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Thursday, July 22, 2010

ELISHA, ELIJAH, WIDOW & A JAR OF OIL: Bible Stories I Still Reference in Everyday Life

While you were watching Electric Company and Full House this is a picture I would stare at and study for HOURS! See the tiny oil jar that filled up all the big jars?

The other day at work as I refilled the oil/lubrication bottles, I was informed that we had no more EVO/lube in the house beyond what was in the one tin.

I responded, "Maybe this oil will keep coming out of the tin like the miracle in the Bible where the widow is poor and doesn't have enough to feed her family and there is a miracle so she can keep pouring oil out of her little bottle and it never stops so she can make bread for her children and I'm pretty sure it is Old Testament but I'm blanking out - because this is kind of like a Jesus miracle - but I think it is OT when the woman keeps pouring oil and making bread till kingdom come so maybe we are about to experience a similar miracle and this tin will never stop pouring EVO. Wouldn't that be neat?  Shoot.  I think I'm mixing this miracle up with Jesus.  I'm getting rusty.  But I think there was bread too - and she kept making bread because the flour and oil never ended. So maybe that will happen too. Fuck - now I'm really confused. There was flour, right - not just oil?"

By this time - all interested parties had left the room or were looking at me out of the corner of their eyes - like - Is she going to hurt me?

I was waiting for someone to pipe up and quote the address of said miracle - but then I realized,  I was surrounded by heathens!

(Apologies to the Catholic who didn't leave the room.) 

This is one reason why I started the Former Fundamentalist group - for moments like this - so I could reference the miracle, someone could quote the address, another person could dissect the historical context of the miracle and then we all could have a good laugh and a swig of beer... and then discuss said miracle in entirely too much depth... "like a dog returning to its vomit."


Elisha and the Widow: 2 Kings 4:1-7:  Little oil jar that filled many big vessels which the widow sold to support her sons.

Elijah and the Widow: 1 Kings 17: 8-16: Oil and flour bowl that never emptied and fed Elijah and her household.

I remember sermons which compared the two miracles - endless bread - endless oil - Elijah vs Elisha vs Jesus. And o so many mundane interpretations such as 1. Don't doubt the extent of God's power - so if asked to get vessels to fill - get as many as possible - not just a few. 2. God will provide. 3. Don't doubt God's power. Oops I already said that one.

My favorite line? From the widow: "I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die."


I loved that tragic, fatalistic, woe-is-me shit in the Bible. Loved it! I loved how there were so many miracles where kind old men kept widows and their children from starving to death. These accompanied the George Muller story that my parents read to us and which Christian radio aired again and again and again... a Dickensian story where Muller is surrounded by orphans he rescued from the streets and they are starving to death and the little children keep asking, "Please sir, can I have some more?" but there is no more because there was no food to begin with so he tells the children to pray - so they all get down on their knees and pray and thank God for the food they are about to receive - although the cupboards were bare.  Then there is a knock on the door and a baker is there with a bunch of bread.  And then there is another knock on the door and there is a milkman whose cart broke down outside their door and needs to get rid of his milk.

God Will Provide.


Ask, and you shall receive.

Christ in your heart will help you feed and fill the souls of many empty vessels.


So imagine my disappointment when my mother was widowed and no kind old men came to the door offering us bread, flour, oil or milk. Not that we starved to death. Far from it. But still - I was a little heartbroken that nothing but corrupt church politics came knocking.

These stories were also metaphors and prophecies for Christ's salvation. If you accepted Jesus into your life you would never be truly hungry or thirsty (spiritually) and he would provide no matter what. 

I bake bread as a hobby - a skill I learned from watching my mom. It is one of the few spiritual practices I still enjoy but not because of these stories. Though my mother taught us that God would provide, in reality it was her Love that fed us. 

READERS: What Bible story do you find yourself referencing in everyday conversation?


Shadowzone said...

I used to hear this story in church too. I guess I too am a former fundie. I wondered what happened to this family after the prophet left. Sounds like a good premise for a poor man's Indiana Jones type story. Was there some kind of ancient BP type disaster after a careless child knocked over the oil? I can't remember how this one ended, except the prophet got to eat first. There's a metaphor in there somewhere. I am writing a story right now about my time in a Pentecostal church and i am sure it will singe a few saints. Good stuff as always, Christine.

Christine Vyrnon said...

I hope I get the chance to read your Pentecostal church story... because I know you know how to tell a good story.
Yes - something about the prophet eating first was significant - as was every single minor detail in the entire Bible. I'm going to do my homework and dig into this a bit deeper.

and Thanks for reading!