Bible Study: Inspiration from an Old Testament Prophet

What does WICC have in common with an Old Testament prophet? More than you would expect!

A miracle performed by the prophet Elisha is recorded in 2 Kings 4:1-7 providing us with a model for responding to injustice today.

A Family in Crisis

This passage centers around a widow whose life was falling apart. Her husband died leaving her to raise two sons on her own. His death had plunged her into a financial crisis, not just because of the loss of an income but also because of the debt he left behind. His creditor was at her door, threatening to take her sons as slaves in payment for the debts. She didn’t have much, but what little she had was about to be taken from her.

A Cry for Help

In desperation, the widow turned to Elisha who had known her husband as a prophet and as a godly man. Elisha did not rush in to solve her problem. He responded with compassion, with respect and with a listening ear. He asked her two questions, “How can I help you?” and “What do you have in your house?”. His second question must have taken her by surprise. She obviously had no financial resources but his question forced her to take stock of what she did have. She did have a little oil left. What she was about to discover was that the little she had was going to be essential in changing her hopeless situation.

Hope Restored

Elisha gave the widow very clear instructions. She was to collect empty jars from her neighbors, take them home and behind closed doors she and her sons were to fill the jars with the little oil she had. The widow was to fully participate in solving her problem. Elisha deliberately stayed away, perhaps so that God, and not the prophet, would be given credit for the miracle of the oil that filled all the empty jars and ran out only when there were no empty jars left. Imagine the thrill of the woman as she filled jar after jar and the excitement of her children as they witnessed a miracle with their own eyes! There was enough oil to cover her debts and provide money for her and her family to live on. Imagine the joy of paying off her debts and explaining to her creditor where the money came from!

WICC: Restoring Hope to Women Touched by Injustice

This passage, for me, is an affirmation of the work and focus of WICC.

Focusing on women

Sometimes at WICC we are asked why we focus on the needs of women instead of having a broader focus.

There are two reasons for this. One reason is based on scripture. Throughout the Old Testament there are commands for God’s people to care for the vulnerable in society, particularly widows, and there was harsh judgement when the people failed to do this (Deuteronomy 24:19-21; 26:12; Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 7:1-7;22:3; Ezekiel 22:7). The New Testament affirms the importance of caring for widows (Acts 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 5:3; James 1:27).

The second reason to focus on the needs of women is based on reality in today’s world.

In Canada: 21% of single mothers in Canada are raising their children in poverty and for First Nations women living off reserve it is 37%.

In the US, women are 35 percent more likely to live in poverty than men.

If this is true for two of the most developed countries in the world, how much greater is the need around the world? Related to poverty are many other issues facing women such as violence, discrimination and sexual exploitation.

Is it not right that WICC, Canada’s largest interdenominational organization focus on the greatest need?

Empowering women

WICC provides grants through the World Day of Prayer as well as from the sales of our Awakening print. To apply for grants, groups must determine a need and a way to meet that need. We believe that women are creative and have the answers to many of the issues they face. Indirectly we ask women not just what they need but also what they have. They have ideas, resources and networks. With financial and prayer support we encourage and equip women to be agents of change in their communities. We connect needs with resources while maintaining respect and dignity for women who want to improve their circumstances.

Celebrating changed lives

Our grants are changing lives around the world! We share the stories of women transformed by our grants in Riding the Waves, on our Facebook page, through our electronic newsletter e-connect and in the letters we mail out to our supporters throughout the year. Contact us online, by email or by phone if you wish to be kept informed of the impact of our grants.

A Bold Prayer

Elisha was faced with a desperate need that he did not have the financial resources to meet. WICC faces the same dilemma. In 2017 we received 227 World Day of Prayer grants asking for a total of $1,000,000! One of the reasons Elisha was used by God to restore hope to the widow was because of a request he made of the Lord and of Elijah. He asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:13). What a bold request! Yet, God granted that request. Scripture records twice as many miracles performed by Elisha than by Elijah.

As we celebrate WICC’s 100th anniversary in 2018, we want to do more than celebrate our successes and God’s faithfulness. We want to renew our vision to restore hope to women touched by injustice. Do we dare to ask, as Elisha did, that God empower us to do more? Would you dare to join me in praying for a double portion, that God would enable us to restore hope to twice as many women in the future than in the past?

Shirley DeMerchant is WICC’s president. She lives in Woodstock, NB.

Originally published in Riding the Waves, 9.1, Winter 2017.

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