There are some pictures too ugly to paint with words.
I recently visited a friend who is homeless and suicidal. While speaking with my friend, I remembered times past when I sat beside the ICU bed of first her father and then her mother whose organs shut down after lifetimes of habitual drug use.
While my friend talked, my mind’s eye played the ugly film of that family’s past. It is too ugly to paint with words, but I know my mental images are nothing compared to the ones which play on repeat in hers.
Hopelessness hovered over the muddy parking lot.
I talked about Jesus. I talked to Jesus. The kindled flame of hope burned brightly for an instant, but then, a child cried or a dog barked and the enemy extinguished it with a fiery dart of his own.
I left feeling defeated, as if I had a vial with the antidote to the poison of hopelessness, and it had been rejected without having ever been tried.
The Lord called to mind the piercing cry of the sons of the prophets to Elisha in 2 Kings 4: “There is death in the pot!”
Elisha had come to their town during a famine, and he was going to provide exactly what the sons of the prophets needed: a hearty stew.
However, after Elisha’s servant put the pot on to boil, one of those aimless prophet’s sons went out into the wilderness, found a wild vine, and brought the gourds back to cut up into the stew. The miserable man didn’t even know what they were!
His hunger drove him to add to what the Lord had provided for him. Even though he held poison in his hand, he allowed his desire for a full belly to make him nonchalant about whatever he could put in his mouth.
When the men began eating the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!”
It is the cry that echoes through generations. We all want to spice up the stew the Lord provides- whether that’s through gratification, addiction, or hopelessness, or whether that’s through pharisaical spiritual achievement or some other idol. It all results in death.
The remedy seems strange. Elisha says, “Then bring flour.”
Flour? That’s it?
A kernel of wheat must die and be crushed to provide the life-giving sustenance of flour. Wasn’t it Jesus who taught us to pray, “Give us this day our Daily Bread”? He also said, “I am the bread of Life.”
One handful of flour was all it took, and the stew was safe again.
Lord, there’s death in the pot! A quick drive through my neighborhood, or a quick look into my own heart, reveals the existence of the wild, poisonous vines.
But the Son of Man, Jesus, He came to bring Life. He provides the handful of flour that renders death harmless again.
“He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.”