Widows Oil Story
This is the Widow’s Oil Story from 2Kings 4:1-7. The question that underlies the story is “What do you have?” The following is a manuscript of the message that I shared at the Bedico (LA) Church of God today (12/7/14). I have also included a link to the audio file if you would like to listen.
What do you have?
Intro: Does anyone here have more than they need (possessions)?
It was my mom and dad’s dream that I should be “better off” than they were. Some call it the “American Dream.” In 2008, the Brookings Institute did a survey and found that ¾ of Americans believe that the American dream is becoming more difficult to achieve each year.
In July (2014) USA Today published an article that the average cost for a family of four in America is now $130k per year. I tried to look at the costs for people like you and me. I took their figures and took out vacations, recreation, savings, and education. It came to about $100k – if you don’t make any donations to the church, etc.
I realize that probably no one here has that kind of income. But that is what it would take to realize the “American Dream.” Around ’95, someone surveyed people asking how much they would need to be living the dream. For people making $50k a year, they felt that they would need to make at least $100k. For richer folks (making around $100k), they said it would take about $190k. (About 2x whatever you make!)
When reading the story of the widow and the oil in 2 Kings 4:1-7, I observed some very powerful principles.
When Elisha asked her, she said, “Your servant has nothing there at all.” Then she added “except a small jar of olive oil” (NIV). Some people tend to feel that they are abused and short-changed in everything. They feel that they are on a “merry-go-round” and can never “make it.” Most of us can identify with the feeling but others call that a “victim mentality.”
But the reality is that we do have SOMETHING! It may be small and insignificant, but we have something.
- God did not ask “What what do you need?” Rather, “What do you HAVE?”
- God never asks for more than we have
- If we only have a little, then God does not require much
God wants us to count our blessings instead of our battles. He does not call those who are equipped, He equips those He calls! Moses (Exodus 4) felt that he was incapable of facing Pharaoh, or even the children of Israel.
But God said, “What is that in your hand?” and it was changed into a snake which later became a sign to everyone that God was directing the events. He said, “I am slow of speech” but God said, “Who gave humans their mouths… I will teach you.”
The “small jar of olive oil” that seemed so improbable to the widow as a means of saving her sons, became the instrument of their salvation. Likewise, God wants to take the insignificant things in our lives and transform them into the solution to our problems. (DISPLAY the small bottle of oil)
2. Elisha gave the widow something to do. (anticipate)
The widow probably was thinking that Elisha would call on God to send the angels and repel the creditors!
Instead, She was to go to her neighbors & borrow empty jars. Imagine that you did not know this story and how it ended and then imagine that your pastor told you “Go borrow a lot of jars and bring them to church on Sunday morning.” How many jars would you actually go and BORROW? Probably not a lot.
- God provides the vision of good things to come
- He expects us to trust Him and obey His instructions
- If our expectations agree with God’s vision, great things are in store
(DISPLAY the jars – “Since you did not bring any, I have some jars for our illustration. Do you think this will be enough?”)
We must never be guilty of setting our goal lower than the vision that God has given us! If the widow had only borrowed a few jars, the oil gained would not have been sufficient to pay off her debts. I believe that the number of jars determined how long the oil would continue to pour. When she ran out of jars… “then the oil stopped flowing.” The level of her anticipation and vision determined the level of God’s blessing!
- What would have happened if she had borrowed another 50 jars?
- Why didn’t she borrow more? Would YOU?
3. The widow had to renounce all other “answers.”
Elisha told the widow to “shut the door behind you and your sons.” There is a real crisis of faith when we close the doors to any alternative “solutions.” But it is when we become desperate and recognize that we have no other alternatives, that God can bless. As long as we hold on to the possibility of “plan B,” God is not likely to send a miracle. Medical miracles happen the 3rd world because they don’t have the option of going to the hospital!
- There is a crisis when we commit to God’s plan as the ONLY way
- God never asks more than we can do
- God will always provide whatever we need in order to accomplish His will
If we have totally committed to Christ, then we will shut the door and begin pouring. But shutting the door is the hard part. Think about Peter walking on the water.
Although I have never walked on water, I am convinced that it is not difficult to do. The hard part is getting out of the boat! Can you imagine stepping over the transom of a boat and just assuming that the water would hold you up? So, walking on the water would be easy AFTER you develop the courage, faith, confidence (or whatever) to step out of the boat onto the water.
When the widow closed the door, she was COMMITED! She started pouring the oil from a small container into a larger one, she could have said, “God is asking too much of me. This is impossible and I cannot do it!” On a literal scale, that would have been true, BUT GOD….! But God said do it. If her original container held a pint of oil, then after she filled the gallon jug, she must have been pretty high on the glory scale!! I imagine that she and her sons were dancing a jig – in “joy unspeakable and full of glory!”
DISPLAY: Pour oil from small to large jar. “Well, let’s prove this thing works! Do you believe it will work? We are godly folks and we have a small jar of olive oil, some borrowed jars, and the instructions from the Bible. So, we should be able to fill all these jars and multiply the amount of oil and sell the rest!” (Of course it fails.) “Why didn’t it work for us? – Because we still have a plan B. We are not DESPERATE for it!”
We have enough already. If we were in need – like the widow – then things would be different.
That is the point – we have been blessed! We have enough! Stop with the whining and poor-mouthing. You are NOT a victim! You are a VICTOR!
4. God provided MORE than the widow asked for.
When the widow announced the miracle to Elisha, he told her to “sell the oil and pay your debts.”
She had requested that Elisha help her pay the debt and free her sons from slavery. God did that with flying colors!
But then our Father went even further, “You and your sons can live on what is left.” The phrase, “what is left” deserves further study that I cannot do right now. But the truth is that God provided much MORE than the widow had requested. That is just His way. Trust Him today and see what happens!
At every point in your life, when you trust God, you have MORE than enough to do what He has called you to accomplish!