When more of nothing is what we need

Monday, April 20

2 Kings 4:1-7, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Philippians 3:1-9



In II Kings 4 we are presented with a woman in crisis.  She was a widow. She had two sons. She was in a financial crisis with no government stimulus check forthcoming. In fact, she couldn’t even afford to keep her sons. When her husband died he apparently left her with a stack of bills and the creditors were threatening to take her children as slaves.   

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure what her stress level was, or the kind of thoughts that likely preoccupied her. We can also guess the spiritual questions she was struggling with. She was a widow of a prophet!  She had been married to a godly man. They had a godly home. She said to Elisha, “Your servant, my husband, is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord!” The fact that this bit of information was the first thing she wanted Elisha to know might suggest she was feeling that all of this was a little unfair. Something was wrong here! “Their kind of people” were not supposed to suffer this kind of plight. Where was God? Had He forgotten about her? Did even He care?      

Elisha responds by asking her, “What do you want me to do for you?” And then as if to answer his own question he quickly asks, “What do you have in the house?” Maybe you think that’s a silly question. Maybe for a moment, at least, the widow thought so. Not surprisingly, her first reaction to Elisha’s question was to say, “Nothing!”  Nothing but anxiety in the cupboards; fear at the dinner table; depression in the checkbook; anger in that room; tears in that chair… No money. No food. No hope. No help… “Nothing,” she said. “Nothing,” but one jar of oil. 

Elisha then commands her to get empty jars from her neighbors. A lot of them. Not jars filled with oil or something else, but empty jars. In other words, if she was going to experience God’s provision, her problem wasn’t that she didn’t have enough of something, but that she didn’t have enough of nothing! How easy it would have been for her to object to Elisha’s instructions saying, “Of what value to me is an empty jar? How can more empty jars satisfy my need? Isn’t that my problem?” 

But please notice this. Her need on that day was supplied through the empty vessels. She kept filling the jars until she had no more empty jars. Her provision was only limited to the number of empty jars she had to be filled. 

More often than not, our lives resemble empty jars: what we lack, what we lost, what we suffer. Yet this is the very place we find God’s abundant provision. 

In Philippians 3:1-9, Paul wrote of how he once boasted in his resume. But he would learn that such an attitude had actually prevented him from experiencing deeper meaning and greater fulfillment. “Most gladly therefore,” he wrote.  “I will rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”  (II Corinthians 12:9)

Peter was always quick to advertise his ability and boast of his “having it all together-ness.” As far as he was concerned he was Disciple #1! But in Luke 22:31, Jesus warned Peter that he was about to go through a living hell and be brought lower than he had ever been. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat…” But it was the experience of being brought to nothing God would use to prepare Peter for greater service: “…when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 

God uses empty jars.    

Prayer: Lord, less of me for more of you.  

Pastor Marc