Secret Oil and Pervasive Grace

Read: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Shut the door. (v. 4)

Two important details in this story are easily overlooked: the role of the neighbors and the fact that the miracle takes place behind closed doors. We’ll take them each in turn. First, it is clear that the community had turned its back on the woman and her plight. The situation the woman and her children found themselves in should not have happened since the Law required the community to care for the widow and orphan (remember Exodus 22 from a few days ago). Elisha tells the widow to borrow vessels from her neighbors, a curious detail. Hold that thought. Second, Elisha tells the widow to shut the doors of her house before pouring the oil into the vessels. Another curious detail! Why would Elisha tell her to do such a thing? I think these two curious details are intimately related.

After the oil miraculously multiplies and then stops just when the vessels are full, Elisha tells the woman to sell the oil (v. 7). To whom would she sell it? Who else; to her neighbors! The very ones who had turned their backs on her had inadvertently enabled the miracle by lending her vessels. Now the miracle oil is filling their bellies, healing their wounds, lighting their homes, and they have no idea where it came from. It’s the same way with God’s grace, though we miss it more often than not. Every meal, every healing touch, every bright spot in our lives, is a gift of grace. —Travis West

As you pray, ask God to help you see his grace.

About the Author

Travis West

Travis West is the Associate Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary.