“And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. 18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. 19 And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother” (2 Kings 4:17-19).
“Dear Lord, it’s such a hectic day,
With little time to stop and pray.
For life’s been anything but calm
Since You called me to be a Mom—
Running errands, matching socks,
Building dreams with wooden blocks,
Fitting lids on bottled bugs,
Wiping tears and giving hugs,
A stack of last week’s mail to read—
So where’s the quiet time I need?
Yet, when I steal a moment, Lord,
Just at the sink or ironing board,
To ask the blessing of Your grace,
I see then, in my small ones face,
That you have blessed me all the while—
I stoop to kiss that precious smile
And then sit to cradle my child.”
There is no place on earth that feels so secure to a child than being on the knees of a loving mother. God has created this special natural haven near the heart where children can climb to cry until comfort comes, sleep until the Sandman sprinkles his magic potion, and talk about mindless matters until the soul is satisfied. On the knees of a loving mother children first learn to listen to stories being read. Then they linger to hear the voice of an angel singing sweet lullaby’s, and fall asleep knowing that all is right with their world.
In another era and in another culture, there was a woman who wanted a child to sit on her lap. In that time so long ago children were desperately desired, for they were seen as a divine delight. Children were viewed as a gift of God. The Sweet Singer of Israel said “Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psa. 127:3).
In the Israeli town of Shunem there was a woman who wanted such a reward, but the Lord had not been pleased to give her a child. God had given her great wealth, however, for we read in 2 Kings 4:8 that she was a “great woman.” According to the passage, the meaning is that the woman had great wealth.
In a larger and more spiritual context, it can be argued the woman was great, but not because of the economic prosperity she enjoyed. Many a person has had enough financial resources to fund a lifestyle that moved them towards a certain and fearful damnation. Riches are no sure sign of righteousness. This woman was great because of other factors.
Consider the greatness of the woman’s graciousness. When the woman of Shunem perceived the unusual visitor in the area named Elisha was a “holy man of God”, she was moved to minister to him, having been blessed by his presence. Such is the nature of grace that it wants to give to those who have been a source of spiritual blessing. Elisha had told the Sunammite woman about the mercies of His mighty God who saves and sanctifies, who redeems and regenerates. Elisha was “a holy man of God”.
Those who listen to the men of God are often moved to express their appreciation in verbal, and in tangible ways. Having been blessed by Elisha, the Shunemmite woman wanted to provide Elisha with a place for him to stay, and rest, when he was in the area (2 Kings 4:10). There was in this woman a heart of hospitality. There was in this woman the greatness of common graciousness.
Consider the greatness of the woman’s humility. It is not likely that this woman considered herself a humble woman, for humility is not thinking low thoughts about yourself. Humility is not thinking of yourself at all. This woman did not think of herself, but others, which in turn caused those she was gracious towards to think well of her, and seek her happiness. There is a spiritual law that what we sow we reap.
One day while Elisha was resting in the little Prophet’s Chamber that had been built for his comfort, his eyes began to circle the room. He noticed the table to one side. He looked at the chair, and glanced at the lamp stand. Everything he needed for the work of the ministry had been provided. And suddenly, Elisha wanted to do something for this lady of grace.
Calling his servant Gehazi, Elisha instructed him to find the woman of Shunem, which was done. The Lady of Shunem was humble enough to come and speak to the prophet, even when summoned in her own house. She was forever gracious to her guest.
“Lady,” said Elisha when she appeared, “What shall I do for thee?” This was no ordinary question, for this was no ordinary man. Elisha had the ear of heaven. Elisha enjoyed divine power, for God was with him. And so Elisha asked the woman what she wanted. Humbly did the woman reply, “Prophet of Yahweh, man of God, I want nothing. I dwell among mine own people, and that is enough.” Then she left.
Watching her departure, Elisha was amazed. “The woman wants nothing? She could have anything, and she asks for nothing? She could dwell in the palace of the king if she wanted, and she wants nothing? That is remarkable. Nevertheless, what then can be done for her?” To that rhetorical question Gehazi had an answer. “Elisha,” volunteered Gehazi, “she hath no child, and her husband is old.”
“What was that servant? What did you say? She has no child?” Suddenly Elisha knew what could be done for the woman. Not by his power, but by the power of God a miracle would be wrought in her body. Such is the sovereignty of the Lord. He can make a dead body live again.
Calling the Shunemmite woman back into his presence, Elisha made a unilateral pronouncement. “And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son” (2 Kings 4:16). The woman was astonished, and disbelieving. “And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.” But the matter had been settled. A child would be born, according to the will of the Lord.
As a true prophet of God, Elisha foretold not only the event but the timing of the event, and beyond that, the sex of the child. As Elisha had predicted a child was born. 2 Kings 4:17 “And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.”
If the story of the woman of Shunem ended here it would be a delightful narrative, but there is much more, for tragedy came. The promises of God are no barrier against the progress of sorrow in our hearts. One day, after the child had grown a few years, he was out in the fields watching his father at work. Suddenly the young child put his head between his hands and cried out, “My head! My head!” The father was familiar with headaches. In the hot burning sun it was not uncommon. Perhaps the child needed to go inside. “Take him to his mother”, said the father, without undue alarm. A servant picked up the little boy and took him home.
When the Shunamite woman received her son she knew that he was very sick, and there was not much she could do except hold him in her arms, and comfort him. Hour after hour the woman held the child in her arms, rocking him, fearing for his safety. At noontime the mother looked down, and noticed that her child had stopped breathing. The love of her life, the desire of her heart perished in her arms, and her heart broke.
Consider the greatness of the woman’s faith. When the Shunemmite woman knew that her child had died, she did something very unusual. She took the boy in her arms and carried him to the prophet’s room where he was placed on the bed of promise. Then the woman called a servant to provide her with transportation to see the man of God.
At that moment her husband arrived from his labors in the field. It was time for a mid-day meal. But before eating, his wife had a request. “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” (2 Kings 4:22). This was a great surprise. 2 Kings 4:23 “And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor Sabbath.” Rather than explain what was happening the woman of great faith said simply enough, “It shall be well.”
With these words the woman did not lie, nor did she explain. Faith was compelling her to a certain course of action, and that was all that mattered for the moment. “Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee” (2 Kings 4:24).
Here was a mother on a mission. Run mother run! She wanted her child back, and there was only one way that could happen. The God of promise and creation must also be the God of recreation, and the holy man of God must help her. Run mother run!
In record time the woman of Shunem found the prophet Elisha. Overcome with grief the woman could hardly speak. Her heart was in anguish, but she wanted to make two arguments to plead her case.
“Man of God, “she cried, “Did I ask for a son?” and the answer was no. Though Elisha had pronounced the birth of a baby long ago, the woman had submitted herself to the will of the Sovereign. She had stopped asking God for a child, and yet a child was given.
“Man of God,” she cried again, “Did I plead with you not to deceive me?” and the answer is yes. The Shunemmite had pleaded with Elisha not to manipulate her emotions, as it is possible for men to do that.
Her case was well made. Elisha was silent, but in the silence the Spirit of God told him what could be done. His servant Gehazi was to take his staff, go find the child, and place the rod on the body as a sign of Divine authority over death.
As soon as he could, Elisha would arrive and deal with this situation personally. And so it was done. “And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing” (2 Kings 4:31). There is a reason for that. The staff was made of wood, a symbol of creation. But it is not creation that is needed, but the Creator. The child needs for God to breathe once more the spark of life into the body, so that he can become a living soul once more.
Then came Elisha.
“And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. 33 He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. 34 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. 35 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. 36 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. 37 Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.”
Here is a scene that defies description. We read in astonishment at the concept of a resurrection from the dead. We are thrilled that once more a beloved child could be placed on the knees of his mother, and in her arms. But we wonder what it all means.
Only this much is certain. The miracles in the Bible are not for show, but for a purpose. Therefore, consider the spiritual lessons to be learned from this narrative by way of application.
There is a lesson in the narrative concerning Christ. As Elisha was concerned about the welfare of the Woman of Shunem so Christ is concerned about the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of His people. The constant question on the heart of our Lord Jesus is this, “Is it well?” (2 Kings 4:26). That is what Jesus always wants to know about you. “Is it well?” “Is it well with your soul?”
There is a lesson in the narrative for all of God’s people. “However the providence of God may disappoint us, we may be sure the promise of God never did, nor ever will deceive us: hope in that will not make us ashamed” (Matthew Henry). Though the child died in the providence of the Lord, the God of creation is the God of recreation and the child can live again (cf. John 11:17-27).
There is a lesson in the narrative for ladies. To be a great woman, be like the woman of Shunem. Be great in graciousness. Be great in humility, and in service to others. Be great in faith. And when the hour of testing comes, when the trials of life overwhelm the soul, let others hear you say, “It is well, it is well, with my soul.”