Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 73. The Shunammite Woman Gets Her Land Back

Prophets And Kings
Day 73
The Shunammite Woman
Gets Her Land Back

Today we meet back up wif a familiar character: the Shunammite woman whose son Elisha brought back to life. We also meet back up wif Elisha's servant Gehazi.

2 KINGS 8:1-6
"Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, 'Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.'" (2 Kings 8:1) This took place at some time in the past, after Elisha raised her son from the dead.

Because the Shunammite woman trusts Elisha, she is willing to do anything he says. If Elisha raised to life a child that belonged to you or me, I believe we would trust anything Elisha told us to do. "The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years." (2 Kings 8:2) 

"At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to appeal to the king for her house and land." (2 Kings 8:3) In the king's eyes the house and land were abandoned when the family moved to Philistine territory. It has now become property of the state because she has forfeited her rights to it. She intends to throw herself on the mercy of the king's court in the hope that he will give the land back. It's up to King Joram whether or not he grants her request but as the saying goes, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." 

"The king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, and had said, 'Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done.'" (2 Kings 8:4) As we have seen during our study, Joram and Elisha are not friends. At best they tolerate each other and have respect for the position each of them holds in the nation. Some scholars believe this scene occurs after Gehazi came down with "white leprosy", the type that is not considered contagious or deadly by Mosaic law. If so, Gehazi may no longer be in Elisha's employ because the leprosy fell on Gehazi for his greed, his lies, and his stubborn refusal to confess and repent when Elisha confronted him with his wrongdoing. It could be that the king thinks this former employee will be much more willing now to reveal secrets about Elisha. 

Other scholars believe this scene is out of chronological order and took place sometime before Gehazi contracted leprosy. They feel the king wouldn't invite a leper into his presence because Gehazi's condition still makes him an outcast even if he isn't contagious. Mosaic law would require him to live separated from most social activities. Then again, King Joram isn't known for adhering to Mosaic law, so we simply can't say for certain when our passage today took place or whether it happened before or after Gehazi became a leper.

"Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land." (2 Kings 8:5a) We've spoken before about divine appointments and this is one of them. It's no accident that the Shunammite woman shows up at the exact moment when Gehazi is regaling the king with the story of how Elisha raised her son from the dead. This woman has shown great kindness to a prophet of the Lord and the Lord intends to reward her for her service and for her faith.

Imagine Gehazi's surprise when he sees her walk in! He was probably already enjoying his private audience with the king. I can't help but picture Gehazi's delight when, just as he gets to the best part of the story, the woman herself enters the room. "Gehazi said, 'This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.'" (2 Kings 8:5b) What a dramatic moment this must have been.

Every bit as delighted as Gehazi, King Joram wants to hear the story again from the Shunammite's own lips. He wants to look into the eyes of the young boy who was once dead and now is alive again, perfectly whole and healthy. "The king asked the woman about it, and she told him." (2 Kings 8:6a) 

I would be willing to bet the Shunammite didn't have to present much of a case for the return of her land. I think all she had to do was ask. "Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, 'Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now." (2 Kings 8:6b) This is more than she asked for, more than she hoped for. This is a double blessing.

We don't know Joram's motivation in bringing Gehazi before him to hear about Elisha. It could be to find out private details of the prophet's life for future reference. Maybe he thought there would come a time when knowing Elisha's habits would come in handy, just as Judas found it handy knowing where Jesus went regularly to pray. Or it could be Joram had an intense curiosity about a man who could perform miracles in the name of the Lord. Or maybe Joram just enjoyed hearing tales of great feats. I like to think something in his heart yearned toward God and that, in learning more about the prophet, he hoped to learn more about God. Whatever his motivation, the dramatic moment that comes at the end of a day of hearing delightful tales so pleases him that he gives the Shunammite more than she asked for.

Figuring out what's in the Shunammite's heart is far easier than figuring out what's in Joram's heart. She's a woman of faith, a woman who ministers to the saints of God, a woman who embodies Proverbs 31 because she possesses all the attributes of a virtuous woman. Like any good mother, she's concerned with providing for her son. She's also concerned with her national heritage, in the keeping of family land in the family. I am sure she came before the king with a humble and respectful spirit, yet she is bold enough in faith to ask for what she wants.

It's interesting that she comes to the court without her husband. We are not told that he has died. And it's interesting that she brings her young son with her. There's no way for us to know for sure but I think maybe this is exactly how the Lord instructed her to appear before the king. I think she spent time in prayer before going to ask for her land back and that the Lord told her to go with her son to see the king. The woman and her son are the only two characters featured in Gehazi's story and they are the only two who need to appear before the king. Going by herself wouldn't have been as effective as going with her son who has been raised to life. Bringing her husband or other relatives along would have been unnecessary. The Shunammite and her son are living witnesses of the Lord's power and only the two of them are required to be a testimony of God's goodness.

We see the faithfulness of God in how He interacts with the godly Shunammite and the less-than- godly King Joram. He is showing mercy and grace to both of them. The woman is being rewarded for her faith and for her service to a prophet of God. "God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them." (Hebrews 6:10)

Joram receives grace and mercy because the Lord is still dealing with his heart. The Lord is displaying His goodness and His power to the king in allowing him to hear about the miracles and to meet the recipients of a miracle in person. Joram is sitting on his throne faced with three witnesses of a great miracle, all three testifying to the truth of God's word and the power of His name. How good God is! Joram is not wicked like his elder brother or his father, but he is not a very spiritual man. He has shown disdain for the ways of God and for God's prophet Elisha. Yet God loves him, just as He loves all of us. God longs to enfold Joram in His arms and call him "child". As the Apostle Paul said, "God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance." (Romans 2:4b)

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