Sunday, June 23, 2013
The God Who Multiplies
One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Saturday, June 22, 2013: II Kings 3:1-4:17
1 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 So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. 4 And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” 5 So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. 6 Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. 7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.” II Kings 4:1-7 (NKJV)
The story of Elisha and the widow's oil is a story of God's miraculous provision. God met this woman in her need and provided abundantly. It is both an inspiring story about God's powerful and gracious intervention, and it is also a parable to us -- a lesson about how God MULTIPLIES His provision.
There are many other stories in Scripture that follow a similar pattern. At least twice, Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed huge crowds. As the children of Israel journeyed for 40 years through the wilderness, God gave daily provision in the form of manna. Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel knew Jehohah- Jireh, the God Who Provides! It's all through the Bible. In fact, anyone who gets to know God in fullness, will meet a God who loves to give. When God uses different angles to send us the same message, we need to pay attention.
Here is the pattern of the story:
The widow's husband had been one of the prophets that trained under Elijah. Now, with his death, she and their two sons were left destitute. Their debtors were closing in. In desperation, she cried out to God and to Elisha.
How desperate are you to see the hand of God in your behalf? The set-up for a miracle is often the darkness of need and desperation. Psalm 34:6 says, "This poor man cried out and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles."
2. "WHAT DO YOU HAVE?"
Elisha's first question to the widow was not "What do you NEED?" but "What do you HAVE?" God tells you to look at what is already in your hand. This is similar to the word of the Lord to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3-4. Moses had received a strong commission to liberate the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. But Moses faltered, asking HOW he could do such a thing. God asked Moses, "What is in your hand?" (Exodus 4:2) Moses already held the rod that would be used by God in every step of the miraculous journey that lay ahead. Moses had the tool, he just needed to use it and to operate in faith.
The widow responded by telling Elisha that all she had was a jar of oil. But, with God, that's all she needed.
3. FAITH FOR PREPARATION
It is important to note that BEFORE the miracle could happen, the widow had to make preparations. She was told to operate in blind faith borrowing empty vessels from neighbors. Elisha had not told her what was about to happen. She was required to make preparation without knowing why.
Jesus would often do this with His disciples. He sent them on errands that did not make sense, like borrowing/stealing a man's donkey, or getting silver coins out of fishes' mouths. In order to walk in the midst of God's miraculous provision, you must be willing to OBEY His voice.
4. FAITH FOR POURING
All miracles of God run parallel with human cooperation. God delights in bringing His power to bear THROUGH us. Whether it is Moses holding his rod over the Red Sea or Elisha picking up an ax head that floated, there is always a way in which God invites us to action.
The widow was instructed to pour oil into the empty vessels. It must have been an amazing experience for her watch the miracle of provision unfold before her eyes. God could have dropped money into her hands. He could have brought gifts to her door. Instead, he required that she pour oil. Then later, she would need to sell the vast supply. God chose a unique way to take care of her need.
5. THE LIMITATION OF GOD'S PROVISION
God knows exactly how much we need. Yet it seems in this story that the limits of His supply did not rest in His knowledge of the widow's situation. The limit lay in the number of empty vessels she had acquired. God's endless supply was shut down by the smallness of her expectation.
This is incredibly inspiring. God desires to bless us. Our small-mindedness far too often limits our capacity for His provision.
We find ourselves rooted in a fallen world while tapping into an everlasting Kingdom. In Christ's Kingdom there is more than enough. As we walk through life, God allows seasons of desperation and dire need. It is our privilege to more and more move into the blessing of our God. As we "pour out", God pours into us. The key truth is that we are to keep pouring -- keep giving -- keep using that which is in your hand. God MULTIPLIES that which you give Him.