A Broke Preacher, An empty vessel, and a Distressed Woman

A Bible Lesson January 22, 2018

Topic: “A Broke Preacher, An empty vessel, and a Distressed Woman”

Scriptures: (a) I Kings 17:7-16 and (b) 2 Kings 4:1-7.

Introduction: At the outset, I am sure that we agree with the Word of God, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope (Rom.15:4). This topic should cause us to remember that God’s ways are not our ways (Isa.55:8). We will also recall that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (I Cor. 1:27-29). I believe that by the end of this assignment, we will be fully persuaded that God uses sources, instruments, and people to accomplish His own purposes and to do exceeding abundantly beyond all we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). Yes, sometimes God also uses the powerful and wealthy to accomplish His purpose. However, the real question is, what will be our response be if today God chooses to use a broke preacher to speak a miracle into the life of yielded vessels in order to produce an abundant supply.

After reading the assigned Scriptures, do you agree that God is not hindered or limited by the circumstances or pain in our lives. In spite of the trials faced by the prophet, God used Elijah’s deplorable economic condition, and troubles as a means of meeting needs in the lives of the widow and her son. The truth is, we are not here just for ourselves. Even in our pain and need, we can minister to other people through our own sufferings or needs.

At the brook Elijah learned that circumstances change, but the Lord never changes. Our circumstances do not diminish the character and power of God. They can in no way change His faithfulness or omnipotence. There is one powerful lesson that we can learn from this account, God is our, “Jehovah Jireh,” meaning “the Lord will provide” (Gen.22::8, 14).


Elijah’s tests:

  1. The Test of First Impressions – God had told Elijah that a woman would sustain him. But when he got to Zarephath the situation was about as hopeless a situation as you could find. Here was a widow dressed in a widow’s garb gathering sticks. Elijah doesn’t offer to help her. Instead he asks her to help him. “He called to her and asked, ’Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ’And bring me, please, a piece of bread’” (vv. 10b-11). This may seem heartless, but it is the only way the prophet can know for sure if she is the widow God intended him to meet.
  2. The Test of a Hopeless Situation – Instead of finding a woman living in lixury, he found a woman in distress, “And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die (I Kings 17:12).
  3. The Test of an Obedient Faith – The Bible says in verse 15 that “she went away and did as Elijah told her.” Literally the Hebrew says “she went and did.” Here is the end of the story: “So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah” (vv. 15-16). This was a pure miracle from God. When the barrel is full of oil, you don’t need faith because you’re got all the oil you need. We exercise true faith in God when we are almost out and you don’t know how we are going to go to fill it up again. That’s when you find out how much faith you really have.

Elijah’s journey demonstrates that God often multiplies his tests on His servants. When we finish one test and, Bam! Here comes another one. God does it to keep us humble. He does it to purify us. He does it because we need it even though we don’t like it very much. First, he sends us through Dry Brook training, from there, he enrolls us in the Empty-Barrel school of hard knocks. Why? God sends the tests to make us stronger. Every step has been ordered by the Lord to prepare him for greater work to come. From the mountains to the palace to the brook and now to the widow’s home in Zarephath. God was preparing his man every step along the way.

God does the same thing for you and me. Some of us are by the brook and the water is running out. You may be in Zarephath and the oil and the flour are about gone. You may feel that God is punishing you or that God has forgotten you. Instead, the Lord says, “My child, I love you and I have plans to give you a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). When I am finished, you will be ready for the next step.

Often God use circumstances and conditions to test our submission and faith. How could God possibly supply Elijah through this destitute woman? The how is not important. God would show that in time. God wants us to trust only in Him regardless of how things look to us. Elijah had two things going for him that every child of God needs: First, he had the memory of what God had done in the past. He remembered how God had taken care of him both on the mountain top and down by the brook. Second, he knew the character of God. In some ineffable way, Elijah knew that there was nothing too hard for Yahweh (Gen.18:14). Like Elijah, we teach what we know; we reproduce what we are. Through the long months by the brook and in Zarephath, God was building character in Elijah’s life that could be reproduced in other people.

Let’s pause to consider what Elijah learned at Cherith and Zarephath:

    1. At Cherith, Elijah learned, “God can take care of me.”
    2. At Zarephath, he learned, “God can use me to take care of others.”
    3. Elijah needed the brook, and he needed the widow’s house because they taught him lessons he couldn’t learn any other way.
    4. That leads me to make a very simple application. When God says Go, don’t analyze it. Just go. When God says Stay, don’t analyze it. Just stay.

Those who suffer will receive comfort from God, even in dire circumstances. We might be standing in front of an almost empty cupboard, staring at the very little we have when all of a sudden, God invites us to participate in his generous, life-giving abundance.

Miracles don’t happen when things are comfortable. Miracles happen when things are

uncomfortable. They don’t happen when we are in our comfort zone. Instead, miracles happen when we are on edge, scared to death, insecure and hanging onto our last thread.

  1. 2 Kings 4:1-7. This is true story a real woman with real and pressing needs! She had lost her husband, lost her money, lost most of her possessions, and now, through the cruel actions of an angry creditor, she is about to lose all that she had left – her two boys. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute. Would you be ready to give up? Though she had little else, one thing still remained… her faith in God! So, through faith, she cries out to Elisha to perform the impossible. In this miracle, as she presents what she has (only empty jars and a little oil) to all that God is and can do, the oil is multiplied, her debts are paid and she has an abundance!
    1. In your own words describe the problems confronting the Shunamite woman.
    2. What are some things that she did not do?
    3. What was her response to her situation, or stated differently, what actions did she take?
    4. Why do you think that the prophet DID NOT ASK THE WOMAN WHAT SHE WANTED, but instead asked, WHAT DID SHE HAVE?
    5. What do you think God is teaching us when He asks us to bring what we have rather than what we want?
    6. In what ways are the principles found in the “Empty Vessel” story similar to the principles in John 6:1-14.
    7. Explain why God asks us to bring what we already have so that He can multiply it and use it for the kingdom.
    8. In John 6:1-14, we find Jesus feeding the 5,000. Explain how God demonstrates that He is big enough to shatter all of our finite expectations and abundantly provide for our needs. Explain how could these principles could be applied in your life today.
    9. What do you have left that you can entrust to the Lord? What has God already given you that you can give to Him to multiply for His service?
    10. Today, if God wants to start with what you have, what do you have that you can entrust to the Lord? Do you agree that God can do great thing whenever we give whatever it is we have to Him—even if it’s nothing more than a small jar of oil.

Have you ever come to that point in your life that you are absolutely drained? Have you ever been so low, down so low, so depressed and overwhelmed with life that you are just empty? Has life ever thrown you for such a loop that you have to look up to see bottom? The lady we read about today is in just such a place. What do you do when all you have is emptiness?

2 Kings 4:2, ”So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?”

    1. Why was Elisha ready and willing to help this widow?
    2. Did God or the prophet condemn the woman her for the debt?
    3. In receiving our miracle from the Lord, do you believe that God is angry with us because of what had happened in our past? What had happened, had happened! What counted now was not the past but that at the present time she needed immediate support and to find it she sought the Lord.
    4. Did Elisha try to get rid of her because the problem was “too difficult”?
    5. Does Elisha response to the woman show that he was ready to help in any way he could?
    6. In 2 Kings 4:2, we read: “and she said “your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” There was nothing in her house but a jar of oil. There was no table, no beds, no cooking utensils. The only thing that was left was this jar of oil. However, this jar of oil was enough for God to bring deliverance to her.
    7. Elisha’s words seem foolish unless we take God into account, the wonder working power of God. According to the scientific laws, a jar of oil cannot fill but one other jar of the same size. However, God is not restricted by scientific laws. When it comes to God, what counts is not whether something is scientifically possible but whether it is His will or not is whether we will believe and act upon what He says.

The woman BELIEVED what God told her and followed it. So as soon as she left from Elisha she borrowed empty vessels, “shut the door behind” her and her sons, and poured the oil from her jar into the vessels, exactly as God told her.

2 Kings 4:6, “Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel”. And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So, the oil stayed.” All the vessels she borrowed were filled with oil. The oil “stayed” only when there was no other empty vessel. However, the filled vessels were enough to pass her and her children from bankruptcy to affluence.

Summary: Although the Preacher was broke, the vessel was empty, and the woman was in distress, the truth is that our God is able and He will take care of you. There is an old song that we use to sing when I was young in the ministry. The song was written by Civilla D. Martin in 1904.

  1. Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you; Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you.

o Refrain:

God will take care of you,

Through every day, o’er all the way; He will take care of you,

God will take care of you.

  1. Through days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you;

When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.

  1. All you may need He will provide, God will take care of you; Nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you.
  2. No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.

The songwriter may have been inspired by the word found in 1 Peter 5:7 (CEV), which states: “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him”.

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