“Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
This was the outrageous and bizarre question the prophet Elisha asked the widow. The poor woman’s husband had died unexpectedly, leaving her with a large debt. The creditors were pushing her; she had nothing left of material value so they were about to exercise their legal right to take her two boys as slaves. The woman desperately appealed to Elisha who simply responded with this ridiculous question. It was easy to answer: “Your servant has nothing there at all.” Perhaps Elisha inquisitively stared at her, for a moment later she continued: “Except a little oil.”
Oh, Elisha wasn’t done yet. Having heard what she had, he had another equally strange directive. The woman was to gather into her home all the vessels her neighbors would give her, close the door and start pouring from the original little vase. In obedience and faith, she did as instructed and the gathered vessels were all filled from “a little oil”. The abundance of oil was worth enough not only to pay the debt but also to sustain her and her boys in the days ahead. An incredible account from 2 Kings 4:1-7.
So what does this scripture mean to someone in 2014? Two things come to mind as I reflect on ministry sessions the last few weeks.
First, the scripture is full of accounts where God allows circumstances to get right to the last moment before He acts. This widow; Abraham and Issac; the nation of Israel at the Red Sea or the Jordon River. One of the young men who visited with me recently had allowed his life to fall into complete shambles, total disarray. As we talked and prayed together, God’s light began to dawn in his heart and mind. As we continued he stopped at one point and asked me, “Why didn’t God answer my prayers before this? Why did all this have to happen before I would listen?” I simply looked at him and repeated his own words back to him: “Why did all this have to happen before I would listen?” The answer to his question was clear to him at that moment; while depending on himself and his own resources, he would not listen; with all of those things depleted he was now ready to receive from the Lord.
A second observation. People often discount and view as insignificant the very things that God chooses to use to glorify Himself. “What do you have?” is an inquiry the Lord often makes. “Moses, what is that you have in your hand? Throw that staff down and watch it turn into a snake.” “Peter, throw the net on the other side of the boat. That is where the fish are.” “The people are hungry. What do you have? Five loaves and two fishes is enough.”
Over the course of the last two weeks I talked with a number of folks who have seriously thought of suicide. They all carried with them an overwhelming sense of despair and hopelessness, of emptiness and destitution. I recall one person specifically who, as we prayed, sensed Jesus asking, “What do you have?” The person’s response was, “Nothing, Lord – except me.” For various reasons, the abilities to perform, accomplish and achieve things of significance to the world had been taken from this individual. The belief was that there was nothing of value left. Like the widow with her “little oil”, this person only had “me” left. However, that was all that the Lord needed; an empty vessel in which to pour truth and life. What an awesome difference that made; the change, even in my office, was immediately noticeable.
“What do you have?” Please do not be quick to answer, “Nothing, Lord”.