Buckets, part one

If you’ve been reading my blogs for the past few weeks you’ll see a common theme that’s been present. I really feel that God’s put on my heart to think and talk about big things. I fear that we’ve fallen into a small mindset. We look out our life, our job, our family, our house, our car, our church, our friends. There’s nothing wrong with that, but is that the sum total of what we are in Christ? Is the kingdom of my God only represented in the few square miles around me that make up my reality? Or is it more than that? God’s power, His very being, and indeed His kingdom, are incredibly vast. It is all unknowably massive. And yet our focus, our prayers, our faith, it can be so small.

As I continued to study the life and deeds of Elisha the prophet in the Old Testament, I came across a story that blew me away. This is a story about the provision of God, but it’s also a story about faith.

2 Kings 4:1-4 Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”2 And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. 4 Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.”

Now I want to pause the story there for a moment and break a few things down. This lady’s husband has died, and now the creditors are knocking on the door. Back in those days they didn’t just put a lien on your property or seize your vehicle that you haven’t been making payments on. These guys were about to seize her children and make them slaves in order to settle this debt. That’s serious business. This lady is understandably desperate to avoid that outcome, and the solution presented to her is a bit of an odd one. Elisha asks what valuable things she has, and she only has a jar of oil. Oil was a big deal back then, used for all kinds of things. It was a valuable commodity. We read that word as modern believers and I think maybe we misunderstand it. I can glance at my oven and see the jug of vegetable oil that I paid $1.29 for and just shrug, thinking the Bible is weird and that oil is no big deal. But it’s important to take an extra minute and really understand what you’re reading, because in this case it’s vital to fully grasping what the Bible is trying to show us. This isn’t some cheapo oil, it’s something precious. It’s a sign of wealth and prosperity, but not for this woman. She’s got just a single jar of it, not even enough to save her children from being taken into slavery by her creditors.

So what’s the solution that Elisha proposes? Get some buckets. Plural. Don’t get A bucket, get multiple buckets. The word the Bible uses is vessels, so basically anything that can hold liquid. Go to your neighbors and borrow jars, buckets, bowls, vases, grab anything that you can! She does as she’s told. The Bible doesn’t tell us how many vessels she has gathered, but picture it in your mind. This woman who is obviously not wealthy, probably in a moderate to small sized home, surrounded by empty buckets. Bowls on the table, large jars lined along the wall, buckets surrounding her chair where she’s sitting. And she grabs her existing jar of oil, and she unscrews the lid, and she holds it over this big bucket.

I wonder what went through her mind before she started to pour. Because this woman is quite possibly about to feel very stupid, right? Her neighbors probably already think she’s nuts, as she just ran around and borrowed up every bucket she could find. And now she’s sitting here, about to follow the words of Elisha. Think about the faith that went into this moment. The moment before she started to pour. Did she doubt? Did she think about calling it off, looking around the room at all these waiting vessels and then looking at the one little jar of oil in her hand and realizing just how nuts the whole situation was? Or did she always believe that what happened next was going to happen?

2 Kings 4:5-7 So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

I would love to have been a witness to this. Can you imagine the awe and joy this inspired in her and her children? She starts pouring her little jar into a big bucket, and the oil just keeps coming. And the first bucket is full and her kids swap it out for another empty bucket and the small jar just keeps pouring oil. I have to think they were probably all laughing. If you’ve ever been present at a miraculous move of God you usually are either laughing or crying or doing a combination of both. What joy and relief this moment was for this family, who had their backs against the wall, who had nowhere to turn but to God. There was no natural solution for this widow’s problem, so she had the faith to turn to the supernatural God and ask for help. And man, did He ever provide a way out! Not just enough oil to pay off the old debts, but enough to live on beyond that! God, as He so often does, didn’t just meet the need, He went above and beyond the need and delivered something extra.

PRAYER AND CLOSING

Father God, today I thank you for the end results when we trust you.  You reward faith.  There was never a doubt with you, was there?  If the widow gathered the buckets, if she started to pour, there was never any doubt.  She showed the faith, you delivered the incredible results.  And I love that you didn’t stop at one bucket, Lord.  You are the God of above and beyond.  You don’t just save us from hell, you save us from hell and grant us an eternal life with you.  You go above and beyond for us, because that’s a picture of your love.  It’s so vast, so much more than we deserve.  God, I lived your incredible above and beyond provision today as I started my new job.  I sought help and direction, and did you ever deliver!  You went above and beyond for me, and today I just bow down before you and say praise be to my loving king!  God, don’t let me just be a receiver of gifts and favor, but let me turn around and use it all to bring glory to you.  Use me in my new workplace Lord, highlight the people I need to speak to and the words I need to say.  Shine through me in a new manner, Jesus, work through me to show what goodness befalls a man when he walks the pathways of the Lord.  Thank you for your provision, Lord.  Grant me the wisdom to be a good steward over my money, and direct my actions as I find ways to bless others and do kingdom work with my money.  I pray all these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

I love you guys.  Sorry for the late post.  My plan is to normally do these on my lunch hour at the new job but I didn’t end up taking a lunch today so that plan went out the window.  It’ll probably take a bit before I settle into new routines.  Thank all of you who prayed for me as I moved into my new job, I really felt the peace of the Lord with me today.  God is incredible, and if you’re not placing your trust in Him this week then I encourage you to do so right now.  Go to Him in prayer and just turn your worries over and let His peace wash over you.

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