God still provides for his people in ways that seem miraculous, an unexpected check in the mail just when the car needs new brakes, for example.
We should always have faith that God will provide, because He promises to, and He is always faithful. On the other hand, God is not an ATM machine, even though some people misinterpret the Widow’s Oil passage to mean something like that.
It’s often used by proponents of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” or “Name It and Claim It” followers, to imply that God will always answer your prayers with financial or material gain. Of course, that’s not at all what the Widow’s Oil story is about.
Here’s what the passage is really saying, starting with the first verse in 2 Kings 4, “Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
We can learn a couple of things here. The widow’s husband had been faithful and was deserving of God’s provision, but also that the creditor is acting against Jewish law by abusing a widow and orphans.
In verse 2 we read, “And Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.’” What can we make of that?
From this we can infer that we have a part to play in God’s provision. He expects us to use what we have, even if it’s only one jar of oil. God will often use what we already have to provide, in ways we can’t imagine.
In verses 3 and 4, Elisha says to the widow, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.”
Here we see the widow was obedient. She did exactly what Elisha, as God’s representative, told her to do. We must also be obedient as we expect God’s provision. That means following His financial principles found throughout the Bible.
We also see that the widow didn’t rely on her own resources. She went to her neighbors and asked for help by providing additional containers for the oil. It’s not always easy to ask others for help when we need it, but we can’t let our pride stand in the way.
In verses 5 and 6 we read, “So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not another.’ Then the oil stopped flowing.”
Here we see the widow acting with humility. Can you imagine the temptation she must have felt to throw open the doors and tell the neighbors to look at what she was doing? However, the widow knew it was God’s hand at work, not hers, and she resisted any urge to claim credit for the miracle.
Finally, verse 7 reads, “She came and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.’”
This again tells us that we have a part to play. The widow’s role wasn’t finished. She still had to sell the oil in the marketplace and pay off the creditor.
Also, not only did she have enough to satisfy the creditor, but there was enough left over to live on until her sons could provide for her. Otherwise, she still would have been destitute and may have gone into debt again.
The overall lesson in 2 Kings 4 is that in our weakness, we see God’s strength. We’re reminded of our dependence on God.
You can also listen to the related podast on this topic.