Friday, March 20, 2015

A Question for the Rabbi

Recently I wrote a post based on the teachings that a Hasidic rabbi presented to a luncheon roundtable meeting of Jewish businessmen and businesswomen. This post explores the work of preparation required to receive a blessing. The creditors of an impoverished widow are threatening to enslave the woman’s sons to pay off her debt. Elisha the prophet miraculously multiplies the woman’s only possession, a miniscule supply of oil. After the miracle, the widow is left with more than enough money to pay her debt and live in comfort for the rest of her life.

If you are interested, here is the link to the original post and the Rabbi’s presentation.

What the Rabbi Told Me

One of my readers asked a very perceptive question. The story states the widow had been the wife of one of the sons of the prophets, God’s people at the time, so how is it that these men of God let her get into this desperate situation in the first place? This is a good question for the sons of the prophets and a good question for the Church in this day and time.

Promising to continue my research, I gave her my best quick answer. Basically, these were hard times for the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. During the ministries of Elijah and Elisha Israel was deeply divided. In fact their political disagreements resulted in a split of the nation into two kingdoms Israel and Judah. Israel had rulers like Ahab and Jezebel; the most wicked in Biblical history. Judah did better with rulers like Jehoshaphat, but they weren’t exactly models of Godliness.

It was a time of religious pluralism. God and Baal were both worshiped. God was worshiped in the temple and in the forbidden high places. Prohibited sexual practices were common place. Often the men of God were persecuted and murdered. As a result God cursed his people, both the innocent and guilty, with famine and war. These were not good times for the economy. Likely the sons of the prophets didn’t have enough money to support their widows and not enough faith to believe that God would come to their aid if they tried to do the right thing.

As I continued to dig into the times and ministry of Elisha, I came upon the story of the Moabite revolt. Moab decided to stop their payment of tribute to Joram son of Ahab, the new king of Israel. He entered into a military alliance with Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, and the governor of Edom. The three leaders marched off into the desert with their army. After seven days they ran out of water. Since the situation was really bad, they decided to seek counsel from a prophet of God. Elisha just happens to have accompanied the army on this particular expedition. The prophet ridicules Joram, asking why he doesn’t call on the God (Baal) of his parents. However the prophet tells the army that for the sake of one reasonably righteous man, Jehoshaphat, God will perform a great miracle. The kings and the governor are instructed to dig ditches in the desert. Then without any rain or rivers, God will supply their needs.

Once again I see the same pattern that occurred in the widow’s miracle. The men of the army were given a seemingly absurd task, digging ditches in the desert, but they were obedient. God filled those ditches with an abundance of water. But wait, there is more. The Moabites seeing the sunlight reflecting off the water, believed it to be the blood of their enemies. They walked down the hill intent on obtaining some easy plunder, but instead the soldiers of the alliance cut them to pieces.

It is hard to find a good job in a bad economy. The law of supply and demand is working against our efforts. Finding enough water for the soldiers, horses, and camels of three armies in the middle of a desert during a drought is even more difficult. However, there are always higher spiritual laws at work. We are challenged to walk in faith with the understanding that we can not be blessed if we do not obey God (work). Finally we are called to trust God, knowing that while he is not a cosmic cause and effect machine that exists for our benefit, he will be faithful to reward those who diligently seek after him.

Faith. Obedience. Trust. I have heard the same message twice in less than two weeks, once from a Hassidic rabbi and once from an Egyptian Orthodox priest.

If you want to hear the story for yourself, it can be found in 2nd Kings Chapter 3 or the sermon is linked below.

Life of Elisha the Prophet (Part III)

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