In 2 Kings 4:1-7, we read about a widow who lived in very difficult circumstances. Her husband had died, and she was in debt. And now the creditor threatened to take her two sons as slaves to pay off the debt.
The poor woman didn’t know what to do, but she knew someone who could give her advice – Elisha, the prophet.
Elisha asked a funny question after she told him about her problem.
“Tell me, what do you have in the house?” (vs.2).
The woman was so poor; she only had a flask of olive oil that wasn’t worth much.
Elisha told her to borrow as many empty jars as she could find. At home, she had to shut the door behind her and her sons, and then fill the jars with the oil from the flask until all the jars were filled.
The widow did as she was told.
One jar after another was filled to the brim. Pretty soon, they ran out of jars.
When the last jar was filled, the oil stopped flowing.
The woman couldn’t get to Elisha fast enough to tell him what happened.
When he heard, he said, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over” (vs.7)
We can learn quite a few lessons from the story.
- God is able and more than willing to provide for our every need. In the case of the widow, He used something she already had, that wasn’t worth much. God can use what you already have to provide for your need. It may seem insignificant and worthless to you, but in the hands of God, it can turn into something great.
- God doesn’t just provide for your needs; He provides extra. The widow’s immediate need was for money to pay the creditor. But she also needed something to live on. God provided for both. Sometimes He will provide extra so you can sow into someone else’s life. Or there will be extra to cover a need you don’t yet know about. And sometimes He will provide extra just to bless you with His goodness.
- Elisha told the widow exactly what to do, and she obeyed. If she had followed only half of his instructions, the miracle wouldn’t have happened. God gives us instructions for a reason. We may not understand the why behind it, but it is important to obey and do exactly as He says. Elisha also gave her only part of the plan when she went to him the first time. She received the rest of the instructions when she went back. Most of the time, God gives us instruction on only one or two steps we need to take. When we obey, God gives more instructions. And so we walk in faith and do what God tells us to do one step at a time.
- The oil in the flask stopped flowing the moment the last jar was filled to the brim. It could have continued to flow but would have been wasted, and God never wastes anything. Remember when Jesus fed the five thousand? After everyone had their fill, the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers! God doesn’t waste, but unfortunately, the same can’t be said of us. We waste anything from food to time to, sometimes, even our lives. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to change us and help us be good stewards of everything God gives to us.
- The widow didn’t have money to buy some jars, and Elisha didn’t tell her to ask her friends and neighbours to give her jars to use. He told her to borrow jars. Borrowing something implies that you will give it back at some point. If you don’t, you have stolen it. Though the Bible doesn’t say, I do believe she gave back jars to everyone she had borrowed from. Or maybe she paid for them after she had sold the oil. Make a point of giving back what you have borrowed. If you have to, keep a list, so you know whom you have borrowed from, when you have borrowed it, and when you plan to give it back. Then it won’t be so easy to forget to give it back.
Do you have a need today?
There is no need you can’t bring before the Lord. He is willing and able to provide for your need; He will even provide extra. But you have to be obedient and do what He tells you to do. Also, make a point of being a good steward of the blessings the Lord has already given you. And, remember to give back what you have borrowed from someone else!