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.
9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
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.
11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
13 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.
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.
15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.
17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. 2 Ki. 4:8-17
In this and the next post I will be writing about two great women of faith. The Old Testament is filled with stories whose incandescent beauty is only surpassed by the glorious revelation of the Holy Spirit who walked in the midst of the experiences that we read there.
As with all scripture, the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman is full to the brim. I do not know how many books it would take to uncover to any level of satisfaction the riches to be found in this scripture. In this post we will attempt to bare the tiniest glint off of this priceless treasure trove.
What a woman this Shunammite was; and what an incredible man of God Elisha was! In the Spirit, these two fitted together like a glove.
The Shunammite woman was a truly great woman on the earth, and at her death she became a great woman in heaven also. Not too many people can attain to such an achievement, for the Bible says that not many great earthly men will be great in the Kingdom of God.
One of the things we notice in this narrative is that the Shunammite woman welcomed the man of God into her house ‘with no strings attached’. She was self-less, and she loved the man of God for who he was, not for what she could gain from receiving him into her house.
Elisha, on the other hand, felt indebted to this woman for her generosity towards him, and he desired to do her some good in return. But even when he called for her and asked her what favour she would desire from him, she wanted nothing.
“I dwell among mine own people”, she told him. Which meant that she did not have any problem for which she needed his intervention. More to the point, she implied that she was contented with her life.
But this Shunammite woman had a secret need buried deep within her heart. Actually, this need was greater than anything that Elisha had alluded to. This need comprised of the fact that the Shunammite had no child. Moreover, her husband was old, and their hopes of bearing a child had grown dim, if not entirely gone. The Shunammite would not think of burdening the servant of God with such an impossible wish. She therefore refrained from telling him.
Apparently, Elisha had not noticed that his benefactor had no child. But his servant Gehazi had noticed. When Elisha therefore pressed Gehazi for what they could for the woman in return, Gehazi told Elisha, “I know what this woman’s real need is. She has no child, and her husband is now old.”
Immediately Elisha heard that, he knew what he needed to do. He sent for the Shunammite woman again and when she came he told her,
“About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son.”
Her reaction tells us that this was her greatest need in life. In the classic manner of reactive disbelief she told the man of God:
“Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.”
But it came to pass just as Elisha the man of God had said. The woman conceived and, at the time that Elisha had appointed for her, she gave birth to a baby boy.
So what lessons can we learn from this story?
There are many, but the most obvious one is that God will reward us when we bless others selflessly. This woman blessed the servant of God, Elisha, and God blessed her in return. It happened to her exactly as Jesus Himself said,
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Secondly, notice that the Shunammite woman did not go seeking for her blessing. On the contrary, of her own free will and out of her good heart she patiently served God by serving His servant. And it was that God saw it and, in His own time He met her most desperate need in life.
The Shunammite’s heart was filled with giving.
There are people searching for answers to their problems, but they are going about it the wrong way. They do not have the patience of this woman. Were they spiritual people, they would simply serve God and await His deliverance. There is only one way to test God: it is by serving Him, and serving Him wholeheartedly.
Notice also that Elisha tested the woman by asking whether he could intervene on her behalf in very mundane matters.
“If someone has taken your piece of land”, Elisha told the woman (paraphrased), “I could talk to the king and he could help you get it back.”
Today, many people regard men of God as the fairy with the magic wand in their lives. They regard them as the solution to all their earthly problems. This is the reason for most of the long prayer lines you see in many churches. Many people go to church to have their problems prayed for, not to be edified or to learn to love God in the Spirit. There are many people who are believers, not for spiritual reasons, but for earthly, material ones.
But the Shunammite woman was contented with her lot in life.
Thirdly, we learn an important lesson from Elisha himself. In the first place, the way Elisha conducted himself in the Shunammite woman’s house was exemplary. So much so that the woman told her husband,
“Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.”
In other words, the more Elisha passed by, the more she came to realize that this was a holy man of God. I do not think she would have noticed that if Elisha had conducted himself in a disorderly manner.
Unfortunately, it is not so with many preachers of the gospel today. Stories abound of the carriers of the Good News that would make your skin crawl with dread. Today, there are fewer and fewer men of God who are true examples of a Godly, holy life. I know of a certain ‘prophet’ who lodged in a pastor’s house for a time, and he ended up demanding that the ‘spirit’ had told him move into the pastor’s bedroom and the pastor to move out. Unfortunately, the pastor complied. It took a public outcry to reverse the situation; but the damage had already been done.
Lastly, and of equal importance is the fact that men of God ought to be able to sow spiritual things into the lives of God’s people and in that way bring the great blessing of the Spirit into the church.
In Romans 15:27 the Apostle Paul says:
“… their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.”
Elsewhere he tells the Corinthians:
“If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” 1 Cor. 9:11
Notice Paul is not talking of mere preaching of God’s Word. Rather, he is talking about God’s ministers investing in the Spirit into the lives of God’s people. The price that one has to pay for such an undertaking is that he has to die to self. He has to lay down his life for the sake of God’s sheep.
[This morning I woke up with this song on my heart. And I cannot help myself just watching everyone who is in this video!!]