Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Shunammite Woman

Women In An Era Of Political Decline
The Shunammite Woman

The Shunammite Woman: "“It is well, it is well”

Key Scripture: 2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6; 2 Kings 4:8-38.

Her Character: She was generous, kind, hospitable and showed great kindness to one of God's prophets.

Her Strengths: She was persistent, called out the orders, made things happen and tried her best to do what was right.

Her Sorrow: To lose the son that had been promised her.

Her Joy: To experience just how deep God's faithfulness goes.

Pre-Story: This is the account of Elisha, who succeeded Elijah, and the Shunammite woman. She is most likely called the Shunammite because she came from an unidentified place called Shulem. The woman’s name is not given, but she is described as “a great woman.” She lived a few miles north of Jezreel, where Jezebel's story had drawn to its grim conclusion.

She was married but had no children. There is mention that her husband was old, so we can only guess that she may have been much younger. Because she had a kind heart to serve others, she often kept a sharp eye for travelers on the road from Nazareth to Jerusalem. She would make sure the prophet Elisha had food, water and a place to sleep whenever he went through Shunem.

Her Story: One day, Elisha is traveling through a little town called Shunem and the Shunammite woman invited him to linger for a meal. Afterward, she said to her husband, "Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us."

Moved by her kindness, Elisha inquired, through his servant, Gehazi, whether he could use his influence with Israel's king on her behalf. But the woman wasn't looking for favors at court, so Elisha pressed his servant, saying, "What, then, can be done for her?" Gehazi merely pointed out the obvious: The woman and her aging husband were childless, without an heir to carry on the family name.

So Elisha summoned the woman and made an incredible promise: "About this time next year you will hold a son in your arms." "No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" Yet, a year later, just as Elisha had foretold, the woman held a squalling infant in her arms, laughing as she told others the story of God's surprising gift.

One morning, a few years later, a servant entered the house with the little boy in his arms, explaining that the child had complained of a headache while visiting his father in the fields. Perhaps he had lingered too long in the sun. The boy's face was flushed, his forehead hot. She felt her own fear spreading. His breathing was labored, his eyes listless. At about noon he died.

Without a word, she carried his small body to the prophet's room, laying him tenderly on Elisha's bed. Closing the door. She tells her husband “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.” She didn’t cry, scream or wail, she didn’t even mention the son’s death to her husband.

Spotting her in the distance, the prophet wondered aloud what could prompt her to make the twenty-five-mile journey north. "Run to meet her," he urged Gehazi, "and ask, 'Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?"

But the woman merely brushed Gehazi aside with polite words and rushed straight to Elisha, exclaiming: "Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes?" Immediately the prophet instructed Gehazi: "Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand, and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face."

The woman, however, wasn't about to settle for a stand-in. So the prophet hurried to Shunem just behind Gehazi, who had gone on ahead to carry out his master's orders. When Elisha arrived, he found the boy lying quiet and cold on his couch. Elisha closed the door behind him.

Praying, he stretched his body across the boy's so that hands, mouth, and eyes touched. As he lay there, he could feel the chilled body warming beneath him. He got up and paced the room for a while. At last he stretched himself across the lifeless body again and prayed. The boy's chest lifted. Then he sneezed! Then sneezed again.

The Shunammite woman may, in fact, have heard the story of how Elijah had raised the son of the widow of Zarephath in similar circumstances. If so, that miracle would certainly have fueled her hope, giving her the courage to seek her own miracle rather than collapse under so great a weight of grief.

Now, as she saw for herself the irrefutable sign of God's loving-kindness, she fell at Elisha's feet and bowed to the ground. God had been true to his word, fulfilling his promise to her and then preserving it in the face of impossible circumstances.

Later, in 2 Kings 8:1, we read, “Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, ‘Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the LORD has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.” She left with her family for seven years and then returned.

Upon her return, she discovered that she had lost her land due to her supposed desertion of the property. But God performed yet another miracle in her life: “And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land. Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, ‘Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done.’ And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. And Gehazi said, ‘My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’  So the king appointed an official for her, saying, ‘Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now’” (2 Kings 8:3–6).

The Shunammite woman’s heartfelt hospitality to Elisha and simple, sincere faith led to an amazing series of events. Elisha was certainly blessed. And God abundantly blessed the woman’s life during a difficult period in Israel. Jesus promised a prophet’s reward to those who helped a prophet of the Lord. (Matthew 10:40-42)

The Shunammite woman wasn’t looking for a reward other than the satisfaction of refreshing a traveler. But she got more than that, both in her lifetime and for eternity.

Her Place in God's Divine Plan: In everything the Shunammite woman did, we see Christ. We see Christ speaking in and through her words and actions.

Lesson We Can Learn from Her Legacy: "It's all right." Can you express that sentiment even when your world is crashing in on you? Remember that even in the most agonizing of circumstances, even when you feel abandoned, even when tragedy strikes, God is there.

Trust his word and gain assurance from the Shunammite woman who, in the midst of appalling circumstances, could say, "It's all right." Keeping your heart right, full of love and empty of bitterness is the secret of receiving from God.

She was thankful of heart and it opened the door to more blessings in her life. Keep your focus on the good things God has blessed you with. It was in pouring out her love to God's prophet that the Shunammite woman received a blessing she did not even ask for.

850 BC