2 Kings 4:1-7.
The mantle of the ascending Elijah fell upon Elisha, and he received a double portion of his predecessor's spirit. This explains the typical character of his ministry - that it was in resurrection power. It is needful to bear this in mind in interpreting the beautiful incident brought before us in this scripture. But first of all it is necessary to understand the circumstances of the widow. Her husband - one who feared the Lord - was dead, and he had left his widow so hopelessly in debt that the creditor claimed her two sons as bondmen. Who then was the creditor? It was, we judge, the law, which, as it contained no mercy, ever rigorously exacted its penalties and claims. It had therefore brought death in upon the husband (compare Rom. 7), and was now seeking to reduce his two sons to bondage. What wonder was it that this poor widow groaned under her intolerable burden, and that she should be constrained to seek for deliverance? To whom then does she have recourse for help and succour? It is to Elisha, type of the risen Christ. He responds immediately, and says, "What shall I do for thee? tell me: what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil." Mark the difference between man's thought and God's. The pot of oil was as nothing to the poor widow. She had not anything, "save a pot of oil." This was everything in the eyes of God, and the question of Elisha was intended to elicit the fact that there was this pot of oil in the house. Now oil is ever in Scripture emblematical of the Holy Spirit; and, as we shall now see, the possession of the Holy Spirit (we say nothing here of the necessary experiences before the goal is reached) is the only way of practical deliverance from the yoke of the law. The widow, up to this point, was ignorant of the value of the only possession to be found in the house; and indeed she was not yet in the condition of soul to use what she really possessed. Elisha therefore said, "Go, borrow the vessels abroad 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 thy sons, and shall pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full." Faith at once was called out into lively exercise. She obeyed the prophet, and she discovered that the supply of oil was illimitable, or rather only limited by the capacity of her empty vessels,; for when the vessels were full, she said to her son, "Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed." She still was unable to avail herself of her treasure, and hence she went once more to "the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest." She thus discovered that it was the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that could make her free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), and also that she must continue to live in the power of the same Spirit. (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:25.)
There is another teaching lying more on the surface, and yet of the highest consequence. The widow in her sore distress found, as taught of the Lord, that she was not straitened in God, that there was an abundant outflow from His resources more than equal to all her need, and that faith brought her into living connection with the fountain of all relief and succour. We too thus learn that God is never weary of meeting our need, that our demands (as represented by the empty vessels) can never be too many. Come as often as we may, and with as many vessels as our faith can bring, we also shall find that His fountain of grace and blessing can fill them all. Surely then we may open our mouth wide, that He may fill it.
E. D. p. 55.
This is the only place where the term "church of the firstborn" is found. While it undoubtedly springs from the association of the church with Him who is the Firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5), it is yet interesting to notice that God in His grace has always had the firstborn before His mind. Thus no sooner had He sheltered His people from judgment in the land of Egypt by the blood of the passover lamb than He claimed all their firstborn as well as the firstborn of their cattle. (Exodus 13) "All the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself." (Num. 8:17; also Num. 3:12, 13.) The Levites were afterwards taken instead of the firstborn, and given to Aaron and to his sons to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation. Representing thus the firstborn of Israel, they were associated with Aaron, who himself was a firstborn, and they thereby became a shadow, if not a type, of the church of the firstborn. This will be more apparent if it is remembered that even Aaron's sons as well as the Levites derived all their privileges from being adjoined to Aaron. For example, Aaron, as a type of Christ, was clothed and anointed (without the sprinkling of blood, because a type of Christ) in the first place alone, and afterwards with his sons, when it is through association with Aaron they become a figure of the church as the priestly family. Now inasmuch as through all these types and figures God always had Christ in view, it is in Christ all these things find their fulfilment. When Christ therefore, the Firstborn from the dead, took His place at the right hand of God, the Holy Spirit was sent down to gather out those who should be heirs of God, and Christ's co-heirs; all of whom in virtue of their association with Him are firstborn, inasmuch as He deigns in His grace and love to share with them all that He Himself inherits by virtue of redemption. We, according to the purpose of God, are the brethren of Christ, and He will ever have the pre-eminence as the Firstborn amongst the redeemed; but at the same time they, together in their association with Him before God, will form the church of the firstborn. What can we say in the presence of such unfoldings of the heart of our God but, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end? Amen. E. D.