When The Pressure Is On, Pray Then Do What God Says
“A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.” 2 Kings 4:1
Yesterday we looked at the story of the widow woman whom God commanded to sustain the prophet Elijah during the time of the drought in Israel, and by a miracle of multiplication God provided for the prophet for her and her son. [see 1 Kings 17]
Today we consider the story of Elisha and the widow woman whose husband, also a prophet, had died leaving her with two sons. When her resources ran out and she was in debt, the creditors were coming to take her sons away to sell them as slaves in order to pay the debt, she came to the prophet Elisha and told him her story. Now the scriptures do not tell us the age of her sons but it is reasonable to conclude that they were not of an age where they could work and earn money to provide for themselves and their mother.
So she cried out to the prophet to help here. He asked her what she had in her house? In other words he was asking her what resources of value do you have that could be converted into money to pay your debts? She told him all that they had was a little pot of oil.
Now oil was a valued marketable commodity essential for daily living among the people of that day. Any amount would have been carefully used and the remaining preserved. So, after all her other resources were exhausted, that she still had a little pot of oil is not unusual.
So, the prophet told her to go and barrow empty vessels from all her neighbors, not a few, but as many as they could get; then bring them into the house, shut the door with her and sons alone in the house and pour out oil, from the pot that she had, into the vessels that are barrowed. As each is filled set it aside.
So she did as the prophet said and when all the vessels were full she called for her sons to bring more and they said there are no more. So Elisha said to her:
“… Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.” 2 Kings 4:7
Like the previous miracle of provision for the widow woman who was preparing to die after she and her son ate their final roll of bread, this miracle of multiplication is remarkable indeed.
First God did not drop oil out of the sky and just pile it up on the widow’s front porch. Many times when we pray for God to urgently meet a need in our lives we think or hope that he will answer our prayers by someone just walking up and resolving our situation with generous gift or the credit provide and immediate forgiveness of the debt or some direct action that will not involve any work or sacrifice of effort on our part. And on many occasions that is exactly how He does meet our needs.
In this case He did a most amazing thing that involved a lot of people, possibly the whole village where she lived. It is not a stretch to consider that she was not the only one in desperate need. There was a drought across all the land and everybody was affected by it. So, when she and her sons came to borrow empty vessels from them it is clear that those vessels would not be returned to them empty, because they had assisted in the miracle provisions for the widow and her sons.
The prophet spoke the will of God to meet the needs of the widow but the method by which that need would be met was in part intended as a way to bless the entire town or at east everyone this woman and her sons knew and willing to lend her a vessel.
The faith of the widow woman was to be obedient to what the prophet told her to do. I can also imagine that most if not all the people lending her vessels did it willingly one because it coat them nothing to so but also be cause she was known among her neighbors and her husband had serve that community as a prophet of God; a role in that day much like that of a pastor today. As for the woman, she knew what was about to happen because the prophet told her so.
“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.” 2 Kings 4:3-4
She didn’t question him; she believed what he said, so she got about the business of doing it as quickly as possible. For one thing there was the promise of getting her debt paid and saving her sons from being sold into slavery. As a prophet’s wife that had been held in high esteem among the people while he lived, it had to be humbling and a bit humiliating to have to go to them and beg for empty vessels. After all it was the prophets who had the direct line to God. If she was now coming to them for help what would that mean for their faith in the power of the prophets? A prophet’s widow begging for empty vessels? What’s wrong with this picture? But, that was not God’s perspective or plan.
To the prophet, Elisha, the widow was a daughter of God. As the man of God it was his part to use whatever resources he had to help her and keep her and her sons safe. But God wanted to bless the whole of the people suffering during the drought. It was not about embarrassment or humiliation, but about creating a pathway to miraculous blessing for everyone involved.
To bring about the widow’s miracle of provision during this drought God used the prophet to speak His Word, the woman and her sons to barrow the vessels, the neighbors and friends to provide the vessels, then He multiplied and sustained the oil. The woman had to take the oil to market and sell it in order to get the money needed to pay her debts, but she was glad to do it because of what it meant for her and her son’s livelihood for the next several years.
The woman did not go the prophet with a plan for him to endorse and get her debts paid on her terms. She went to him desperate for whatever God would tell Him to do concerning her and being willing to do whatever it would take to get her need met.
A lesson for us here is to believe that God loves us and always has our best interest in mind in all that He commands of us. While we might have a way in mind of how our needs can be met in natural terms, God operates first and foremost in the supernatural in ways that are higher than our ways.
When the pressure is on, we can be driven to panic, to crying out desperately for help, and that is very natural according to our human nature. But, what touches God is our obedience to His Word and faith in what He says, while we turn out attention away from the problems and direct it toward getting about the business of “borrowing a lot of empty vessels.”
Have you prayed and expressed your urgent need to the Father? Then be about doing what He has said and doing it by faith without fear. And expect the blessing and more than what you need. Thank God He is bigger than our problems and His resources are in exhaustible to meet our needs.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10