The Quiet Stream: Chapter 9

2 Kings 4:17  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Picture in your mind the side of a mountain, high, steep and rugged. Tearing down from its heights into the valley below is a stream, dashing, foaming and driving all before it - a mountain torrent. Follow the stream, watch it carefully as it reaches the valley and it flows into the grassy plain. What a change comes over it! It trickles peacefully on, watering the flowers and ferns, giving drink to the birds and insects - a quiet, calm stream. It is the same stream as the mountain torrent, yet oh, how changed!
That stream is a very good representation of the two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, and of the work God gave them to do. Elijah is the stream on the mountainside, bearing down on injustice and sin by his stern rebukes and by his bold remonstrance. Elisha is like the stream on the grassy plain, going quietly and peacefully on his way, bringing joy, happiness and comfort to all around him. Elijah upholds the righteousness of God’s law while Elisha displays God’s grace.
And yet, just as the stream was one stream, the same on the mountain as on the plain, so Elisha’s work, although differing from Elijah’s, was still the same work flowing from the same source. The same God used bold Elijah and gentle Elisha; both carried out His commands. And the work of Elijah led to the work of Elisha.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” How much happier we should be if we remembered this! As the old German hymn says, God has His plan For every man.
We are not all called to do the same work. And God does not call us to do the work He has given to others. He has a separate plan for each of us. There is one way and one way only in which we can please Him, and that is the way in which He has called us to work for Him. It may be that He has given us no great, startling work. It may be He would have us be like the quiet stream, going on our way and doing our work for Him almost unobserved, with no bustle or noise, but still working for Christ by little acts of kindness, by words of help or comfort, in the home or the shop, at school or the office.
And who shall say that Elisha’s work was less than Elijah’s? In the Master’s eyes that work is great which is done because of love to Him and in obedience to His directions. Even the cup of cold water wins a word of praise from His lips, if it is given in His name. Let each of us then look up to heaven, and say from the bottom of our hearts: I would not have the restless will That hurries to and fro, Seeking for some great thing to do, Or secret thing to know; I would be treated as a child, And guided where I go.
Do any of us feel that we are ready to do great things for God? If He calls us to go out as a missionary or to die as a martyr, we will gladly obey the call! But what about the work that God has given us to do? Are we doing it? He would have us “more careful not to serve Him much, but to please Him perfectly.” For “he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.”
Let us follow Elisha, the quiet stream, in his peaceful work of grace for Jehovah. The story opens with a funeral, or rather with what happens after the funeral. The body has been carried out for burial, followed doubtless by the mourners. At the head of the procession would be the poor widow, supported on either side by her two sons. Then would follow her neighbors, touched at the sight of her grief. They would be glad to show respect for the dead husband, as well as sympathy for his widow. Then would come the young men from the college, the sons of the prophets. Was not the dead man one of their number? Was he not one of the faithful seven thousand who had never bowed the knee to Baal?
The mourning friends have departed; the chief mourners, the poor widow and her boys are alone. Look at her. She has lost her husband who is dearer to her than life itself. Yet that is not all. She has to face the future, and a very dark future it is, for her husband has died in debt. Now the funeral expenses must be added to the long list of debts that went before.
The widow’s creditor wants payment. Perhaps he is a worshipper of the golden calf and cares little for this poor servant of Jehovah. She cannot pay and he knows it. Still he presses his claim, and as payment he demands her two boys whom he can sell as slaves. Poor woman! No wonder she is downcast.
This is a world of trouble, and we all have our share of it. This man was a servant of God, and yet sorrow came to his home. God’s children have trouble just as others have. Sickness, poverty and death come to Christians just as they come to others. Yet here lies the great difference: God’s children always have a refuge to which they can flee. There never was a trouble too hard for God. They know God to be their refuge and strength, their very present help in trouble.
The poor widow knows where to turn. She does not set off for Samaria to ask help of Queen Jezebel; she does not plead her cause with the king; she does not go around begging to the neighbors; she does not appeal to the priests of the calves. She goes to the right person; she goes straight to Elisha, the prophet of God.
She goes to him, but she asks for nothing, she proposes nothing and she hints at nothing; she simply and solely states her case and pours out her trouble into Elisha’s ears. If you have a trouble - and who in this world doesn’t? - go and do likewise. No, Elisha is not available, but Elisha is but a feeble picture of the One who is always ready and able to help. Go to the loving, feeling, sympathizing Christ. Tell Him all about it in your own words. Pour out your heart before Him. There is no need to ask Him for anything or to plan out in what way the help shall come. Simply lay it before Him and leave Him to settle the means in which the aid shall be given. Leave it completely in His hands. “O Lord I am oppressed; undertake for me.” That is quite enough, and that is the firm trust and confidence which the Lord looks for.
At once Elisha’s sympathies are aroused. “What shall I do for thee?” he asks. “Tell me, what hast thou in the house?” The poor widow’s mind goes back to the poor, little home. What is there? Nothing of value - no jewels, no furniture worth selling, no food even, nothing but a jar of oil and the boys.
Only a pot of oil! That is all she has. If she had had any money laid by in the house or any valuables that she could have sold, she would have been told to part with them, for we are apt to forget what Elisha did not forget - that what we owe to another is not our own. “Owe no man anything,” God’s Word says.
Having heard what she has, Elisha gives her a strange command: “Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.” She hurries away to obey his word. She calls at the neighbors’ houses, borrowing pots of all kinds, sizes and shapes.
Maybe some asked, “What are you going to do with them?” She did not know; she could only say, “I’m doing what the prophet told me to do.” She could not satisfy their curiosity and they were not to see what was going to happen next. Elisha gave strict orders: “Shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons.” No neighbor was to see the miracle happen; they would see only the result.
The widow does not reason; she obeys. From her pot of oil she pours into the rest of the vessels, and the wondrous supply seems inexhaustible. The boys bring vessel after vessel, and as long as the vessels last, the oil lasts too. Not until the boy said, “There is not a vessel more,” did the supply come to an end.
What must have been the joy of the poor widow, as she saw her need so wonderfully supplied? How does she act? Does she rush out in the street and proclaim it? Does she call upon her neighbors to wonder and to admire? No, she runs straight to the prophet’s door; she gratefully tells him what has happened and waits for further directions. She does not decide for herself what to do next; she goes to the prophet for further instructions.
We, too, must not run ahead of God’s leading. We must take no step, however plain it seems, without taking counsel of God. Day by day, nay, in fact, moment by moment, we must go to Him for orders: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
Elisha directs her: “Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.” First, pay thy debt. It was no sin to owe when she had nothing, but the moment she had the oil, the first responsibility was to pay the debt. It would be well if those three words were put up in many a Christian home: “Pay Thy Debt.” The Lord notices each unpaid debt, and if we are able to pay it, even though it be by means of self-denial, He bids us, “Pay Thy Debt.”
What a happy gathering there would be in that little home that evening! Without fear and trembling the widow could now look upon her boys. There was no fear of separation, no dread of poverty, no shrinking from what the future might bring. The debts were all paid and enough was left to live on. Elisha, the prophet, was used as God’s quiet stream of blessing, the one who had been allowed to bring comfort and help to the sorrowing ones in that household.
So much for the simple story, but oh, what a wondrous lesson it contains for us who love the Lord! It shows us that God’s blessings are only limited by our capacity to receive them. So long as the vessels lasted, the oil was more than sufficient to fill them. This is always the way in which God gives. “Open thy mouth wide,” He says, “and I will fill it.”
Often our hearts are not opened to receive what God is more than willing - is longing - to give us. Depend upon it, when God stays His hand, the vessel is full. “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
God giveth with no grudging hand
Thy cup of joy and blessing;
Lift up, and let thine heart expand,
Its every need expressing;
Jehovah filleth to the brim
The vessels faith extends to Him;
Today He doth His gifts outpour:
Soul, hast thou not one vessel more?