A Widow, A Little Oil & A Little Faith

One Woman’s Crisis-And the Choices She Made

By: Linda Bridges

Linda's Journal

God’s Word holds many wonderful stories that are filled with real-life situations. They grip our hearts with emotion as we identify with the characters. The applications from such stories are many and still relevant even for us today. One such story is found in 2 Kings 4:1-8: “Elisha and The Widow’s Oil”.

This perfect short story starts off with a proverbial crisis—the woman’s husband has just died and left her and her two sons destitute. The burden of his debt threatens to place her sons into servitude to his creditors if she cannot pay it immediately.  Of course—she has nothing!

The crisis builds: The desperate widow goes to the only person she knows who will help her—Elisha, the Prophet. After listening to her need, his response was short, simple, and void of emotion.

“Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. She had literally sold everything to pay her husbands debts, but still that wasn’t enough.

For the widow, Elisha, seemed a reasonable place to start in solving her dilemma–after all, he was called the ‘Man of God,’ and was reputed to have made miracles. Perhaps he would make one for her–LORD knows she needed one–and now! Yet his instructions to her seemed very peculiar. They certainly were not what this desperate mother might have expected.  Her mental replay as she walked home, might have sounded something like this:

What did he say? Something about going home and borrowing empty jars from all my neighbors—as many as the boys and I can gather. Then he said, ‘go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. (Why bother? We have nothing to see or steal.) Pour the oil you have left into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side’. Doesn’t he realize I have only a little oil?”

Downcast, she walked back home, replaying this Man of God’s instructions over and over in her head. If I were her, I’m sure I would be just as confused.

“But. . .I have only a little oil! (I would argue.)

Dare I trust what the Prophet said? Dare I believe that Almighty God–the One whom my beloved husband served and whom the Prophet also serves, will make a miracle for me and my sons? Does Yahweh really care about a poor widow’s need? Will He provide in some way that will satisfy my dead husband’s debt?   Will my sons be saved? Lord, this is such a strange set of instructions—can this truly be from You? Help my unbelief. ”

Have you ever faced a problem so big that God’s way just seems too incredulous to follow?

As I ponder this woman’s problem I rehearse some of her choices.

Choice #1: Go home and do nothing.

Result? Further despair—culminating in hopelessness and  further victimization from others (particularly her husband’s creditors).

Choice #2: Seek solutions outside of God’s will to meet her need:(here are a few!)

  • Try to get a loan
  • Sell her body for cash until she pays her debt off
  • Seek another husband quickly who might be willing to absorb her financial need
  • ‘Ole faithful’— run to family members and beg for mercy and help

Result? Failure, and/or even more troubles, resulting in sin and separation from God, and her family and friends.

Choice #3: Trust God and His Word—and take action by faith.

Choices–Choices–Choices!  Such a short story—(only seven verses), yet so many lessons!

What can I learn about this woman from the choices she made?

She was a woman of faith and action. This widow decided to do exactly as the Prophet instructed.

When the oil ceased and there were no more jars to fill, “She came and told the man of God. And he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.” (2 Kings4:7 NKJV)

The frightened and desperate widow believed  the God Elisha served, the One her husband was devoted to. Her actions helped belief and faith to become her own.

Result? She and her sons saw God show Himself mighty on her behalf, and to provide for her needs according to His vast resources.

What can I learn about God and His character as I ponder His response to this woman’s actions ?

God, the All-Sufficient OneEl Shaddai–supplied all that she needed, above and beyond her expectations. He was merciful and heard her cry. He directed her footsteps to the door of HIS messenger, Elisha. He saw her act of faith and rewarded her. He started the flow of oil the moment she tipped her near-empty jar of oil over that first borrowed jar. In her bounty, she sold the jars of oil her neighbors lent her, and paid her debt in full!  The added bonus was that she and her sons lived on the remainder.

The results? Faith—and abundant provision. I am sure the ripples of her faith in God during such a troubled time touched all who lent her a jar; touched her sons; touched Elisha–to be used of God as His messenger; yes, and even touched her creditors, and perhaps many others—right down to us today.

Pause for a moment: what crises do you face today? It may not be as big as that poor widow’s–but it is significant to you–and to God.

What are your choices? (Make a list.) What would be the result of those choices? (Write it down!)

In what way does your understanding of God and His character, (or the lack of) influence your choices?

Take a “leap of faith” to trust El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One, who is able to provide all YOUR need. (See Philippians 4:19 for a promise.)

God’s Word says that we can bring every situation we face to HIM. He may use many others to meet our greatest needs. One thing we can know is that behind that provision, HE is our ultimate Provider. Come. As the widow cast herself upon the Almighty One—come to the Throne of Grace. . .

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:16)

. . . AND hold your empty jars heavenward, thanking God, El Shaddai, for filling them—every single one until the need is met.

Take a moment to watch this adorable short video rendition of this Bible Story: You will be double blessed! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbA2zIKQl7k

Thank you for stopping by my blog today. Please take a moment and tell me what you liked about my post. Feel free to share it forward to someone you know who might also like it. God bless!

Linda Bridges is a career missionary and Bible teacher for more than 35 years, having lived on foreign soil in both Austria and Thailand. Through her ministries she has traveled and taught the Bible in more than 20 countries, most recently in Nepal and Ukraine. She is also an author and children’s storybook illustrator and loves painting, writing poetry, and blogging.

Linda (in blue) encouraging young Pastor’s wives in Nepal.