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“ Borrow thee vessels of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels, borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee, and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.” Borrow vessels to fill with oil, when she had but one pot of oil in the house! How could this be? Was not the prophet playing with her distress? How could such a strange command avail her? Such questions would only have been natural ; but we do not find that they entered her mind, or prompted doubt and speculation. She might, perhaps, have heard of the widow of Zarephath, whose cruise of oil had miraculously lasted during the famine; but more probably her instant obedience originated in that simple guileless trust which should characterise every feeling of our hearts towards God. 66 So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who had brought the vessels to her, and poured out. And it came to pass when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet another; and he said, There is not a vessel more; and the oil stayed. Then she came and told the man of God, and he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live, thou and thy children, on the rest.” It was not enough to give her present relief—the merciful kindness of the man of God provided also for the future, and gave her the blessed relief of retaining her children beside her. Now if woman were of no account in Israel, it would have been a greater kindness to take her sons from her, than leave them to her training. As a widow in Israel, she herself would have been provided for: there was no need for this great mercy to have been shewn her: nor in her retired, sim
ple mode of living, could the performance of the miracle for her have increased Elisha's prophetical reputation. She was a poor afflicted individual — of no more consequence amongst her countrymen, either in life or death, joy or sorrow, than were we to remove one grain of sand from the sea-shore. Yet she was as much an object of pitying mercy in the sight of her God and of His prophet, as the highest and most important in the land. And what was her sole plea for hearing and acceptance? “ Thou knowest my husband, thy servant, did fear the Lord;"—meaning not only the departed, but herself and her whole household. There was no long list of high-sounding deeds, of sublime projects, and seemingly important services. The sons of the prophets, as they were called, appeared to have passed their quiet lives in holy meditation on the law and the works of God, and in serving Him by such deeds of unostentatious kindness and social benevolence as very often to die poor. They asked nothing but a bare sufficiency of board and lodging, blessed with family love. They were never heard of out of their own retired sphere; but they feared the Lord, and taught their wives and children to do so likewise. And this was the poor widow's plea; and it was accepted. And shall we then say the women of Israel have no access to God? Do we need more than our own blessed faith and its vivid illustrations in the Eternal's own word, to give us not only consolation but encouragement? Can we not all feel as that poor widow did-a guileless faith, which asked no question, but obeyed—which came at once to the man of God, and, though his words were strange, yet trusted and was relieved?
True we have no man of God to whom to seek: we may not look to miracles for our relief; but we may come to God's word, and, through it, to God Himself. There is no barrier between us and Him. Our holy faith gives us the blessed consolation of coming to Him direct, and of feeling that, if we do but seek to fear, and love, and serve Him, we shall be accepted and beloved. Lowliness of station, of intellect, of service, is of no account with Him. The poor widow is an evidence that the poorest, and the humblest, the merest atom of His stupendous creation, is not unworthy of His regard, ay, even to the performance of a miracle in her behalf; and her sole plea was, she “feared the Lord.” Oh, let not the false idea of too great unworthiness to approach Him, of incapacity to address Him in words fit for His acceptance, obtain a moment's resting in the female Jewish heart. We are His-His own-and every expression in His Holy Word proves that we are so, and that now, ay, even now, every woman who bears the glorious name of Israel, be she rich or poor-full of good deeds and pious thoughts, or bereft of all but a childlike faith and guileless love of God—still she has spiritual privileges; a closer, dearer, more blessed connection with her Father in heaven, than is the lot of any woman. She cannot read her Bible without feeling this. Oh, let her prove it in the sight of the whole world !
Bible as a
The poor widow so mercifully relieved and blessed, marks the social and spiritual condition of the humbler classes of Israelitish women. We are now about to consider a Jewish female in a much higher station. In the town of Shunem dwelt one, designated in the
great woman,” meaning a woman of rank and consequence, to whose hospitable house the prophet Elisha ever turned when he passed through the town. It was not the custom of the prophets to enter the houses of the great and eat at their luxurious tables, preferring the humble meal and lowly roof as more accordant with their heavenly mission than the good things of earth. Not that they resembled the self mortifying ascetics of some Gentile creeds, and imagined that their merit in the sight of God was, weighed according to the extent of their self-inflicted penances; but simply, that the mind might be kept clearer, the spirit poorer, and the body healthier, by moderation in all things. Their mission of love, too, was to all classes, and the poor could not have come to them with such confidence, as in the case of the widow, if their luxurious style of living placed them with the nobles of the land.
That to lodge and eat amid the wealthy was trary to their usual habits, we learn from the forcible expression, “she constrained him to eat bread [bread
in Hebrew comprising all sorts of food, of course signifies regular meals]. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread;” and in so doing, it is evident that he found the Shunammite, one of 6 the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal nor kissed him," and accepted her hospitality in the same spirit of piety and kindly love with which it was proferred.
Once he had been constrained, for the prophet might have feared that the wealth and luxury, which marked the abode, was impregnated with the same awful seeds of vice and impiety which desecrated the wealthy of the capital ; but a second time he needed not constraint, for one interview sufficed to mark the spiritual elevation of his hosts, and that they were indeed those with whom a prophet of the Lord might enjoy the delights of social intercourse in innocence and peace.
Not contented with proferring the mere hospitality of rest and food, we find the Shunammite saying to her husband, “Behold now, I know this is a holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make him a little chamber, I pray thee, in the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.” And we know that her husband's acquiescence was instantly obtained, and her plan accomplished; for the very next verse we read, “ And it fell on a day that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber and slept there.”
Briefly as this is related, how beautifully it illustrates the character of woman—the eager desire to show kindness, and so to show it as best to harmonise with the