The new school year looms. I feel more apprehension than excitement. Like Martha, I am anxious and troubled about many things, most of them months away.
Yesterday I was reminded of a story that became personal this time. Remember the prophet’s widow (II Kings 4) who goes to Elisha for help? Her husband has died leaving her in debt and her two sons are about to be taken as slaves by the husband’s creditor. I must admit that my situation is not nearly so dire and never has been.
Elisha asks the widow what she has in the house and she says, “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil.” That’s all? We’ve had our broke times but, again, I have to admit that we’ve never been down that far.
Elisha tells the widow to borrow as many empty jars as she can from her neighbors. “Not too few.” Then she is to go into her house, shut the door, and start pouring oil into the jars. So she does. “Soon every container was full to the brim.” She asks her sons for another jar and they tell her there aren’t any more. “And then the oil stopped flowing.” When she tells Elisha what happened, he tells her to sell the oil, pay her debts, then she and her sons can live on the rest.
What do I have in my house? Too many things to name, resources tangible and intangible, but nothing that hasn’t been given to me by God.
How much must I have to contribute in order for God to supply my needs? NOT ONE THING!
Do I have reason to believe that God is going to supply my needs? Over and over again he has promised in his Word and proved it in my life.
Which of my needs has he put back in my lap that are mine to worry about? NOT ONE THING!
What is my flask of oil? I think this is whatever I have that God asks me to pour into the lives of others. I am surrounded by jars that I can and should help fill. I have a husband, children, grandchildren, friends, students, and neighbors.
How much should I pour out? I should keep pouring until all the jars around me are full. But wait, won’t I run out of oil myself? The oil didn’t stop flowing for the widow until all the jars she had gathered were full. Did her arm get tired? Probably. Were her sons asking her what was going on, what all this oil was for, and when they could stop? Perhaps. But she was obedient to the letter of Elisha’s directions.
It is significant to me that the miracle of filling took place in her house with the door shut, not out where all the neighbors could watch. It wasn’t about a show, it was about God’s provision for a woman of faith and obedience.
I have seen God multiply a little into more than enough. I have seen him send just enough to pay a bill. I have watched events unfold in what seems like a sudden answer to prayer that, when examined, have actually been years in the making. If God had given the widow just enough to pay the debt, then left her to live on charity, it would still have been a miracle. He might have left her to rely on him day by day for her needs. As it was, she probably wasn’t rich, but Elisha said she would have enough. Maybe just enough for her and her sons to live on until the sons were old enough to support her. I suppose she needed to be wise with what was left after paying the debt. It seems like God is usually more concerned with needs than wants.
“Pay your debts, then live on the rest.” Live on what remains? Yes, that is what the story is about, living on God’s provision. Live on the relief from stress and worry? This is also what I heard for me at the end of the story. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I can live on that.