Now the wife of a member of the company of prophets cried to Elisha. 'Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but a creditor has come to take my two children as slaves.' Elisha said to her, 'What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?' She answered, 'Your servant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.' He said, 'Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbours, empty vessels and not just a few. Then go in, and shut the door behind you and your children, and start pouring into all these vessels, when each is full, set it aside.'
So she left him and shut the door behind her and her children; they kept bringing vessels to her, and she kept pouring. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, 'Bring me another vessel.' But he said to her, 'There are no more.'. Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, 'Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your children can live on the rest.'
(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
The prophet Elisha, having followed Elijah as his disciple, now becomes his successor after he sees his master disappear in a fiery chariot, into heaven. His task is to continue Elijah's work in spreading the word of God, and bringing relief and blessing to the people. We speak of someone "picking up the mantle" (ie a cloak) from another person, and Elisha literally does this, using it to part the water to cross the Jordan.
Very quickly he has to deal with the Kings of Judah and Israel, but he is just as keen to help the poorest of society, when the widow of one of his followers asks him for help. Tradition has it that this man was Obadiah, who sheltered and fed prophets from the wicked king Ahab and his queen Jezebel, and incurred large debts. Now their sons are liable to be taken into slavery to repay the debt. Elisha's solution is to give her enough oil to save the situation.
Today, we still have the poor with us who need help. Wherever we live in the world there are people in need. If we have enough to eat, and a warm home, then it is our duty to follow Elisha's example, perhaps not in this dramatic way, but simply by putting aside extra food when we shop, or making sure that unwanted things go to a charity shop. Be generous with what God has given you!
You show us such generosity,
providing rain and sun to grow crops.
You give us water to drink,
and the ability to share Your abundance
Help us to be generous
with all who are in need,
this day, and in the future.