Grace Did It!
New Hope Missionary Baptist Church
July 11, 2004
There is a story that Jonathan Edwards, third president of Princeton and America’s greatest thinker, had a daughter with an ungovernable temper. But, as is so often the case, this infirmity was not known to the outside world.
A worthy young man fell in love with this daughter and sought her hand in marriage. “You can’t have her,” was the abrupt answer of Jonathan Edwards. “But I love her,” the young man replied. “You can’t have her,” said Edwards. “But she loves me,” replied the young man.
Again Edwards said, “You can’t have her.” “Why, said the young man?” “Because she is not worthy of you.” “But, he asked, she is a Christian, is she not?” “Yes, she is a Christian, but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else could ever live.”
This does not speak well of his daughter, but it speaks volumes about the Grace of God. We can be happy today that the Grace of God is available to us all. We often speak of Grace as the thing that has helped us along. I believe that we have become too commonplace with God’s Grace. There is no awe, no trepidation; no wonder; no amazement; no wonderment at God’s Grace.
We’ve made it so common in our everyday expressions. We see a homeless person, and we say “but for the Grace of God”. Well, that might be true, but it seems to be more true that we have come to expect and require that God provides just that kind of Grace to keep us from that place.
It’s kind of like what man has dome with God. I heard some preacher say: “God made man in His image, and man has returned the favor.” God has lavished us with so much Grace in this country that we now expect it and take it for granted.
I want us to take a look at a little short rendering in the Bible this morning. Maybe we can understand a little more why God grants Grace upon us, His Children. It is my intent to make a case for (3) points today:
§ God see your problems
§ God hears your prayers
§ God keeps His promises
Intertwined with the things that God did, the principle character in this story, the certain woman, she had a part to play also. You see, although God saw, although God heard, although God kept His Word, she:
§ Cried out
§ Went out
§ Poured out
Let me just unpack this passage a little bit for you. I just want to call your attention to a couple of key things, and then I shall be ready to take my seat, for it speaks for itself.
Elisha, you will recall, had been Elijah’s servant and apprentice for many years. But now, the Lord was about to call Elijah home and Elisha would take over. Well, Elijah had been “the son of thunder” coming on much like John the Baptist. Elisha, on the other hand, whose name means “My God saves” was more of a gracious healer with a quiet ministry more like that of Jesus.
In this passage, Elisha has returned to the concerns of the schools of the prophets. He encounters this woman, now a widow of one of his students. She has two sons to and is left with no means to provide for them. In addition to that, he husband has let a debt unpaid and the creditors want their money or her sons as payment.
According to Hebrew law, a creditor could take the debtor and his children as servants (not slaves) to satisfy the debt. Now, this woman’s problem was no surprise to God. How do I know? Because of my first point: God sees your problems.
It would have been heartbreaking for this woman to lose her husband to death and then her sons to servitude, but because (Deut. 10:18) says that God is the “judge of widows”, He saw her problem and He sent Elisha to help her.
God sees what is going on in your life today. He sees the good and He sees the bad. He is omnipresent; everything is before Him. But more than that, if you are His child today, He is intimately acquainted with your life and your needs.
I know He sees your situation because he saw Abraham about to kill his only son to satisfy the demand of God and God provided a ram in the bush; He saw the 3 Hebrew boys in the midst of the fiery furnace and decided to join them and they walked around in the fire and fellowshipped with the Son of Man undaunted by the flames; He saw the children of Israel under slavery to the Egyptians and He sent Moses to bring them out; He saw Nebuchadnezzar (where he had placed him) on his hands and knees eating grass and looking like a wild animal, lift up his eyes to heaven to declare and submit to the Lordship of God alone, and God restored his sanity. He saw you before the world began, and He knew that you would need a savior, that you and I were lost without hope, and He sent Jesus.
There is nothing that you can say or do, nor any situation that you can be in, that God does not already know about. Sometimes, the thing is that we walk around in bad situations thinking: “Well, since God already sees what is going on, why doesn’t He just fix it”? Why do I have to go through this stuff? Or, we just keep our frustrations to ourselves and simmer inside with anger towards God for not acting like a genie or our servant and automatically fixing things. Well, sometimes He does just fix stuff, but more often we ought to be doing as this woman did. This woman had been praying long before Elisha got there. We are not told how long her husband had been dead, but Elisha had been away at a rebellion between Israel and Moab. So, the woman did not know that her help was on the way. She saw no way out of her dilemma, but (2) God hears your prayers. So, when Elisha made it to her, the Bible says that she cried out to him. This was not a whisper. She cried out loud for help. She saw in Elisha the first hint of help, the first sign that God had heard her prayers, and she was not about to let him get away. She had to implore upon him the seriousness of her situation, so she cried out with everything that was in her. She repeated to Elisha the same thing that she had been praying to God: Your servant is dead; you know your servant feared God; now the creditor wants to take my sons to pay his debt. You have got to do something! I know that God hears your prayers because when Daniel prayed the angel told him “from the moment you prayed I was on the way”; David had an expectation of God hearing his prayers for he asked God to ”bend down and incline your ear to hear”; God heard Jonah from the stomach of the fish for Jonah said, “I call out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me, I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice”; and God heard Jesus pray before His death and has sanctified us in His Word of Truth.
Finally, (3) God keeps His promises and provides provisions. Elisha asked the woman what she had in the house. Often times, God uses what we already have to provide what we need. You see, the woman already had all she needed within her own domain, but she was focusing on the problem without so hard that she couldn’t see her prosperity. She told the prophet that she had nothing except a jar of oil. We do not know how much oil was in the jar, but knowing that olive oil was a precious commodity and staple in that day, we can surmise that it was not much and could not satisfy her debt.
She was instructed to go out and to borrow empty vessels, not a few, from all her neighbors. The women went out and did as she was instructed. She obeyed immediately. She did not hesitate at the instructions of the prophet. She was to borrow. This word in the original language carries the connotation to asking for something with the idea that it would be turned over to you for good. In other words, her neighbors were not looking for the vessels to be returned. I can further illustrate this because he sent her to all of her neighbors. Here he did not mean just those folk living next door, but literally to go out into the highways, on the streets and to approach any and everyone she met, seeking to borrow empty vessels. You see, sometimes to get what you need, you have to go outside of your immediate domain. You have to travel into unfamiliar territory. To bring others into the kingdom of God, you have to go into all the world, all nations and tongues and tribes. God is not bound to one place, one person or one way. You may be looking and hoping for your blessing to come from the right, but God may send it from underground. Your part is to seek and to obey. To trust and obey, for there is no other way.
She was instructed to get empty vessels. If you are full of yourself, then there is no room in you for God grace. If you think you are all of that, God is not looking to be the cherry on top. If you are too proud to trust, then God cannot use you. An empty vessel is usually a clean vessel. When you have finished with your dishes, you clean them. If you are not clean then you might need to be washed first. You might need to do some repenting and confessing. You might need to be covered by the blood, because God wants a clean vessel. God wants us empty of self and clean of sin.
She was further instructed to get not a few vessels. She was to get as many as and all that she could find. You see, her provision or blessing was only limited by her faith. Sometimes, we limit our selves and our blessings because we put limits on our faith. The Bible says when you pray; believe that you receive, not after you get your answer, but as you are praying. I am not talking about some pie in the sky, ask and get it now theology. I am just saying what the Word says. We limit our blessings because we do not believe or ask in faith. God is waiting to supply all your need according to His riches in glory. His riches in glory are boundless, but because we are finite beings, we have limited ourselves.
God keeps His promises and provides provisions. She was told to shut the door; to show her dependence upon God and to keep distractions away and allow the miracle to happen in private. Sometimes our blessings are held up because we just talk too much. We tell everything! Jesus said when you pray to go into your closets and God who hears and sees in private would reward you openly. Sometimes nobody needs to know what the Lord is doing for you until he has completed the transaction.
Finally, the woman was told to pour the oil in her jar out into all the vessels. The woman had cried out to put her petition before the prophet; she went out in obedience and sought to make her situation better; now she would pour out in further obedience that would lead to long-term provisions. The word used to describe the act of pouring out the oil in the Hebrew has several connotations, one of which is to be poured out, cast or molten; and being firmly established. The woman was cast, she was molten, and she was totally given over to the prophet. She was firmly established in her faith. There was not turning back. The prophet had asked “what shall I do for you?” Not what can I do, as if he was limited, but by what means shall I do it. She understood this to mean that her needs were going to be met, and she bought into it all the way.
As long as she had empty vessels and poured out, the empty vessels were filled. The word filled here has the idea that they were impregnated; full term and ready to pop. Thus, she could pay her immediate debt and her future needs would continue to be met from the remaining vessels.
I said all of that to say this, the Lord does not always use miracles of this nature to help us, but he does meet our needs is we trust and obey. Grace is not a thing. Grace is synonymous to Love, and God is Love. Grace is a person. That’s why it’s God’s Grace. That’s why it is sufficient. We don’t deserve His Grace, but He has always lavished it upon us.
Come on now! Haven’t you ever passed through the rivers of waters like the children of Israel? When you felt like you were gonna drown, but God calmed the waters and dried the ground? Haven’t you ever been in the midst of a fire, sure that you would be consumed, but somehow, like the Hebrew boys, the flames mysteriously eluded you? Or maybe you have felt like you have been turned on by family and sold into slavery like Joseph, only to realize later that God had allowed you to suffer for a while so that you would be ready for such a time as this? Has he ever satisfied your mouth with good things like He did for David, when you were only expecting normal meal? Maybe like Solomon, He has given you some of the desires of your heart or while the world is saying that the economy is getting better and jobs are open, and you know that you are barely making ends meet, but He has made you to lie down in green pastures and beside still waters when by all indications you should be in shambles?
Whatever your situation may be today, look at it as a time when you will be able to look back and recall that Grace Did It as you wonder how you got over.
My youngest daughter is a teacher but has been unemployed for about a year. I have her permission to share this with you. In a week or so she will take the last part of the State exams to be fully credentialed. I suggested that she go and apply for some medical help because it is just too hard to try and keep paying out of pocket each month for Kaiser for her and her son. She went to B.D. County and applied for medical. She was asked if she wanted cash aid, and she said no. To make a long story shorter, last week a man came to my home, this was a second visit. This time, he asked to see the bedrooms. Not being familiar with the system, she took him upstairs. He proceeded to look into all the bedrooms and closets. He asked insinuating questions and gazed at pictures on the walls. She called me at work very upset and I was livid. I called the congressman’s office and I called for this man’s supervisor. Well, we learned that they wanted to see is there were men’s clothes in the house and maybe some income that she had not reported. I was totally upset, they were looking for a man harder than I was. The problem, according to them, was that they just could not understand how she was making it from day to day and did not want cash aid. I told her to call them back, tell them to cancel her application. We lost our thinking for a minute and should not have bothered them in the first place. I also told her to tell the lady that she could tell her exactly how she was making it from day to day -- tell her Grace Did It!!!
It cost Elisha nothing for God to provide the needed money to pay the woman’s debt, but it cost Jesus His life to be able to forgive us our sins, our greatest debt ever and one we were unable to ever pay.
You see, it was Grace that brought Jesus from heaven to earth. It was Grace that made Him to condescend into a body of flesh and be born through a virgin. It was Grace that had Him to live the perfect life for our example among men. It was Grace that allowed Him to be whipped, spat upon and mocked. It was Grace that led Him to Calvary’s hill. It was Grace that allowed Him to be nailed to the cross in shame. It was Grace that caused God to turn His back on His only Son as He hung on the cross. It was Grace that He gave up the ghost and died. It was Grace that kept Him in the grave for three days, but Grace also raised Him up from the grave. It was God’s Grace. Grace did it! It’s already done! Your biggest debt has been paid in full. And guess what? Grace Did It! Romans 8:32 says in effect; If I have already given you the best I have, what else is there that I will not freely give you? Whatever you need today, Grace Did It! Wherever you are facing lack today, Grace did it. Is it financial? Grace did it. Is it physical? Grace did it. Is it a struggle with sin? Grace did it. Is it low self-esteem? Grace did it. It is uncertainty about tomorrow? Grace did it. Is it rebellious children? Grace did it. Is it a wayward spouse? Grace did it. Is it basic needs of life? Grace did it. Whatever it is, Grace did it! Just trust and obey.