Treasure in Jars of Clay
Character in a time of Crisis ( day 31)
The widow’s oil ( part 3) Treasure in Jars of Clay
The Story of Elisha and the widow’s oil is not only one of the best known of this prophet’s miracles. It is also an account which has parallels with the earlier passage of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath ( 1 Kings 17:7 ff) – She is along with her son dying of hunger – they have only a little flour and some oil. Which they are going to eat, and then wait to die of hunger. But Elijah asks for a cake. Can we imagine the widow’s thoughts? ‘ We are dying of hunger, and this wild-eyed freak wants a cake!’ No, the widow does as Elijah asks( 1 Kings 17:15) and is blessed. And so here also (in 2 Kings 4:1-7) there is the test of faith.
She is told “Go and get empty jars for oil” (vs 3). “Go next door and to all the neighbours and ask for all their bowls, basins, Tupperware, all their pyrex, everything”. Would she do this? Would she believe the words of Elisha? Well, yes, she did. Her faith had been tested enough as it was. But like her late husband ( vs 1) she believed the promise of God. She kept pouring out of the little she had, probably a small pot or flask of olive oil, and the oil kept coming . And the oil only stopped pouring when the jars stopped coming.
The only limit was the number of vessels that were available for filling. If there had been more jars, there would be more oil. The oil only stopped when there were no more jars. I believe that this shows us a couple of points about this test of faith that can be applied today.
The test of faith is not limited to would she do in response to Elisha’s instruction. But would she keep on doing it? Would she keep on looking for more vessels, and muster more borrowed pots and pans? It is not enough to trust in the Lord for a little. We need to keep on trusting Him.
To persevere in prayer is never easy, but we are commanded to pray without ceasing ( 1 Thes 5:17). I remember hearing the late rev George Philip use the illustration of prayer as being like trying to open a big old door. It requires effort, and it requires persistence.
Secondly, we need to be ready to receive God’s filling. The jars that Elisha wanted the widow to source had to be empty ( naturally I suppose!). If we would receive what God desires for us, we too need to be emptied of self and sin and everything and anything else to be filled and keep on being re-filled by God.
The apostle Paul puts it like this speaks in, ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us ‘ 2 Corinthians 4:7. He describes the Christian as being like earthenware vessels, old clay pots that can be filled and re-filled with His oil, the oil of the Holy Spirit, the Oil of joy. Remember that the steady flow of the Holy Spirit, which gives power, victory, joy and fruitfulness, will stop flowing when we fail to provide an empty vessel.
I believe this applies privately but also collectively. if a group of people take God’s word to heart and resolve to become empty and available so as to be useful to the master, the miracles can happen!. I am reminded of the words of Chris Bowater’s hymn ‘Here I am, wholly available’
here I am, wholly available
As for me, I will serve the Lord
Here I am, wholly available
As for me, I will serve the Lord
The fields are white unto harvest
But O, the labourers are so few
So Lord, I give myself to help the reaping
To gather precious souls unto You
The time is right in the nation
For works of power and authority
God’s looking for a people who are willing
To be counted in His glorious victory
As salt are we ready to savour?
In darkness are we ready to be light?
God’s seeking out a very special people
To manifest His truth and His might