TODAY’S READING: 2 KINGS 4-5
In Romans 7:14, Paul said, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin.”
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all sin by desiring to be the god of our lives, knowing good and evil. This is how we sell ourselves into the slavery of sin.
Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Whether we want to admit it or not, we all know that when we sin we earn death. We have built up a record of debt through our sin.
But, Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
Therefore, Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
While Christ’s death on the cross instantly freed us from our fear of death that subjected us to lifelong slavery, the effect of Christ’s victory works itself out through a process in our lives.
So, how do we keep from being “sold under sin?”
2 Kings 4:1-7 is a story of a widow whose husband had died, leaving her with to children. Because she had no income, she had built up a debt with a creditor. to pay the debt, the creditor was going to take her two children as his slaves. Spiritually, the widow’s situation pictures the selling of ourselves under sin to the fear of death and lifelong slavery.
But, we find our answer to our problem of being sold to sin in Elijah’s instructions to the widow:
- Inventory what you have
- Go outside and borrow empty vessels
- Pour what you have into the empty vessels
- Surrender your increase to pay your debts
- Live on the rest
INVENTORY WHAT YOU HAVE
When the widow came to Elisha with her problem with the creditor, Elisha asked her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” (2 Kings 4:2) The first step Elisha gave the widow was to inventory what she had in her possession.
The widow responded, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” The Hebrew word for jar is asuk. It literally means a small jar, even a flask. The widow was confessing she didn’t have much, certainly not enough to pay here creditor.
In Matthew 14:17, when Jesus asked the disciples to give the 5,000 something to eat, the disciples responded in a similar manner, saying “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” The disciples were confessing they didn’t have much, certainly not enough to feed the 5,000.
In a second, nearly identical encounter in Matthew 15, the disciples asked Jesus, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” The disciples were asking Jesus a similar question to the one the widow asked Elisha. What are we going to do in a situation where the odds seem against us?
Jesus asked the disciples, “How many loaves do you have?” Just like Elisha did with the widow, Jesus told the disciples to take inventory of what they had.
The disciples responded, “Seven, and a few small fish.” Just like the widow in 2 Kings 4, the disciples answered with how little they had.
In 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, Paul said, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay.”
The widow had a jar, a flask, oil. According to Paul, we are jars of clay that contain the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But, what is inside of us? The Holy Spirit, who is symbolized by oil in scripture. So, we see that the inventory that the widow had in her house – jar of oil – is a picture of the inventory that we have – the Holy Spirit inside of us.
GO OUTSIDE AND BORROW EMPTY VESSELS
After the widow took stock of what she had, Elisha said to her, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.”
The widow had just one jar of oil in her house. In the same way, we have only what we know of the Holy Spirit and life with Christ. So, in order to keep ourselves from being sold under sin, we need to go outside of ourselves. We need to see and learn what others have from the Holy Spirit and Christ.
Therefore, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
In Philippians 3:17, Paul said, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
And, in 2 Timothy 3:14, Paul said, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it.”
We can think of a single jar or vessel as just one component of life found in heart. But, there are many components, many jars, many parts of life in our hearts, that we need the Spirit in to keep ourselves from being sold under sin. Therefore, Paul makes the point over and over that we have to go outside of ourselves and find others who more of these jars filled. That’s precisely why Paul says to imitate him as he imitates Christ.
The Hebrew word borrow also means ask. So, we need to ask those we trying to imitate for the parts of our hearts, the jars, that need to be filled.
But, notice carefully that we are to ask for empty vessels. We can’t find new parts of our hearts to be filled and fill them with someone else’s anointing of the Spirit, someone else’s oil.
POUR WHAT YOU HAVE INTO THE EMPTY VESSELS
Once we have borrowed empty vessels, or found the parts of our hearts that need filling, Elisha told the widow, “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.”
We pour the oil from the one flask we have, the Spirit from one part of our heart into the empty parts, through prayer.
In Matthew 6:6, Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Therefore, through the Spirit we pour out we have of Christ in our hearts. We pray what Christ prays, his word. As we pour out what the word of Christ that we have to the Father through the Spirit, he fills the empty parts of our hearts. And, as many empty parts of our hearts we set before the Father, he will fill them. God will reward us.
Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be filled with the Spirit.”
Colossians 1:9 says, “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
SURRENDER YOUR INCREASE TO PAY YOUR DEBTS
When the widow had filled all the empty, borrowed vessels, the oil stopped flowing. She came and told Elisha. Elisha said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts.”
The Hebrew word for sell can also mean surrender. I believe that would be the better translation, or the inspired translation, here. For, if we can consider the oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, then we cannot sell the Holy Spirit. The Spirit cannot be bought, therefore he cannot be sold.
Acts 8:18-21 says, “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part not lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.'”
Nor are we to sell what God has given us in a way that we are to benefit. This was the problem for Ananias and Sapphira. Therefore, in Acts 5:3-4, Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”
Ananias and Sapphira tried to keep part of what they had been blessed with when they sold it. But, this was in direct contrast to the other disciples. Acts 4:32, 34-37 says, “Now the full number of those who believe were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement, a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” These disciples weren’t just selling what they had. No, they were surrendering what they had been blessed with for the benefit of others.”
This is true of spiritual blessings as well.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:8, “You received without paying; give without pay.”
Acts 3:6 says, “But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.”
1 Corinthians 14:26 says, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”
LIVE ON THE REST
After her debts were paid, Elisha told the widow, “You and your sons can live on the rest.”
We are to surrender the Holy Spirit, the gift, that we have received. But, we still have parts of heart to be filled, the empty vessels that we borrowed from our neighbors. These empty vessels can be filled over and over again.
I’m not a Greek scholar, but my understanding is that Paul’s charge “be filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18 is more accurately translated “be being filled with the Spirit” or “keep on being filled with the Spirit.” The Spirit’s filling is on ongoing, continuous action. This is how we can surrender the Spirit that has been poured into us to pay our debts yet still be able to live on the rest.
Or, as Jesus said in John 7:37-38, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”
So, if we follow the five steps that Elisha laid out, then we will keep ourselves from being “sold under sin.”