The first thing that we notice about this story is that the widow pours out her heart to God through His man, the prophet. The Bible says she cried unto Elisha.
(2 Kings 4:1) Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.
Here is a woman whose own husband was a prophet. Her husband had been a credit to his profession. His testimony was such that when trouble arose for his widow she in turn went to seek help from a prophet. In death she paid her husband a very great compliment.
Our testimony should always be such that when people meet us, work with us, know us, or spend any amount of time with us they see Jesus Christ in us and desire what we have, Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour. Paul said in Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
If you live your life in such a way as to always lift up and glorify Jesus Christ you will never lack for any opportunities to witness for Him. The Bible says in John 12:3 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." That is what that verse means. If our conversation around lost people is always focused on the Lord then those who are really seeking God will eventually get saved.
The widow in our story is about to lose her two sons to a creditor because the family is without money. They are financially destitute. They have spent every penny they have and now there is a bill collector at the door. In those days if you couldn't pay your debts you were put in prison unto you could. Jesus used an example of this in the book of Matthew to teach about forgiveness. (Matthew 18:28-30) But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Have you ever been at that point in your life? Have you ever been down to your last dollar and the bills are piling up? Have you ever been hungry? There is no food in the pantry and you wonder where you next meal is coming from? The rent is due and the landlord keeps calling but you lost your job and have no source of income. What will happen to you and your family if you are thrown out of your apartment? Where will you live? Who will help you? If you have ever been faced with one or more of these situtations, instead of complaining, I suggest you do what the widow did and cry unto God.
If you look to God for help He will supply it. But it may not be in the way you expect it to be so don't turn your back on the solution just because you don't like it. Let's see how He helped the prophet's widow.
(2 Kings 4:2) And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.
When asked by Elisha if she has anything of value in the house she mentions a pot of oil. All she had in her house was one little vessel with oil in it. I can only imagine that it was a rather small pot and for the most part did not hold a very prominent place in the home. It was probably up on a shelf somewhere toward the back. It had probably sat up there for years and up until this point in her life to her it was of little significance. Even though she may have used it every day she could not see any value in it other than for cooking. But oil in the Bible is a type of the Holy Spirit. She was about to learn a great spiritual truth.
(2 Kings 4:3-4) Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.
This woman consulted God's man, the prophet Elisha. It is important to note that when he told her what to do she didn't argue with him, she didn't question his counsel, she didn't ask her neighbours for their opinions and advice and she didn't do her own thing. Whatever she may have been thinking her main concern was to obey the man of God. She immediately did what he said. Why? Because he was the man of God. He was God's vessel. She cried unto God and God supplied the answer in the person of Elisha. She knew she must listen to him and do whatever he told her to do.
(2 Kings 4:5-6) So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.
The oil stayed or stopped because the vessels were full. This woman needed a miracle and she got one. Here is another case where the physically represents the spiritual. Remember I said that oil is a type of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures.
Well when a person empties themselves of all the junk in their lives then the Holy Spirit can come in and fill them. Of course, when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour the Holy Ghost immediately comes into our lives and takes up residence. However, He usually doesn't have all of us at that point. We are saved, yes, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us, yes, but we have the old nature still in us.
That means that there may be some areas in our lives that we haven't fully surrendered to the Lord yet. Ladies, do you still wear pants? Why? The Bible clearly teaches that wearing men's clothes, and pants are men's apparel, is ungodly. In fact in Deuteronomy 22:5 it says it is an abomination to the Lord. (The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.) OUCH!! The Bible admonishes us to dress in modest apparel. (1 Timothy 2:9) In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; Pants are not modest apparel for women.
Maybe you have a problem with gossiping. You always have to know everybody else's business. Why? Oh, I know, so that you can pray more effectively for them. I don't believe that and neither do you. (1 Peter 4:15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. OUCH!! Just admit that you are nosy and ask God to give you victory in that area.
What about idolatry? I didn't say adultery. I said idolatry. You know idol worship. Oh, you say, I don't do that. No? Do you spend more time watching television than you do reading your Bible or on your knees in prayer? (Matthew 22:37-38) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. OUCH!! How can you say you love the Lord if you don't even communicate with Him.
Is there a doctor in the house? I fear we have some walking wounded here. Anyone need spiritual medical assistance? The altar is open.
The point is this, until you surrender to God on these issues or any other ones that God brings to your mind then the Holy Spirit does not have full place in your life. So your vessel is not full. There is still some of you left in it. You have to be out totally for the Holy Spirit to be totally in.
(2 Kings 4:7) Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.
Notice that Elisha makes her do something to solve her own problem. He gave her the means to provide for herself. In this case she needed money. I've no doubt that he could have miraculously made the money that she needed appear. But sometimes when we are handed something too quickly and we don't work for it we don't appreciate it as much.
Don't expect a free handout all the time. Now, there is a time and a place for that kind of help. But don't look for it, don't expect it, don't think that you deserve it or that it's owed to you. Too many people today want a quick fix for their problems and they are not willing to help themselves. They want someone else to get them out of the mess they created. Don't be like that. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat."
The second reason that I think he helped her in this way was because she had sons that obviously could do something to help. The Bible does not say how old they were but they were old enough to gather vessels from the neighbours. And the creditor was going to make them bondmen so they would have had to do some kind of labour. Why not have them work to help their mother and themselves? (1 Timothy 5:3-4) Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. In other words, children should repay their parents by helping out if they are able to. If you do everything for your children when they are old enough to help out then you are not really doing them a favour. You are creating little monsters that will never work a day in their lives because they don't feel it is their responsibility. They will resent and resist hard work.
The woman's sons gathered the vessels from the neighbours and helped her. She sold the oil and paid her debts. God provided for this woman using a little pot of oil and a lot of empty vessels.
God sanctifies full vessels for His use. God answers the need and not the want. Her need was money to pay a debt. Selling the oil was her means of obtaining the money she needed.
What we can learn from the prophet's widow.
She poured out her heart to God.
Get alone with God. Prayer should be offered to reach God, not to be heard by others. (Matthew 6:6) But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
She went to the man of God.
Why is this important? Because the man OF God is close TO God. My husband spends hours in prayer seeking answers from God. And God shows him things that he will not show you.
(1 Samuel 9:6) And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can show us our way that we should go.
(1 Kings 12:22) But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,
She obeyed the man of God.
(Hebrews 13:17) Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
But what if.? Too bad! Do what God says. And don't argue with God's means or methods.
She was blessed by God.
(2 Timothy 2:20) But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
An empty vessel sits on the shelf. A full vessel is one that God uses. But first we have to empty the vessel in order for God to fill it.
Empty yourself of sin, pride, the world and self along with your goals and ambitions, as well as your dreams, your hopes and your desires. Put them in a box and burn them. Let God sanctify your vessel for His service.