Updated: Jan 9, 2021
Sounds of swords and smells of death and battle were all around them. “Be strong and very courageous, do we not say?” “Yes, friend, Take Strength. Is the God of Abraham and of the king with us?” “He is with us, and this is our promised land. Should an enemy overrun it?” The three men, dirty and drenched with sweat, each looked intently into the eyes of the other and gripped his sword. Deep resolve settled between them. “…Then meet in the middle, and let’s stand our ground…”
The compelling story of three of King David’s most notable warriors defending a parcel of land while others fled is a story of courage given in First Chronicles 11:10-14. The grit of these three mighty men showed that the words of Moses declared to Joshua were alive and well in the hearts of God’s people, and that King David was surrounded with valiant men. The Hebrew phrasing in the story paints the picture that the warriors yatsav tavek –set themselves in the middle of that field, but they were not alone. It tells us the Lord yasha teshua gadol – saved with a great deliverance. With the ‘yod’ or hand of the Lord meeting you in the middle, awesome things can happen. The word “tavek” itself, with the vav in the middle of the word, shows the presence of a man in the middle. I love how this story shows us the power of alliance, of mutual encouragement, and of team work that avoids blind spots. We are stronger in union, and when we act in faith, we give the Lord something to work with. In countless biblical episodes, He is the Man in the Middle!
So what about the women in the middle? What mom out there hasn’t felt like she was staking a claim on a promise, often alone, and in the middle of all hell breaking loose, in the middle of chaos, in just the flat out middle of everything? Women (who work in or out of the home, or both) have those moments where it feels like swarms are buzzing around them… maybe children are whirling around Mom’s legs while a pot boils over on the stove, the dryer buzzer goes off, the doorbell rings with an unexpected solicitor, and she somehow manages a text to her friend and hit “Check out” on the click list. Moms are the hub, the point of connection, and always in the middle of the action! And valiant women of the workplace experience the same sensation, as they train co-workers, answer endless emails, satisfy the timelines and requests of upper management (or of customers if they are the upper management), make peace between factions in meetings, and more. Always more. Proverbs 31 details the multi-tasking, community-and-family centered woman of valor, who is clearly in the middle of a lot and drives its progress. Women in business, military, and on homefronts require just as much valor, and have just as much need as the above named warriors to find that heavenly hand in the middle called Grace, and need to know that they are not alone.
One of the “middle” miracles in the Bible is one with a certain widow left in debt, creditors at the door to take her two sons, and to top it off, this is a family that’s been in the ministry. Her husband had been a servant of the prophets, and some interesting things in the text (confirmed in the writings of Josephus) connect Obadiah in First Kings 18 to this passage in Second Kings 4:1-7. It’s highly likely that Obadiah, in feeding 100 prophets (hidden in two caves by 50 men each), hiding and sustaining them in the season of Jezebel’s wrath and murderous rampage against the prophets of the Lord, had gone in debt during the famine to accomplish this saving mission. His deeds, his choices, his faith if you will, left his own family destitute and without resource or remedy. So we pick up in Second Kings 4:
4 A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.”
2 So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”
3 Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. 4 And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.”
5 So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. 6 Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.”
And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased.
7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.”
The clue of two is throughout the story… she has two sons, and particular words like pour, your servant, in the house, shut the door… are each notably said twice. If you want to drill deeper, I’ll tell you that Bet, the second letter of the Hebrew alef-bet, is the symbol and letter for house and has a numeric value of, yes, two. The writers are imprinting us with the idea that when you put God’s house (His ways, His covenant, fear of the Lord) first, He will undeniably get involved in your house.
Take heart, any of you in such a situation, that the Divine Mind always remembers private deeds and seeds…and brings in recompense private miracles. Elisha, the prophet who had poured water over the hands of Elijah, was quite the pouring prophet when you read the accounts, but here in this widow’s house, showed the Father’s heart. The God her family served met her behind closed doors – didn’t humiliate her – but poured out the miraculous in the middle of her family, in front of her sons to see, forever imprinting them in the middle of their situation…in the midst of their grief, in her anxiety, in the fear of loss… He met her as she rose above all that to reach out to Him (or she never would have gone to Elisha in the first place). And what does He do? He not only meets the immediate need, but creates a cottage industry for her and the sons!
Elisha’s counsel to her was to “gather not a few…” Thank God she didn’t make God small. She thought big enough, and let those boys think big enough, to borrow every empty dish, bowl, jug and juglet in the neighborhood, and she ran out of vessels before God ran out of supply. When He says “I’ll pour you out a blessing,” (Malachi 3:10) He literally means, “I am inexhaustible…My blessing won’t run out…there’s way more of Me than of you, so don’t make Me small!” In the reaping of her husband’s seeds and deeds, in the reaction of faith to her circumstance…she gains a lifetime of recompense.
Think of women in Jesus’ ministry who weren’t afraid to get in the mix…like the woman with the vial of expensive oil, giving a precious expression of love in a culturally uncomfortable situation, pouring out all her treasure, without reserve. Mark’s account in chapter 14 says she not only poured it out on Jesus, she broke the vial to give it all. And that’s how Jesus responded in return…unabashedly defending her in the middle of the room amidst her critics.
Today in modern Israel, the people of the Book are still defending fields and farmland, parcels that were promised on a land instituted as their state in 1948, but granted by divine proclamation to Abraham millennia before that. The media shuns to report ten thousand farming acres burned by enemy rocket fire, and neglects to describe the stress on Israeli children caught in the middle of communities meant to be safe havens. While we busily fight our own battles, let’s never forget to meet our valiant brethren in their middle, the precious Land in Between the nations, and give our hand of support and alliance. May we see, with them from Yahweh’s hand a yasha teshua gadol...a great delivering victory.
And moms, we salute you not just on Mothers’ Day, but every day! Every day, you get in the middle of something, and you just keep showing up! Every day, you give of yourself to make things better for your kids, your family, your church, your community, your workplace, often without recognition, and often with less compensation than deserved. But remember this: Even if the circumstances you find yourself in the middle of are not of your own making, take heart. Defend that patch of ground. Stake your claim on a biblical promise and grip your sword of the Spirit a little tighter. You are not alone, and your inexhaustible Father of infinite resource and of boundless grace calls you to gather your little vessels and meet Him in the middle.