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  • Writer's pictureTara L. Banks

Empty Vessels...

"One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, "My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves."

"What can I do to help you?" Elisha asked. "Tell me, what do you have in the house?"

"Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil," she replied.

And Elisha said, "Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled."

So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim!

"Bring me another jar," she said to one of her sons.

"There aren't any more!" he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.

When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, "Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over." - 2 Kings 4: 1-7

Are you available? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to allow the Lord to work through you?

That's our pause for today, where we're waiting and listening to hear God speak.

((As I read scripture, I like to insert my own imagination into the scenes and stories to make the words come alive. Throughout this post, I'll share some thoughts I had when I read this story.))

I can only imagine it must have been quite the event. Look at the woman in 2 Kings 4. When Elisha told her to "borrow as many empty jars as you can…" she and her sons must have gone through the town to gather all they could.

Realizing their fate if they didn't pay the creditors, they went quickly door to door, "Please help! Elisha says we need to gather jars - what have you got that we can use??!" It was a frantic gathering. The three of them scurried from one house to the next, trying to convince the neighbors to let them use their jars and offer promises to not break them. The trio worked carefully to balance the jars and carry them back home and line them up, ready to use them. Then, locking themselves in the house together they began to all count the number of jars gathered, hoping it would be enough. Once they were counted and sideways glances of "I hope this works" were exchanged, their mother pulled out the singular flask of oil and held it up to the first jar. While Elisha's words rang in their ears, the precious oil was poured out slowly from the flask until the first jar was completely filled.

Huh. That's interesting. The flask doesn't seem to be any less full of oil. They look at each other in amazement. The mother poured from the flask into the second jar. The second jar soon filled to the top. Smiles and cautious laughter begin to break out in the tiny house. Over and over, sons bring one jar after the next to their mother, and each one is miraculously filled.

If that scene isn't enough, I also see the another moment playing out … verse 6:

"Soon every container was full to the brim! "Bring me another jar," she said to one of her sons. "There aren't any more!" he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing."

Can you just envision it? There they are; the room is packed. Littered with random borrowed vessels. Oil drips everywhere even though they've been careful not to spill one drop. Giant oil jars filled to the brim and lined the room. The sons look around, counting and checking jars for just one more empty one. The mother brushes a fallen hair away from her face. She looks at her flask, now somehow completely empty after being full over and over. The sons look at their mother and shake their heads. They are out of jars.

I wonder if panic set in at that moment. Is it enough? Will it pay the debt? Will we be enslaved forever? All the questions, all the oil, and there they are, just looking at it all and each other. Have we done enough?

Here's where my imagination turns into curiosity. It is evident in scripture that the Lord used what was already in the mother's hand to be a catalyst for her delivery. (OOh, that is a message all in itself.) It is also clear that the Lord gave more than enough and that they would be provided for. But I'm just curious… do you think that if they had run to the next village, or gone around one more time and begged their neighbors again and had gathered more jars, do you think there would have been more oil?

Is it possible that the blessing was only limited by the availability?

I'm not sure, but when I read this story in the scriptures, I see a miracle-working God pouring out blessings to the measure of the available empty vessels.

It's got me thinking this week. How often have I missed a blessing from the Lord - a miracle perhaps - because I just didn't keep offering myself as available? Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe we don't have to do anything to find favor with God. It is by grace we are saved, not by works. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

However, I know that there are those times when I posture myself before him with an attitude of "yes" and "whatever you want, Lord," and honestly, those times when I don't. And I also know that when I am more "available" to him, I find myself being used by Him in extraordinary ways and operating through me for the sake of the Kingdom more so than when I'm not. Not because I'm anything special, but just because I've positioned myself purposefully as available. Acting as an empty jar, if you will, ready to be filled.

When my heart is surrendered, when my hands are open, when my heart says, "I'll do whatever it takes, Lord,"....he simply finds more of me to fill.

This week - be available and just see if your availability leads to a miracle-working God filling you in ways you never imagined possible.


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