I was grateful for the opportunity to talk with Tommy Briggs from Yes FM radio in Toledo, Ohio on October 17.
The widow was empty in more ways than one. Her husband had died and the creditor would soon take her sons away to be slaves. She had no money to stop him. She had one jar of oil, but it was not enough.
Oil symbolized God’s favor.
She faced poverty, slavery, and death. Did she fall out of favor with God?
The highest quality of oil was the beaten oil. It was the lightest and it flowed from the olives the easiest.
The widow’s dead husband was a prophet, most likely a friend of the great man Elisha.
According to Jewish tradition, the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden was an olive tree.
She cried out to Elisha about her troubles. Elisha simply said, “What shall I do for you?” But then he added, “Tell me; what have you in the house?” These are two important questions. We need to be willing to ask for help and use what we have.
Olive trees were also one of the great resources within the Promised Land.
She said to Elisha, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”
In the book of James, oil is associated with prayer. Often that’s all we’ve got.
Elisha tells her, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.” She has to go outside of herself to ask for help. She has to depend on others. But they can only give her more empty vessels. Others can only help us so much.
In those days, oil was used as fuel for lamps. Fire symbolized God’s presence and hope.
Elisha told her to shut the door. Make sure nothing else can be a part of this moment; let nothing else interfere with dependence on God. Elisha instructed her to start filling the empty vessels with the little oil that she had. “And when one is full, set it aside.”
Oil was often used for healing, to soften wounds. Shepherds would even apply it to the wounds of their sheep.
She was able to fill all of the vessels before running out of oil.
The term “anointed one” referred to the anointing of a deliverer. The Jews longed for the promised Messiah, a term which meant “anointed one.” He would save them from their oppression.
When the widow told Elisha about the oil that God provided her, he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
Oil was used in the temple for a continual burnt offering.
God gives to us the prosperity and abundance we lack, so that we can live, pay off our debts, and be freed from slavery. We are empty vessels, but he gives us enough to live on. What does God give to us?
Oil had purposes that were common, special, and sacred. It could be used to soften dry and cracked skin, which was common in the climate of the Middle East. It could be used to anoint the head of a king. It could be used for worship.
Jesus was beaten for us like an olive. From him flowed the highest quality of oil, his own righteousness. We are empty vessels and he gives to us the righteousness that we lack. He fills us. Now we can live. We can pay off our debts and be released from slavery.
Oil was used to make fragrances and perfume, so it was a powerful symbol of love.
We are God’s beloved people. Though widowed by sin, his gift of betrothal to us is the gift of his righteousness. We live on it. It never runs out. It’s the highest quality and we cannot cause it to diminish or become impure.
Oil was used in festive celebrations, to anoint the guests of honor.
Because we have been filled with the righteousness of Christ, we will be the guests of honor at the Lord’s table. He will anoint our heads with oil and our cups will overflow with wine. We will celebrate the love of Christ and our celebration will never run out.
(The story of the widow is found in 2 Kings 4:1-7)
I was shocked at a bucket list that some high school students put together recently. I could hardly believe what I read. What’s happening to this generation?
According to Merriam-Webster, a Bucket List is “a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.” You can even go to www.bucketlist.org to “Track and Achieve Your Life Goals.” Here are some popular ones that I’ve seen: skydiving, see the Tetons, see the pyramids, drive over the Brooklyn Bridge, travel around the world, achieve your ideal weight, learn a new language, run a marathon, and go scuba diving.
That’s the typical fare of bucket lists.
So what did these high school students put on their list? What are some of the life aspirations of this young generation? What do they want to do before they die? Here’s their list, I’ll quote it just how I found it:
- Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord.
- Love God.
- Love your neighbor.
- Read the Bible.
- Prayer regularly.
- Be baptized.
- Partake in the Lord’s Supper.
- Fellowship with the body [of Christ].
- Preach the gospel.
- Feed the hungry.
- Clothe the poor.
- Visit those who are sick or in prison.
- Give back to God.
- Stand up to injustice.
- Praise/Worship God.
Can you believe it? Let me ask another question, Does God change lives? I believe that he does. This bucket list is proof. These are all selfless life goals. Typical bucket lists include items that are focused on self. But this bucket list puts God and others on the receiving end. It’s an upside down bucket list. They kicked the bucket upside down so that “self” was poured out.
It’s good to ask, “What do I want to do before I die?” But also consider asking, “What do I want to do before they die?” We could also ask, “What do I want to do before I see God face to face?”
I’ll be honest, I was challenged by this student bucket list. They gave me some new and better goals to aspire to.
It’s a bucket list that’s drawn from the well of the new nature, from lives that have been transformed by Jesus Christ, who said to his followers:
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lost it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:25-26).
“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, whom would you serve today?
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have troubles. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I love this verse. Do you know this about your faith? God gives us “troubled” faith. God doesn’t keep us from trials, but he turns us into the kind of people who can face trials.
Ask yourself, does God want to keep me from this trial or is he turning me into the kind of person who can face this trial? Sometimes God saves us from trials. But other times, he plans trials for us. God regularly exercises us on the treadmill of trials. He wants to make us stronger. He wants us to use the resources that he’s given to us. He wants us to go into the ring and face our enemies. He’s given us what it takes and sometimes he expects us to use it.
But we can have peace no matter what. “Peace” and “troubles” are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they belong together. The most profound kind of peace happens in the midst of tribulation.
God is in your corner. Go to him. Bloody. Beat up. Sweating. He will bind your wounds and refresh your soul. Sit with him and let him speak to you. But then get ready, because he’ll send you back out into the ring.
And he expects you to fight.
He’s made you a fighter.
Fight for him and fight for you.
You’ve got this.