's sarcastic and cynical laughter. You will feel defenses rise. You might even get the biting reply of the Shunnamite woman telling Elisha and God, in certain words, to keep their promises to themselves.

Promises are an encouragement to some. They are a burden for others.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Eric Rice