2 Kings 4:6
“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.”
Living conditions in Israel had become very difficult; the nation was constantly at war with its enemies, years of drought had created wide spread famine, and morality was in decline. These things affected the living condition of everyone, regardless of their social status. In the story before us, we are introduced to a poor widow who is facing starvation. Without giving details, we learn that her husband, a godly man, had died and she and her sons were on their last leg. All her resources were gone and the creditors were at the door. In her distress, she sought counsel from Elisha who asked a simple question, “what do you have?” To which she replied, the only thing left in the house was a jar of oil. Elisha went on to instruct her to borrow vessels from her neighbors and fill them with oil from the jar. When she did, they found that the oil poured as long as their was an empty vessel to put it in. I think there are at least two valuable applications from this passage.
The first is obvious. This is a story which illustrates how God provides for His people. Long before this, Abraham referred to God as YHWH-Jirah, the Lord our Provider. This unnamed woman found God to be the one who could meet her needs when all seemed lost. We can take comfort in knowing, no matter what our need, we have a God who cares for us and has the resources to provide. I am always blessed when I hear of a child of God who chooses to trust in the promises of God, for they are the ones who see the miraculous hand of God providing for them.
The second may not seem as obvious, but is equally as striking. We read the oil flowed as long as an empty vessel was provided. Oil is often used symbolically in Scripture to represent the work of the Spirit. In the Old Testament, it was oil that was used to anoint prophets, priest, and kings, and in the New Testament oil is used to anoint the sick. In this story, what was required to have the oil flow was an empty vessel. It did not matter what the vessel had previously been used for, it did not matter what size, shape, or color the vessel was, the only thing that mattered was that it was empty and available. When it comes to Christian service, we are all dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Nothing in the kingdom of God can be accomplished in the energies of the flesh. That being said, if we want to be used by God, we need to be empty and available. Some of the things we must be empty of are private sins, pride, excuses, prejudice, and unwillingness to do the lowest of tasks.
This woman and her sons saw a remarkable work of God, and when it came to an end, I suggest that their only regret was that they did not gather more jars.