The Making of a Miracle
2 Kings 4:1-7 1 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” 2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a little oil.” 3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”5 She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
Last week, I preached on miracles from John 14 where Jesus told His disciples that they would do the things Jesus was doing and that they would do greater things because He was going to the Father and would send the Holy Spirit to live in them and work through them. Miracles would be part of the lives of Jesus’ followers. I do not believe as some would teach, that the working of miracles died with the apostles, that the working of miracles was just for a limited time. I believe the same God that worked miracles in both the Old and New Testaments is still working miracles and is still willing to work miracles today.
There is a miracle of multiplication here in this story. Little became much. Let’s take a look at what led to the making of this miracle. A widow woman sought the Prophet Elisha out. She was in a desperate situation. When you think about the status of women in the ancient world, you understand how important it was for them to be married, for them to have a husband. Women did not have the same status as men back then. She would have depended on a man to provide for her, and apparently her husband had racked up some debt before he passed away.
The story tells us that she had two sons. Perhaps they were young because she didn’t turn to them for help. She didn’t see them as a possible answer to her financial plight. According to the law, the sons could be forced into a life a servitude to pay off the late husband’s debtors. This widow woman was truly faced with a desperate situation. She had lost her husband. She had lost her income. She was facing the loss of her sons as they would become servants to pay off the debt. Can you imagine the intensity of emotion? There was no way she could work herself out of this tight spot; no way she could escape more painful loss on her own. Even if she could pay the debts, she wouldn’t be able to provide for her sons long-term.
Elisha asked her what she had to work with. She first said she had nothing, but then she admitted she had a little oil. Her focus was definitely on the “nothing.” I mean, a little oil is next to nothing or is good for nothing, when that is all you have, right?
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you had nothing? That you were nothing? That life had taken and taken and taken from you to the point where you had nothing left? It is interesting that before this widow woman experienced a miracle she was forced to face reality. She was forced to admit the emptiness of her condition. She was forced to confess her own emptiness.
Who knows how long she had staved off the creditors? Who knows what she had sold and done without in order to pay a few bills here and there. Who knows how far she had stretched the oil and how long she made it last? Maybe she had stretched what she had for months or longer, hoping in the process that she could figure out a solution to her problems. By this time, there was no more time. She had hit rock bottom. She was out of resources and out of options. I want you to hear that she got desperate before her miracle came. Say, ‘desperate.” Is there anyone here who is desperate for a miracle? Is there anyone here who is out of options? Is there anyone willing to admit they have hit rock bottom? Is there anyone who sees no way out but for the miracle of God? I see throughout Scripture that desperation plus faith is often the making of a miracle.
Elisha asked her what she had in the house. You know, God often begins a miracle with what we already have right where we already are. Do you remember, Moses had a rod in his hand that God could use to accomplish great things in Exodus 4. God asked Moses to throw his rod down, and it turned into a snake. God wanted Moses to see that many miracles could be wrought with that rod when used under His command. Peter and his fishing buddies had fishing nets in their hands in Luke 5, and when they used them as God commanded, a miraculous catch of fish followed. There was a little boy who had some loaves of bread and some fish, and when he put it into the hands of Jesus in John 6, there was a multiplication miracle that fed over 5000 people. The widow woman only had a little oil, but when you surrender your little to God’s directions and designs, little can make much. Little can become more than enough. The making of a miracle doesn’t require a whole lot. It can actually call for a whole lot of nothing or a whole lot of little that is simply surrendered to God for Him to use.
Elisha told the widow woman to do something very strange. He told her to go to her neighbors and ask to borrow their empty oil jars. He told her to get as many empty oil jars as they would loan her. He said, “Don’t just ask for a few. Get all of the empty oil jars you can get.” Well what sense did that make? Who collects empty jars when they need oil? If I ran out of shampoo, for example, and needed some in a hurry, I wouldn’t go to my neighbors and ask if they had any empty shampoo bottles I could borrow. I would need a full bottle of shampoo, right? But that is exactly what Elisha told her to do.
Listen, what was happening is that Elisha was telling this woman, she needed to increase her capacity to receive a miracle from God. She needed lots of empty containers for God to fill. She needed to expand her thinking beyond the jars in her house. Just having her jars full wouldn’t solve her issues long-term. Oh, it would help to have her jars full. She could cook something she might be able to hunt and kill. She could light a lamp with some oil. That would be helpful for a minute, but it wouldn’t be a miracle that would take care of her beyond the short-term. She needed a way out of her situation. She needed to think beyond her own resources and limitations. Is anyone with me this morning?
I believe God wants to challenge us this morning. I believe sometimes we have faith that is too small. I believe sometimes we are willing to settle for little when God wants to provide much. There are people who live with a poverty mentality in the physical sense, but I also believe there are people who live with a poverty mindset spiritually. They ask for a little because they don’t want to be a bother to God or because they think other people have bigger problems than they do and should be God’s priority or they ask for little because they don’t think they are worth a miracle of multiplication that could sustain them long-term. Am I addressing some of our need this morning?
Could it be that the making of a miracle is going to require an increase in our capacity to receive from God? Listen, when you find yourself in a situation where you have nothing, you are strategically poised to receive a miracle from God! How much capacity do you have to take in the things God wants to give to you? Maybe we don’t see the kinds of miracles Jesus performed and maybe we aren’t experiencing the greater things He promised because we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us increase our capacity to receive them.
Well, in asking the widow woman to add to her empty oil jar collection, Elisha was really emphasizing her nothingness. She did what he asked and then she was surrounded by empty jar after empty jar after empty jar. “Well, thank you very much, Elisha, you have reminded me just how much nothing I have! I had a little bit of nothing before, and now I have a whole lot of nothing.”
And to add insult to injury, Elisha asked her to risk her very last little amount of oil. By faith, he told her to pour the oil she had into one of the empty jars and then to keep pouring. She had to release what little she had in order for God to multiply it. Just like the loaves and fishes that were released to be used of God, she had to let go of that oil in order for God to provide her with a miracle of multiplication. Oh, the making of a miracle will involve our willingness to take action when we are directed by God to surrender everything we have to Him.
She filled every jar. The oil didn’t stop flowing until every jar had been filled. It was incredible. She went and told Elisha what happened and remember what he told her? Look at the end of verse 7: “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
The greatest miracle wasn’t that the oil never stopped until the jars were full. The greatest miracle in the story was that her desperate situation had been taken care of for good. She would have enough money after paying the creditors that she and her sons could live on what was left. That is incredible! What a miracle! Her momentary issues were solved, but her future was completely secured through a miracle of multiplication!
Let’s remind ourselves what was involved in the making of this miracle:
- Faith to release what she had
- An increase in her capacity to receive
- Multiplication and a secure future
I want to now move to the story of another desperate woman. Again, desperation is great breeding ground for a miracle.
Mark 5:21-34 21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?'” 32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Sickness is never convenient is it? It is a game changer. It is a re-arranger of plans and a complicator of life. The woman in this story had it pretty rough. 12 years is a long time to be sick. 12 years is a long time to get your hopes up. 12 years is a long time to take in the opinions of others about what you might try. 12 years is a long time to pray that a cure will be found. 12 years is a long time to schedule doctor appointment after doctor appointment. 12 years of her life had been given to her healing journey. She was tired of missing out on life, tired of being tired as the constant bleeding had taken her energy, tired of being told, “There’s nothing more we can do.” Her body was out of control, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Her sickness had even overshadowed her identity. She became defined by her illness. She wasn’t a Mary or an Elizabeth or a Hannah. She was the Woman with the Issue of Blood. She was no longer someone’s daughter or someone’s sister or someone’s mother. She was the woman who was sick. Wouldn’t that be enough to make a person sad? To be defined by and labeled by an illness would create a sense of a lost identity.
Her sickness had isolated her from people. She no longer fit in with society. She no longer fit in with her friends. She couldn’t go out and do what she had done before the illness had come upon her. She was an outcast and was considered unclean because of the type of illness has had.
What about the fact that her resources were gone? In that way, she was like the Widow Woman. She had nothing left. She had spent all she had (Vs. 26). She was broke and broken at the same time. Does your heart go out to this woman yet?
Verse 26 tells us that this wasn’t just something she could learn to live with. She was getting worse. It won’t go well for someone who is bleeding and the bleeding is getting worse. She wasn’t living with her illness; she was dying from it. She was desperate for a miracle. She was willing to try anything including the risk of public humiliation and shame to get a miracle from a miracle-worker named Jesus that she had heard about.
I want to point out one contrast between the widow woman and this woman. The widow woman was told to get into her house and close the doors. Her multiplication miracle was done in private. Some miracles come that way. This woman, however, had to be willing to put herself in the midst of the crowd, in the middle of a public moment, because God desired to gain glory through her healing miracle. There were people who needed to witness what happened, and one of them was the ruler Jairus whose daughter was dying. Remember him? Our text says he had come to Jesus to ask Jesus to go with him to his home so that Jesus could put his hands on his little girl and make her well. Oh, how his faith was bolstered and how he was encouraged by the public healing miracle that took place for this woman. Jesus performed a miracle for this woman while He was on His way to perform a miracle for Jairus’ daughter. Let’s never assume that when God performs a miracle in our lives that it is just for us.
I guess you might say that in this instance, in the making of this miracle, this woman had to be willing to have her condition and healing known by others that God would be glorified and that others would be helped. This miracle would have a testimonial component that this woman had to be willing to embrace. Once she was healed, it would be known. People would talk. They would be excited about what had happened to her. It would be big news. She, who had been an outcast, would become someone people would look to for encouragement. If Jesus had healed her, Jesus could heal them. She touched Jesus anonymously, but once He felt the power go out from His body, He asked her to give a public witness to her healing. Perhaps the making of a miracle involves our willingness to give God glory when the miracle comes. Being a steward of a miracle may come with a public price. She was now no longer the Woman with the Issue of Blood, but the Woman Jesus Healed. People would want her time. They would need her testimony.
Jesus told her in verse 34 that it was her faith that had healed her. Sometimes I think people think they have to have amazing faith in order to experience amazing miracles. Her faith didn’t flow from her incredible relationship with Jesus. She hadn’t even met Him. She had heard about Him, but all she knew was what she had heard. Her faith wasn’t necessarily based on any spiritual prowess. It was small at best, but it flowed from her desperation. She had done all she knew to do. There was nothing left for her to try.
There is something authentic about desperation. There is something powerful about desperation that moves the heart of God. Is it that God just wants to see how pitiful we can become, how much of an emotional mess we can be? Is He testing the limits of our endurance? Why is desperation important when it comes to the making of a miracle. Desperation isn’t about our emotion or passion, but it is about our ability to see that only a miracle can fix what is broken. It is about understanding that only God can take care of what plagues us. Desperation isn’t about passionately getting our eyes on our predicament, but it is a desperation that focuses completely, solely, 100% on who God is and what God can do. I mean, if you could solve your health crisis, you wouldn’t need a miracle, right? If you could solve your financial woes, you wouldn’t need a miracle. In both cases, it means you wouldn’t needed God. More than a way to back us against the wall or to stretch our emotional capacities, desperation is about us seeing our need for God! I know we may desperately want a miracle, but how desperate are we for God? How desperate are we for His glory to be revealed in a public way in our lives?
Jairus could have been troubled by the fact that his miracle, his daughter’s healing, was being delayed as Jesus stopped to engage the Woman with the Issue of Blood. He could have gotten impatient. He could have gotten angry that her need got in the way of his miracle. But He understood that just as Jesus the woman’s answer, that Jesus was His answer and He was with Jesus. Engaging Jesus is the assurance we have that we will have whatever miracle we truly need. Let’s get desperate for Him!
Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 17:20 that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could speak to mountains and watch them move. He said that even with just a little bit of faith, nothing would be impossible. Could it be that God allowed this woman to suffer for 12 years so that she could exhaust every human resource and reveal that this impossible situation, humanly speaking, was possible in and only through Him?
Just like the widow woman, Her condition and quality of life were changed long-term.
The miracle of God isn’t meant just to heal your or get you out of a fix, but it is supposed to change you. Both of these women experienced a complete change in status, a complete change in mental focus and energy, a complete change in peace, a complete change in rest, a complete change in the way they could socially engage. When God does something, it has a lasting effect.
The making of a miracle involves more than just the will of God. It involves our cooperation, our desperation and faith, and our willingness to let God use what He does for us to help someone else. Can we increase our capacity to receive whatever miracle God has for us today? Can we surrender our little to Him in order that He might create much? Can we press in to Him, regardless of how many people are around and what they might think about our desire to engage with Jesus? I stand in need of miracles for my family and for this church. There are things that I need that cannot be accomplished through physical effort. They are only going to be possible because God moves on my behalf. Would you join me in praying that God will lead us to a greater understanding of what is needed on our part for the making of the miracles we stand in need of?