Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Shunammite Woman

Sometimes God expects that bit extra from us for us to really engage with the problem and to go the whole journey to its fulfilment

Source: Jesus Loves You Today Ministry
I was in a prayer meeting recently when one of the group read out the story of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, which is a story that has always touched me deeply every time I read it.  It is the honesty of both the woman and of Elisha and the miracles God performs because of that. The story is simple; a well-off woman invites Elisha the prophet of God to her house for a meal, from then on, whenever Elisha visits she invites him to eat with her and her husband. Recognising Elisha as a Holy man she then encourages her Husband to build a room for Elisha to stay in whenever he visits. Elisha is so grateful that he wants to repay her hospitality to him and offers to put in a good word with the King, but the woman says its ok because her family take care of her. In desperation, Elisha asks his servant Gehazi what he can do for her, who points out that she doesn’t have a child and her husband is on older man. ‘Brilliant’ thinks Elisha and he tells the woman that this time next year she will cradle a child in her arms. Instead of being really pleased, the woman was distressed; 2 Kings 4:16 ‘About this time next year, ‘Elisha said, ‘you will hold a son in your arms’. ‘No, my lord!’ she objected. ‘Please, man of God, don't mislead your servant!’

Sometimes things mean so much to me that I am reluctant to pray about them in case the prayer is not answered. I remember when I heard that a good friend of mine was dying and not expected to last the night. I was afraid to pray because I knew that if God did not answer it would challenge me too much about continuing my walk with God. Eventually, I prayed and through that obedience God led me into one of the most amazing faith journeys of my life. Praise God my friend lived and was healed, but the lessons of faith and obedience in prayer God taught me through that time were amazing.

Anyway, back to the story. As prophesied, the Shunammite woman had a child and he grew into a boy, but one day he took ill with a head pain while out with his Father. He was taken home to his mother and he died later that day in her arms. I just can`t even imagine her pain or what I would have done it I had been her. She must have felt a sense of un-fulfilment of a broken promise, emptiness and despair.  I`m not sure what I would have done in my anger and grief, however the woman went and laid the child on the bed in the room that they had made for Elisha and afterwards she set off with a servant for Mount Carmel, the place where the prophet was staying.  As she approached, Elisha saw her coming and sent his servant Gehazi out to meet her and to ask if everything was alright to which she replied that everything was fine. I`ve always thought how strange, even rude, it was for her not to share with Gehazi what the problem was however, this time whilst reading this it challenged me that in life; how often do I share with others what my problems are rather than going straight to the Lord? Many times, in the past, when I have been struggling with something, I’ve often wished that someone would ring me so I could talk over my problem. Even though it`s good for us to talk to others, and the Lord provides family or good friends for us to talk to, it`s imperative that we talk to the Lord first! Meanwhile back at the story….  the Shunammite woman falls at Elisha`s feet and catches hold of them, (what an act of submission and desperation) and utters the most heart rending words that must have cut Elisha to the heart; 2 Kings 4:28 ‘Did I ask you for a son, my lord?’ she said. ‘Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?

Source: Join Our Journey
I can only imagine the sense of paralysing shock that would have run through Elisha (especially as the Lord had hidden from him the reason for the woman`s distress). Something he had prophesied and seen fulfilled but now it was dashed and broken. What a challenge of faith this must have been for him. Why would God allow this, what did it all mean and how could he answer the woman and what should he do? These are all questions we too often have in the face of receiving devastating news.  However, Elisha was a man of God and to God he looked. He dispatched Gehazi to run ahead with instructions to place his staff on the boy. This was an act of faith, a declaration that he expected God to answer and restore the child. Gehazi hurried ahead holding the staff without speaking to anyone. What must have been going through his mind? what was his expectation? He had seen God move through the hand of the prophet before, but would he this time? When he arrived, he placed the staff on the child and nothing happened. What a battle of doubt he must have had on the journey back to Elisha, to tell him nothing had happened. Did he question himself? or had he not done something, right? He had obeyed Elisha’s instructions so why had nothing happened? After all this internal turmoil it was now his job to break the news that the boy was still dead.

Meanwhile back at Mount Carmel the Shunammite women was explaining to Elisha that she was not going home unless he accompanied her. Was she holding him to account for the promise of a son he had made, that now lay in tatters or was it that her trust was in Elisha and his God alone, and that she was going to settle for nothing less than his direct engagement with her needs? Who knows but Elisha honoured her request and set off with her. How often are we tempted to respond to a need with a token gesture rather than engaging directly? Sometimes God expects that bit extra from us for us to really engage with the problem and to go the whole journey to its fulfilment. I can only imagine Elisha’s battle of faith and the thoughts going through his mind, asking himself (and God), ‘why did this happen’ and ‘God I obeyed you and promised this woman a child and all seemed good and now her grief is greater than before’. ‘Before the Shunammite women just longed for a child but now the unfairness of having a child and losing it, Lord how can I face her, how can I face this situation, what is your purpose in all this, did I hear wrong from you, did I act from my own wish to do something for this woman, did I step out of your will?’  All of these questions may have gone through Elisha’s mind and I’m sure similar questions will have gone through our minds at times of unfulfilled promises. Finally, to be faced with Gehazi telling him that he had done what he had asked, but the boy was still dead, must have compounded Elisha’s thoughts.

When they arrived at the house Elisha went into the room alone, and there lay the dead boy, lying on Elisha`s own bed. Then Elisha did what he had done so many times before, he turned to God and prayed to Him, alone in the room just himself the dead boy and God; 2 Kings 4:33 ‘He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD’. Elisha did a mighty battle of faith, he obeyed a direction from the Lord, to lie on the boy, eyes to eyes, mouth to mouth and hand to hand. There was a glimmer of hope, a warmth in the child but no life. Elisha got up and walked across the room then returned and stretched out on the boy again. Sometimes the Lord tells us to do some strange things and asks us to obey and sometimes we need to be persistent in our obedience. In this case, once was not enough to get the job done, once only started the warming process, it took Elisha`s continued persistence in obeying what the Lord had said to raise the boy to life. Then the boy sneezed.  Wow, the joy of Elisha to be able to restore the child to the mother knowing that God had truly fulfilled his promise, must have been overwhelming.

Now some would say; why did all this have to happen, why put these people through this trauma? I don’t know the answers to these questions except that sometimes it is only when we go through trying times that the real lessons of faith and dependence on God are learned. Did I want to go through weeks of praying for my friend, trusting God that she would live and recover? No certainly not. It was a very hard and scary time, but also a time I would  not trade, as it took my faith, trust and learning to walk in obedience to God voice to a place it had not been before and would not have gone to had it not been for the situation we were facing.

This story from 2 Kings 4 has always blessed and challenged me as I hope it has blessed and challenged you today. At some time in our lives we will stand in the place of the characters in this story and the focus of the story will change depending upon which character we are relating to most at that time. However, the truth of the story remains that God cares for our needs and sometimes our wants and will provide for them even though we are often tested in this. Also, sometimes God asks us to step out and declare His Word and travel the journey of faith until fulfilment comes, even though that journey may not always be straightforward.

Author: Jan Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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  1. It's always interesting when we relate stories in the bible to our own situations. God's Word always provides us with direction and challenges and this story made me think about my faith. The interesting thing is that although we are all reading the same story, God may give all of us different things to learn. This is the power of God's Word. The bible is much more than a written book of words it is the Word of God almighty. What a privilege it is for God to communicate and direct us. Thank you for this wonderful blessing.

  2. Thank you dear sister for your time to Bless the body of Christ with this awesome message. All the Glory to God Always.
    "FAITH" of a mustard seed",
    ".......assurance about things we can not see" Hebrews 1.
    Praise God your friend got healed and that the woman's only beloved child was raised from the dead. Our God is AWESOME Amen. This blog is a real encouragement to keep praying with out ceasing. Our God listens and answers our Prayers, Amen
    God Bless

  3. What a great thought provoking article, it reminded me that sometimes we need to press through in prayer believing that God will answer in a miraculous way. I wonder how often have we given up because we didn't get what we wanted the first time we prayed or how often have we stopped seeking God's face because we didn't get a response from Him the first time we asked Him for help. It's often through pressing on in faith that our faith is built up and we grow in the way of the Lord. Just like the butterfly that gets it's strength from it's struggle to break free of it's cocoon but eventually does and is beautiful and able to fulfill all it was designed for, so in struggles we get our strength to be able to fulfill all we were designed for in the beauty of His holiness. Great blog thank you.

  4. I find this story about the Shunammite women quite challenging myself? in troubled times when the storms of life are raging , we are forced to dig deep within ourselves and pray from the depths of our being. In those moments we have a deep awareness that we have (nowhere else to turn or go to) but the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord .
    thank you for blessing us all with this challenging and blessed Article.
    Dear God , I praise you that one day we will shout for joy over the harvest of virtues you have produced from our tears AMEN