This week we’re looking at 3 unnamed widows in the Bible and the lessons we can learn from their stories. Today’s story is about a widow with a jar of oil. In case that doesn’t create a motion picture in front of your eyes from Sunday School days here it is straight from 2 Kings 4:1-7.
“ 1 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 neighbours—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.””
A different widow, her name also unknown, also in poverty and yet we have a different story and a different attitude towards God. Here’s what we can take away from this widow’s encounter with God.
- She expected God to help her. Her way to God was to find the prophet Elisha and beg for mercy from God. Hebrews 4:16tells us to come boldly before God and ask for our needs to be met. Even more than this widow, as co-heirs with Christ we have assurance that God is our source of help.
- She only called out to God when she was desperate. There was nothing left in her house except a small jar of oil and the debt collectors were ready to come and sell her and her sons into slavery to pay her creditors. This truly was a desperate state of affairs. My pastor says that sometimes God waits until we cry out in honest desperation before He answers. Other times we “have not because we ask not” (James 4:2). Why we wait until we’re on the edge to ask God for help I don’t know. Maybe it’s pride. But we do wait, when we don’t have to. Our Father gives us good gifts and knows what we need before we ask. So if you need something from God today, just go ahead and ask.
- She obeyed instructions. Elisha didn’t give her the full picture. Elisha didn’t even promise a happy ending. He simply gave 3 steps in the process
1. Collect empty vessels
2. Close the door
3. Pour oil into all the vessels
The widow and her sons obeyed these instructions, even though they may have seemed odd, like getting soldiers to fill a valley with ditches to win a war. After she obeyed, then she received the final steps that saved her family:
4. Sell the oil
5. Pay your debts
6. Live on the rest
- God used what she had. Elisha asked what the widow had and she only had a jar of oil. She had sold everything else she owned in order to simply survive. This was all she had. God will use what we have to supply our needs. He asks us to use our skills, knowledge and talents to get jobs, raise funds or raise awareness. He uses what we have, not what we don’t have. Things we have in our houses could be like Ellen who, at 102, knitted over 700 toys for children around the world or How Ridiculous who use basket ball’s and hoops to share the message of children in poverty. So if you need a miracle from heaven, how about asking God to show you what you do have that you could use to make that miracle happen.
- The widow had to do her part. Sometime we pray and just expect an answer to fall from heaven like mana. Yet God is waiting for us to stop and hear His instructions and then do our part. Miracles are part faith, part obedience, part work and mostly God. Often we have to put some effort into making it happen, like building an ark, sharing our lunch with Jesus, or walking around a walled city. When we do our part, God will do the rest. If we don’t do our bit… well, can we really blame God when He doesn’t do the rest? I think that He asks us to be involved so He can test our faith and that we can be more engaged and invested in the outcome so we in turn praise Him more when He gives us the miracle.
- God’s miracle was enough. God not only provided the widow’s needs for today but also for tomorrow, until she was able to get back on her feet or her sons became old enough to work. Although the Bible doesn’t say, I wouldn’t be surprised if the money from the oil lasted until the very moment she had another source of income start. God’s miracles are always enough. At some point He may hand back the responsibility to us, e.g. you’ve been healed from melanoma now but go and sun-tan no more. But what He does give is always enough.
We all want to see God do miracles in our lives. We all have needs and wants be it relational, spiritual, financial or physical. Let’s learn from this widow and boldly ask for and participate in the miracles God graciously gives us.
Have you seen God do miracles in your life? How about encouraging us by sharing one with us in the comments below.
Click here to read The 3 Widows Week Part 1