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.'