This passage centers around food, famine, and the response to needs. In the modern Western World, we have a hard time understanding the effects of famine on an agrarian society. When famine comes along for people who depend on local farms for food, the results is tragedy and devastation. To paint this picture more clearly, most families had their own farms. They would plant, grow, and harvest for their families, communities, and sometimes for others they would sell to if they did not have what that farm was growing. They would also buy the stuff that they were not growing as well. As far as their families were concerned, what was on the farm was their main food source for survival. In the end, most people grew just enough to put enough calories into their bodies to be alive and healthy. So when a famine comes, life hung in the balance. You can see why these stories of food distribution during famines was not just a nice story; it was a story of saving lives.
In the first story, Elisha is sharing food with others during a time of famine. What makes that amazing is that most people were probably foregoing the cultural expectation to feed guests. If there is not enough food for your house, why entertain guest. It does not seem smart to the world. But there is a difference between the world and God’s Kingdom. The world says to preserve yourself, especially when there is not enough to go around. The Kingdom says that we must share and that there are enough resources to go around, we just have to creatively get them for each other.
The story does take a turn for the worst when a servant grabs poisonous herbs by mistake. When the guests eat the meal, they know exactly that they are poisoned and doomed. They let Elisha know about it quickly. That has happened many times in different ways to the Church today. We go out, try to serve, and totally botch a project up. We are very prone to mistakes and misunderstandings. Sometimes, we hurt people badly when we mean to do good. People are quick to point this out. We have seen many great leaders fall at the hands of an average Joe critic. Turning these mistakes into moments of spectacular heroism does not take some tactical rhetoric or clandestine coverup. Elisha, when the people mention this to him, acts in that unusual way that God always tends to lead him towards.
What many people of faith tend to assume is that acts of faith are flawless events with no obstacles are mistakes. What the Bible points out is that mistakes are to be made. Even when there are no mistakes, the world is full of obstacles that get in our way. When we act in faith, we approach the world with hope. We plan our best, but there are many things that we are unable to plan for. The only one who can plan for the unknown is the one who is over the unknown world and created it. Being a hero of faith takes trusting a God in the midst of our problems and mistakes and trusting Him to use us to bring good things to others. It’s at these moments, we learn what faith, hope, and love really mean. We find that in the uncertainty that need and tragedy bring that God to brings clarity and vision for a better future.
When you find yourself ministering to people, embrace what could go wrong. Although we do not plan the worst ministry ever, we can trust God to make the ministry work for everyone to experience the blessings of the Kingdom. Remember that He is strong and able and that when we show our weakness as humans, He acts in ways that are surprising and redeeming.