I realize I am rambling on about jars and vessels, assuming you all have read the Old Testament stories that I heard at my mother’s knee. She was a real storyteller. If she told you the story of a book she read, there was no need for you to read the book – it will bore you to death. Her sense for details and her obvious pleasure to relive the drama of the narrative, made the story come alive, probably even more than the author himself anticipated!
She read and “lived” the Old Testament stories. She added the technicolour and cinemascope from research into the background and history of the time in which it took place. She had a few favourite commentaries and she used them to take her deeper into the fuller interpretations of Scripture to fuel her delight in the powerful words of God and the miraculous implications for her own spiritual journey. She did not hesitate to share her pleasure and thrill of discovery with me. I thank God to this day that I was a willing ear in my teenage years. It could only have been God’s work in my life to mould me into the Bible-lover I am today.
Let us then go back to 2 Kings 4 to a story, told in just a few verses, that can totally change your life. If you can, please read Pebbles number 14 (Digging ditches for the year) for a discussion of 2 Kings 3 that emphasizes the same principles.
When Scripture zooms into a cameo-event like this, we need to take the time and truly “hear” what God is saying. The timeline of the Old Testament skips over decades and centuries and suddenly pauses to report with a detailed account on a few days in the lives of very ordinary people. Let us attend to this one in the same ways that Moses turned aside to “hear” God.
Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” (Exodus 3:3)
I love this – Moses did not speak to anybody, except himself. His self-chat directed his thoughts to do the right thing.
A few centuries before Jesus walked the earth, the prophet Elisha ministered in Judah. It is a difficult time and the sins of the nation are many. So often in history we see drought and famine as a result of a backslidden people. Elisha is active and calls the people back to God. There is always a prophet for the remnant – the people who stay faithful to the God. This story is about provision for a destitute widow, the most insignificant member of ancient societies. Josephus, the well-known Jewish historian, writes about her as the widow of the prophet Obadiah.
The Bible says she called out to Elisha. She had reason to panic. In ancient times, debt could land someone in slavery, their children included.
Elisha reacts to her panic, but not with an instant miracle. She is to play an active role in God’s manner of provision. She had to collect jars, as much as she could. She borrowed from her neighbours, probably just about everybody in the village. The Bible does not say what her sons thought of this plan, or even how old they were. Perhaps they followed her instructions mindlessly because they knew how hopeless their situation was. I can just imagine that the village tongues were loose and the buzz about the widow quite loud. Elisha did not explain. She acted in faith on his word without knowing the end result.
The jars were set up in her house, in relative privacy, away from the noise of remarks, gossip, criticism and a multitude of opinions. In the house the oil was poured… and it did not stop until the last jar was full. If there were one more, the oil would have filled that one too. If there were countless jars, the oil would have flowed to this day. God’s provision is not limited. Do you believe it?
The oil was olive oil. It was used as medicine, to cook, to burn in lamps and to make soap. The olive tree was indigenous and robust. It could thrive in harsh conditions like drought, heat and neglect.
Oil is also the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the trademark of a strong Christian. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God so that you can be aware of communicating with God in every breath every minute of your day.
The action to fill the jars was part of the process of the miracle. Participation in the process is an important spiritual principle. Often the process to progress towards the solution of the problem in focused prayer in the presence of God, with your eyes on him only, is the greater miracle. He changes you in the process. Your mind is renewed, your faith grows, your prayer life deepens, your thoughts are centred on Jesus and you learn so much about God’s character, all the while experiencing the glory of his presence. This process is actually the miracle. To be changed to be like Jesus, is the goal of a life well-lived.
What do you need on this day? Please take a moment and put the jar in its place. Call out to God. Our Elisha is Jesus. If you feel you need a prophet, ask God for one. Sometimes we need ministry from our fellow- God lovers. Even if you rely on someone, I can never emphasize the blessing of calling out to God and spending time with him in prayer enough. Your communication with God, reading his Word and writing down your prayer before him, will change you from the inside. God only does it on invitation. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman.
Do you have doubts about the jar of your life? Maybe the symbolism does not make sense to you. If your long for financial answers, read everything on money in the Word. Read Malachi about tithing. Read 2 Corinthians 9 on Holy Spirit-inspired giving. In the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in which we live, we “hear” from God with regards to what and where we must give, but to tithe to your church is a very good first step with astonishing blessing and promises attached.
If your jar is for healing, study healing and everything surrounding the miracles of Jesus. If your jar is relationships, study forgiveness and love; write down names in your prayer book and walk in the miraculous unconditional love that God has for us. Remember in all things that surrender is the key, not self-effort.
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
All sufficiency in all things– let these words echo in your inner being. This is a life of excellence. It is living heaven on earth. We live in liberty, free of fear and strong.
Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-11)
Let the Word of God live in you. Memorize and repeat. God is faithful. He will never fail you.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. (Psalm 37:3)
God is good – always.
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)