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Posts Tagged ‘Elisha’

Now Elisha spoke to the woman whose son he had restored to life, saying, “Arise and go with your household, and sojourn wherever you can sojourn; for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will even come on the land for seven years.” So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God, and she went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. At the end of seven years, the woman returned from the land of the Philistines; and she went out to appeal to the king for her house and for her field. (II Kings 8:1-3)

The woman from Shunem is one of the most courageous and faithful of the saints whose stories we read of in the Old Testament. The Shunammite woman was displaying kindness and hospitality to God’s prophet at the time – Elisha. Elisha sought to do something for this woman to thank her. When he found out that the woman was childless Elisha promised her that God would bless her with a son. (II Kings 4:16)

What a miracle! How the woman must have rejoiced. She thought that Elisha’s promise was too good to be true. It is easy to compare the woman’s response to Abraham’s wife Sarah’s response when she was told that she would have a child. Sarah wanted to believe but had weak faith. Remember Sarah laughed when she was promised a son. She was very old and past the age of childbearing. God blessed her anyway and she had Isaac at around age 90. (See Genesis, chapters 18-21.) The Shunammite woman was blessed with a son though her husband was very old. Both women knew without a doubt that the praise and glory went to God for their sons.

The Shunammite woman was overjoyed with this blessing from God, but when the boy was older he died, probably of sunstroke. (II Kings 4:18) The Shunammite ran elijah widow and sonas fast as she could to Elisha and convinced him to come back to her house with her. She had the faith to believe that God would return her child to her. Had the Shunammite woman heard about the son of the widow of Zarephath? Recall that Elisha’s mentor Elijah also raised a boy from the dead. (I Kings 17:17) The miracle of the raising of the widow of Zarephath’s son would have occurred only a few years before this. Would news of that have spread throughout the land of Israel? We do not know, but the Shunammite woman certainly believed that God’s prophet Elisha could raise her son to life. And Elisha did raise the boy from the dead.

Things went along well for the happy family in Shunem. But one day God determined to send a seven-year famine on the land of Israel. Elisha was probably still benefitting from the Shunammite woman’s hospitality and repaid her by warning her of the famine. He told her to take her household and go live somewhere else. Two things are evident from the text – her husband had died and the famine was only in Israel. Notice that the prophet told her to take her household and go somewhere else to live for a while. The Shunammite woman was now head of her household. We learned in the earlier story that her husband was very old. (II Kings 4:14) He must have died by this time.

The Shunammite woman went to live in the land of the Philistines. That was not very far away. God was punishing the Israelites for their unfaithfulness again. The famine lasted for the seven years that were predicted.

Then the Shunammite woman returned home. While she was away her home and land had been confiscated. But this plucky woman immediately went to the king to appeal for the return of her property. It was not only for her and her household but was also the inheritance for her son.

God in His gracious providence continued to take care of this woman. Another miracle happened for her. On the very day that she was to go before the king, guess who should have been there before her? It was none other than Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. In God’s providence Gehazi was telling the king the wonderful stories about Elisha.

Now the king was talking with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, saying, “Please relate to me all the great things that Elisha has done.” As he was relating to the king how he had restored to life the one who was dead, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and for her field. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, this is the woman and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.” When the king asked the woman, she related it to him. So the king appointed for her a certain officer, saying, “Restore all that was hers and all the produce of the field from the day that she left the land even until now.” (II Kings 8:4-6)

The king not only returned her home and lands, but also gave her all of the income from the land from the last seven years! Now she could provide for everyone as well as preserve her son’s birthrite.

The story of the Shunammite woman is amazing from beginning to end. Her life is an example of faithful living. Whether she experienced blessings or trials she exhibited unshakeable trust in God. She also persevered and pressed her claims when she needed to. This woman did not just sit around and whine or complain. While trusting in God she confronted situations head on with courage and forthrightness. She held her own in front of God’s prophet and a king.

The Shunammite woman did not let tragedies keep her from seeking God’s help with true belief in God’s goodness. When her son died, she was able to tell her husband in no uncertain terms, “It is well.” What could she possibly have meant by that other than that she knew God was going to restore her son’s life? She did not back down in front of God’s prophet Elisha. She boldly confronted the king when it came to appealing for her son’s rights. She just did what she had to trusting God for the results.

elisha-shunammite-woman-300x204The Shunammite woman teaches us to have the right balance in life. We must trust God but we must persevere for what is right at the same time.

We can also imitate the Shunammite woman by showing hospitality. Hospitality is a spiritual gift. Those who have this gift bless others and are blessed by it. The woman from Shunem practiced this gift her whole life. The Shunammite woman is an example to us of courage, faith and hospitality.

 

 

 

 

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There are two stories this week – One short account of a poor widow woman and the other longer story about the Shunammite woman. These women lived in Israel during the reign of Jehoram son of the wicked king Ahab.

The Widow – Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” (II Kings 4:1,2)

The Shunammite Woman – Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat food. (II Kings 4:8,9)

At this time Elisha was the prophet in Israel. Recall that Elijah the great prophet had gone to heaven in a great whirlwind of fire leaving Elisha his mantle and a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. (II Kings 2:9-14) So we would expect Elisha to do many similar miracles to Elijah’s. The two stories this week remind us of the widow of Zarephath (see last week’s post).

The first story in II Kings 4 is similar but different to the story of the widow of elisha-miracle-with-oil
Zarephath. During this time there was a widow, who knew Elisha since she was the wife of one of the sons of the prophets. She was so poor that creditors were about to take her two sons to be held in slavery in payment of her debts. Like the poor widow of Zarephath she had only a little oil. Elisha told her to borrow as many jars as she could from all of her neighbors and pour out her oil into all of them. Her sons helped her to pour oil into the many borrowed jars until all of the vessels were full. Elisha then said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.” (II Kings 4:7)

Both stories involve a miraculous continuation of oil – a precious commodity. Both have a couple of differences due to their circumstances. The widow of Zarephath’s oil never stopped according to Elijah’s promise. This was so that she could continue to feed herself, her son, and Elijah. She spent much of the next few years relying on God daily for her provision. The widow that Elisha helped had a huge flowing of oil until she had enough to sell to redeem her sons and provide a livelihood for her family. The Lord had provided what she needed. Both stories show us God’s amazing love and care for poor widows.

shunem mapThe widow’s story transitions us to another story that is similar to the widow of Zarephath. Elisha went to Shunem and was urged by a prominent woman to eat at her home whenever he came to their city. This similarity to the hospitable widow of Zarephath is obvious. Both women housed and fed the prophets. We will see that both stories involve the death and resuscitation of a precious son. But there are differences in the stories – the Shunammite woman was wealthy and had plenty of food, unlike the widow of Zarephath who was so poor and hungry that she and her son were starving to death when they met Elijah. The Shunammite woman was an Israelite; the widow at Zarephath was a Gentile.

The Shunammite woman asked her husband if they could build a room for Elisha and his servant Gehazi so that the men would have a place to stay whenever they were passing by Shunem. The room was an upper chamber. It was large enough for both men and very comfortable. It also had privacy since it was reached by a stairway on the outside of the house.

Elisha wanted to repay the woman for her hospitality. Gehazi noticed that the woman had no child. Since her husband was very old, it was not likely she would ever have a child. Gehazi gave the information as an idea to Elisha. Elisha liked the idea and said, “Call her. When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, ‘At this season next year you will embrace a son.’ And she said, ‘No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant.’ The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her.” (II Kings 8:15-17)

What a miracle! How the woman must have rejoiced. The Shunammite woman was blessed with a son though her husband was very old. She knew without a doubt that the praise and glory went to God for her son.

When the boy was grown he went out to the fields one day with his father. “He said to his father, ‘My head, my head.’ And he said to his servant, ‘Carry him to his mother.’ When he had taken him an brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then died.” (II Kings 8:18-20)

The Shunammite woman showed what courage and faith she had by what she did next. She took her dead son up to Elisha’s room and laid him on Elisha’s bed. She asked her husband for a servant and a donkey to drive her to see Elisha. Her emotions were strong and mixed, yet she had control of them. She ran to the man of God as fast as she could. Elisha was at Mount Carmel and saw her at a distance. Elisha sent Gehazi to meet her and ask her if everything was well.

The Shunammite woman’s response seems puzzling to us today. She told Gehazi that everything was well. Why did she not tell him that her son was dead?

Some have thought that since she was a wealthy, prominent woman she might have had servants of her own. Maybe she did not want to speak to someone else’s servant. I don’t see that as part of her personality. Maybe she just wanted to get to Elisha as fast as she could and speak to him directly and didn’t want to waste time having to explain everything twice. Maybe. But I really believe that her faith was so strong that even as she assured her husband “it will be well”, she was also informing Gehazi that it would be well if only she could get to Elisha.

When she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came near to push her away; but the man of God said, “Let her alone, for her soul is troubled within her; and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” Then she said, ”Did I ask for a son from my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me’?” (II Kings 4:27,28)

Here again we see a similarity to the widow of Zarephath. Both women wanted to know why they were blessed with sons only to have them taken away. Both would faithfully appeal to the men of God for help.

Elisha sent Gehazi immediately to the woman’s house with his staff. Gehazi laid the staff on the son’s face. But this persistent woman of faith wants Elisha himself. She trusted God’s prophet. She said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” Elisha then arose and followed her.

We do not know why Elisha just did not go himself in the first place. Of course the Elisha Raises the Shunammite Woman's Son - II Kings 4:35-37staff in Gehazi’s hands was not effective. As soon as he got to the house Elisha went to the room and stretched out over the boy and prayed to God. The child became warm. Elisha got up and walked around a bit and then stretched himself out again on the child. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha asked Gehazi to call the Shunammite woman. She went in and fell at Elisha’s feet and gave him honor. Then she took up her son and went out.

What an incredibly brave woman. Though she honestly questioned why her son died, she wasted no time to seek help. Her faith was strong enough to tell her husband immediately, even before she ran off to get Elisha, “It will be well.”

“It will be well.” The Shunammite woman shows us how a woman of faith and courage acts. Trust in God’s promises is the proof of faith. The Shunammite woman was hospitable, faithful, and persistent because she trusted God.

But this is not the end of the story. Next week we will see more of this brave woman’s actions.

 

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