The widow comes to Elisha and tells him her story – she has lost her husband and now the creditors are coming and will take her sons away and sell them as slaves if she does not pay them what is owning. She is hoping for the prophet of God to speak and that when he does a miracle will take place and everything will be taken care of by Almighty God. (2 Kings 4:1-7)
Elisha is just getting into this lead prophet thing and being the man of God that everyone comes to. Elijah, his mentor, has just been carried away into heaven and now his mantal rests upon Elisha. He is now Israel’s prophet and God’s national spokesperson. Instead of solving her problem he asks her a question. This is partly because prophecy was never meant to solve problems – that is simply not the prime purpose of the gift. His question: “Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
As far as bedside manners go, Elisha does not seem to excel. This woman came seeking his help, yet he begins by asking for an accounting of what she has in her house. Doesn’t it seem callous for Elisha to turn the tables on her in her time of need? Nonetheless, she answers him: “Your servant has nothing there t all,” she said, “except a little oil.”
Well, it turns out that one jar isn’t a bad place to start. The widow is about to find out that all God needs is all she has.
Elisha tells her what to do next. “Go around and ask all your neighbours for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She does just this. She collects empty jars. She goes home and closes the door. And she starts pouring. And she pours. And keeps on pouring until every jar is filled to the brim. At that moment the miraculous flow of oil ceases.
When she reports to Elisha what happened, he tells her to sell the extra oil and to pay her debts and live with her sons on what is left. God had supernaturally accomplished what the widow could not. He hasn’t just met her need; He has exceeded it – and racked up style points for extravagance.
And how did the miracle start? It started with something that seemed to amount to nothing. “You servant has nothing there at all…” Initially, all this woman could focus on was what she didn’t have. Elisha, on the other hand, was interested in her exception. “…except a little oil.” And it was her exception that became the vessel for an exceptional miracle.
The lesson – give God everything because God needs all that you have – even the little things that you don’t think are important.