Empty Vessels (2Kings 4:1-7)



Someone once told me, “I’ve got so many problems in my life right now that if anything else goes wrong, it’ll take me two weeks before I can get around to worrying about it.” Sometimes life gets that way, doesn’t it? Problems pile upon each other and crisis continue day after day that life feels like we’re treading water at best, and other times drowning fast. In life, if our car breaks down, we know where to go to find a mechanic. If our clothes wear out or rip, we know where to find a department store. If a student’s grades are failing, we get a tutor. If our athletic talent needs groomed, we get a coach to better our skills. But where do we turn when life falls apart?

Today’s message is about a woman who’s life is falling apart and questions where to turn. In 2Kings 4 we can understand how faith in God helps us when we face life problems. vessels_logo

EXAMINE       2Kings 4:1-7

When life falls apart, cry to God (2Kings 4:1)

–        Setting: Evil, Idolatry, Drought & Famine, War

o   Weight of darkness

o   Wandering aimless and without guidance from false worship and no God

o   War-torn with conflict, fear, and loss

–        Unnamed woman… perhaps Obadiah’s wife.

o   Obadiah was a prophet and hid 100 of God’s prophets with food. This is perhaps how he gained debt that was passed down to family (cf. 1Kings 18:4).

o   God knows your name

  • Psalm 68:5 “[God is a] father of the fatherless and protector of widows.”
  • Psalm 146:9 “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless.”
  • Your Father in Heaven knows what you need and gives good gifts (Matthew 6:8; 7:11)-

–        Woman’s grief from loss of husband

o   Every one of us are mourning something… relationship loss, dream/hopes, etc.

–        Woman’s fear and agony of potential loss of children as slaves.

o   Circumstances showed how far Israel had strayed, contrasting Law (Ex 22:24-26; Deut 24:10-13).

o   Can you even imagine? Well today, we have generational poverty that leads to women in unthinkable professions and men to alarming actions.

è Give God your emptiness not your fullness. God doesn’t need our attempt to be at our best. Instead, God seeks our brokenness and dependence upon Him. Pride prevents God from doing a miracle or even making a change in our circumstances (James 4:6; 1Peter 5:5-7).

è Cry out to God. Let prayer be your first response not last resort.

o   Psalm 34:17-18 “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

o   Psalm 50:15 “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

o   Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”


o   Pray and trust the Father to be wise and good (Matthew 6; Philippians 4:4-6).

o   Normal praying will get normal results, but extraordinary prayer will get extraordinary results. Friends, our normal prayer life isn’t matching the extraordinary time we are living in. And unfortunately too many Christians are hoping in political influence rather than spiritual fervency.

o   What if…


When life falls apart, consider your resources (2Kings 4:2-4).

–        Elisha asked “What shall I do for you?” He didn’t presuppose what she needed or rush to give something that wasn’t needed.

o   Learning to ask questions will aid our ability to share our faith. Alvin Reid says in evangelism we need to “think less of giving a presentation and more of having a conversation.”[2]

o    We don’t ask questions of others because we either don’t care or we are too preoccupied to really listen.

–        “What have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.

o   Elisha asked her to consider her resources for how God may work in her life. Sometimes God will intervene in our life in an entirely new manner, but often He seeks to use the ordinary and everyday items we already have to speak to us and work in our life.

o   A filled oil jar was valuable with multiple uses: cooking, medicinal, and even spiritual.

o   It seems the woman’s neighbors were overlooked for their value, but Elisha is teaching her how to be vulnerable in asking for help and to exercise faith in asking for not too few empty vessels.

è What are you overlooking but God may want to utilize?

o   Redeeming car rides for spiritual growth in listening to Christian music or devotions or sermons.

o   Redeeming meal times to be spent with people for mentoring or witnessing.

o   Discounting people or objects that God has a purpose.

o   – God uses our little and makes much.


When life falls apart, act in faith (2Kings 4:5-7).

–        She went and shut the door behind herself

o   The woman obeyed the prophet of God by collecting empty jars from her neighbors, and then she got alone with God. It is often the case that God waits to do a miracle in our life until we shut the door of distractions and get alone with Him.

o   “Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late — and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.” A.W. Tozier  

–        ‘Bring me another vessel’ but they said ‘There is not another.’ Then the oil stopped flowing.

o   God is generous and is overflowing with blessing.

o   God’s blessing ended with the woman’s faith capacity not God’s power. If she had more jars the supply would have continued.

–        “Sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on the rest.”

o   God provided more than asked or thought (cf. Eph 3:20-21).


è Cling to faith and carry onward in integrity. Often when we are faced with challenging circumstances we are tempted to forsake faith. Instead, trials are the very time to anchor our soul in Christ so we don’t drift into despair and destruction. Remember we cannot control our circumstances but we can regulate our response. As a sailor cannot channel the wind, but he can set the sail to ready when it blows. Likewise, Christians must cling to faith and carry onward with integrity.

o   Psalm 141:3-4 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies.”

o   Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

è Where are you substituting praying for obeying?


è Cry To God / Consider Resources / Act In Faith

è Jesus provided and paid for our sin debt so that we and future generations can go free from slavery and live!

è Bring your empty vessel… and vessels for God to fill

è Pray and receive the oil of gladness (Isaiah 61:3) and of healing (James 5:13-16) through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

[2] Alvin Reid, How To Share Jesus Without Freaking Out: Effective Evangelism In The 21st Century.

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