Sermon delivered July 21, 2001 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Widow Discovers Oil

II Kings 4:1-7

I'd like to speak with you this morning about the widow discovering oil.

Bill and Betty had a wonderful life. Bill was a pastor and Betty was a pastor's wife. They were enjoying the ministry and they had two sons: Bradley and Barry. Now in those days a Pastor's income was not very high. I guess things haven't changed much since then due to the experience we have. Pastor Bill and his little family had to go out and borrow money to keep going. They had no financial peace. They were deep in debt. The creditors were hounding them and many threatening letters came from collection agencies. Things were very hard. Then to make it worse Pastor Bill got sick. His wife and sons and everybody prayed hard for his recovery but he got deathly sick and finally he died. You know, even pastors are not immune to illness. It was a tragedy for this family because the widow didn't have anything left.

After the funeral there was no income and things got even worse. They had no life insurance or savings of any kind. They had been living very frugally and they were in a crisis. Betty his wife did not know what to do. This young widow was in a terrible crisis. Widows have a tough row to hoe. She had to borrow even more money just to bury her husband. It had to be done. Her sons were about 11 and 14 I suppose and in those days a creditor was legally empowered to take the sons away to work as slaves. That s what s going on here. She prayed for an answer.

But things got even worse. One day there was a knock at the door and there stood the creditor. He said: You have two choices pay me all that you owe me or I will take your two boys to be my slaves. She was in an emergency. There was no food and no money. Should she consider selling her body in prostitution? No! She had to have help. And she went to the right source.

II Kings 4 tells us what she did. Now I don't really know their actual names were Bill and Betty and all that, but this story is true. This actually happened.

Come to verse 1. What do you find her doing? She goes to Elisha and what does she do? She cried out. Here she comes in tears to the prophet. She s crying to him. She came crying. This poor widow was frightened. Fortunately she went to a godly person for advice. Now, when you need advice, where do you go? Never go to the ungodly for counsel. Psalm 1:1 says, Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked... You need to go to a godly person for advice. So she went to godly Elisha with the problem of her great debt.

Do you think God cares for people in debt? Absolutely He does. Isaiah 25:4 (KJV) You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress...

Now, why was this lady in such debt? We do not know. The Bible doesn't tell us. It could have been poor management. If so, then we have not advanced very far from her day have we? If we want something, we just charge it. We live on plastic. Today when we go to the store and we don't have the money we just say, "Well, charge it." What are you doing when you charge it? You're getting a loan. You are becoming a slave to debt. Isn't that right? Rod Lewis knows all about this. This widow had not financial peace. Then when the bills come we wonder why God has let us down. He didn't let us down. Avoid debt Romans 13:8 (KJV) Owe no man any thing. Try to make do with what you've got.

We have made the Master card our Master. We have made the Visa card our God, our gold, our platinum. We can't afford to return our Tithe of 10% but we pay 12% or 18% or more to our credit card debt. We are like the poor widow.

I don't really want to get started on that subject about the credit cards and the tithe, so I'm going to stick to the scripture here.

Of course this widow could have been an exceptional case where even the most thrifty and upright run into debt. Debt does happen. I will tell you that if a Christian gets in debt, that debt weighs heavily on the conscientious his or her heart. The first thing a Christian wants to do when they get in debt is to pay it off. They want to pay their bills. Christians pay their bills.

This Bible widow had no money, but she had something far greater, she had faith in God. Ah, what a blessing that was. Before you go to get a loan, you need to consult with God. That's the example here. That's what she did.

Look at 2 Kings 4:2 - Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? And before she could even answer he said, Tell me, what do you have in your house?" "Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil." In other words, that house was destitute. There was not even any food in that house. Nothing. She didn't have anything.

    Now, notice what Elisha did not do:
  1. Elisha did not reveal to her the winning number of the lottery. It is my firm conviction that gambling is wrong! It creates more debt. I don't think we need to depend on the lottery, or the sweepstakes. I think we need to be dependant on God. The lottery is not the way to go. Would you believe that one of our McDonald Rod members came up to me one time and said "We've got a lot of debt. I bought this lottery ticket. Could you pray that I'm going to be the winner?" God used a kosher, an approved way for Elisha to have her do. Gambling is wrong. Gambling is going to lead you into deeper debt.
  2. Elisha didn't offer to pass the hat at the seminary, at the school of the prophets. Now. why didn't he do that? I think Elisha wanted this dear lady, poor widow to have a part in her answered prayer. That's a valuable thing. She must surrender all she has (be it ever so limited) into the hands of God and then she will receive a blessing from God.

So, Elisha asked her a simple Question: "What do you have in your house?" You see, God does not want us looking to the Joneses for help. We think: If only I had their money or their assets... How often we miss God's answers to our needs because we do not answer this simple question correctly... What do you have in your house? That's a very pertinent question.

It may be small, but what asset or talent do you have that could be applied to your problem? Do not wait for the welfare society to come. Look in your own house and be willing to start with what you've got. That s Biblical. God knew what was in her house and God knew that when she placed all of it at His disposal her debts would be paid in full. So the starting point to problem solving is when you acknowledge that you possess something that God can work with to solve your crisis.

This widow was in misery. She did not know what to do. And the devils plan is for you to have just enough religion to make you miserable but not enough to make you spectacular. There's a difference. Multitudes today are widowed from their source of security, power and joy! They are cut off. Their livelihood is gone. Are you a widow today? A lot of people, unfortunately are.

How much does this poor widow have? Her whole house is empty. She has nothing except for a small inconsequential almost empty jar of oil. The cupboards were bare. The checkbook was exhausted, the debt was sky-high. She is bankrupt. Dose she declare bankruptcy? No. Does she file chapter 13? No. She files a request with God. That s what happened. That s what you need to do. Her poverty was the key to her solution.

You see, Jesus starts where we are and uses what we have to give you an answer. You know, Jesus used 5 barley loaves and two small fishes to feed thousands of people. David used a small stone from the brook to solve a gigantic problem. It is when we place our faith (be it as small as a mustard seed) in the hands of God that we see His power. When our situation becomes desperate God's power shines the brightest. Our great need is what God looks for. If you are sitting here today with a great pressing need, then this story is for you.

2 Kings 4:3. - Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few." You go out and get all the empty jars you can find.

Quickly this desperate widow and her sons begin going through the neighborhood asking for empty jars. Here comes three people. They're knocking on the door. "Do you have any empty jars you could loan us?" "Yes, we have one. Why do you need it?" And so they had to explain to each home what the problem was. She must have been a good neighbor to get such a good response. She must have been a very good neighbor herself. You probably don't want to help them. You should. She must have been a good neighbor to start with, and they were glad to help her. The village was cleared of every container: pots, jars, jugs of every type. Times must have been hard, because empty jars abounded! They filled the kitchen with empty jars. They filled the living room with jars. The bed rooms were full of empty jars. Wall to Wall jars! The front porch. The back porch. The whole house was full of empty jars.

Elisha had said: "Don't ask for just a few." I think in our spiritual walk with Jesus we need to expect an abundance. God wants to give you as much as you make provision for. So, she was as rich as her faith.

The oil was a fuel for light, it was used for cooking, oil was used for healing, as a cosmetic, for anointing... the list goes on and on. Everybody needed oil.

Look at 2 Kings 4:4 - "Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."

I believe today that we need mothers who know how to follow God's instructions!

This mother knew what to do. She followed the instructions. Some commands don't make sense. Here it says you need to shut the door. Well, we don't se any sense in that. Why should we shut the door? I believe that widow was commanded to shut the door behind her. Why must all this go on behind closed doors? Because God's greatness is obtained in privacy. His richness is gained in the quiet secluded places of life. In her seclusion she could more leisurely savor the miracle of God than if it were public. I think most miracles are private.

She prayed and God answered her deepest needs. She struck Oil! Mark Twain said: "I don't know a single product that enters our country untaxed except for answered prayer." She got answered prayer. She didn't even have to pay tax on it.

The only limitation seems to be the number of clean, empty vessels that she had in her house. The oil flowed into the clay containers. Complex molecules in that tiny flask of oil were miraculously multiplied. Only as the oil was used it was replenished. The moment that you step out in faith and actually use God's power, more power will be given to you.

2 Kings 4:5 - She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.

2 Kings 4:6 - When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.

2 Kings 4:7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left." Do you see how extravagant God is? God gave her more than her debt. When you ask God, He is more than able to provide you not only enough to pay your debt, but enough to live on the rest of your life. That's what happened here.

There is nothing quite like discovering oil. When you come upon a gusher, everybody finds out about it. The widow did not have to advertise her oil. People came running. You can imagine that her oil was the freshest, best and most tasty oil anyone had ever tasted!

So, that's the story, and what a beautiful story it is. I'd like to bring out just a few more lesson from that story.

The widowed pastor's wife had been married to one who feared the Lord. He was a godly man. He was one of the prophets. He was a good man. But he died early. Will your righteousness prevent you from premature disease? Will it make you immune to cancer? It won't. Is your wife going to be healthy because you have dedicated your life to Jesus? You know, we are not guaranteed that Christians will never have to use Kleenex or experience death. It happened to her. I will tell you that we are the same way today. Because death severed their happy union and left her helpless. We were originally in union with God, but when Adam fell we were left helpless just like that widow. Satan is the ultimate Creditor. Isn't this a beautiful lesson? Satan claims each of us as His own slaves. That's what's going on here. He comes to obtain us as his slaves. This is a picture of us. It's not just about some widow back in second Kings in the Old Testament.

Here's another lesson. Was the widow herself able to pay that debt on her own? No. She was helpless. We are utterly unable to satisfy the demands of the law. We can't redeem ourselves. Only Elisha, only God could help her. Did Elisha charge her for the oil? No, it was totally free. You know, that oil was a gift. Salvation is a gift. We cannot pay for salvation. We can't earn salvation. Nothing we can do could ever obtain it. It is a gift from heaven. Given t those who are in poverty. The truth is that we are saved totally by His grace.

This widow had lost her husband and therefore she lost her income; she had lost all her money, and now she was about to lose her children. But in reality she was still rich. Why? Because she had not lost God! Don't let poverty separate you from God.

Let's list her Justification for not obeying Elisha:

  1. IT WOULD BE EMBARRASSING. I would be chagrined to go around through the community here in Collegedale and say, "Could I borrow some empty containers?" "Well, what do you need them for?" "Well,..." And you've got to tell them the whole story to the whole neighborhood. That would be embarrassing! Admitting my poverty and begging for help. I wouldn't like that. Basically, what did this act accomplish for her? What was she doing? She was admitting her need. Until we confess our true situation we cannot get help. When you realize your need that s the first step toward salvation.
  2. Public CONFESSION. I John 1:9 - If we confess our sins... She confessed her need, of her plight. It would be hard. Do you think the people talked about Betty when she went from house to house? Of course! They said: "What are you going to use the jars for?" And with each she would honestly admit her desperate situation.
  3. HARD WORK. This would be a lot of hard work. She might reject God's plan because it would not be easy. Some folk might turn her down. And what if she broke a jar? How could she ever replace it? How could she and her children lug all those heavy jars home? Those jars were heavy. Did you know that archaeologists have found pots were 3 feet tall or taller. These were big jars. She got the biggest she could to hold the most that she could get. It was hard work to scrub all those jars out because you don't put oil in dirty jars. And she had to label each of them so as to know who to return each jar to.
  4. TIME CONSUMING. We want instant answers to our prayers. We want our prayers delivered on a silver platter right away! Acquiring so many containers would just take forever. But, good things take time. I want to encourage you young people: You youth need to get that degree. Go ahead with school and get that degree. You might say, "I need money right now. My greatest need is money. I don't have money to pay that tuition. And it's going to take too long. I need the money now." I will tell you that same procrastinator is still making minimal wages when they could have tripled their wages had they gotten that degree. Improve your earning potential. Sure it will take time. So, don't ever say: "It will take too long. It'll be too hard, to time consuming."
  5. IT IS TOO REPETITIOUS. You know, solutions occasionally come from repeating small things over and over. Hour after hour, day after day Betty and her boys went out, they gathered heavy pots. They walked till their feet ached. It was hot. The pots were hard to get. Each house was further away than the last one. Each one had to be cleaned. Pot after pot the house slowly filled up. If you need a miracle in your marriage, every day, you just keep speaking loving words to your spouse Speak loving words to your children. Over and over you keep being kind. Keep Smiling. Don't quit in the middle of your miracle. Don't quit gathering pots. Don't quit doing the same thing over and over again. That's how miracles happen. Miracles take time.
  6. I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. "Here I'm going to look like mud. My neighbors are going to think, 'What in the world is she doing?' And if this doesn't happen, I'll have to leave town. What I need is money. And I need it now. Bill died and I've got all these bills. How are all these empty pots going to pay my bills?" But she believed Elisha. She exercised faith. She did not have the benefit of Jesus' story of the feeding of the 5000 with a boy's little lunch. She was in the dark. But she had faith in God. And God did not let her down.

I want you to consider the Oil. What is the OIL a symbol of? The Holy Spirit! The rich significance of this story is that God wants to give His people an abundance of the Holy Spirit. God wants to pour out upon you the Holy Spirit. That's what He wants. As Christians, we need to expand our vision. We are living in the time of the Latter Rain which will fall on some in great quantities like a gusher while others experience nothing more than a slight drizzle. That depends on your faith. Your faith will be the only limitation in receiving what God wants to give you. Her blessings came in exact proportion to her expectations. And that's how your blessings can come. You can have that same blessing.

Here's another thought that I thought about when I read through this. Occasionally in the Bible a woman represents the church. I got to thinking about that. You know, when a church runs out of oil that church is in a crisis. And that oil represents the Holy Spirit. I wonder if the Holy Spirit were to be withdrawn from the McDonald Road Church, would it suddenly grind to a halt? Or would it keep going? What powers this church? I hope this church is empowered by the Holy Spirit. If this church is to fulfill God's will, it must be filled with the Holy Spirit. And we need it now.

This story actually is about the impoverishment of the church. That's what it is about. We Christians are in a mess. We are in deep spiritual debt. We live in spiritual poverty when full wealth awaits us. Here we are, living on crackers and cheese when a whole meal... We could be filled with the Holy Spirit. That's what God want us to do. And to do that, we've got to turn to Jesus. We must turn to Jesus.

Revelation 3:17 - You say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Consider the jars. What were the jars made of? Each jar was made of clay! What are we made of? Clay Genesis 2:7. Those clay jars represent People, you! What does God want to do with those jars? He wants to fill them. What does He want to do with us? He wants to fill us with the Holy Spirit. Do you want that? I want to be filled. But keep in mind, Jesus can't pour His Holy Spirit into a vessel that's already full of other things. He needs an empty vessel. We need to be cleared out of our self-sufficiency, our sins washed out, cleaned out. Then we may be filled with the gift of Heaven. That's where her oil came from. Our oil will come from the same place, from heaven. 1 Corinthians 6:19 (KJV) - What? know ye not that your body is the container, the jug, the jar temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? Jesus wants to fill you with His power, with the Holy Spirit.

When you have the oil of the Holy Spirit in your life it will lead you to total debt cancellation. Debt cancellation is what Jesus is all about. You see, Jesus want to cancel your debt. You're in debt from your sins. Only the Holy Spirit can cancel that debt. That day that believing widow went from rags to riches. The instant you come to Jesus you go from trusting in your filthy rags to trusting in His Righteousness, you are rich. You possess eternal life. Your sins are all forgiven.

Some day the creditor is going to knock on your door. Each of us have been born with an enormous debt hanging over our head. We can never pay it. But praise be to God, Jesus paid it all. Accept Jesus as your Savior and you can trust Him to take care of your debts.


Hymn of Praise: #1, Praise to the Lord
Scripture: II Kings 4:1-3
Hymn of Response: #528, A Shelter in the Time of


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