All his life my husband had felt the call of God. Not surprising, really, since his family had long lived in Jericho. What boy wouldn’t have wanted to be a prophet after sitting around the fire with the old men, listening to their stories of the day the walls fell and their family alone had escaped?
Later, grafted into the Abrahamic line through their great great grandmother Rahab, those men of Jericho had believed and passed the faith legacy onto their sons and daughters. “Sons of the prophets,” they were called, and centuries later these men followed Elijah, then Elisha.
My man was one of them. Serving God in a hostile land where neighbors worshiped Baal on high altars, he set his face toward Jerusalem and honored the King of Kings. “We will not bow to gods of wood and stone,” my brave husband declared.
How proudly my heart beat at his courageous stand. We were there when Elisha, through the power of God, healed the poisonous water from our village with only salt and a new bowl.
“Thus says the Lord,” he declared, ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’”
Yet he allowed my husband to die.
Despite his faithful service. Despite his love for Jehovah. Despite my prayers for his recovery.
Now here I stand, widowed in a world where creditors enslave children for their parents’ debt.
“Your servant my husband is dead,” I cry in anguish, falling at the feet of the prophet who could not keep my husband alive, “and you know he feared the Lord.”
Tears make shimmering tracks through the dust on my face as I raise my eyes to the man who parted the Jordan River and called she-bears from the woods. My voice rises to a wail as fear pushes the words from my throat,
“And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.”
“What shall I do for you?” the man asks, but before I can answer, he asks another question. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?”
I smother a desperate laugh. Doesn’t he know I’ve sold everything of value? Doesn’t he know I’ve borrowed from every friend and relative to pour a thimble-full of water on the forest fire of our debt? Doesn’t he know I’ve done everything possible to keep the circling wolves from my door?
“Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil,” I whisper, knowing that if salvation depends on me, then my sons are lost.
“Go,” he commands, and I fear he is banishing me from his presence and my only hope. “Borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels. . .”
Empty vessels? Empty vessels? What good will empty vessels do? I am an empty vessel, spent and useless.
Then his voice deepens, and his words compel me. “Do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour (the oil) into all those vessels.”
The power of his words raise me from where I sit crumpled at his feet. A strange quickening flutters deep in my breast. Turning from his presence, I recognize it, like a long-lost friend on a distant horizon.
Newfound hope mingled with a thousand questions give wings to my feet.
“Boys! Boys!” I call, ducking low into the darkened house where they huddle, fearful. “Go to the neighbors. Go to the market. Go to Abba and Imah. Borrow every jar and vessel you can and bring them back. Hurry!”
Their eyes are wide and their mouths gaping, for once fearing their mother more than the lurking creditors that threaten to take them away. They fly on swift feet and return almost immediately, their thin arms clutching a hodgepodge of earthen vessels.
“Go again,” I urge, taking the jugs from their hands and pushing them out the door.
“And again,” I tell them when they return a second time.
They repeat their frantic circles until they collapse at my feet. “No more,” they pant and shake their heads. “There are no more.”
“Then close the door,” I bark, fearful that the promised deliverance will expire with the afternoon sun. I raise my half-full jar of oil, the last of the harvest, to the mouth of the first empty vessel. My trembling hands can barely pour, and a shiny stream sloshes over the side until I gain control.
Miraculously, even though the borrowed jar is three times the size of my small one, the flow continues. I watch in disbelief as the oil fills the vessel and overflows.
“Mama!” My son’s startled cry awakens my senses, and I set the heavy jar down and reach for another.
“There are no more,” the youngest cries, peering into the corner where the empty jars had laid.
His words cause my own little jar to tilt in my weary hand. I catch myself, expecting a puddle where the spout has tipped, but no worries. Not a single drop is lost. The jar is empty.
I rise from my place on the floor and fly out the door. “Stay here,” I call back to my sons as I race down the dusty streets toward the prophet’s house. My heart pounds, and my feet gain speed until I again stand before him.
“The oil didn’t give out,” I gasp with no introduction. “I filled every jar we could find. There are dozens. Dozens. All full.”
A sob rises in my throat and tears again run rivers down my cheeks. Only this time, they are not tears of desperation. They are tears of joy.
“Go,” the prophet Elijah says kindly, “sell the oil, and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.”
I turn to leave, and then turn back.
“I never dreamed it would end this way.”
If you're struggling to believe the Lord can provide for you, I pray that this adaptation of a true story from 2 Kings 4:1-7 will inspire you. Even though the story happened long ago, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. You can trust him.
If you live within driving distance of Brookville, PA, I’d love for you to join me for A Wardrobe for All Seasons—Dressing for Spiritual Success, a one-day women’s conference on Saturday, September 17. I’ll share 3 workshop sessions: “Stepping Out, How Our Footwear Impacts Our Faith,” “Clean Out That Closet,” and “A Hat for All Seasons—Serving God In Every Stage of Life.”
Cost is $35, which includes lunch, a t-shirt, and a copy of my book, Hungry for God…Starving for Time. For more information and to register (discount registration deadline August 10), contact Kathy Shaffer at email@example.com.