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When the Situation Is Desperate

clay pot

What do you do when you’re in a bind and don’t know what to do?  If the situation is desperate enough, you might well resort to desperate measures.

In 1990, a 26-year-old man by the name of Danny Simpson of Ottawa, Canada was in dire financial straits.  He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but since his situation was desperate, he decided he should take desperate action.  Simpson robbed a bank at gunpoint and made off with close to $6,000.  But the police quickly apprehended Simpson and took him into custody.  They confiscated his gun and locked him up.  Sometime later, the Ottawa police discovered that the pistol Simpson had used was not a typical handgun, but an antique.  Simpson owned a .45 caliber Colt semi-automatic pistol, one of only 100 made by the Ross Rifle Company in Quebec City in 1918. The pistol was worth upwards of $100,000, nearly 20 times the amount he had stolen from the bank. If Simpson had only known what he held in his hand, he wouldn't have gotten into this mess.

In the book of 2 Kings 4, we read about a woman whose situation was also desperate.  Her husband had just died.  As a widow in a patriarchal society, she would have been in a vulnerable situation.  Her husband was gone.  So was her money.  And the creditor was coming to take her children away as slaves.  Her situation is desperate.  What should she do?

Robbing a bank was not an option.  Of course there were no banks in those days, but even if there were, she would not have justified robbery as a solution to her situation, no matter how desperate it was.  This is where the widow and Danny Simpson differed.  But there was something they had in common with each other.  The resources each needed were already in hand.  Danny Simpson had an antique pistol that was quite valuable.  But what did the widow have?

This was the question Elisha the prophet asked the widow when she came to him for help.  All she had was a little pot of oil.  What good was that?  She was about to find out.  Elisha told the widow to borrow as many vessels as she could, then pour the oil from her little jar into each of the borrowed vessels.  When the widow ran out of vessels, she ran out of oil.  But she was able to sell the oil, which provided enough money to satisfy the creditor with enough left over for her and her sons to live on.

That’s quite a story.  But what does it mean for you and me?  Maybe you’re in a situation that might be described as desperate.  Maybe all you're holding onto is a handful of hope.  But if God is who he says he is, and God can do what he says he'll do, then a little pot of oil, a handful of hope—maybe that's more than enough.