Second, I know I said something earlier in the week about 2 Kings 4. We'll get to that.
Just got done listening to Dr. Jeremiah's weekend message. One of the points he brought up was the question, "If Satan was utterly defeated at the cross, why does it seem like he's still winning?" Dr. Jeremiah's answer was prayer. That prayer is the "enforcement tool" for the verdict handed down at Calvary. That the reason that this world is still Satan's world is that we have been lax in our task of praying for God to enforce the verdict.
Debate that one if you like, it only got me started on what struck me. My thought thread is how Satan tries to build an existence exactly opposite of God. Evil rather than good, destructive rather than creative, self-centered rather than God-centered. And I began to see the ways that that mindset worms its way into this world, garnished and adorned so that those who choose not to believe can look at it as a good thing.
God told Adam and Eve first thing, be fruitful and multiply. And that "for that reason a man will leave his mother and father and cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh". Satan tells us to accept homosexuality and embrace it, with the results that what is clearly unnatural by nature (debate that all you want, but it is clearly a "slot A, Peg B" thing) is made acceptable, and the bringing of new life into the world will be lessened- because if we were ALL gay, we'd be extinct in a generation.
God taught us respect for life- in His response to Cain, in the meticulous rules he gave the early Hebrews about killing even for food. Of the power of blood. Satan teaches us that "it's a woman's choice" to abort her child. I don't think he's trying to empower women here- his point is to denigrate the respect for life of ALL humans. Abortion is no greater sin than eugenics and euthanasia.
Oh, God has respect for life, you say? What about telling Israel to kill all the Canaanites, you say? Glad you went there. Satan teaches us to tolerate and accept evil. The Canaanites were the most evil, debased, deranged, inbred lot since the flood. God was commanding them to stay separated from such a lot, to keep themselves Holy, as He is holy. Satan tells us we have to accept the choice of evil, embrace the choice of evil. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is judgmental, homophobic, xenophobic, whatever. Love the sinner, accept the sin is the new mantra. That's all a part of freedom.
And what about freedom? Once upon a time, freedom meant to cease to be enslaved to that which tortures, abuses, enslaves us. Now, it means keep God out of our lives so we can do what we want WITHOUT GUILT. Now it means sex is reserved for EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING, and thus judges think it right that a six-year-old girl should have the right to receive an abortion pill without ever asking her parent's consent. It means we shouldn't be shocked if a baby can be half out of the womb before it is murdered, and that is legal. It means that our children should be taught the beauty of having sex with the same gender, and that a family with "two mommys" or "two daddys" is just as good.
You see Satan has two goals. To lead as many blind fools into destruction as is possible, and to hinder the ability of those of faith to prevent that. To do that, he gives us the freedom to escape our consciences by legality, to escape God's watch by denying His existence, the freedom to pervert anything we see by preaching tolerance of everything- with the exception of those who stubbornly cling to the Word of God.
Dr. Jeremiah suggests that we have two tools to fight this, the Word of God and prayer. He suggests that too often that we limit prayer to the concepts of "to" and "for", and forget "against"- praying against the will of Satan being done. I suggest that perhaps we've lost a lot of the concept of prayer. Let me now go to the passage in 2 Kings.
2Ki 4:2 And Elisha said to her, What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house? And she said, Your handmaid has not a thing in the house except a pot of oil.
2Ki 4:3 And he said, Go, borrow vessels for yourself from outside, from your neighbors, empty vessels. Do not let them be few.
2Ki 4:4 And you shall go in and shut the door on you and your sons. And you shall pour out into all those vessels. And you shall set aside the full ones.
2Ki 4:5 And she went from him and shut the door on her and on her sons. They brought to her, and she poured out.
2Ki 4:6 And it happened when the vessels were full, she said to her son, Bring me another vessel. And he said to her, There is not a vessel left. And the oil stopped.
2Ki 4:7 And she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons shall live from the rest.
Do you remember Jesus teaching the Lord's Prayer?
The word "empty" in "empty vessels" translates the concept of void, worthless. God is sending us out to pray, to find the void spots, the worthless habits and feelings of our neighbors, to "borrow them. Why? to fill them with oil. The word for oil translates the concept of richness. We are to, through prayer, to "borrow" our fellows' emptiness and fill it with the richness of God. Now look. Does all that oil bring them riches? no, it pays the debt they owed, and gives them something to live off of. Or to put it another way, it gave them that day their daily bread.
But it doesn't quite end there. Who got the benefit of the oil? I don't mean the money from it, but who got the use of the oil? Other people- people who never had any idea of its miraculous creation, people the widow would either never meet, or wouldn't know if she did.
So part of prayer is taking the needs of others, pouring them out to God in secret, and as a result God not only fills the empty pot, but blesses you and others you never see.
And the other part? Well, look again at the first two verses. Here we have a woman of faith crying out in need. Ah, now there's traditional prayer, you say. Yes, but look how it's answered. First, Elisha inquires about her resources. Then he sets her to work, using not only those resources but humbling her to borrow from others. God moved when she took her faith and added to it humility and her own work. "God helps those who help themselves" again, Chris? Yes, but notice that her work would have been vain without the faith; that the work was never meant to enrich herself; and that people she never met received blessing through that combination of faith and work.
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your[a] works, and I will show you my faith by my[b] works. (James 2:14-18)
The lady in our story had little more than faith and a little oil, and translated it into something great, for herself and others. But this world tells us faith is a delusion, freedom is the choice to sin, and we should look out for #1. And if Satan is this pathetic, trying to destroy a world out of nothing but spite, then how pathetic are those who listen to him? As the definition of the vessel's descriptive says, they are:
empty; figuratively worthless.
And it's our job to fill them with oil. That is prayer. And that's what defeats Satan.