Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 2Ki 4:1-7
"The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out
to Elisha, 'Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the
LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.' Elisha
replied to her, 'How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?'
'Your servant has nothing there at all,' she said, 'except a little oil.' Elisha
said, 'Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a
few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into
all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.' She left him and
afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her
and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, 'Bring
me another one.' But he replied, 'There is not a jar left.' Then the oil stopped
flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, 'Go, sell the oil and
pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left' " (2Ki
Widowed, childless, and past 80 years of age, Bill Cruxton
wanted his $500,000 fortune to make a difference in someone's life. A
17-year-old waitress who had been kind to him seemed the perfect choice. So when
Cruxton died on November 9, 1992 he left the bulk of his estate to Cara Wood, a
high school senior who befriended him during the 13 months she worked part-time
at a restaurant. Even after she quit her job, Cara kept in touch with Cruxton,
running errands for him and helping him around the house. Because of his poor
eyesight, she often helped him read his mail and pay his bills.
Like Cara Wood, the widow here became the recipient of
another's wealth. But the riches she received came from the hand of God. The
woman had known great heartache. She had lost her husband, who was of the men
from the "company of the prophets". Soon she would lose her sons as well, since
they were about to become slaves. The Mosaic Law gave a creditor the right to
claim the person and children of a debtor who was unable to pay. They were
obliged to serve as the creditor's hired workers until the year of Jubilee, when
they were set free (Lev 25:39-41).
It was not a happy prospect, and the prophet Elisha, who knew
her husband's devotion to the Lord, wanted to help this desperate widow. When he
learned that she had nothing in her house but a small flask of oil, he told her
to collect from her neighbors as many empty jars as she could -- leaving the
number of jars, and the size of her faith, up to her. The woman was to shut
herself and her sons inside the house and pour from her flask until all of the
jars were full. Nobody else was to see or know about the miracle. Nobody needed
to know about it, or Elisha would surely have been swamped with "business
The woman did as Elisha instructed, and had enough oil to pay
her debts and live off the rest. God's prophets were not only messengers of His
judgment, but instruments of His miraculous provision for His people.
Reading 2 - Jer 52, conclusion
Jeremiah's life is one of the loneliest and saddest in
Scripture. His personal experiences were bitter; the message of disaster he had
to proclaim was depressing and unwelcome; and the times in which he lived were
of unparalleled calamity. His cause was lost from the beginning, because the
people would not hear him. He was everywhere hated and misunderstood. While
intensely loving and grieving for his countrymen and his nation, he was despised
and persecuted as an enemy and a traitor.
In a short period of 40 years Jeremiah witnessed a temporary
resurgence of true worship, saw it fall victim first to Egypt (Josiah's death),
then to Babylon and finally watched it destroy itself while trying to break free
from Babylon. His books reflect the tragic drama of the situation. Out of his
agony, and the agony of his people, comes the sombre note of
When Jeremiah began his ministry, he and Josiah were about the
same age. It is truly touching watching these two young men -- prophet and king
-- labouring to turn the nation to righteousness as the smoldering judgments of
God hovered over the land; just as two young men -- a prophet and a king -- John
and Jesus, did in the days of the nation's final judgment.
It is notable that Jeremiah's ministry began just forty years
before the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple by the
Babylonians, as recorded in the Lamentations. We remember that Jesus began his
ministry just forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of
the Temple by the Romans. In each case we see a period of final probation given
to the city.
Jeremiah's mission was to witness for God against apostate and
worldly Judah. But his work was not only as a witness of condemnation; it had a
far more glorious purpose. It was to encourage and strengthen the scattered,
faithful remnant -- of his own day and of all the ages since. And in our present
time of crisis for the Truth, and imminent judgment, its message of comfort has
great and sustaining power.
When the terrible judgments came, it would appear that God had
completely rejected Israel, and that all hope was gone. But the lonely prophet
with his message of eventual glory was a symbol that God was still concerned
with them although they had been unfaithful, and his prophecies gave comforting
assurance that those who held fast would never be forgotten, and that, though
these dreadful evils should come, the latter end would be blessing and
Reading 3 - 1Co 13:4-7
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not
boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily
angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but
rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always
perseveres" (1Co 13:4-7).
God is a jealous God. He demands all our love and attention.
But because we love God the more, do we love our brethren less? Our love for God
is different from our love for another person. If we truly love God, we will
show our love for Him in practical expressions of love for others. True divine
love does not exclude human love; rather, it enhances it.
1Co 13:4-7 above contain a dozen or so characteristics of
Scriptural "love". We shall consider each one in turn:
"Love is patient": We have the example of Christ, who
patiently taught his disciples and time after time helped them when they
stumbled and lacked faith. Undoubtedly there were times when he wanted to throw
up his hands and abandon the effort altogether, for they were so slow to learn
and so bent on maintaining their own natural affections. But he loved them
dearly; he loved them despite their inadequacies; he prayed for them; and he
persisted until his efforts began to bear fruit. Can we do any less for our
"Love is kind": This English word "kind" is one of those pale,
sentimental words that just does no justice to the original. We should say,
instead, that love is considerate -- showing an active, involved concern for the
needs of others, even to the detriment of one's own comfort. We probably all
think of ourselves as being "kind", for we certainly are never "unkind"! Are
"If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,
and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving
them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?" (Jam
There are times when a "kind word" is no more than hypocrisy,
because it masks a failure to help in any practical way. Have we ever been
guilty of such an act, in a benign, "friendly" indifference to the circumstances
of others? Then we may have been courteous and civil and pleasant, but we have
not been "kind" in the Scriptural sense, and we have not been loving.
"Love does not envy": The divergence of gifts among the
Corinthians was a cause of envy. Likewise, envy can result today from
comparisons between brethren: "Who is the better speaker?" "Why was he elected
Arranging Brother?" "So-and-so wants to run everything. Who put him (or her) in
charge?" The person who can ask such questions does not have at heart the best
interests of the whole body. Jealousy, or envy, is a terrible disease, and often
fatal in the spiritual sense. It destroys its originator much more quickly than
the one at whom it is directed.
"Love does not boast... is not proud": Envy and boasting are
quite closely related. They both stem from the same basic problem: love of self
rather than love of others. True love does not have to be pushy. It does not
need attention. It can afford to wait. Remember what Jesus said of the arrogant
Pharisees -- who did their works to be seen of men: "They already have their
reward." Let this not be said of us.
"Love is not rude": There is a right way and a wrong way to do
almost anything. Sometimes a gentle admonition or even a stern rebuke needs to
be administered. It is possible to be in the right -- even to say the right
thing -- but to say it in absolutely the wrong way. A criticism may be correct
in every particular, but if it is delivered with a superior or proud or
overbearing manner it will not achieve a good result. As always, the principle
is consideration for others: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In short... love.
"Love is not self-seeking": Have you ever participated in a
three-legged race? You may be the fastest runner at the picnic, but you'll wind
up sprawled on the grass unless you can adapt yourself to the style of your
partner. This principle also holds true in the ecclesia. We are all members of
the one body, and we must learn to function as a unit. We are "yoked together"
with our brethren in many endeavors; we cannot always choose the way that
pleases us most.
Your way of doing things may always be the best, but it won't
always be the one chosen by the majority. Then what do you do? Go along or "drop
out"? There have been cases of members leaving meetings because of absolutely
trivial disagreements, in which they failed to get their own way and just could
not bend enough to go along with others. And they, and sometimes their families,
have paid for that stubbornness with twenty or thirty years of self-imposed
There is an extremely illuminating passage in this
"For even Christ pleased not himself" (Rom 15:3). Just six
little words, but a world of exhortation and self-examination. If even Christ
did not please himself, who are we to think that things should always go our
way? Who are we to please ourselves in everything?
"Love is not easily angered": A person possessing the true
love of God has a peace of mind that no other has. In the midst of strife and
controversy, he maintains a calm and reasoning mind, and a disposition to
peacemaking. He has that same inner serenity that sustained Christ through his
great trials. A person in such a frame of mind cannot be offended by others. He
is not provoked to backbiting or vengeance. He relies upon the grace of God, he
knows that there is a final judgment that will right all wrongs, and he is not
concerned about what man may do to him in the meanwhile. If God is for him, who
can be against him?
"Love delights not in evil, but in truth": If ever a thought
might be coupled with "Let a man examine himself", surely this is it! Don't we
all do this? Don't we all listen to gossip and rumors and evil insinuations?
Don't we all -- sometimes -- derive pleasure from the shortcomings of others,
especially those who have previously appeared to be models of
We judge ourselves by the standards of others, and when we do
this we are glad to see them fall. We tend to think we are lifted up in
proportion as our brother is cast down. But when we live by this standard we are
completely corrupting Paul's teachings of the unity of Christ's body and the
dependence of one member upon another. These lofty ideas lose their meaning when
cooperation is replaced by competition.
"Love always protects": We need go no further than Christ's
example. Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree, and more than that he
bore our sorrows that he might be a perfect mediator.
The mind lingers on a picture, perhaps well-known to many. One
boy with a younger one on his back. "He ain't heavy. He's my brother!" Strain is
obviously there, but he bears his burden gladly. All things are relative, aren't
they? Yes, in more ways than one! We are willing to do for our families what
seems intolerable if done for others. Do we sit in the meeting on Sunday
morning, and feel that those with whom we break bread are really our family? Or
are our expressions of "Brother Smith" and "Sister Jones" merely a formal,
stylized address? Let us live that family relationship of which the Bible speaks
so often; let us rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Let us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal
"Love always hopes... always perseveres": The Christian's life
of love is a joyful existence. In the midst of sorrows and pains, he rejoices in
the great gifts of the Creator. His eye is firmly set upon the hope that rises
as a mountain before him. There may be a valley to traverse before he reaches
that distant peak. But he never takes his eye off that glorious future; and all
life's little annoyances and inconveniences are seen for what they are --
stepping stones en route to the Kingdom. Paul says in another place: "I know
both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I
am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer
need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phi
All that God has given us -- riches, talents, intelligence,
health -- diminishes with the passing of time. Man grows old and dies. Only love
remains, as a bridge between this life and the life to come, a bridge over the
chasm of eternal nothingness. Every other gift or talent will fail, just as the
Holy Spirit gifts finally ceased. The only thing that endures is the character
of man, engraved in the infinite mind of God.