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. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” (2 Kings 4:2a-4)
In this passage of Scripture we’re shown a remarkable miracle, but yet a profound spiritual principle. The wife of one of the sons of the prophets had just become a widow, and had no means of paying off her husbands’ creditor. He had previously come by seeking to take her two sons into slavery in order to pay off the debt, and she was seeking after Elisha for relief from this situation. His response in the second verse was “what do you have in the house?” The prophet sought to use what she had to offer, and she told him she had nothing except a jar of oil. This reminds me of the miracles when Jesus fed the 5000 thousand using what was available–what seemed like too little, but yet fed all in attendance with leftovers to spare.
Stay Filled; Empty Yourself
Often times we find ourselves getting to a place in our lives, where we too like the widow have “nothing but” the oil of the Holy Spirit. Possibly feeling crushed by the circumstances of life, or feeling like we’re at our wits’ end, or that we’re completely empty. But these are precisely the vessels the Lord desires to use–empty ones. The emptier we are, the more we can be filled. As long as there was something empty to be filled in the widow’s home, the oil didn’t stop flowing. So it is with us, for God seeks to use vessels fit for His use, and so long as He can find a people dead to themselves, He can flow through them.
Elisha told her to go and gather jars–from all her neighbors, and then to take the jar of oil she owned (all she did have), and pour it into the vessels she had collected. As long as she had empty vessels to use, the oil would continue to flow, but when her sons told her they had no more, the oil stopped. As long as the Lord has empty vessels, who are wholly yielded to Him, He pours out His Spirit, for He gives the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). But when the vessels have been filled, these pour out what they have because they cannot contain the presence of God inside of them. It overflows out of them like rivers of living water (John 7:38). This is what is supposed to happen when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit.
All believers have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of them, but not everybody has the Spirit flowing out of them. This is because they aren’t empty of themselves, or postured in such a way that they can be filled. I’m not talking about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit specifically, but continuing to be filled on an ongoing basis. The widow obtained all the empty vessels she could. The flow never stopped until she ran out of vessels that could be filled to overflowing. Likewise, the Spirit of God can only flow so long as He has empty vessels to flow through.
All believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit upon salvation. This is equivalent to having water in an 8 ounce cup, but being filled, would be like taking a huge gallon jar and pouring it into that same sized cup. There’s just not enough room in the cup for that quantity of the water, and likewise believers are supposed to be vessels that the Spirit can be poured into and through without measure. When waters quit flowing in the natural, we are left with a swamp. We’re to continually be filled so that we don’t cease to flow in the Spirit, so we can keep giving the life of God.
We need to keep dying to ourselves daily (see 1 Cor. 15:31). This filling is an ongoing process, for we see Peter filled more than once (see Acts 2:4, 4:8). Ephesians 5:17-18 says “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” The words used in the original Greek refer to a continual on-going filling, so as to more accurately say keep being filled [with the Spirit]. Equal to being empty enough so you can be filled with nothing but the Holy Spirit, it’s necessary to not be filled with anything else. In a similar way as how being drunk on wine dulls you towards the cares of this world, being filled with or consumed with other things dulls our ability to be filled by God’s Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a like a fuel, or oil to the fire of God’s presence in our live. I reflect on similar thoughts in the post Keep The Pure Fire Burning where we talked about the parable of the foolish and wise virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. Some had enough oil to keep their fire burning and the others didn’t. The lamps they used here were large dome-shaped torches, fueled by rags soaked in oil and used for walking outside. With extra containers of oil–symbolizing vessels containing nothing else except the oil of the presence of God–then the torches could last for hours, and as a result they needed regular refilling. Therefore, since the bride and the virgins did not know how long it may take before the bridegroom returned, they had to always be prepared.
Men of Valor & Disciples Who Shook the World
King David collected all the dejected, and people living on the fringe who came to him during his time in the Cave of Adullam. “Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.” (1 Sam 22:2). David took broken and empty vessels and poured himself into them. 2 Samuel 23 goes on to record many of these individuals by name and their heroic deeds and we know them as David’s mighty men of valor. In fact, David never lost a battle during his entire reign as king of Israel — quite a feat for a bunch of no-name “lowlifes”!
Jesus Christ also had the same method for selecting his twelve disciples. After praying all night, he went around and called the twelve, among whom were common fisherman and a tax collector, all of whom abandoned Him when he was arrested and crucified, yet these men went and changed the world in their generation. When Peter and John stood before the council of Saduccees in Jerusalem, they were amazed because they “perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Broken, wounded and dejected vessels who were empty enough to be filled with the purposes of God for their generation. God doesn’t look for the seminary trained before He can use them. God’s eyes are looking to and from the whole earth for people He can show Himself strong in (2 Chron 16:9), and the only qualification is a blameless heart. Our mistake is we tend to look at the promising when God looks for the empty.
We too need to empty ourselves of ourselves, our flesh, the cares of this world and stay continually filled with the fire of His presence in our lives. I encourage you, reader, to do whatever it takes in your life to be a empty vessel fit for filling.