Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 65. The Shunammite's Son, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 65
The Shunammite's Son
Part 2

The son the Shunammite miraculously received haves died unexpectedly and today her goes to get the prophet Elisha.

2 KINGS 4:24-37
The woman has told no one her son is dead. She laid him on Elisha's bed and shut the door on the room. She asked her husband to spare her a servant and a donkey during today's harvest work but she didn't tell him why she wants to see Elisha. Now she is getting ready to depart, "She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, 'Lead on; don't slow down for me unless I tell you.'" (2 Kings 4:24) In my background study I found that it was customary in those days for the servant to follow behind the donkey or to walk beside it, leading it. The woman tells the servant to lead the donkey as fast as he can go, not being concerned with her comfort. She's not interested in traveling at a normal stately pace. This trip is like a trip to the emergency room in our times, going at high speed with lights flashing and sirens screaming.

"So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel." (2 Kings 3:25a) The journey from Shunem to Mount Carmel was approximately twenty miles.

"When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, 'Look! There's the Shunammite! Run to meet her and ask her, 'Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?'" (2 Kings 4:25b-26a) Elisha is alarmed to see her. As we learned yesterday, it was only her habit to travel to him on New Moons or Sabbaths. To have her show up unexpectedly like this is a sign something is wrong.

But she reassures Gehazi the same way she reassured her husband, "'Everything is all right,' she said." (2 Kings 4:26b) 

"When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, 'Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.'" (2 Kings 4:27) In her grief and exhaustion, she's temporarily unable to speak. She's relieved to have reached the prophet and simply sinks to her knees, placing her hands on his feet in a plea for mercy. Gehazi doesn't like this undignified display and tries to push her away but Elisha knows something is terribly wrong. Just as his predecessor Elijah didn't expect the widow's young son to die, Elisha doesn't expect the Shunammite's son to die. He had no idea this was coming.

"'Did I ask you for a son, my lord?' she said. 'Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes?'" (2 Kings 4:28) We talked yesterday about the deep pain of infertility. She had been disappointed for so many years that she had shoved the hope of a child deep down in her heart. She had buried that hope and covered it over, pushing it out of her mind. When the prophet asked if there was anything he could do for her in return for her kindness to him, she asked for nothing. Now she can't believe the Lord would grant her most precious wish and then take him from her. 

Her answer tells Elisha all he needs to know. "Elisha said to Gehazi, 'Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don't greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face.'" (2 Kings 4:29) Time is of the essence, as it is during any medical emergency. When a person codes in the hospital it's of vital importance to get a team there immediately to begin working on the patient. Elisha doesn't know what has happened to the boy or how long it's been, but he knows the woman traveled twenty miles to get to him and Gehazi will have to travel twenty miles back to Shunem. 

"But the child's mother said, 'As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.' So he got up and followed her." (2 Kings 4:30) She's not about to follow Gehazi back to Shunem and leave Elisha behind on the mountain. She doesn't know whether Gehazi is a godly enough man to pull this off, even if he is carrying Elisha's staff. She wants the prophet himself, the prophet who promised her the precious child who now lies dead on his bed.

Gehazi is likely a much younger and more athletic man than Elisha and he still reaches Shunem ahead of them. "Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy's face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and said, 'The boy has not awakened.'" (2 Kings 4:31) 

Elisha now does what he knows Elijah did for the widow's dead son. "When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy's body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes." (2 Kings 4:32-35) Critics have tried to dismiss this miracle by saying that Elisha unknowingly performed CPR on the child. They believe he blew into his mouth and that his repeated lying on the body massaged the heart. And if he had been on the premises when the boy died, able to minister to him immediately, I might tend to agree. But hours have passed. He's cold to the touch, which means his heart hasn't been pumping for some time. He's brain dead because he hasn't breathed for so long. Even when a person codes in the hospital, doctors will only attempt revival techniques for a limited period of time, knowing that brain death can begin to occur as soon as four minutes after a person stops breathing. Medical personnel will usually call a time of death after unsuccessfully performing procedures for ten to fifteen minutes. If a person should happen to begin breathing on their own after that long, they likely have suffered debilitating brain injuries. But this boy completely revives and he is in a perfectly normal condition. 

The child died at noon. His mother then took him to Elisha's room and placed him on the bed, shutting the door. She then sent a message to her husband requesting a servant and a donkey. After saddling the donkey, she and the servant traveled twenty miles over rough terrain to Mount Carmel. It took a few minutes on the mountain to talk with the prophet and his servant before making the twenty mile trek back to Shunem. A person in good physical shape can walk four to five miles in an hour over even ground, such as on a walking track. But these travelers were on uneven ground and even though they were traveling as fast as they could, the men at a run and the donkey at a gallop, it's bound to be almost dark by now. There's no doubt in my mind that the child's revival is a miracle from God. Elisha prayed before lying on the body, knowing it would take God's power to revive the child. I think he so wanted the boy to live that he lay on the body out of grief and out of an intense desire to somehow impart his own life into the child. He offered himself as an instrument for the Lord to work through, but the Lord did the work.

Christian doctors and nurses know there is only so much that medical science can do. They recognize the Lord as the Creator of life and the Sustainer of life. As believing medical personnel go about their work to revive a person, I believe many of them are praying to God in their hearts, knowing the real work is up to Him. And that's what Elisha did today. 

"Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, 'Call the Shunammite.' And he did. When she came, he said, 'Take your son.' She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out." (2 Kings 4:36-37) The Shunammite was already a woman of faith when she first met the prophet. We know this because of how she served him out of a humble heart. She served him for the sake of the Lord because she worshiped the God of Israel. Her faith was strengthened when the Lord granted her the greatest desire of her heart by giving her a son. The Lord could have stopped there but He wanted to grant her one more thing, a thing that would raise her faith to the highest level. Our God often strengthens our faith through troubles and that's what happened to the Shunammite today. She spent several hours in grief, knowing her precious son lay dead on the prophet's bed, but at the same time she dared to believe the impossible. The Lord builds our faith day by day and step by step. When Elisha first came to her house, she didn't possess a faith that included belief in rising from the dead, at least not until the end of time when all the saints will rise. She didn't even possess a faith strong enough to believe the Lord would heal her barren womb. But now, after a hope she'd given up on has been granted, she finds it within herself to ask the impossible of a God for whom nothing is impossible. 

None of us wants grief or hardship in our lives but I can testify to you that I've learned more about Jesus in the hard times than in the good times. I've seen what amounts to miracles in the way He has changed circumstances and changed lives, even when it looked impossible. Today, let's strive to have a faith like the Shunammite woman's. Let's ask for big things from a big God. The Lord Jesus once entered a town in which He could perform only few miracles because the people had little faith. He wanted to do big things there but the people didn't believe He was big enough to do them. Although I can't explain exactly what this means, somehow our faith and God's power work hand in hand. Somehow the people who didn't dare believe in Jesus were able to block their blessings. Let's not be blessing blockers today. Let's be like the Shunammite who said in faith, "Everything is all right. It is well. My God is a big God and I'm expecting big things from Him."

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