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With New Testament Eyes: 37 - Empty Vessels Filled

By Henry Mahan

      2 Kings 4:1-7

      The most essential thing in my life is a knowledge of the Scriptures. The greatest blessing God can bestow upon me is to give to me his word and the grace and wisdom to understand and believe its message of redemption in Christ Jesus (John 5:39; Luke 24:44-45; Acts 10:43).

      When you look into a mirror, you see three things. You see the mirror, you see yourself, and you see other things that are in the room. When you look by faith into the word of God, you see three things. You see Christ, who is the word. You see yourself as you truly are, for the word reveals the true nature of man.

      You see others about you and your relationship to them (Isa. 6:5).

      Read 2 Kings 4:1-7. A godly man had died and left his wife and family in debt and without support. The widow appealed to Elisha for help. He asked her what she had, and she replied, 'Nothing but a pot of oil.' He told her to gather together all the empty vessels she could find, borrow from neighbors empty vessels, 'not a few,' but many. Then go into your house, shut the door, and you and your sons pour oil from the pot you have into the empty vessels. When all the vessels they had were full, the oil stayed, and she sold the oil and paid her debt.

      There are many lessons of grace and mercy in Christ to be learned from this story.

      1. The true character of a person cannot be determined by his possessions and position in this world. This man feared and served the Lord, though he lived poor and died poor. If, by God's providence, we are well-off, let us use these means to minister to others (Matt. 25:34-40; James 1:27). If, by God's providence, we are poor, let us trust him to supply our need (Phil. 4:19; Psalm 37:25). The Lord provided for this woman even after the death of her husband.

      2. The kind of vessels she was told to bring were empty vessels! Elisha emphasized the fact that all of the vessels she brought were to be empty! Not half-full, not primed with power nor magic liquid, but empty! This is perhaps the most difficult lesson we (who come to God for mercy, grace,, salvation, and provision) have to learn--'In my hands no price I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.' All who come to Christ must come totally void of merit, works, goodness, or even the beginnings of grace. He makes the dead to live, the blind to see, the lane to walk, and clothes the naked (Eph. 2:1-10).

      A man once said to C. H. Spurgeon, 'Don't you think the greatest hindrance to salvation is our sinful self?' Spurgeon replied, 'No! I do not! The greatest hindrance to salvation is our righteous self. No man is too bad to come to Christ, but many are too good. He fills the empty, clothes the naked, and saves the lost.'

      Learn this first; if one comes to Christ for his grace, he must come as an empty vessel. It is remarkably plain in the word of God that Christ passed by the so-called righteous and called sinners, publicans, and harlots (Matt. 9: 10-13).

      3. The number of vessels to be brought were 'not a few,' but many! 'Is anything too hard for the Lord?' (Gen. 18:12-14.) He can save many sinners. Our Lord commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, for he is able to save to the uttermost ALL who come to God by him. Paul wrote, 'whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved' (Rom. 10:13). These are great and large words.

      He is able to save all kinds of sinners. The size of the vessel, the AGE of the vessel, the SHAPE of the vessel, and the condition of the vessel were immaterial. It was only to be brought empty. This is the command of Christ, 'Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy-laden; I will give you rest' (Matt. 11:28).

      4. The vessels were completely filled. The word is full. From complete ruin to eternal glory our sufficiency is Christ. From absolute emptiness to the fullness of God, all that we need is met in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:9-10). When an empty sinner by faith receives Christ, he receives all that God requires, commands, and gives of eternal life (Col. 1: 12-13). All spiritual blessings are in, by, and through the Lord Jesus (Eph.1:3-6).

      Nothing needs to be, nor can be added to what Christ is, has done, and is doing (Rom. 8:29-34). 'All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.'

      5. When did the oil stop? When thelast empty vessel was full! As long as there was an empty vessel in the house, the oil of God flowed freely and sufficiently; but when the woman called for another empty vessel and there was none, the oil stayed! It is so today! As long as there is an empty, needy sinner, the grace of God flows full and free. Where you have spiritual need, you have mercy. Where men are lost, Christ saves.

      Where you have sinners, you have salvation. The well of mercy never runs dry, and the cupboard of grace is never bare (Psalm 130:7). But when men are full, rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing, the oil of grace stops!

      When the last stone of his living temple (Eph. 2:19-22) is laid and the last empty vessel is filled, the oil of grace will cease and judgment will fall on the earth. When they were all in the ark, the door was shut and the rain fell!

      'Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood
      Shall never lost its power,
      'Till all the ransomed church of God
      Be saved to sin no more.'

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See Also:
   Foreward & Acknowledgements
   1 - The Fall
   2 - Abel's Offering
   3 - The Ark Of Noah
   4 - Sarah and Hagar; Law and Grace
   5 - The Lord Will Provide
   6 - A Bride for the Heir
   7 - Bethel - The House of God
   8 - Peniel - The Face of God
   9 - Joseph Opens the Storehouses
   10 - Joseph and His Brothers
   11 - Shiloh
   12 - The Passover
   13 - The Manna
   14 - Water from the rock
   15 - The Blood Before the Lord
   16 - The Ram of Consecration
   17 - The Day of Atonement
   18 - Caleb - The Faithful Dog
   19 - The High Priest Intercedes
   20 - The Brazen Serpent
   21 - A Prophet Like Moses
   22 - The Cities of Refuge
   23 - Joshua
   24 - The Scarlet Line in the Window
   25 - The birth of Samson
   26 - The Kinsman Redeemer
   27 - The Song of Hannah
   28 - Give us a King
   29 - Saul's Great Sin
   30 - David and Mephibosheth
   31 - Why God Permitted David to Fall
   32 - Comfort from God's Covenant
   33 - I Will Not Offer to God that which Cost me Nothing
   34 - The Queen of Sheba Comes to Solomon
   35 - Three Examples of Faith
   36 - Where is the Lord God of Elijah?
   37 - Empty Vessels Filled
   38 - Naaman, the Leper
   39 - Open his Eyes that He may See
   40 - Four Lepers Teach us a Lesson
   41 - Nehushtan--A Piece of Brass
   42 - Bringing Back the Ark
   43 - Uzziah's Great Transgression
   44 - Four Things Learned in Trouble
   45 - How Can Man be Just With God?
   46 - Three Vital Questions
   47 - I Know that my Redeemer Liveth
   48 - Now Mine Eye Seeth Thee
   49 - The Psalm of Messiah the King
   50 - God's two great books
   51 - The Psalm of the Cross
   52 - The Lord is my Shepherd
   53 - True God - True Israel - True Redeemer
   54 - Eight Great Precepts
   55 - My Hope is in Thee
   56 - Many, O Lord, Are Thy Wonderful Works
   57 - A Song of Love
   58 - The Sinner's Prayer
   59 - My Rock and my Salvation
   60 - Our Lord's Sufferings for Our Sins
   61 - Mercy and Truth are Met Together
   62 - The Victory of the Messiah
   63 - Bless the Lord, O my Soul
   64 - Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So
   65 - The King-Priest
   66 - The Chief Cornerstone
   67 - The Observer and the Observed
   68 - Praise the Lord O my Soul
   69 - Wisdom in Christ
   70 - The Conclusion of the Whole Matter
   71 - Remember Now Thy Creator
   72 - My Beloved is Mine and I am His
   73 - What is Thy Beloved more than Another Beloved?
   74 - The Lord Our Righteousness
   75 - The Believers Hope
   76 - From Nothing to Everything
   77 - Lost, Driven Away, Broken, Sick
   78 - Can These Bones Live?
   79 - Four Things God Taught Nebuchadnezzar
   80 - Thy God Will Deliver Thee
   81 - Hosea--Type of Christ
   82 - A Famine to be Feared
   83 - Salvation is of the Lord
   84 - A Fountain Opened for Mourners
   85 - The Messenger of the Covenant


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