I love to share stories from ancient times that may help people laugh or gain wisdom. One such story I heard in a sermon years ago is not found in the Bible but was likely passed down by oral tradition from one generation to the next. The story was eventually recorded in a book of prophet stories. Unfortunately I don’t know the book it came from, but I remember the story well.
The great prophet, Elijah and his proselyte, Josiah, had been traveling on a long dusty road for many days and were quite weary and footsore. In those days as many people had to travel on foot it was the custom to welcome strangers into one’s home. It was customary to allow them to wash their sore tired feet, listen to their stories of their experiences and make a feast to celebrate their presence in one’s home.
The two men came upon a farm and decided to seek shelter there for the night. The farmer ran out and greeted them warmly, had their feet washed and had a lamb killed to feed the honored prophet and his follower. The farmer gave the guests his own bed and slept in his barn with his wife .
The next morning, the farmer’s only cow was found dead. The prophet and his travel partner thanked the farmer for his hospitality and proceeded down the road. Josiah had to voice his misgivings about why God would take the farmer’s only cow even when the farmer had treated them like royalty. Elijah, just kept on walking.
The next night Elijah and his follower came to a palace and asked to see its powerful ruler for lodging for the night. The rich man, refused them entrance to his palace and told the guard to send them around back to the cook’s entrance to beg for food and find a place to stay.
So the two men went the long way around the vast walls of the palace to the kitchen to ask for food. They were told to eat the scraps from the floor. When asked for a place to stay, they were told to go to the barn and make their beds in the hay stored in the barn. That night their sleep was not a restful sleep at all.
The next morning to Josiah’s shock, Elijah, entreated the guard to permit him to thank the rich man in person. This time he was allowed entrance before the ruler in his great throne room. Elijah thanked the man of power and offered a reward for his “kindness.”
“Sir, as thanks for your hospitality last night, I wish to pay the men of your village to repair a large hole in the wall of your barn.” The ruler, though slightly confused by the offer, gave his consent. The workers were hired and paid and the wall was repaired.
Elijah and Josiah, began their journey again. Josiah, could contain his bewilderment no longer. “Sir, why is it that God took the only cow the farmer had when the farmer had treated us like royalty? But you offer to pay for the repair of a hole in the wall of a rich man who treated us like beggars?? I can not comprehend these things.””
Elijah, looked at Josiah and said, “The farmer’s wife was supposed to have died the next morning. God took the cow in the place of the farmer’s wife.”
Josiah nodded then asked, “But what about the rich man?”
Elijah responded,”There was a large bag of jewels hidden in the wall which were long since forgotten by the rich man. By having poor workers fix the hole, they would find and keep the money and the rich man would never know and would loose his forgotten stash of wealth.” A small light of understanding came into the mind of Josiah.
We can’t always understand why things happen the way they do. We need to believe that there is a reason for misfortune. Or at the very least, we need to believe that something good can or will come from a negative experience whether we understand the situation at the moment or not.