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 except a jar of oil.”
2 Kings 4:2
The miracle of the widow’s oil is fairly well known. A widow of one of the sons of the prophets comes to Elisha to let him know that she is deep in debt and her creditors want to take her sons as payment. Elisha tells her how to miraculously solve the problem. She goes in faith and does what she was instructed and her immediate problem — deep debt — as well as long term problem — provision for the future — is solved. I want to consider the request, the response, and the result.
The request was not so much a request as a simple statement of need. This widow had debts enough that the creditors were coming to collect whatever she had. She needed her sons. Sons were the ancient world’s retirement program. Sons inherited the land and worked it to supply the parents when the parents grew too old to work the land themselves. For women, this was even more vital, since women could not generally inherit land or work the farm. There were exceptions, but the rule was that women did not inherit and could work very few professions. So taking her sons would be roughly analogous to seizing all of the assets left by her husband. She was in a difficult spot.
The response came in two parts.
The first part was an inquiry. She just said she did not have enough to pay the creditors. But what did she have? God often poses this question before doing something miraculous. For example, He asked Moses what was in his hand before turning the staff into a snake. And Jesus asked the disciples what food they did have at both of the miraculous feedings of thousands. It may be that God wants us to be reminded of our absolute need. It may be that God is showing us how little He can work with in order to meet our needs. It may be for so many other reasons of which I cannot conceive. Regardless of His reasons, God is recorded to call attention to what those in need have.
The second part of the response was an instruction: go borrow as many jars and pots and whatnot as you can and pout out what you have into them. God has been known to do things like this, too. He will make the provision or the scope of the miracle proportionate to the faith of the individual. He tells kings to tear up bits of cloth and chides them for not going further and receiving greater blessing. This widow had some hardcore faith, because she borrows jars and pots and whatnot and pours oil.
The result of her request and her response in faith was enough oil to sell and pay her debts and live on the rest of the proceeds. The result was provision for her present and future needs. And that result was in direct proportion to how much she thought God could do. She might have borrowed only a few vessels and so received little provision. Instead, she borrows so many that she and her sons sound a little surprised when they run out.
This is a reminder to me that God does not need me to prescribe how to meet my needs, He only wants me to acknowledge my needs and leave the method of supply to His discretion. He may, as with this widow and in many other instances, use what I have on hand to supply what I do not. He may supply in another way. He is not limited so long as I do not limit Him. And I should go as far as my faith will take me if He involves me in the supply of my needs. I never know what blessing I forfeit by trusting God too little.
Father, thank You for supplying all our needs. Please forgive the littleness of my faith and grow it.