Fill It Up, God!

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. ~Psalm 86:8 {ESV}

God is a God of unique answers to prayer and meeting needs. Sometimes ordinary, sometimes extraordinary, sometimes without any human rationality. One of those unique answers is from the Old Testament, about an exchange that the prophet Elisha had with a widow. (See 2 Kings 4:1-7)

It seemed ordinary enough to start.

A prophet’s wife, probably a man who had worked alongside Elisha, was suddenly an in-debt widow, suddenly a single mom of two young boys. In those times, creditors could take your children as slaves to pay off debt, so this was no small need! In that society, single women had little chance of survival without a man’s protection and financial support.

In our human imagination, sorrow and pity would have been called for, maybe even emptying our wallet of some cash. But Elisha wasn’t one of us. Elisha was a man of God, a prophet, with a kindness so different from the fire-and-brimstone style of his mentor, Elijah. Instead of just seeing her immediate need, he took it a few steps further. Finding out she had only a little bottle of oil to her name, he instructed her to do the strangest thing.

“Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels; and not too few.” ~2 Kings 4:3 {ESV}

No explanation.

No exact number. Just go and get some empty bottles.

This woman, scared and alone, trusted Elisha, calling herself his servant. Even so, as she knocked on the neighbors’ doors, did she wonder ‘what the heck will this accomplish!?’ Even if she had those doubting thoughts, she still did it. Faith in action, for sure.

Many commentaries equate the number of bottles she collected with the depth of her faith in Elisha, and ultimately in God. That certainly may be true, although, as a mom, I would add that I would have tried any lamebrain sounding scheme to keep my kids from being taken away. Desperation often results in incredibly brave and sometimes crazy actions.

We fix our eyes on what is unseen, not on what is seen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:18 {ESV}

So as not to leave you in suspense, she collected lots of bottles. And that little bit of oil miraculously filled them all to the brim. God did much with little as He so often does.

Elisha concluded the exchange with these words: ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.’ The story doesn’t tell us how old the sons were at the time, but that miracle oil would support them until the boys were old enough to support their mother.

She asked, she knocked, and jars were filled.

Why not just bring her a husband like He did for Ruth? Why not some manna from heaven? Why not move in the hearts of her creditors to relieve the debt? Nope. God doesn’t do the expected, or even repeat the remarkable. He does exactly what is needed according to His will and His knowledge (which may be just a bit broader than ours!).

He knew the widow needed to see a miracle. Elisha knew the world needed to see God meet the needs of someone insignificant in their eyes. God even knew that those two boys needed to see Him do something unique and big for their mom. (Can you imagine the generational good that may have come out of just that last one?!)

This story speaks to us in so many ways. We can trust that God is in control no matter how dire things look to our human emotions. He will always work things out better and bigger and broader than we can ever imagine. We may never see the answer, nor even agree with it. But truly trusting God lets us rest in all the ambiguity of His uniqueness.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. ~Proverbs 3:5 {ESV}


Our God is alive and is here and in heaven. He died so we could live. He knows our needs, and He meets them, often in perfectly ridiculous ways.

There is no one like our God.

And I am forever thankful for that!



Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Diane Karchner
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