“The Woman Who was Both Great and Gracious yet Nameless in Scripture”
Text: 2 Kings 4:8-37 (HCSB)
Intro: Elisha and the Woman from Shunem
Historically woman in times past were treated as inferior and sad as it may be there are still isolated cases of women even in our world today that are not treated with the respect their do. But with this story and many other incidents in the scriptures, God’s providence and love for women is evident. May I add that God still to this date highly values women and Godly mothers! This nameless woman from Shunem I hope will encourage you mothers today to continue to be great and gracious and understand God does love you and He will care for you!
1. A great woman: vs. 8-10
The unnamed woman was great in social standing and in wealth. But she was also great in perception, for she noticed that Elijah often passed that way on his ministry trips. She also discerned that he was a man of God, and she wanted to serve the Lord by serving His prophet. We get the impression that her husband lacked his wife’s spiritual insight, but at least he didn’t oppose her hospitality to the traveling preacher. He permitted her to have a permanent “prophet’s chamber” built on the roof of the house and to outfit it with a lamp, a table and chair, and a bed.
There seems to be a few husbands today that seem to still act that way!
In this day of motels and hotels, hospitality to God’s people, and especially God’s servants, is becoming a neglected ministry and a lost blessing.
1 Peter 4:9 (HCSB) “Be hospitable to one another without complaining.”
Hebrews 13:2 (HCSB) “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.”
The woman’s faith in God is seen in her desire to be a blessing to the man of God. This great woman was a servant at heart and she knew one way of showing her love for God was to show it to others. I am glad to see that there are some great women who are hear today that have proven they love God!
2. A great gift: vs. 11-17
The prophet and his servant were resting in the room when Elisha expressed a desire to do something special for the woman because of her kindness to them, and he asked Gehazi (gih HAY zigh) to call her so he could discuss the matter with her. Elisha addressed his words to Gehazi; possibly because the woman held Elisha in such high regard that she didn’t feel worthy to speak with him. But her reply was humble and brief: “I am content among my own people.” She didn’t want Elisha to intercede with the great God because she had no desire to be treated like a great person. She ministered to them because she wanted to serve the Lord.
After she left the prophet’s chamber, Gehazi suggested that she might want a son. Her husband was older than she, so perhaps conception was impossible; but if God could do it for Abraham and Sarah, He could do it for them. It was likely that her husband would precede her in death, and without a family, she would be left alone. Gehazi called her a second time, and this time Elijah spoke to her personally. He gave her a promise that sounded very much like God’s words to Abraham and Sarah. How many blessings husbands with nominal faith have received because of the dedication of their godly wives! The promise was fulfilled and the woman gave birth to a son. Grace brought life where once there had been no life.
Genesis 21:2 (HCSB) “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time God had told him.”
This miraculous birth would be God’s gift to her for her goodness to His servant. The woman’s response to this announcement does not mean that she did not want a son; every Israelite woman did. To be childless was regarded in Israel as a great personal tragedy. Her reply indicates that she felt having a son was impossible. She urged Elisha not to build up her hopes only to disappoint her later.
This woman was content, this woman was willing to serve the Lord, and this woman was humble. This woman’s obedience allows her to receive a great gift! What might today’s mother get from this nameless women’s story?
3. A great sorrow: vs. 18-28
The Shunammite did bear a son as God promised. However, one morning while the child, evidently still quite young, was out in the fields with his father in the heat of harvest time a violent headache overtook him. He was carried back to his mother but failed to improve and died shortly thereafter, perhaps from sunstroke. Clearly the lad was dead, not just sick, and his mother knew it. Her thoughts turned immediately to Elisha and she prepared to seek his help. Perhaps she did not tell her husband that her son had died because she feared he would not let her go if he knew the boy was dead. When she told him she wanted to see Elisha he questioned the need since it was not the New Moon or the Sabbath, occasions for religious festivals. The husband’s spiritual concerns seem to have been superficial and ritualistic. Her words, It’s all right, were designed to avoid further explanation and delay.
Quickly the woman rode her donkey, while her servant led. Elisha was only a few miles away at Mount Carmel. Interestingly she knew where to find him. When the prophet saw her coming he sent Gehazi to intercept her. But she would not be delayed with explanations; she hurried on to Elisha. Her confidence lay in Elisha’s ability as a man of God, not in his servant.
Arriving where Elisha was, she grasped his feet, a gesture indicating extreme humility, need, and desperation. Gehazi felt that her behavior was improper, but Elisha recognized it as the expression of deepest grief. The Lord sometimes informed his prophets beforehand of situations they would face, but this time He did not. As is common under extreme stress the woman’s first words to Elisha did not tell him why she had come but how she felt about what had happened. She referred to the fact that having a son who died was a loss of her hopes, much like never having a son at all. She was so heartbroken at her son’s death that at the moment she felt it would have been better if he had never been born.
Better to have loved and lost? Hear the agonized Shunammite’s cry, “Did I ask you for a son?” In the pain of our loss, it may seem that it would have been better never to have been given what we have lost. God’s restoration of the woman’s dead son reminds us that no believer’s loss is permanent. Health and loved ones will both be restored when we are raised by the Lord, if not before. It is better to have loved and lost, because nothing that God gives us that we truly love can ever be lost.
Psalm 4:3 (HCSB) “Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him.”
4. A great miracle: vs. 29-37
The woman and the servant must have ridden very fast to get to Mount Carmel in time for Elisha and Gehazi to return home with her the same day; and the animal must have been exhausted from such a strenuous trip in the harvest sun. Why did Elisha send Gehazi ahead? He was probably the younger of the two men and could run faster and get to the house much more quickly. It was important that somebody get back to guard the corpse so that the father wouldn’t discover it and have it buried. Gehazi laid his staff on the boy’s body, but nothing happened. (Was this because of what was hidden in his heart?) The woman rode the donkey and Elisha followed after her.
Once again the door was shut on a miracle. First, the prophet prayed, and then, he stretched himself out over the corpse. He got up and walked in the room, no doubt praying and seeking God’s power, and then he lay on the boy a second time. This time the boy came back to life, sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. The text doesn’t explain the significance of the sneezes, unless it was God’s way of expelling something toxic from his lungs. You would think that Elisha would have been overjoyed to take the boy downstairs to his mother, but instead, he called Gehazi, who in turn called the mother.
But the story doesn’t end there. Later, when Elisha announced the coming of a seven-year famine, he also advised the woman to relocate, so she went to dwell with the Philistines. When she returned to claim her property, Gehazi was speaking with the king and telling him about the resurrection of the boy, and his mother showed up in the palace! The king authorized the officials to return her property to her along with whatever income she had lost because of her absence. The death of the boy turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Only God’s grace can impart life, whether to a barren womb or to a dead boy, and only God’s grace can impart spiritual life to the dead sinner. It was God who gave the boy life, but He used Elisha as the means to do it. So it is with raising sinners from the dead: God needs witnesses, prayer warriors, and concerned saints to bring that life to them. Said Charles Spurgeon, “The Holy Ghost works by those who feel they would lay down their own lives for the good of others, and would impart to them not only their goods and their instructions, but themselves also, if by any means they might save some. O for more Elishas, for then we should see more sinners raised from their death in sin.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 (HCSB) “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift - 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are His creation - created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”
Throughout this story evidences of the woman’s faith keep shining through. God rewarded her trust with a miraculous birth and a miraculous restoration to life. Being a Godly mother isn’t easy, pray for hospitality endure heartache and enjoy happiness!
In : Sermon
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