Empty Vessels, Borrowed Vessels, Full Vessels

The story about the widow’s oil in 2 Kings chapter 4 is one of my favourites from the Old Testament.

It talks about empty vessels

borrowed vessels

and full vessels

Vessels that saved a woman’s children from slavery

Here’s the story

A widow is in debt up to her eyeballs and the creditor has tried to phone her, email her, send letters in the post about paying back the debt, and now he’s on his way to her house, determined to get back what this woman owes.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite like that

But you can feel this widow’s pain

Not only has this woman lost her husband, she is now faced with the grim reality that the creditor is coming, and he’s taking her two sons as payment

In fact, he’s taking her two sons to be his slaves


The widow cries out, desperate for God to intervene

Enter the Prophet, Elisha, on his white horse

(Cue epic music)

Empty vessels, borrowed vessels, full vessels


Elisha says to the widow, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?”

Don’t you just love that opening line of Elisha’s?

“What can I do for you?”

You can imagine the widow feeling a glimmer of hope in her hopeless situation

Elisha, the Prophet, had come to her rescue

(Cue more epic music, with Elisha climbing down from his white horse, his hair flowing in the breeze)


I’ll continue with the real story…

The widow says to Elisha, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”


Then Elisha said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbours – empty vessels; do not gather just a few.”

Maybe the widow thought the sun had got to Elisha after riding through the dessert plains on his white horse

She’d already told him that she has nothing in the house

Except a jar of oil

A jar of oil that can fill empty, borrowed vessels

When you start to pour yourself into other people, you will see amazing things start to happen

But Satan doesn’t want you pouring your oil into empty vessels

He doesn’t want you borrowing your neighbours empty vessels and filling them up with the love of God

Borrowing a vessel, means you’ll be giving it back at some point in time to your neighbour

And when you give it back, it won’t be empty, it will be full

Satan wants you to hide your jar of oil and keep it all to yourself

After all, that’s all you have

With a little faith, God can supernaturally increase your oil, but only when you start pouring it into empty, borrowed vessels

The ‘creditor’ is coming to take people as his slaves

And if you start believing that your little jar of oil can fill empty, borrowed vessels, then Satan is in trouble.

So we need to start pouring!


I know what you’re thinking

Pouring yourself out to other people all the time sounds completely exhausting

Yes, it is

If you’re doing it in your own strength

But Elisha told the widow that when she had collected all the empty, borrowed vessels she had to shut the door behind her

Shut the door and spend time with God

Empty vessels, borrowed vessels, full vessels

Give Him your jar of oil and watch what He does with it

Shut the door on the critics

Telling you that you’re crazy to ever believe that your jar of oil could multiply and fill all the other vessels up

Elisha told the widow to “set aside the full ones”

When you’ve poured your oil into empty vessels, you set them aside


Because they are full

The oil needed to be poured out again

The borrowed vessel is given back and the oil will be poured out somewhere else

You see, that’s how it works

You fill up empty, borrowed vessels with your jar of oil

And then those vessels start pouring out into other empty, borrowed vessels

I’m sure God loves Maths

Because He is into multiplying

And you know what happened to the widow?

She was debt free!

The ‘creditor’ had no right to take her sons as slaves now

Because she believed that God could use her little jar of oil to change her situation for the better

Wendy xo



















Wendy Parker

Comment (1)

  1. Myk
    December 15, 2016

    Great insight Wendy!

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