2 Kings 4 Commentary
by Hank Workman
4 amazing miracles. Money provided for a widow. Raising a dead boy to life. Purifying poisonous food. Providing food for 100 soldiers. Elisha was at the center of these events, showing the connection he had to God and God’s mercy. So often within the Old Testament, we read of God’s judgment on the rebellion of man. Both books of Kings, in particular, show this over and over as He tries to woo the people back to Himself. But his tender care is evident as well.
A widow was in debt. No money to pay, her collectors were coming to take away her property and sons. Both would pay off what she owed but she would be left with nothing. Unlike today where bankruptcy can be filed, negotiations can take place – ancient times were strict with debts sending many a person in slavery. Crying out to Elisha for help his instruction was odd on many levels. Discovering all she had was a little oil in a jar, she was to go from neighbor to neighbor and collect empty jars.
“Don’t ask for just a few” he added. When they had collected all they could they were to go back into their home, close the door and pour the little oil from the one jar she had into all the jars that sat before her. As each was filled, she was to set it aside and keep on pouring. As she did what was instructed, she and her sons marveled as every single jar borrowed was filled and set aside. The oil stopped pouring with the very last jar they had.
Overjoyed, she went and reported to Elisha what had happened then sold the oil to pay off her debts.
The number of jars the woman gathered was a direct indication of her faith. God’s provision for her was as large as that faith had shown itself and willingness to obey. Not to be overlooked, she was the one who had to gather the jars – she couldn’t wait for someone else to do it.
I find David Guzik’s closing thoughts powerful on this story.
“Each vessel had to be prepared by being gathered, by being assembled, by being emptied, by being put in the right position and by staying that right position.”David Guzik
Where do we need to draw some parallels between our own life and this story? What need do we have where God is asking of us to do something on our end? Where is He asking us to step out in faith and see how He will provide? The jars she borrowed had to be empty before any oil could fill them. Much is the same for us. We can receive the greatest blessings of God when we have exhausted all our own resources and come before Him empty.
2 Kings 4 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Open containers. What a metaphor.
A widow comes to Elisha in a panic. Her husband has died and her creditor is breathing down her neck. In ancient times, this was a greater predicament because women did not have the rights they do today. Sadly, this woman would be cast aside and lose everything, including her children. The context may be different but the story is familiar. Tragedy strikes, and we panic. Suddenly, we are thrust into situations we have never before experienced.
We don’t know a lot about this man who died. But we do know one thing, and it’s significant. Because her husband had been a man of God and left a legacy of following after Him, this widow knew who to contact. Consider the powerful nature of that point alone. This husband “feared the Lord,” so when he died, he left behind a mighty inheritance of trusting in God.
He didn’t leave behind money, power, or material possessions. In fact, God was really working in this widow’s life by allowing these circumstances to occur thus testing her faith. The greatest testimony for this husband is that he led his wife on a path toward God. There is no greater legacy than that.
She immediately contacted the prophet Elisha who directed her to find some open containers.
The Open Containers
What’s significant about this is that these containers would mean nothing without oil. If they remained empty, they were worthless. But Elisha commanded her to find as many as she could. The most glaring and obvious weakness of this plan was the question, “Where will the oil come from?” It seems like an insane request. But that wasn’t what Elisha worried about. He simply directed this woman and her sons to do what they were fully capable of doing – find the open containers.
Quite often in our lives, we focus on the wrong thing. We want to know how much oil will be supplied, but God wants empty vessels. We fear that the oil will not be supplied or that it will run out. God only requires us to come in faith with open hands. It is always less of a question of what God can do and always more of a question of what we will trust. His power is as far-reaching as our openness of heart and degree of faith.
This does not mean God will give us whatever we want. It means that in our deepest time of need, our brokenness will produce open containers that He longs to fill. Are you open? Do you have faith? Remember, the filling is His part. He promises that according to our faith, it will be done.