2 Kings / chapter 4 (read the chapter)
Well, this whole chapter was about how God worked miracles through His prophet Elisha. The one that really stuck out to me, though, was the very first story about the widow, her two sons, and the olive oil. Just before creditors were going to come and take her boys into slavery because of their debts, Elisha told her, “Go around and ask all your neighbors 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.” (vs 3-4)
Elisha had said this because all she had was a small jar of olive oil. And, apparently, Elisha thought that this one small jar would turn into a river so she could sell the oil and pay off her debts.
There were a couple of things about this story that jumped out at me. First of all, Elisha said, “Don’t ask for just a few.” And that really made me think about how often we look at what God is going to do for us through the lenses of scarcity. We can’t imagine that He will do anything grand. We tend to think extremely small, while God thinks more in terms of huge. Nothing He does is meager. Everything is done with extravagance and abundance! (Remember how there were twelve basketfuls of leftovers after Jesus fed 5,000 people?) With God, there is always more than enough.
That’s why the second thing that jumped out at me was that the woman left Elisha and went to do exactly what she said. Apparently, she didn’t argue or ask any questions. That was surprising to me. But, I guess if you’re out of options and desperate, you might be willing to try just about anything.
That’s my problem so much of the time, and I wonder if it’s also yours. We live in a world (especially in Western society) where we don’t get desperate really often. You might disagree with me, but I’d challenge you on your definition of desperate. Even the most “desperate” people in this country are afforded a vast array of charitable options and government safety nets so that there is, I think, little desperation of the sort that people in old Israel must have faced at times.
We live in a very autonomous society. If we need food on the table, we can go out and get a job. Or if we get snowed under with debt, we can declare bankruptcy and have the slate wiped clean. There are truly few people who have no options. But I think that can be a disadvantage when it comes to seeing God’s involvement in our lives. When I am facing a big problem, instead of taking it to the Lord and hearing His outrageous ideas for a solution, I’m usually too busy already trying to think of how I am going to solve the problem. I mean, come on, I know that if I need to pay a debt, God’s not going to just make a financial solution materialize. I’m going to have to find a way to earn more money.
But, hmmmm, then I read things like 2 Kings 4, and I wonder just how little God and I see eye-to-eye on. I can spend so much time worrying about meeting my own needs, but what if God has easier, better ways? And what if I would miss out on them because I never got around to asking Him for His point of view?
God thinks differently than we do. So the next time you’re facing a dilemma, why not ask Him what He thinks? Give Him the opportunity to surprise you. He may just shock you right into a solution!