2 Kings 4:1-8
Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets to Elisha, saying, Your servant my husband is dead…
There are three or four significant utterances here which I wish to speak of.
1. The woman's great need. Every sinner is in debt. We have broken the law of God and our debt is greater than we can ever pay. There is no one to pay the debt for us among our fellow-men. We must have a redeemer, and Jesus Christ is the only name given under heaven or among men who has the spiritual wealth and the infinite love to redeem us, and He comes and asks us, as Elisha asked this poor widow, "What shall I do for thee?" What are you going to say to Jesus who is asking you that question? Will you say to Him, "Oh, I think you can do nothing for me now. I will go on awhile in my sins; I will think about it awhile longer; I will wear the handcuffs of evil habit and drag the ball-and-chain of sinful appetites a while longer; perhaps some time I will let you do something for me?" Can you imagine the poor widow answering Elisha like that? Can you dream of her saying to Elisha, "Oh, I think I will not have you do anything now; I will let the boys be slaves awhile; I will go on in my misery and my poverty. Perhaps after they have slaved it for a time, and I have starved awhile, I will let you do something for me?" Would you not say that that was infinite folly? And it is the part of wisdom for you to say, when Jesus asks what He can do for you, "Lord Jesus, redeem me from my sins. Save my soul. Do whatever you can do to lift me out of my sinful condition into goodness and peace."
2. Elisha says to this widow, "Tell me, what hast thou in the house?" That is in harmony with the way God always brings blessings to His children. So God deals with us. He will not waste anything that we already have. He will take into account whatever there is of good in us. While we have absolutely nothing in us which, taken by itself, can save us, yet every fraction of good teaching that we have received from our parents, every point of good discipline that has come to us in the stress of life, everything that is good in us, if it be so small as only to be compared to a widow's pot of oil, or a little lad's lunch of five loaves and two fishes, God will not throw away, or fail to take into account, but He will make all these a blessing to our souls if we give our hearts to Him.
3. Another very important message is to be found in the empty vessels. Many fail of salvation because they have no empty vessels. Their vessels are all full of their own self-righteousness, something that is utterly useless to redeem from the bondage of sin, but that shuts out the grace of God from the heart. When the publican and the Pharisee went up into the temple to pray, the Pharisee had no empty vessels with him. We must all come with the same humility of heart, with the same vessels emptied of all self, and throw ourselves on the mercy of God. There is no caste or aristocracy or social rank in sin; every sinner in the world, rich or poor, high or low, must come with supreme self-surrender at the foot of the Cross if he would find salvation. When the Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria, was told by his physician that he could not live long, he was anxious about his soul. His physician, who was an old friend, endeavoured to soothe his mind by referring to his high respectability and his distinguished situation, but the Duke stopped him short by saying, "No; remember if I am to be saved, it is not as a prince, but as a sinner."
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.
WEB: Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets to Elisha, saying, "Your servant my husband is dead. You know that your servant feared Yahweh. Now the creditor has come to take for himself my two children to be slaves."