There’s a short story in the 2nd Book of Kings, only seven verses long, but wow! The post title is taken from this story, “Nothing…except.” And that’s not even the direct quote, the direct quote is, “Nothing at all, except…” It’s hard to prove we have nothing, when we can answer “except.” And I’m going to tell you right now, as a friend of God’s, you can always answer, “Except…”
The story begins Chapter 4 of 2 Kings. One day a widow woman comes to the prophet Elisha and “cried out to him.” Her husband, who faithfully served Elisha and feared the Lord is dead. She has two sons and the creditors are threatening to come take them away as slaves. She is, as any mother would be, distraught. The thought of losing our children is unbearable; to be slaves, even worse. She is, as any Christian would be, distraught. The thought of faithfully serving a God Who would allow such a brutal hardship doesn’t make any sense.
The prophet asks her, “What can I do to help?” and “What do you have in the house?” I’m afraid in my distress I would have responded, “You can help me keep my kids and what does it matter what I have in the house?!? This isn’t a time for inventory.” Maybe I’m just rude that way. She isn’t, or at least it’s not recorded that way in the Scriptures. The woman replies, “Nothing at all except a flask of olive oil.”
The prophet Elisha tells her, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors.” Y’all, when the struggle is real, as it is most days in life, we can and should ask for help from someone. Others may just have what we need to get out of or through whatever situation we find ourselves in. Now, can ask and should ask are very different from will ask and could ask. I think may times we just get in our own way. Pride, embarrassment, fear–these things stop us from asking for help…even from God.
Elisha goes on to tell her after she gathers all the bowls, she needs to go into her house, with her sons and shut the door. Not every battle is meant to be waged on a stage. Not every miracle is meant to be witnessed. You can ask for help without having to keep people updated. Sometimes we’ve got quiet work to do and talking about it or “showing it” will only distract us.
Here’s the part I really liked. The prophet tells her to start pouring the olive oil from her flask into the jars and setting them to the side once they are filled. The next verse, “She did as she was told.”
I would have asked questions. I would have reminded Elisha all I had was a flask of olive oil…singular. I would have told him, maybe not in such a nice voice, the creditors were on their way to take my sons. I may have even balked at the work. Yes, the work. This woman had asked Elisha to help her and sometimes, I think when we ask for help, what we really mean is, “Will you do this work for me?” Especially in this case. I can easily invision this woman…and maybe I’m reading too much of my own weakness into her, but I could very easily see the overwhelm of the possibility of losing my children making me want to go sit in a corner, in the fetal position, to cry, worry, fret and stew over the impending tragedy. Getting to work, well it could distract me from this self absorption and if I couldn’t worry about it…I think too often we worry instead of work. Worry, is easier.
But not this widow woman, she did as she was told and started filling up the jars and setting them to the side once they were filled. The Scriptures state, “Soon every container was filled to the brim!” But she kept on, “‘Bring me another jar’ she said to one of her sons.” “There aren’t any more he told her.”
“And then the olive oil stopped flowing.” Finally, the Prophet tells the widow woman to sell all the oil and pay her debts. He told her there would be enough to pay her debts and enough money left over to support her and her sons.
Here are 2 things I learned from this short story
1. The widow woman had a need and asked for the Prophet Elisha’s help.
2. She did her part, behind a closed door.
I wonder how many times we miss out on the answers to our prayers–our cries for help, because we aren’t willing to do our part. We aren’t willing to put the work in, especially if no one will see it.