This chapter highlights the miracle ministry of Elisha. As a prophet, the Lord used him to pronounce judgment on the wicked — but that was not all he did. Much of Elisha’s recorded ministry involved bringing the miraculous, merciful power of God to those who were faithful.
The first of four such miracles of mercy in this chapter involved the widow of a man who was part of the prophetic guild founded by Elijah. Without the help of her husband she had fallen on hard times and was in danger of losing her children to a creditor. Using what she already had, a flask of olive oil (used for cooking and fuel for light), Elisha told her to borrow empty vessels from her neighbors and to pour the oil out of her flask into them. The miraculous multiplication of the oil she poured out was enough to pay her debts and save her children! If she had known what God was going to do, I wonder if the widow would have borrowed a few barrels! Notice that the oil stopped flowing only when she ran out of containers. God’s provision was only as big as her faith and her willingness to obey.
The second miracle centered on a woman remembered simply by where she was from, “the Shunammite” (from the town of Shunem, v.8). In contrast to the widow of the first miracle, this woman was plenty wealthy. She and her elderly husband loved the Lord and believed in the ministry of His prophet, so they had a special room built for Elisha on the roof of their home. The Shunammite’s special investment in the man of God has inspired countless “prophet’s chambers”, special rooms or apartments provided by faithful people for visiting preachers.
God rewarded the woman’s kindness by giving her a son who would presumably care for her when her husband died. But instead, her little son died in her arms (possibly of a brain aneurism, v.19). Instead of mourning or preparing a funeral, the Shunammite lay her son on Elisha’s bed and made a beeline for the prophet. I think her actions indicated that she believed God was not finished with her son — what faith! The touching scene of the boy’s resurrection (with seven sneezes!) reveals the mercy of a loving God who cares for hurting people. Like Elisha, we should be willing to get personally involved in caring for the hurting. Sometimes writing a check or saying a prayer is not enough; God calls us to get eye to eye and hand to hand with people (v.34), entering into their pain and allowing God to work through us to show His mercy.
The third and fourth miracles in this chapter involve the miraculous provision of food for the prophets under Elisha’s care. God worked a miracle to make the inedible edible and to multiply provisions for His servants. When we invest our lives in ministry, God makes sure we have what we need to continue the work He has called us to do. And you can count on that.