Do you recall the story of the miracle of the increase of the widow's oil? Briefly, the widow was in dire economic straights. She was in debt, the creditor had come to collect what was owed. She couldn't pay and he was threatening to take her two sons and put them in bondage as slaves for payment. Do you remember?
She went to the man of God, Elisha, for help. He said to her "...what do you have in the house?" Then he said something very unusual. He told her to go and borrow empty vessels or earthen pots. He instructed her not to get a few (in other words many). Next he told her to start pouring oil into the pots. Now the oil stopped when the pots ran out.
And do you remember when in the 8th Chapter of Mark, Jesus discussed feeding the multitude of 4,000 with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish, and feeding the 5,000 with five loaves? Jesus asked the disciples how many baskets were picked up (left over), and they answered Him seven large baskets for the 4,000 and twelve baskets for the 5,000. What do these stories have in common? Let's examine them.
Well first, in all three instances there was a seed involved. In the miracle of the oil, we can assume oil was the seed. In the miracles of the feeding of the multitudes, loaves of bread and fish were the seed. And yes, in all instances there was seed multiplication of like kind that took place. But I submit to you that in all these instances the primary lesson was not simply about seed multiplication, and I believe you will see Scripture bears this out.
There is a principle in effect here, a law to be more precise, that caused this oil to supernaturally keep pouring, and the fish and bread to keep multiplying. For the sake of examination we'll call it the law of "Empty Vessels."
Now, let's go back. Starting in the 8th Chapter of Mark the 19th verse, Jesus asked His disciples the following:
(19) "When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up? They said to Him, "Twelve."
(20) "And when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" And they said to Him, "Seven."
(21) And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?"
Do you see it? For in the case of the widow's oil and the feeding of the multitudes, the same principle was in operation - the principle I call Empty Vessels. For in each instance there was a demand placed on the seed... and the amplitude of that demand determined the harvest.
Now, was there seed multiplication? Yes. But what Jesus was trying to teach them is why the seed multiplied! For in all three cases the miracle was about meeting the need or demand placed on the seed through faith... and that was determined by the size, quantity, or demand (please read expectation and need) placed on the seed.
And what was the demand or need placed on the seed in these instances? Well, in the case of the widow's oil it was the empty vessels. They (the vessels) identified and quantified the scope of the harvest. Remember? The oil stopped flowing when the last vessels were full... when there were no more empty vessels the demand and therefore the flow ceased.
But what were the "empty vessels" when Jesus fed the multitudes? In this case the empty vessels were literally the empty people! They were hungry and that was the demand on the seed, the seed of loaves and fish. In the instance of the miracle of the oil, the oil stopped when the vessels ran out - the demand stopped - this we know.
Demand Determines The Harvest
Now watch this; the same thing happened when Jesus fed the multitudes. Think about it. How large were the crowds? We already know from Scripture that in the case of the 5,000 this was the count of men only, aside from women and children (Matthew 14:21). It is safe to assume that in the feeding of the 4,000 there were women and children present also. So the actual crowds might have been on the order of 12,000 when the 4,000 men were fed, and perhaps 15,000 when Jesus fed the 5,000 men! The actual number is not important, but it is safe to assume these crowds, including the women and children, were far more massive than just the number of men fed.
And how much was there left over from these massive crowds? In the case of the feeding of the 4,000 (again probably more on the order of 10,000 - 12,000 total), or the 5,000, which would have been an even greater number, perhaps even 15,000 in total, there were only seven baskets and twelve baskets of pieces left over respectively. That's almost nothing compared to the size of the crowds! Do you see it now? The food stopped when the vessels (in this case the people) were full. The demand on the seed ceased and therefore the harvest ceased!
So once more, did Jesus use the feeding of the multitudes to teach the principle of seed multiplication as it pertains to the sower of those seeds? Most assuredly. But the lesson He wanted the disciples to grasp as it was recorded in Mark 8:19-21 was the harvest size is determined by the demand... Empty Vessels.
What Jesus Wants Us To Know
The seed can only produce a harvest in proportion to the need to be filled.
The harvest demands a purpose in order to be manifested - Empty Vessels.
When we write the vision down God has painted for us (Hab.2:2), we delineate or create the "Empty Vessel" or purpose to be filled by the harvest.
The harvest cannot be greater than the demand placed on it.
Identify the "empty vessels" God has placed in your life, and sow your seed into these "vessels" God has placed before you. Only then will you be able to assign your faith to these seeds and expect the harvest God has intended for your life - defined by your "empty vessels!" Yes, your "empty vessels" determine the need, and therefore your demand, on the harvest!
In His Mighty Name