Only a pot of oil?

The widow was distraught. A creditor was coming, and she had no money to pay him. He was threatening to take her sons to work off the debt. She asked for help from the prophet Elisha. According to this familiar Bible story, Elisha didn't ask for particulars. What he did ask was "What hast thou in the house?" (II Kings 4:2). The women replied that she had nothing but a pot of oil. It was obvious that she didn't think the oil was going to be of help in her predicament. But Elisha told her to pour the oil into empty pots and, after she had filled them, to sell the oil, pay off her debt, and live on what was left.

Centuries later, Christ Jesus was preaching to a large crowd in the countryside. As the day drew to a close, his disciples suggested that the people be sent away so they could get food. But Jesus said simply, "Give ye them to eat" (Luke 9:13). The disciples explained that they only had five loaves of bread and two fish. Undaunted, Jesus took the food and, "looking up to heaven" (Luke 9:16), blessed it and gave it to the disciples to pass out to the thousands of people before him. Everyone was fed, and there were baskets of food left over.

It is instructive that in each instance, even before the need was met, there was evidence of God's provision at hand. Whatever was available humanly, whether a pot of oil or bread and fish, represented something far greater than what the material senses perceived. The widow and the disciples, failing to recognize the spiritual significance of the evidence of supply, saw it as limited, material. But Elisha and, to a far greater extent, Christ Jesus, were more perceptive. Neither tossed aside what was available because it seemed to be inadequate. Each must have been able to see, through a higher, spiritual perception, that supply is really a spiritual idea expressing God's abundance, which the oil and the loaves and fishes merely symbolized. Thus Elisha was able to demonstrate ample provision for one family. And Jesus showed forth God's abundance for a multitude.

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January 22, 1996

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