Lessons From the Woman of Shunem

I was telling a dear sister last night that, for the past week or so, I have not been able to get away from II Kings, chapter 4 – the story of the Shunammite woman in particular. If asked to name some favorite women in the Bible, I would quickly say Esther & Ruth as well as others…but this nameless woman would definitely be on my list as well. There is much to be admired about her –

Her Spiritual Perception: “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. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.” (v. 8,9)  She recognized that Elisha was a holy man of God.

Her Piety: “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.” (v. 10) This woman had a love for the work of God.

The Promise She Received: “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. And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. 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. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.” (v.12-17)   There are not too many woman in the Bible who received a personal promise of a child.

Her Priority: “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. And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. And she called unto her husband, 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.” (v. 18-22)  Several years ago, Br. Don Greene, pastor of Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Lansing, MI, preached a message at Faith Baptist Camp on knowing the will of God. In his message, Br. Greene was speaking of the times when Christians are truly seeking God’s will in making a right decision (contrary to the rash, hasty choices so often made). He emphasized how the FIRST inclination…the FIRST instinct that we have in a matter is the Holy Spirit’s nudging. The Holy Spirit is always first; why would He come 2nd, 3rd, etc.? Any thought after that will always be human reasoning. At the tragic death of her child, this mother’s very first reaction was to get to the man of God.

Her Peace of Mind: Her son had just died in her lap, yet she remained calm and level-headed. We see her maintaining her composure later on in the chapter when Elisha’s servant runs to meet her. “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 she answered, It is well.” (v. 26)

Her Persistence:  Although her husband’s reasoning could have made her second guess the trip, she did not allow it to discourage her from getting help from God. “And she called unto her husband, 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. And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well.” (v. 22,23) Her response to her husband was not one of disrespect for he had not denied her request. Rather, her response was one that exemplified her great faith in God:  “..And she said, It shall be well.” Had the Shunammite woman allowed her husband’s observation – his human reasoning – to cause her to second guess her first inclination, they would not have experienced the miracle of their son being raised from the dead.

Her Personal Trial: We see her making the trip with only a servant to drive her. “Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.” (v. 24) As our pastor preached last night on “Expectations On the Road to Receiving a Blessing”, one of his points was, we should expect to experience some loneliness.  For whatever reason, God allowed her to bear this burden alone.

Her Pain: Up to this point, we see a very strong and steady woman. But, I am glad that, although very strong in faith, the Lord allows us to see her weakness as well. “And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?” (v. 27,28) The emotions that she had managed to hide up to now, came spilling out. In modern terms, she finally fell apart. What a reminder that, just as the great prophet Elijah was found sitting under the juniper tree while requesting for God to take his life, even the strongest of the strong will experience times of great hopelessness and despair.

Her Continued Persistence: “And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.” (v. 30) As the importunate woman in Luke 18, she would not give up.

Her Payment: “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. 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. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.” (v. 32-36)  What a wonderful miracle – the Lord rewarded the faith of this mother!! “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Her Immediate Praise:Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.” (v. 37) No doubt, this mother was overcome with joy in seeing her dead child raised to life. Yet, her very first reaction…even before picking up her son…was worshipping God!

There are so many lessons we could learn from this woman of great faith. How very thankful I am that the Lord gives us this and so many other examples in His Word!

“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again… Hebrews 11:32-35

~ Rachel ~

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