I have been basking in 2 Kings lately. Although there is so much to learn in the Old Testament, I find that I often flip to the New Testament because it seems more relatable. That is not true and sometimes I have to be reminded that the Old Testament has plenty to teach me, interest me, and completely shock me.
2 Kings has been the perfect place for God to remind me of His Might!
I thought of this three-part post after reading a remarkable story in the fourth chapter of 2 Kings. Here it is in a nutshell:
The prophet Elisha was who God used during this time in history to communicate His thoughts and demonstrate His power. Elisha had a servant named Gehazi.
A wealthy, married woman had noticed Elisha and Gehazi passing through their town of Shunem and felt compelled to feed them. This was something she did every time these men passed through. She then, after realizing Elisha was a man of God, went one step further by telling her husband she felt it was important to remodel a portion of their house and offer it to Elisha as his special chamber where he could stay and rest. She knew that he would continue to pass through their town often and wanted him to have a comfortable place to stay, providing him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp in a spot of their house, remodeled specifically for him. Wow! That is generosity if I’ve ever seen it.
While resting there (I imagine during their first stay), Elisha wanted to know how they could repay her for her kindness. Being the wealthy woman that she was, she was not able to name anything that she needed. After she left their chamber, Elisha continued to ponder it… . “What then is to be done for her?” (2 Kings 4:14, ESV). Then Gehazi said something interesting: “Well, she has no son and her husband is old.” (v. 14).
Side note: During this time in history, women desired to have at least one son to ensure provision. A son meant security and support after a woman’s husband passed away. And because of Gehazi’s words, we know that her husband was old.
The first words out of Elisha’s mouth are, “Call her.” In other words, get her back in here right now! When she appeared at the doorway, Elisha said, “At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” (v. 16). She struggled to believe his words, responding with, “Do not lie to your servant,” which tells me that she probably struggled with infertility. Having a child, specifically a son, had been a hope deferred in her life. She had everything money could buy yet felt a void that left her feeling bankrupt on the inside. Now, this man of God was telling her she would soon have a son.
And she did. The next spring, she held a newborn son in her arms.
But the story doesn’t end there. Elisha and Gehazi continued to stay in the chamber she had provided them with every time they passed through Shunem. One day, when her son had grown (scripture doesn’t tell us what age he was, but I imagine elementary age), he went out to his father in the field complaining of a headache or another type of pain that was impacting his head. One of the servants was told to carry the boy back to his mother who held him in her lap until noon. Then he died.
Can you imagine her devastation. What types of thoughts ran through her head? I can only begin to imagine. But she did not stay in a freeze state for long. She went into action.
She carried him up to Elisha’s chamber, laid him on the bed, and shut the door. She raced outside and called to her husband, in a rather frantic tone, I imagine: “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again,” (v. 22).
Of course her husband thought this to be a strange request, as it was not a special holiday. “All is well,” she responded. She saddled the donkey and headed out, determined to reach Elisha quickly with the servant leading the way.
As she neared Elisha, he saw her in the distance and said to Gehazi, “Look, there is the Shunammite. Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?” (v. 25-26). Gehazi did as he was instructed and the woman’s response was, again, “All is well.”
But we know, it was not all well. She was devastated, in shock, and ready to collapse.
In fact, she did. When she reached Elisha, “she caught hold of his feet,” (vs. 27).
Her words, paraphrased: Did I ask you for a son? Remember, I said, “Don’t lie to me.”
Elisha clearly understood there was something terribly wrong with her son. He also understood that there was not a minute to waste. He gave these immediate orders to his servant, “Tie up your garment and take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him and if anyone greets you, do not reply,” (v. 29). He sent Gehazi with very direct instructions as to what to do when he arrived at the Shunammite’s house.
One other thing that I must not fail to mention is this: The Shunammite refused to head back home without Elisha. She wanted him present because she knew that he was a “holy man of God,” (v. 9). Seeing that she was not going to go back without him, “he arose and followed her,” (v. 30).
Of course, Gehazi arrived first. The man was probably sprinting. He followed Elisha’s orders exactly, placing the staff on the face of the child. Nothing. No sign of life. I imagine he raced back to find Elisha and the Shunammite a distance off. “The child has not awakened,” is all Gehazi could say. I imagine he was completely out of breath and completely freaked out.
When Elisha arrived, along with the Shunammite and Gehazi he went up to his chamber and saw the boy lying dead on his bed. Leaving the Shunammite and Gehazi on the outside of the room, he went in, shut the door, and prayed to the LORD. What he did after that is worth reading. I will not steal the jaw-dropping moments that followed. Please read for yourself:
Are you as blown away as I was when I read it? God’s power never ceases to amaze me.
Then it says, “She came and fell at his (Elisha’s) feet, bowing to the ground.” She collapsed again. Not out of complete distress, but out of complete joy, awe, and thankfulness. God had shown up in a mighty way, using Elisha as His physical presence.
“Then she picked up her son and went out,” (v. 37).
Although it doesn’t say it in the pages of scripture, you and I both know either she uttered the words, “He’s Alive!” out loud or in her heart. “He’s Alive!”
Don’t miss this: Elisha did not bring this boy back to life. No human has the power to bring someone who has clearly died (and been without a heart beat for quite some time) back to life. But God can. He did in this story. God used Elisha to do His work. God showed up and caused both the boy’s mother and me to utter the words, “He’s Alive!”
Three things to take away from this story:
- The Shunammite woman understood that in her distress, there was only one person to go to: God. Back in the Old Testament, God’s spirit rested on His chosen prophets. She understood that and clung to God (through Elisha). In fact, she refused to go back to her tragedy without Elisha because she knew he was her direct line to God. She knew that being with God brought safety, security, and power.
- God is our provision. When things look bleak, He makes a way, and often, His way is not ours. The Shunammite’s reality for most of her life was a barren one. Then, God gave her a son. Then, her son was taken away. Yet, she trusted Him. She knew to take her grief, her distress, her panic, her anger, and every other emotion to the Lord. She knew leaving without Him by her side was not an option. She knew that if something could be done, it would be done through God. God is our provision. Period. Our circumstance are not. God provides and He gets to choose how He will provide.
- We need to seek the LORD for guidance and then need to do what the LORD tells us to do. Even if it sounds weird, looks weird, or feels weird. If we obey, we will experience His might in the most amazing ways. Elisha would agree with me if he were still alive. This story proves it!
“He’s Alive” is something the Shunammite woman said. Tomorrow, I will be listing several other moments in scripture when others had the same “He’s Alive!” moment.