In 2 Kings 4 is a fascinating narrative about a widow and her sons. With her husband gone, the bills were due and the collectors were coming to take her sons as payment for debt.
She went to Elisha and asked for his help.
“What do you have in the house?” he asked.
“Nothing. Only a little bit of oil,” she replied.
“Okay. Here’s what I want you to do. Gather as many jars as you can – don’t get just a few,” he ordered.
Gather jars? Now that’s funny, right there!
When we take time to really enter into the stories, the Bible is anything but boring.
Imagine this woman and her sons going to neighbors and friends – and probably strangers as well: “Do you have any empty containers? Jars, jugs…hey, that hat might work. Can I have it?”
No doubt she was asked more than once,
“Why are you doing this?”
Her reply: “Um, don’t really know. Elisha said to get a bunch of jars. Who am I to question this man of God?”
Did she feel silly? A little stupid? Did his request seem to be pointless as she went from house to house?
Have you ever been given an assignment from God that seemed like it was nonsense? As if He didn’t have anything better to do that day, so He decided to amuse Himself by giving you a dumb task that had no real purpose?
We don’t know how long she and her sons collected the jars, only that they did. Considering their predicament, what could it hurt? They were out of ideas.
Elisha told them to go into the house and shut the door. Then the woman was to take her bit of oil and begin filling the jars.
There were no witnesses to what took place that day. Nothing to show the town that she hadn’t lost her mind. All they knew is that suddenly this little widow had oil for sale…enough to pay off the creditors and for her and her kids to live on. There’s no account of conversations she had with anyone.
Did she try to tell people about God’s provision? The miracle she witnessed?
Did they believe her? Or merely smile and ‘humor’ her?
I love this story! It helps me realize that no matter how foolish a task I am called to perform, God has a good purpose for it.
If I’m worried about what others might think, and refuse the Lord, I will miss out on a great blessing.
What’s more – note that God used what was already in her possession…
The fact that they were told to do this in private excites me. This miracle was meant for their eyes only. No one else got to receive from it – which surely would have happened. When the townspeople saw that her oil jar was continuing to produce oil far beyond its capacity, no doubt they would have brought their own containers to be filled.
God had other plans. He wanted to bless this woman personally.
He’s like that…personal.
Do not miss the point that in the Bible oil represents the Holy Spirit. The more preparation this woman did by way of gathering jars, the more could be poured - not into her, but through her.
The oil wasn’t for personal consumption.
Although the oil was sold (at which point the analogy breaks down), with every jar, no doubt, came the telling of the great love of God who provided so lavishly for her.
For us, this story has significance as well. While we won’t be filling any jars with oil in our bedrooms, we do “gather jars” for the purpose of being filled and poured out for others. This looks different to every person:
For some, it is studying the Word in order to convey its truths to others.
Sometimes it is learning skills and acquiring techniques that will be employed by the Lord to spread His message.
It may be merely spending time in conversation with Him – being poured into by the Lord Himself.
What we are doing may seem silly, self-focused, and useless…like gathering jars.
However, we must be willing to be though eccentric or foolish or we will miss the blessing and miracle God wants to do in - and then through us.
This is preparation time…the studying, the focus on acquiring new abilities, the desire to be fully equipped is not wasted time, if it is what He is asking of you. It will produce a harvest that far exceeds anything you ever dreamed possible.
It will require that you are shut away from people for a bit. They may talk, think you’re odd.
What do scoffers have to offer in place of what God wants to do?
A party? Leisure? Amusement?
I’m telling you, the woman was never so amused as when she watched oil continue to pour out of her little bottle to fill jar…after jar…after jar. You can’t duplicate an experience like that – even with a month holiday at your favorite resort!
When the last jar was filled, her little flask was empty.
In other words, if she’d have acquired an oil tanker…there would have been enough oil to fill it.
Don’t miss this point!
The more we give of ourselves to God the greater capacity we have to receive – to be filled and given to others.
There is no greater satisfaction than being able to provide for others what we, ourselves, have received.
Let’s be “jar gatherers” of the greatest magnitude!
PS I’m out gathering jars, and don’t have much time for writing at the moment. I’ve almost finished this task – then will be busy pouring out oil. Don’t know how long this will take, but God is good. I can’t wait to see what He has planned for my little jars!