Running On Empty
2 Kings 4:1-7
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except…” vs. 2
Lack of Fuel
This week I had to fast for a blood test I needed to take. The problem was that the test wasn’t til 10:30 and I usually hike in the morning. So I attempted to take my hike even though I didn’t have breakfast or my morning coffee. If there is one thing I enjoy it’s my morning coffee and taking a hike with nothing in my system didn’t work out to well. Normally I like to run part of my hike. I look at what is the most challenging and how much energy I have and I’m just ready to go. Wed., not so much.
Read Passage – 2 Kings 4:1-7
The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” 2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” 3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 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.” 5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 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. 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.”
Seemingly No Way Out
In our passage today we find a woman who has gotten to a desperate place in life. She has gotten to a place where she seemingly has no way out. It says in verse 2:
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except…” vs. 2
It seems that she has gotten into a “rut.” You know what a “rut” is don’t you? A rut is place where you feel “stuck, helpless and hopeless.” It’s a terrible and frustrating place to be in because many times you feel like you haven’t done anything to deserve being in a such a place.
Being in a rut can play games with your mind. You feel lost, you feel desperate, you feel alone, and as I said earlier, you feel like there is no way out. Think about the difficult predicament she is in. At some point along the way we know that her husband died so she is a widow with two kids. We are not told how old they are but they are not older enough to support the family. So she is lonely for companionship, someone to share the despair with.
Ill. The gift of support from a spouse – don‘t overlook that important part of a marriage relationship. Mutual care and concern.
The thing about seemingly having no way out, is unless you find an escape from it, it will rob you of joy and life, and leave you in a dead and rotting place. It ‘s a terrible place to be.
But even in the low points of life, God can use the events of our life to get our attention. I think in our story God has got the woman’s attention. The crisis has now become deeper. Listen how bad it’s gotten; verse 1:
“But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” vs. 1
In her eyes the only thing she has left is her sons and now bad has gotten worse and it looks like unless something happens quick, they are going to take her sons and then she will really be alone. She really is at a breaking point. Her situation is dire and she is hanging on by a thread. We get into those situation and have those same feelings many times; even when our situations really aren’t as dire.
The real issue is that we become focused on ourselves and our difficulties and we have to decide where to turn.
Important Point: Decide ahead of time to turn to God. Don’t wait until you are in the situation, make that decision ahead of time. The good side of that is that is one less decision to make when it is difficult to think straight.
Fuel For Living
But there is good news. When you get to those points in life, God doesn’t leave you there. He doesn’t leave us in our depths and despair. He definitely doesn’t say (as is popular in our society) you made this mess, you get out of it. Notice a key word in our story today is “empty.” The woman is empty, her bank account is empty, her hopes are empty, and the jars for the oil are empty. So how do you get out of it? How can you move forward? How can you get to the place of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and have hope? Here are the key steps our passage leads us to put into our lives.
- As Soon As You Realize It…Turn To God
First, as soon as you realize you are in a desperate situation, as soon as you feel the depths of despair and that you are running on empty, turn to God. I love the fact that this woman knows to do that. Verse 1:
“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha…” vs. 1
See nothing had changed in her situation physical situation. What was changing was her mental frame of mind. We can expect that for our situations as well. Many times the physical things don’t change in our mind we can begin to move in a new direction. It’s changing our perspective. The key is to make God your first place to turn, not the last resort. Make God your trust. David says in Psalm 25:1-2:
“To you, O Lord, I lift my soul; in you I trust, O my God.” Psalm 25:1-2
The best way I know to put this into your life is to make an “intention.” That is the process of changing your perspective and focusing on what you want to see happen and relying on the promises of God. It’s not just your will and desire, it’s God’s promises to you.
- You Are Limited…God Is Not
The second step, and this is a follow-up to trusting God and His promises to you, is to remember that you are limited but God is not. Notice again what happens in verse 2:
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Vs. 2
If you remember I said earlier that “empty” is a key word in our passage today. Many times we look at emptiness as a bad thing but emptiness can be a good thing.
Emptiness can be a gift from God
– It allows us to see our neediness!
– It allows us the opportunity for faith
– It creates a tablet for God to work
Here’s the way to bring a new perspective to “emptiness;” when we are empty, when we are depleted, when we are dry, there is a new opportunity to be filled. This is not about what we have; it wasn’t about what the woman had, it was about what God could do with what she had. God is not limited. He can make something out of nothing.
Ill. God called the world, the animals, the plants, man, into being without anything but a word. Everything around us and the beauty of our world was created by God out of nothing because he called it into being. We are limited…God is not. The story continues in verse 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.” Vs. 4
You might be asking why they had to go inside and shut the door. I’m not really sure except that I know God doesn’t need to show His power in public.
- God Prepares Others To Help Us
The third step is one that is an interesting thing God does in this story. God prepared others around them to help her even though they didn’t know it.
“Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.” Vs. 3
There is a certain difficulty in asking for help. It may seem embarrassing, it may be uncomfortable, it may not be a natural thing to do but God has prepared others to help us. We can be taking away the blessings God has given to others if we don’t allow others the opportunity to help us. A great part of this story is how God used the empty jars of others to fill the needs of this lady and her sons.
Ex. Our need that God has given abundance to others for our help
The early church put this kind of action into practive, see Acts 2:44-45:
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Acts 2:44-45
These early believers took this kind of help seriously. This kind of activity is being part of the bigger picture. It’s thinking beyond yourself and striving to be the hands of Christ.
Another thing about God working in multiple people in different ways at the same time; it’s a sign that God cares and that hope is being restored. When you seemingly have no way out it can be hopeless. When we see God working and working in big ways, hope is restored.
The final thing to realize about this story is the ending; that God provided abundantly. Verse 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.”” vs. 7
When God provides, His provision is sufficient.