When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the company of prophets was sitting before him, he said to his servant, ‘Put the large pot on, and make some stew for the company of prophets.’
One of them went out into the field to gather herbs; he found a wild vine and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. They served some for the men to eat. But while they were eating the stew, they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the pot!’ They could not eat it.
He said, ‘Then bring some flour.’ He threw it into the pot, and said, ‘Serve the people and let them eat.’ And there was nothing harmful in the pot.
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat.’ But his servant said, ‘How can I set this before a hundred people?’ So he repeated, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, “They shall eat and have some left.”’ He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.
Here we have two short miracle stories. In both of them Elisha takes the initiative to provide food for people around him. He recognises their unspoken need and responds through using whatever resources are available.
The first miracle is similar to Elisha purifying the water supply (2 Kgs.2:19-22); but this time it is a pot of stew prepared with wild vegetables that prove to be very unpalatable. The story probably doesn’t indicate that they were poisonous; and it certainly doesn’t suggest that a handful of flour is an antidote to poison mushrooms etc! In the context of a time of famine it demonstrates God providing food through the prophetic action of Elisha, whereby he and his fellow prophets are all sustained.
In the second story it appears the famine is ended and harvest-time has come. The crops brought to Elisha are a thank-offering for divine blessing; but Elisha doesn’t keep them for himself, nor set them aside for ritual use. He instructs that they be used to nourish the people and the miracle occurs through the multiplication of a small quantity of food into an abundant supply. God provides more than enough for all the people to be fed; and overcomes the doubts of the one who offered the little he had in the first place.
The story is part of a tradition that affirms God’s provision for our daily needs; and it underlies the various feeding miracles that we read Jesus performing in the Gospels.
Whenever human need is recognised and the available resources, however meagre, are offered for use in meeting it, a situation is created in which God can work a miracle. It is indeed wondrous when life is sustained against the odds, when selfless generosity is witnessed; and when blessings are shared in thanksgiving to God.
God of love, help us to be alert to the needs that are around us every day.
Help us to be aware of the resources we have that could be used to meet such needs.
Give us generous hearts; and the faith to believe that you can transform anything we offer to achieve your loving purposes in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.
If today’s Daily Devotion is not showing on your church’s website, this will have affected all church websites using this feed in the same way. Our volunteer technical team are probably aware of the issue and will be working to fix it as soon as they are able. Thank you.