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Oil and To Spare

by Wayne Hobbs

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

Perhaps you have had a time in your life when you thought you were at the end of your rope with difficulties closing in on you, with no visible means of recovery.  It could be they were family problems, serious health issues, personal financial difficulties or present day world concerns. These times challenge our faith and they also cause, or at least enable us, to put our faith into practice as we look to God for help and seek his favor rather than just looking to ourselves for solutions.

The most important of these decisions we need to all keep in mind is to realize the we are lost and in need of salvation. And we need to cry out to our Lord Jesus Christ in faith and obedience to receive him. We will have more about that later.

The book of 2 Kings gives a beautiful illustration of the importance of looking to our God for help. And we find that there are some real practical applications for this that fit our lives today. It is found in 2 Kings chapter four, the first seven verses and it happened in roughly 900 BC.

A widow came to Elisha for help knowing him to be at true man of God. She was the wife of one of the sons of the prophets and her husband was dead. She was left a considerable debt. I don’t know why she had the debt. I am sure she didn’t just run up credit cards or he didn’t, but the debt was there just the same. And we don’t know where the money went, but we know that this lady had a husband who was a man of integrity and he had died. And I don’t know of any Old Testament prophets who were people of wealth. So she hadn’t gone to Elisha for just a handout. She had gone to him for help, knowing him to be a man of God. She called to Elisha, the man of God, knowing that the husband’s creditors were actually on the way to take her sons as slaves in order to settle the debt.

I am certainly glad we don’t have that problem today. We don’t have such things and that is wonderful.  She might never see these sons again.  They would likely be slaves and they could have been killed. They could have been sold. They could have been sent away. They could have been in a place where there is just Baal worship or false worship of idols or some other situation.  So she was desperate to save her boys.

When Elisha asked her what she owned she reported to him that she only had a container of a little bit of oil. This was not petroleum, but it would have been some kind of vegetable oil, probably olive oil.

He told her to gather lots of empty containers from her neighbors and to go inside, shut the door and start pouring. This required several acts of faith. Going to Elisha was an act of faith. Gathering empty containers was an act of faith. Going inside her house with her sons and without the prophet was an act of faith. Pouring out oil from a container that had almost none in it was an act of faith. And all of these acts of faith result in obedience. This was not a trick, some kind of magic thing that happened, but it was an act of faith and a miracle from God. With the help of her son, she poured until she ran out of containers, not oil, but containers. That resulted in her having enough oil to pay her debt and live on what was left.

She went from having nothing but debt into having her debts paid and some left over for her own life.  This was truly a gift of God and she acted on that faith. She got all that she could hold, not all that God could supply, but all that she could hold.

There are three main points about this that I would like to look at today. The first one: She did not just cry out to herself or cry out in general. She cried out to the Lord by talking to the man of God, Elisha. Secondly, she had faith that was backed up by her actions. And third, she could live in God’s peace as a result of the first two.

Let’s look, first of all, at her crying out to God. She realized her empty situation. She called out to a man of God and she knew that this would be the right thing to do. Having a husband who was in the company of prophets previously and before she died, she did not just keep this to herself or she didn’t just look to her own abilities to improve the situation, this dreadful situation that had come upon her. She just looked to what she could solve. She came to a realization that physically her situation was lost.  Her resources were close to empty and they just weren’t even important to her anymore. She had nothing essentially. Like a child might call out in the middle of the night because of fear or illness or some other reason, expecting an answer from a parent, she went to Elisha expecting an answer from what God would give her at this point. She did not seek help from an ungodly source, but from a godly one.

The Bible shows us many situations along the way where people were at a loss without God and then they cried out. According to the New Testament in Matthew chapter nine verses 27 through 31 we find this: As Jesus went from there two blind men followed him calling out. “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” And when he had gone indoors the blind men came to him and he asked them. “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they replied.  They he touched their eyes, “And according to your faith it will be done to you.” And their sight was restored. The blessedness was these men were desperate and they called out to Jesus Christ and they received the blessing that they needed and their sight was restored.  Of course, if you know how the story goes, he told them not to tell anybody, but that didn’t work out quite that way. They did anyway and should have obey.  But what a blessing it was that they called out to Jesus and got the results they needed.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Ask, seek and knock.” He said this, “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened unto you.” Jesus is telling us to ask of him, to seek him, to knock. And, by the way, if you think about that ask, seek and knock, that spells out ask, doesn’t it?  The A, the S and the K spell out the word ask. And that is what we are to do.

Sadly enough, many times we don’t ask. Somebody might see that we are sad, that we are concerned, that we are despondent about something and they will say, “What is wrong?” And we will say, “Nothing.” Well, unfortunately, God is looking to us as well asking us what is wrong. And the unfortunate part is we don’t ask him back. We essentially say nothing. It is fortunate that God is looking at us and knowing what is wrong with us and knowing we need to ask, but we don’t.  We might think that our calling out must include some kind of perfect faith. But that isn’t always the case.

A man mentioned in the book of Mark had a son who was demon possessed, had been all of his life, I think. And the child had been in this condition and the man had seen it for so long and he had become discouraged and distraught and the disciples were unable to help this man. So this man went to Jesus and he said in verses 9:22 of Mark, “If you can,” is the expression the man used.  Jesus assured the man that everything was possible. And then the man responded in this way.  Now listen to this. “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

The man called out to Jesus and he had some unbelief when he did it, but he knew he needed to go to Jesus. And Jesus strengthened that man. The man came to Jesus and Jesus took him the rest of the way and delivered that boy. He delivered that boy from that demon.  We do not have to build ourselves up into some frenzy of faith or knowledge. We need to simply call on the Lord Jesus Christ for help and that is what the man did. He was taken the rest of the way by Jesus Christ.

And this is what the lady did. She came to Elisha seeking help. She didn’t know what the result was going to be, but she sought that help and God blessed.   Where else could we go for the removal of our sins except Jesus Christ? In Acts chapter four verse 12 it says this:  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.  We need to always look to Jesus.

Now our second point is that she had enough faith in what Elisha told her that she backed it up with her actions. She could have just waited and done nothing after he told her what to do. After being told what to do, it made no earthly sense to go pour oil out of something that had no oil in it and have her fill a whole bunch of containers of oil, but she acted on that faith. The result, if she had failed to do what he said, would have been no oil at all. If she really had faith she had to back it up and to live accordingly. And that is exactly what the lady did.  Faith is not just something that we have. It is something that we practice. True faith causes us to change as a person.  In her last short amount of time with the creditors on the way, she could have panicked and run and done a number of things instead.  She didn’t do that.  She listened to what Elisha said and she believed and she acted on that belief.  In the time that she had remaining she gathered the containers, went into the house with her sons, without the prophet and began to pour.  And you know there was a risk involved here. This was her last act until the creditor came to take her sons. And she was willing to take that risk in faith because of what the prophet had said. You know, faith involves taking a risk sometimes. It is a godly risk.  It is a risk of trust in God.

I think back I the days that Mark recorded in 6:39 when Jesus was there with the disciples and there were 5000 men plus women and children who needed food. Now Jesus told them, “Have them sit down in hundreds and fifties.”  Well, the disciples didn’t see any food yet. They were told, “Have them sit down in hundreds and fifties,” and that is what they did.

 

Well, you know, if I sat 5000 plus people down in front of me and told them, “Here, sit here and we are going to do something for you,” or gave the impression we are going to do something for you and then to have done nothing, that would have been dangerous. But the disciples were willing to bear that risk because they trusted Jesus and they knew that Jesus would bless. They had faith in Jesus enough to do that and Jesus fed all of those people.  They had food left over in fact. He blessed.

Similarly, this lay had to go there and pour out that oil and trust and act upon that trust. James says we show our faith by our works.  He understood that very clearly. But it involved some risk. Here is a good illustration. The following letter was found in a baking powder can wired to the handle of an old pump that offered the only hope of drinking water for a long and seldom used trail across the Nevada desert. It said this.  “The pump is all right as of June, 1932. I put a new sucker washer in it and it ought to last for five years, but the washer dries out and the pump has got to be primed.  Under a white rock I buried a bottle of water out of the sun, cork end up. There is enough water to prime the pump, but not if you drink some first. Pour out about one fourth of the water down into the pump and let it soak on that leather sucker. And then pour the rest of it medium fast and pump like crazy and you will get water.  The well has never run dry. Have faith. When you get watered up, fill the bottle and put it back like you found it for the next fellow, signed Desert Pete. And P. S. Don’t go drinking the water first. Prime the pump with it and you will get all you can hold.”

You know, a person had to have faith to do that. They had to take the risk. They had to believe the note and they had to take the risk and not drink that water first. But they had to prime the pump. And as a result of that they could get water for themselves and provide water for those who would be there next as they refilled the bottle. Faith involves a risk and faith involves some action.

So this lady took that risk and did that action that was necessary because of her faith as we read about in the account with Elisha.

Our third point: the widow could have life in God’s peace as a result. She was given the resulting peace with God. The woman no longer had to live in fear of her family being taken away. Her well-being was protected and God had delivered her because of her faith and acting on that faith. The peace that she was given was more than just an absence of fear.  The peace that she was given was a completeness, a soundness, a total well being that was a gift from God seeing the power of this great miracle that happened.

Note how quickly her life changed. The difference is simply in the actions of the Lord. But look what she did with the oil that she got. She didn’t just go out and celebrate her new found wealth. Her first responsibility was to pay her debt, leaving no obligation to anyone else. And then she could live on what remained. She didn’t just spend her new found wealth on something frivolous. She acted responsibly for her sons and for her life, again, following what Elisha had explained to her to do and how she would be blessed.

There is a practical lesson in this. Debts get paid first before anything else is spent on something that we don’t need. And God will bless us in our life. The sufficiency of our Lord made life good for her and it makes life good for us today.
Before we close, let’s quickly look at how this fits our lives. Why do we look at this today at all? Our first step is to realize what we need, that we are in need. And then seek the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ and call out to him in our thoughts and in our words and interactions. Isaiah said this:  Seek the Lord while he may be found. Seek the Lord and call on him. When? While he is near. When is that?  Now.  Seek the Lord. Call out to him now. This is our time to call out to our Lord for help, for salvation, and beyond that, even after we receive salvation, continuing to call out to our Lord for help for our lives and direction and what we do, providing for us.  We need to seek the blessings of God daily. That is our spiritual application.  Our Lord is the only one who can remove sins. Our Lord is the only one who can keep them away.

What a blessing it is to know the Lord Jesus Christ. It is necessary, then, that we have faith and act on that faith and believe what will happen.  Paul had this figured out. In Ephesians chapter three verse 12 he said this:

In him—and I know that is talking about Jesus—in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. With faith in Christ we may approach with boldness and confidence the Lord Jesus Christ, not in ourselves, but in him.  This great sinless one understands us and what we are going through and we can be confident as we call out to our Lord in assurance of his promises that he will bless us.  The result is that we have peace in him.

 

Peace is an inner tranquility and poise of a Christian whose trust is in God through Jesus. Let me say that again. It is an inner tranquility and poise of a Christian whose trust is in God through Jesus.  Inner tranquility, that is on the inside, isn’t it? That is part of peace. Poise, that is on the outside. People will see we have peace as well. And we are given that through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ because we call out to him.

This brings us to some simple questions. Let’s think about these questions. I am not going to answer them. I will let you do that in your life. Do you realize your need for salvation that is found only in Jesus? Do you realize your need for our Lord in all that you do? If you do realize this need, have you called out to Jesus for help, both for your salvation and for all the blessings that he can give you in your life. Do you believe in Jesus as he is presented in the Bible?  And are you acting on faith with obedience to what he has told us to do and who he has told us he is?  And, lastly, do you have the peace I him that passes all worldly understanding?  The salvation process is simple.  Hear the Word, believe it, believe who Jesus is and believe that he is the Son of God. He is the Savior. Repent of sins. Confess that you believe Jesus Christ is Savior and that you are a sinner lost without him and be baptized into him with obedience.  That is what the New Testament teaches.

And like that widow who received the oil to save her and be blessed beyond, our Lord is able to bless you with salvation and beyond. The opportunity is yours today.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the salvation found in Jesus. We thank you that you bless us and we can call out to you even as we are right now.  We call out to you for your blessing and your help and we pray that you will bless each listener with what is needed in their lives and we thank you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

-Wayne Hobbs is a  retired educator  living in Sellersburg, IN




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10