Today, in God’s Word we encounter this woman from Shunem. You don’t see it necessarily here in the verses before us, but this woman she loved the Lord – she truly did! And I can say this because, whenever God’s prophet. Elisha, passed through town, this women would say, “Hey, Elisha, you’re going to stop in and have a meal with me and my husband. We don’t want you to go hungry. After a while this woman, apparently, wanted to do more than just feed Elisha and so she talked to her husband and said, “Honey, I’d like to put an addition on this house, not for us, but for this man of God, for Elisha.” And that happened, they added a nice little guest room addition just for Elisha. So, the point being is that this woman loved her Lord and generously supported his servant, Elisha.
Now, Elisha for his part was very grateful for this support and love and wished to do something in return for the woman. So, what did he do for her? Well, he noticed that she and her husband were getting older and they had no children, which was especially a big deal in that time because without an heir all their possessions, all their stuff, would go to someone else, and she also wouldn’t have anyone to care for her if her husband passed, and so, by God’s grace, Elisha was able to promise her a son.
It should be noted that this Shunammite woman didn’t ask for this gift, this child. In fact, she objected to it. “Please, man of God,” she said, “don’t mislead your servant!” But God did not mislead, no, he gave her this gift of life and, in verse 17, we read that this woman became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son, “just as Elisha told her.” So, it was that this woman who had always held other children in her arms, now found herself holding a child of her own. Pretty neat.
And, I would guess that, even though this woman didn’t ask for this child, that she loved her son. I have not doubt that she cherished him, appreciated him, and cared for him. In fact, as we go forward in this story, I think you’ll see just how much she loved her boy. This child was an unexpected gift from God.
Jump into our lesson for today, this woman’s son, now quite a bit older, was out working in the fields with dad, and suddenly the boy exclaimed, “My head! My head!” Dad sent the boy home to mom and a few hours later, as he sat in mom’s arms, the boy died. Can you imagine? This woman didn’t ask for this child. She seemed to have accepted that she would never have a child, but then God gives her one, only to take him away. It seems cruel. It’s unfair. Why? Why, God?
Now, as a Pastor, I’ve seen a number of different reactions to the death of a loved one, but this one was a new one for me. First, this woman goes out to her husband, verses 22 and 23 “She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.” “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.” “That’s all right,” she said” Couple of things in these verses. 1) What a husband and father. This guy doesn’t ask about his son. He also doesn’t understand why his wife would want to see God’s prophet. “Hey, it’s not Sunday, why you getting all religious?” Dads, fathers, be better than this, please. Be the caring spiritual leaders that God has called you to be in your home. Here is the second thing – notice the woman’s words – “That’s all right,” she said.”
Excuse me? Your son is dead. How is that “all right?” Now, to be fair, in context she’s responding to her husband’s statement, but she says this again a bit later when she encounters Elisha’s servant, look at verse 26, Elisha tells his servant, Gehazi, “Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’” And how does this woman who lost her son respond, “Everything is all right.” “Everything is fine.”
But then she gets to that man of God, to Elisha, and here she finally crumbles. Here she falls. She is in bitter distress. One can appreciate that this woman throughout all of this was set on getting to Elisha. She knew where true comfort could be found in this moment of death, and she wanted to take that death, that sorrow, that bitterness that she had and just drop it at this man of God’s feet, because if there is anyone who can give her answers and comfort it’s the one who speaks for God.
And here is what was on her mind, verse 28, “Did I ask for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” There are two questions there and Elisha doesn’t answer either of them directly, but I will. Did this woman ask for a son? No, she didn’t. Did this woman tell Elisha not to raise her hopes? Yes, she did tell Elisha that. So, here is what she’s really saying, “Elisha, I never asked for any of this. I didn’t ask for the child, but I was grateful for him, but I never asked for him or for him to die – this makes no sense, why?!”
I suppose we ask God questions like this too, don’t we? Lord, I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask for my family life to fall apart. I didn’t ask for my dad to get cancer. I never asked for that accident to happen. I didn’t ask to feel this way. I didn’t want any of this, so why did you give it to me? Now, it’s not wrong to go to God with these thoughts and questions. It’s not sinful to wonder what God is doing in your life and in the lives of those whom you love.
But, I want us to think about two things here. First, you ever notice how we really don’t seem to complain when God gives us all those good things that we didn’t ask for? I mean think about it, whether you have a lot or a little, what you do have is a blessing, a gift from God. Do you have a family? That’s a gift. Do you have a job? A gift. Do you have money to spend and save? A gift. Are you up and about and in decent health? Another gift. Even our time is a gift.
Recently, I was talking to someone, and I mentioned how I had already called my dad twice today with questions I had, and I didn’t want to bother him anymore, and the person I was talking to said, “Don’t take that opportunity to talk with your dad for granted. Someday you won’t be able to do that anymore.” That person is right. And, unfortunately, the truth is that it often takes tragedy, and suffering, and hardship for us to realize how precious all these gifts are that God has given to us. You see God gives gifts, but he does also take them away.
And, when he does, so often rather than thank God for the time we had to enjoy a loved one, or a specific circumstance, or unique moment in life, we turn around and question and blame him once those gifts are gone. And, I get it, it’s not easy losing something you love, and it doesn’t seem like a loving thing for God to take that thing or person away. And that brings us to my second point: trust.
It’s easy to love God when times are good, but it takes faith to trust God when times are bad, and if you’re someone who struggles with that, I want you to look at this woman. Twice she said everything was all right – it wasn’t – but she trusted in her Lord and her racing footsteps to the man of God showed that. She had questions, sure. She was in distress, yes, but she didn’t accuse. She didn’t doubt and, more importantly, look at what God did: he continued to bless; he raised her son to life.
Elisha, after this woman comes to him, sends Gehazi, his servant, to revive the boy. Gehazi doesn’t have any success – kind of embarrassing. So, Elisha himself goes with the woman. He gets there to that room that was made for him and where the boy now was laid to rest. He leaves the woman and Gehazi in the hal, and – this is interesting – he lays on top of the boy mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. The boy’s body warms up a bit, but he remained dead. So, Elisha paces a bit, and lays on the boy again. (It’s worth nothing here that even a prophet of God has to wait for the Lord’s timing.) The boy sneezes seven times and God brings him back to life. One can only imagine that emotional moment as Elisha opened the door and handed that kid back to his mother. The second time that God gave this woman the gift of life.
You ever notice that this is God’s favorite gift to give, life? That’s evident right here, right now, we are all alive. God has given you that gift of life, but he doesn’t stop there. Because this life ends, the wages of sin is death, and sin also makes this life often not so great, so what did God do? He promised life.
Jesus, God’s son, walked on this earth and said, “I am life!” “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” And God gives you the faith to say, “Yes, I do.” And, in this way, he gives you life a second time, spiritual life. You are no unbeliever – a gift! – but God’s not done! He has even more life to give, because even believers still die. So, God gives the gift of eternal life. That, when this physical gift of life comes to an end, you live. You go to be with God forever. Through Jesus, you have, right now, all these gifts: physical life, spiritual life, and eternal life.
You know what this means for us? How this helps us on an everyday basis? Well, recall the Shunammite woman’s words throughout our lesson: “Everything’s okay, everything’s alright, everything’s fine.” In the Hebrew, those English words are actually just one word, and it’s actually the last word you will hear today at the end of this service. It’s the Hebrew word Shalom or peace. That’s what this woman was saying over and over again, “peace.” Let this be what you say every day. Have peace. The devil and the world can rage at you, your earthly gifts can disappear, you can get sick, you can grow old and die – or die young – the peace remains, because God has gifted you life: physical life, spiritual life, and eternal life. Believe this and you will have his peace. Amen.