Elisha and the Shunammite
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me again today as we study an inspiring topic that will encourage us to be medical missionaries. The wonderful relationship between Elisha and the Shunammite woman is exemplary. And the way Elisha blessed her is also a powerful testimony to a God of love and care for His children. I am glad to be able to provide you with compelling monthly messages that will help you prepare for the coming of Christ. I hope today’s message will inspire you with practical things you can do in ministry for the Lord in these last days.
As we begin our study today, please bow your heads for a word of prayer. Dear Father in heaven, today we invite Your Holy Spirit to speak to us as we study together a very important story in the old testament. We are so grateful for the Bible, which gives us guidance in these last days. We see so many things going on that fulfill Bible prophecy, and we want to know how to live and how to minister in this world of chaos and confusion. So we invite Your presence as we open the Holy Scriptures, in Jesus’ name, amen.
As we study the life of Elisha, let us look at Elisha’s next medical missionary project. It is found beginning in 2 Kings 4:8. This one shows the importance of relationships in medical missionary work. When you bless others, it comes back to you. And in fact, it goes both ways. And this is the great spirit of giving. When you give you shall receive. And it is vitally important that we understand this in the last days because when you cannot buy or sell, God’s plan is for His church members to be medical missionaries for their own survival and for the salvation of souls. Let us read verse 8.
“And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.”
Shunem lay along the road in the region where Elisha often travelled. It was of the tribe of Issachar. The name Shunem means “two resting places.” How fitting that it became the place for God’s prophet to rest often. Elisha could stop there on his way to and from the college at Mount Carmel or on his visits to the various towns and villages in the region where he would work for the restoration of the true worship of God. He had his circuits and places where he needed to go that required his personal attention, and Shunem was in a place where he passed by often.
Shunem also lay on the edge of a rich and fertile grain growing region, and it provided the resources to make good agricultural business. Transportation from there was easy and it was a regional trading center that offered support to those who lived there. It was ideally situated.
This great woman was a wealthy and influential woman. She had connections and was highly respected in Shunem. Her husband’s reputation was benefited by her character and spirit of service. She often entertained travelers and strangers as they passed by their home, as well as her husband’s business contacts. This Shunammite family owned lands and had quite an estate with employees and servants. Their business benefited by the excellent agricultural land in the area around Shunem. Perhaps they had vineyards and orchards as well as fields of grain. They would probably sell their products to the neighboring towns, such as Nain and Jezreel, as well as in the markets in Shunem. This “great woman,” as the Bible calls her, kept a good house and had a big heart. And therefore it was a busy place much of the time.
Elisha was a frequent traveler. It seemed he was always on the move from one place to another. When this Shunammite woman saw Elisha pass by a few times, she decided that she would, as was often her custom, invite him to be the guest of her hospitality. Though he was famous, Elisha was a humble man, and not having a wife by his side, he knew that he was not the most refined guest. So, he hesitated to associate with those who were of the wealthier class. Besides he was loath to be troublesome to anyone.
At first he declined her offer. But she persisted. She urged him to sit at her table, and finally, with great difficulty, she constrained the prophet of the Lord to come dine in their home. This forged a bond between them, and it turned out that she fed him often, for Elisha’s routes to and from the schools of the prophets in Mount Carmel, Gilgal and Jericho, his visits to Jezreel, along with other places where he would go, would cause him to pass by often. Obviously, she was a good cook, and no doubt Elisha, who was unmarried, enjoyed it very much. Though he lived in Samaria, he did not have a place to call “home,” that had a warm hearth, and a loving wife to tend to his needs. So, he made a habit, no doubt, of timing his travels so that he could stop in and have a meal with this woman and her husband along the way.
This reminds me of Jesus and his adopted home in Bethany with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He often went there to rest from his incessant labours and travels and would find comfort, peace and tranquility as well as a good meal and a good bed.
I happen to know something about the rigors of travel. It’s not easy. In fact, there are regular inconveniences and difficulties along the way. Though it has long ago lost its glamour, I still must travel in the course of my ministry, similar to Elisha. But there are some places in the world where I know I can get a good meal with some of my favorite food, and a comfortable bed to sleep in and a warm shower, with the added bonus of the friendship of a godly woman who loves to extend her hospitality. Their husbands often collect me at the airport and bring me to their home. I know people like that in places like Australia, England, Europe, Scandinavia, and throughout the United States. Each place has its own special fellowship, aromas, flavors, culture and style. But all of them are places I know I can find rest, strength and encouragement in my work. Often when I stay in the home of good friends, I am warmed by their fellowship and their communion is very special indeed. This is the way it was between Elisha and this woman of Shunem. Maybe you have experienced such fellowship too perhaps. The warm welcome and kind hospitality unaffected by personal agendas or respect of persons is the kind of hospitality that is always received with gratitude.
Elisha made friends easily wherever he went, so it was that he and this childless family became the best of friends. Keep in mind that the spiritual state of Israel was still quite bad. It had only been a few years since the confrontation on Mount Carmel, and God had a lot of work to do to bring Israel around to follow God’s way again. God was using Elisha to do this work, but it wasn’t going to happen overnight. But even in these conditions, Elisha still made many friends.
The Shunammite woman realized that Elisha was coming more often to her home. She sensed that Elisha was a holy man, a prophet of God. So pleased was she with his visits, and so much did she desire to have him in their home that she wanted to do more for him.
And as she considered this, she thought, that it would bring her a greater blessing of the Lord if she would open her home to His prophet more fully. But she didn’t have a “prophet’s room,” a place appropriate for him to sleep and study. She probably realized her home was not suitable for his privacy or for the weary servant of the Lord to get some quiet rest. After all, there were, no doubt, people coming and going all the time, whether employees, visitors, or business contacts and lots of other activity. She knew that Elisha would need a private place that he could call his own and where he could pray and study, and contemplate the things of God and the things needing to be accomplished in Israel. He also had to prepare materials for his work with the schools of the prophets. Her home was on one story, and did not have accommodation that would satisfy the needs of such a man of God.
So she thought that if she were to organize a place of his own at her home, he would stay longer, and as a result her household and her husband’s business would be blessed and prosper for his sake, and all who came under her roof edified by his pious instructions and example.
But this woman was wise and would not lay out money to build, or bring him into her home without her husband’s consent. After all, he was the head of her household and she loved him, and wanted his approval. So, she spoke with her husband.
Verse 9, “Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.”
This woman said it this way so as to suggest that their hospitalities would be well repaid. Perhaps she heard about the woman of Zarephath and how well her hospitality to Elijah, Elisha’s predecessor, was repaid. If there was a blessing to be had, she wanted it.
Friends, if ever we are given the opportunity to be blessed, it is important that we go after it. Whether it is church, prayer meeting, family worship, or whatever spiritual blessing is placed in our path or within our opportunity to have a blessing, we need to avail ourselves of it. Often we find ourselves too busy and the blessing passes us by unnoticed, or un-regarded. My friends take advantage of every opportunity to be blessed by the Lord. If you are Christ’s, He longs to bless you and gives you many opportunities to gain that blessing.
Obviously, the encouragement and fellowship in this woman’s home went both ways. As Elisha would visit in their home, he would bring to this woman and her husband spiritual encouragement, instruction and wisdom. You know how that is, perhaps. When you are in the presence of someone that has the spirit of God in them, you can sense it. You are refreshed by it. You are encouraged by it, and it is such a contrast from the regular people of the world that are in your life. You feel blessed when you have been in their presence. Oh, do I know some people like that!
I want to be that kind of person, don’t you? I want to be a person that people sense a special presence from the Holy Spirit. I want to live in the presence of God so that my words and actions are seasoned by His grace. That way anyone who is with me will be blessed by just being together. That’s what God intends for His last generation. Recently, I showed you Isaiah 60 in which there is going to be gross darkness in the world in the last days. We are already well into that now, aren’t we? At the same time, God’s Holy Spirit will be poured out on His people, and the attention of those in darkness will be drawn to them. This takes time, my friends, to develop the Spirit of God in your soul so that you can be that kind of person. It cannot be done over night.
So, the woman made a suggestion to her husband that they together thought was reasonable. Verse 10. “Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”
The room would have steps up to the level of the room, and though it would be small it would be adequate for the prophet and his servant Gehazi. It would not be built at great cost, but would have furnishings suited to the work and comfort of the prophet.
So, they made a little chamber for Elisha. I can imagine her husband bringing some of his workmen to erect the little room with a door and a window or two. They stuccoed the walls inside and out. They put in the bed, the table, the stool, and the candlestick. It was a lovely little spot.
And anytime he would pass by he could stop in for a meal and a quiet rest in his little chamber. Verse 11 says, “And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.”
Can you imagine the women eagerly taking Elisha to the little chamber for the first time? What a surprise to Elisha. He had no idea. But now, here was a little place that he could sleep and refresh after many days or weeks of travel hither and thither. He knew the heavy pressures of a full-on ministry. He was busy teaching in the schools of the prophets. He was counseling the leaders of the schools, the families of the sons of the prophets, as well as regional and national leaders, and a host of other people. He was traveling constantly. It is not a very enviable life, my friends. But now, Elisha had a place to stop for the night or even a few days of relaxation and study. That is something very much needed and appreciated by any travel-weary servant of the Lord. It is a huge blessing to the itinerant preacher. Elisha seemed highly pleased with these arrangements and made this little room his special home.
As Elisha was so blessed by the woman’s kindness, he decided that he must do something for her out of his grateful heart. Those who receive nice courtesies should think how to repay them. This is in harmony with the spirit of God. And this spirit of giving is cyclical and is repeated back and forth among the children of God over and over again. Jesus Himself said in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
This spirit of giving is a heavenly gift. Selfishness never benefits anyone, especially the one who is selfish. But when we give, it brings an immediate blessing to us in the satisfaction of helping someone else, whether friend or a stranger, but it also brings a further blessing later on when that gift is returned to us in some way by the blessing of the Lord.
The loving care of the Shunammite woman overwhelmed Elisha. He was exceedingly pleased with the quiet apartment she and her husband had made for him. And his heart yearned to do something in return. Elisha pointed out to her how grateful he was for her hospitality and for what she had done for him. After all, no man of God can be ungrateful or sponge on those who are generous to them.
Verses 12 and 13, “And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.”
Elisha magnified her kindness by his words as those who are humble are accustomed to do. To her, wealthy as she was, whatever she did for him was as if it were nothing. That little room cost her and her husband little compared to what they possessed. But she did it for him out of love for God and the prophet.
Elisha, on the other hand, did not think that he deserved her kindness perhaps, but he was nevertheless very grateful to her. He offered to use his influence with the king or the captain of the guard. Perhaps her husband might desire some important civil position or a military post. After all, Elisha was connected to these people. Perhaps she had a complaint that Elisha could solve by speaking to these high powers. “How can I be of service to you?” he asked in so many words.
But she declined his offer with no request. “I dwell among mine own people,” she said. “We are well off as we are, and have no desire for preferment or special treatment.” She was content. Her husband was content to continue with his business. Why should those who live comfortably among their own people covet to live delicately in king’s palaces? There would come a time some years later when she would need to speak to the king, but not now. Contentment is a key principle of the life of a godly person. If you are content, others can see it in your countenance. If you are not content, you will manifest it in ways that you aren’t even aware of, perhaps; but it will be seen.
Elisha would not be dissuaded by her contented response. He was prepared to ask the court of heaven for a favor for this women if need be. And this would be vastly better than anything an earthly king could do. So, in the privacy of their room he asked his servant Gehazi what he though they could do for this woman who had done so much for them. Verse 14, “And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.”
Gehazi had noticed that she had no son of her own. And children were considered to be a blessing from the Lord. Yet this woman did not complain, she was not discontented. She seemed reconciled to the fact that her life would be without children. But Gehazi also recognized that her husband was old that it was very unlikely that she would have children by him. The point being, that if Elisha could, as a favor from God, bless her with the promise of a child, and remove that which at present was her only grievance, her one pain; it would be a suitable repayment for her kind hospitality. Having no children was a reproach in the land of Israel in those days. But, this was a kindness that Elisha could do for her that would be most welcome and most suited to her necessities, and which would heal her pain.
Elisha said, “Call her,” verse 15. “And when he had called her, she stood in the door.”
The woman was humble and modest as was her customary behavior. She did not know what to expect. She did not come into his room. To do so would have been immodest of her. She stood in the door.
Verse 16, “And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son.”
That promise took her by surprise. How can this be? I am getting on in years, and my husband is old. How is it that I can bear a son? She begged the prophet not to deceive her, or flatter her.
Verse 16 continues “And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.” Be serious, don’t jest with me, or deceive me.
But Elisha was serious. And she “conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.” This confirmed more than ever to her that Elisha was a man of God. God built up her family, after she had built the prophet a chamber.
She had received the prophet in her home and extended her hospitality to him. She did not receive Elisha ’s offer of a royal reward. But instead she received a prophet’s reward, a signal mercy in answer to prayer.
Elisha used the same principle that Elijah used with the widow of Zarephath. She was to make him a little cake first, but God blessed her abundantly above all that she could ask or think. This woman first blessed the prophet, and now, Elisha blessed her above all she could ask or think. Ever after, we may assume that Elisha was doubly welcome to the home of this Shunammite. She could never do so much for him as he had done for her, even though she started out by doing far more for him than he had ever done for her. Thus is the cycle of giving and receiving. We are here on this earth, my friends, to benefit each other. We are here to be a blessing to each other.
And no doubt, the child was very dear to the prophet, who perhaps loved him as his own son. He was the son of his earnest prayers, for Elisha was a praying man and a man of strong faith, as Elijah had been. The son was also very dear to his parents, for he was the son of their old age. He was their joy and rejoicing. He was the heir to their estates and now they had a child on which to bestow the spiritual blessings of the family as well, for he was the son of their birthright.
Some years went by. Now this story gets very interesting. No doubt Elisha came and went many times, and enjoyed seeing her son around the home. And as the child got older and more capable, he was given tasks to do that would strengthen his powers. Some of them were in the field working with his father’s servants. Every Jewish child was taught to work in practical labor, and this child was no exception. Though we don’t know how old he was, we do know that he was old enough to help his father in the field, yet he wasn’t so grown up that he could not sit on his mother’s knees. Let us read verse 18 and onward.
“And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.”
The sun was hot that day, and apparently the young man had some form of heat stroke or some other physical crisis. His father did not suspect any real danger in his son’s distress, but asked one of his servants to carry him to his mother expecting that when he arrived home that evening his son would have taken rest, and would have been refreshed and well again. But that was not to be. This sickness, whatever it was, was fatal. The lad was well in the morning and dead by noon. All his mother’s tender care could not keep him alive.
“And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.”
What a tragedy! Here was a young child who was the son of promise meant to bless them in their old age. He was the son of prayer, intended to reward the Shunammite for her kindness to the prophet. But now he was dead.
What was this woman to do in her grief? Her first thought was of Elisha. Certainly, she would have heard what happened to the boy in Zarephath when Elijah raised him from the dead for that gentile woman. Wouldn’t God do the same for her in her distress? After all, a double portion of the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha. Faith grasps the hand of God, and instead of making preparation for his burial she makes preparations for his resurrection.
Verse 21 tells us that “she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.”
What faith, my friends! What confidence in God! This woman actually believed that God would raise her son from the dead. Her son had been raised from her womb, which was as good as dead. So, why can’t God raise her son back to life? And she expects that the prophet Elisha will stand by her side and intercede with God in prayer for the child. This is true faith. It is the expectation that God will do what we ask of Him according to His will. God, who wrought a good work for her in giving her the child through the prophet’s promise, would not frustrate it by taking him away. This was a test of her faith.
And friends, often Providence tests our faith in ways we often do not expect. But we gain experience in the things of God by going through crisis and trouble. This tempers and strengthens our faith and matures our experience with God. We learn to trust Him for the outcome. This kind of faith is the sort of experience God wants all of us to have, especially in these last days. I am thrilled when I think about it. We can have full confidence that the God of heaven can do for us what needs to be done, if we pray and if we trust fully in His providence. This Shunammite had full confidence in God’s goodness, and was ready to believe that He who had so soon taken away that, which He had given, would restore what he had now taken away. Hebrews 11:35 says that by faith, “Women received their dead raised to life again…” And she exercised that faith in the unseen realities.
The Shunammite woman only wanted to go to the man of God, Elisha. But she dare not go without asking her husband. So, “she called unto her husband,” in verse 22, “and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.” She did not want to tell her husband about the death of their son, lest her faith be discouraged. Her husband might try to dissuade her from troubling the prophet, so she left him in the dark about that.
Her husband at first questioned her. “Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? It is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well.”
The Shunammite woman would attend the feasts of the Lord wherever Elisha presided to hear the word, to join in prayer and praises. This he was accustomed to. So, it surprised him that she wanted to go to the prophet at this time, and in such a rush. “But why?” he asked. “Why wilt thou go today?” She did not give him the reason, but assured him that all would be well, as if to say, you will yourself recognize that all will be well.
No doubt, her husband was occupied with his business and did not have time to question her further. Or perhaps he sensed from her determined posture that he had better not question her further. These two had such mutual respect and love for each other that she would not venture without his permission, and he was kind enough not to pressure her for the real reasons. Perhaps he thought she was planning some special event for him, or that she was doing something that he would later understand and appreciate. In any case, she did not tell him her business. You know how husbands and wives sometimes are with each other. He trusted her, and felt that she should do whatever was on her heart. Notice that her faith is obvious to us because she weaves it into her words, “It shall be well.”
Verse 24, “Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.”
And off to Mount Carmel they went. Why was Elisha on Mr. Carmel? Elisha was ministering at one of the schools of the prophets that was there. It was not so far from Shunem. He would go there often and she knew he was there at this time.
Verses 25 and 26, “So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child?” And when Gehazi asked her these questions, she simply answered. “It is well.”
To many people it appears as though this woman lied to Gehazi. After all, her child back home was dead. Yet she says that all is well with herself, and with her husband, and with the child. She had told her husband essentially the same thing. This was not a lie. She believed that all truly would be well if she can get to the prophet. She had grasped faith firmly as if her son’s resurrection was already a fact. And friends, that’s the way true faith is. God gives a promise and we accept it as a fact, even if we cannot see it right now. She tells Gehazi that all is well, implying that in her heart she trusted God to restore her child. Gehazi is not the man she has come to see anyway. So, she put him off with a vague statement such as this. Her faith in the prophet of God was very strong. If the prophet acts quickly, her son would live.
Would to God that all of His people in the last days were as filled with faith in the prophet. Tragically today, faith in the prophet is sorely lacking. There is even a determined neglect of the prophet, almost a zealous resistance in many places, and a willingness to justify the things the prophet has warned against. Many have turned away from the prophet of the Lord. And this causes the church to languish. What the Lord could have done for His people had they acted in faith on the words and instructions of the prophet cannot be done.
And the consequences are pretty serious. When we spurn the prophet, we are spurning the Holy Spirit. When we spurn the Holy Spirit, we turn our backs on God, and He cannot bless us with the latter rain. How are we ever going to navigate the unique and difficult circumstances of our times if we don’t have the Holy Spirit to guide us? How can we have the power that God has promised us if we neglect to know and understand the edifying instructions of God’s prophets? Oh, my friends. Let us never forget that we are living in a time of great importance. We are at the most crucial moments in history. We need the wisdom and guidance of the prophet like never before. A lack of faith in the prophet indicates rebellion to the Lord. And it is the last prophetic marker before the time of trouble. Listen to this from Selected Messages, Vol 1, and page 48.
“There will be a hatred kindled against the testimonies which is satanic. The workings of Satan will be to unsettle the faith of the churches in them, for this reason: Satan cannot have so clear a track to bring in his deceptions and bind up souls in his delusions if the warnings and reproofs and counsels of the Spirit of God are heeded.”
And now this one from Selected Messages, Vol 2, and page 78. “The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.”
The Shunammite woman’s faith was based on reason, not emotions. Why would God give her a child only to take him away? That didn’t make sense to her. She thought that if she could catch up with Elisha, he would know what to do. So she made haste and drove the ass as fast as his feet would go, and came to Mount Carmel. Up the mountain she went, pressing onward with her servant and an obedient donkey until she was in Elisha’s presence. She dismounted and fell on her knees and grabbed his feet. Now for the first time she reveals her grief and sorrow. She begs the prophet to help her. Obviously, this good woman knew how to control her heart-felt emotions. Now they poured out at the feet of the prophet.
Gehazi thought she was a bit crazy and stepped forward to “thrust her away.” But Elisha said “Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.”
God doesn’t always tell his prophets everything they would need to know or like to know. Sometimes, he lets them find out in other ways. After all, the woman was quite ready to tell him her sorrow and beg for his help.
Notice what she said to the prophet. Verse 28, “Did I desire a son of my lord? Did I not say, Do not deceive me?” In other words, she did not ask for a son. She was content without him. But it was Elisha, the prophet that had promised her a son. She had been settled in her mind that she would not have children. And the word of the Lord came upon her and she had born a son. She did not plead for a son like Rachel. Rachel said to Isaac, “Give me children or else I die.” She did not weep for a son like Hannah. Her son was not the result of her proposal, but it was the prophet’s. God gave her a son without asking for him. Now he was gone. How could this be?
The woman had been completely dependent on the prophet’s word for the promise, now she was completely dependent on the prophet actions to solve the problem. But her faith would not let go of the idea that God had purposed to give her a son, and now that He was testing her faith, she was not going to let go of God in this severe trial.
Elisha realized something was terribly wrong. He commanded Gehazi in verse 29 to “Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.”
But this was not enough for this woman. She wanted Elisha to come to her home to deal with this. Perhaps she didn’t trust Gehazi. Perhaps she felt that none would do except the prophet himself. Perhaps Elisha wanted to test her faith a bit, and understand her burden more completely. Whatever the case, she was not happy with this solution. It seemed inappropriate to her. She wanted none other than the prophet of the Lord to minister to her son. After all, he lay on the prophet’s own bed.
The woman said to Elisha in verse 30, “As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.”
She had no great expectation from the staff. She was not superstitious. She knew that the only way her son would be restored was by the earnest prayers of the prophet. After all, there was nothing that would prevent the prophet from coming himself.
Gehazi did what he was told and went ahead of them and laid the staff on the child. But verse 31 says, “there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.”
This confirmed the woman’s intuition that she needed the prophet present and accounted for. The child was not awaked. This also encouraged her, because it intimated that he would be resurrected. It may be that God also did not perform a miracle by Gehazi with Elisha’s staff because He wanted to strengthen faith in His prophet. If such a powerful miracle was to be done, Elisha must apply himself closely to the case. He did not want people to get the impression that God’s power is trivial, as some ministers treat it, or as if it is to be commanded and guided at the beck and call of human will. This only brings a sort of tarnished glory to the human agent, which offends God and works against His intentions.
Think about this. Many people today are like that dead child. You can lay the word in front of their faces like Gehazi laid the staff on the boy’s face, and yet they are not awaked. They cannot understand the word. There is neither voice nor hearing. They are as if dead. No one can change the heart. Only Christ. The human agent brings the word, but it is Christ that animates the heart and changes it from a stony heart to a spiritual heart. He gives power to the word. The letter, by itself kills; It is the Spirit, united with the word that brings life. The dry bones do not respond merely by prophesying. There must be breath of life from the Spirit of God to enter into them in order to come to life. See Ezekiel 37:4, 5.
Verses 32 and 33, “And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.”
Did you notice that not even Gehazi was in the room with Elisha and the child? He did not want there to be any confusion over what God would do. Nor did he want anyone to see what he would do under the power of God. Gehazi had been unsuccessful in laying his staff on the child to revive him. This was reason enough to leave Gehazi out of this miracle. Perhaps his lack of faith would prevent the Lord from working and Elisha could not risk that.
Elisha was used to prayer. He was a man of prayer like his predecessor Elijah. No one can see the hand of God, without prayer. Elisha needed a miracle now. So he prayed earnestly as he had seen Elijah pray.
Friends, we cannot live with out prayer. We must become men and women of prayer if we are ever going to succeed in victory over the enemy. Especially in these last days, we must pray earnestly that our sins may be forgiven and overcome. Nor can our children live without our intercessory prayer for them. Just as this child was dead, so many of our own children suffer from the consequences of sin.
Elisha did what he knew Elijah had done. He had heard the story many times, but would God now answer his prayer? He pled with God to revive the child. Verse 34 says, “And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.”
Please think about this carefully. Notice what Elisha did. He put his mouth to the child’s mouth as if, in the name of God, he would breath life back into him again. He put his eyes to the child’s eyes, as if to bring the light back into them again, and he put his hands to his hands as if to strengthen them with strength once again. All the while he fervently prayed for the child’s recovery.
Friend’s here’s the lesson. If you want to win souls, and if you want to bring them to eternal life, you must get very close to them. We cannot win souls without personal labour for them and in close contact with them. The Spirit of God longs to reach them through you and me. Get close to them, enter into their sufferings and minister to their needs. Dead souls will never revive unless they are warmed by your personal interest and love for them.
Even after these first efforts, the child did not revive. Only his body became warm. Elisha returned to the main part of the house and “walked in the house to and fro…” No doubt he was praying earnestly that God would restore the life of this child and restore the happiness of the family. Then he went up again the second time, “and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.”
Here is an important lesson, my friends. Medical missionaries, must pray. But God doesn’t always answer their prayers the first time. They must be persistent. They must not give up. Remember that.
Elisha may have realized that he may have made a mistake in sending Gehazi on ahead of him with his staff. It did nothing for the child. And now he felt the heavy burden of responsibility upon him for this poor dead child, as well as his mother and father. He earnestly pled with God that He would hear him and answer His prayer.
Do you think that we have to be persistent in prayer? Why doesn’t God always answer us the first time we ask? It’s because God wants us to really want the thing we are praying for. And the more we pray for it, the more earnestly we long for the answer to our prayer. And the more earnestly we long for the answer to our prayer, the more closely we are bonded to heaven when He does finally answer it. We are to yearn for the blessing of the Lord. He wants us to strengthen our faith by our prayers and earnest pleas for help.
There is no shortage of desire on God’s part to answer our prayers, but God is developing within us, a heap of faith and confidence in God, through prayer. Elisha is an example to us in the last days of the kind of prayer life that is needed. He had learned from Elijah how to pray earnestly, persistently and passionately. We too, must also learn how to pray for the intercession of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and ministry for the Lord.
Elisha had been encouraged by the fact that the boy’s body got warm after he had been with him the first time. So, after a time, he went back upstairs to his little chamber and stretched himself on the child again as before, still pleading with God to revive him and restore him to his family. This time the child “sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.”
Friends, medical missionaries often see progress at first. The “body becomes warm,” so to speak, and they redouble their efforts until they finally achieve healing. It works this way spiritually too. There is at first a little interest. Then as more earnest prayer and effort is applied, the soul eventually surrenders to Christ. Don’t give up the first time, my friends.
What do you think the Shunammite woman was doing while Elisha was with her son? Do you think she was praying for a miracle? I think so. When Elisha came down the first time she, no doubt, earnestly asked him what had happened. He surely explained to her that his body was warm, but that he had not been revived. She redoubled her efforts in prayer as Elisha went back upstairs to pray again, and lay himself on the child.
When the child revived, Elisha “called Gehazi,” verse 36, “and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.”
The Shunammite woman’s joy knew no bounds. The drama in her house that day, started off stressful, but in the end, made her heart glad.
Verse 37 says, “Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.”
Friends, I don’t know about you, but if that happened to my son, I’m sure I’d feel much the same way. The woman could now understand something of what it is like to lose a child in death, the separation, the loneliness, the pain. God would also go through this same experience in a far more infinite way in sending Christ to die for the lost. But, He would raise the dead to life. He would raise the spiritually dead to spiritual life. And all would be well, just as the woman had said. She now understood something about the love of God for the lost. Her faith was strong in God, and He rewarded her for it.
But the story doesn’t end there. Some years went by. God had to deal with the continued wickedness of Israel during the time of Elisha. He brought their enemies to plague them. But Israel remained entrenched in the worship of nature gods. All during this time, Elisha remained faithful to the Lord and kept up the work of educating the sons of the prophets in the schools of the prophets. He faithfully warned the people of the judgments of God upon the land as a result of their backsliding.
But one day, Elisha travelled past the little home in Shunem. There he entered into the great pleasure of his hosts. They were happy to see him, and loved to hear his encouraging words of spiritual concern and interest. No doubt, their young boy helped him settle in his little “prophets room” upstairs on the wall. But something was different. Elisha seemed concerned and troubled. What was it? His face seemed foreboding and serious.
Elisha had purposely come to give them warning and instruction. Israel’s continued wickedness, even after the confrontation with Elijah on Mount Carmel had not worked the reformation that was needed. So, God had told Elisha that He would bring another famine on the land, this time a much longer one. The fruitful land of Canaan would again be “turned into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.” Psalm 107:34. If one judgment seasoned with mercy doesn’t bring His people to repentance, God will send another. If that judgment doesn’t turn their hearts back to God He will send still another. With each successive round, it is seasoned with less mercy and lasts for a longer period. If His people still walk contrary to His will, He heats the furnace hotter.
This famine was not going to be only three years like during the time of Ahab. This time it was to be seven years. Elisha felt that he must warn this family who had been so kind to him, and to whom God had shown such signal mercy. It happens that her husband is never spoken of again, so perhaps we are to understand that he had died.
While this family was not going to be fed by a miracle, like the widow of Zarephath, Elisha warned her that the famine was coming that she should take action to look after herself. She was wealthy and had resources on which to sustain herself. So, perhaps as they sat around the dinner table that evening, Elisha broke the news. We read this in 2 Kings, chapter 8:1. “Arise, and go thou and thine household,” he said. “and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the Lord hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.”
Elisha wanted to protect this woman and her son from what was coming upon the nation. When we foresee an evil, as me most certainly do in these last days, we must take action to hide ourselves from it before it comes so that we can survive the evil and prosper. That means that you will bring your life into harmony with the counsel of the prophet of the Lord.
And here is something else, my friends, those who are paying attention to the prophet receive the warning, not those who ignore or turn their backs on the prophet. We are not told of others that Elisha warned, only the Shunammite family.
Verse 2 says, “And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.”
Apparently, she found a comfortable place to live during the famine over there. This was a pagan nation, but it afforded her an opportunity to ride out the famine away from its rigors. The Philistines had been subdued by Israel during the time of David, as you might recall, but not entirely rooted out. And now they were willing to have this woman among them.
Apparently, the famine was only in the land of Israel, while the other nations around them had plenty. This shows us that it was God’s hand that brought the famine. This was also true of the plagues that God brought upon Egypt during the time of Moses and Aaron. The plagues distinguished between the Egyptians and the Israelites.
Keep in mind that God does not judge those as strongly if they do not know God or profess to know God. The sins of Israel were much more provoking to God than the sins of the other nations. Other countries had rain when they had none. Other nations were free from locusts and caterpillars while Israel was eaten up with them.
When the famine was over, this woman returned to Shunem. She found that her properties had been taken over by another. She had to leave the land of the Philistines, for she could not keep the new moons and the Sabbaths as she used to do in Israel when she was around the schools of the prophets. No doubt Israel had not been keeping them, due to their apostasy. But, in Philistia there was no one to organize and lead them.
Upon her return she discovered that others now occupied her estate. Either it had been confiscated by the exchequer and reapportioned, seized by the King, or usurped in her absence by some of her neighbors. Perhaps the person left in charge of the management while she was gone had proved unfaithful and refused to return it to her.
So, she appealed to the king. That was her only recourse. Let us read verse three. “And it came to pass at the seven years’ end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land.”
She journeyed to Samaria. When she arrived at the king’s palace, she found Gehazi talking to him. The king had asked Gehazi a very interesting question. Verse 4 says, “And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying. Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done.”
Apparently, he was not as acquainted with Elisha as he should have been, and Gehazi happened to be there. So, the king asked him about Elisha’s miracles.
Verse 5 says, “And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.”
Now think about this. Gehazi is no longer in the employment of Elisha. He is a leper. You may remember that Naaman’s leprosy had come upon him for his greed and avarice. The wicked king should have known the miracles of Elisha, but because he had turned his back on God, Elisha’s work was unknown to him. Now that the famine was over, he was more disposed to learn what the prophet had done.
It was not forbidden to talk with lepers, only to avoid living with them or around them. Since there were no priests in the land, the king had appointed someone else to inspect them. Perhaps that is how he became acquainted with Gehazi. So, Gehazi explained Elisha’s work.
Notice the timing. Just as Gehazi was telling the king about the resurrection of the boy, his mother and he arrived to plead for their land. Isn’t God’s providential timing wonderful? How often in your life have you had experiences like that? It was providence that ordered the circumstances of these events. Without the timing involved, and the story seasoned with the miracle, the woman might not have been able to regain her properties.
Gehazi’s account made the king ready to believe the story and to grant the woman’s request. The fact that the woman showed up just at that time, gave the king opportunity to let them speak for themselves. If the king appointed the property to himself, he was very generous in restoring it to her. If someone else had possession of it, the king acted out of justice in returning it to her.
God certainly cares for His children, doesn’t He? He looks after those that are faithful to Him and to those who support generously His work. Friends, if you want God’s blessing, please sacrifice everything on the alter of God’s forgiving mercy. Show sincere interest in God’s work. Let God use you to support His messengers through your hospitality. Extend yourself to those who need your help. Draw close to those who are lost, to help them find their way.
Friends, there are so many lessons that can be learned from the life of Elisha. He was a medical missionary, and in raising the boy to life, he showed the ultimate and highest quality of medical missionary work. In these last days, every church member is to be a medical missionary. When we are doing this work we are cooperating with heaven. May God bless and use you in winning souls, is my prayer.
Let us pray. Our loving Father in heaven, in Jesus name we come to ask You to make us medical missionaries. We want to use this method to reach many souls. Thank you for the example of Elisha. His faith and prayer were significant. Thank You for entrusting Your people with simple means to help people who need our help. May we become more earnest in prayer, more effective in missionary work, and more engaged in soul saving, we pray. In Jesus name, amen.