...thoughts expressed here are not necessarily
June 07, 2004
A Lesson to be taught this weekend. Sorry no pictures...
2 Kings 4 Our Sovereign God Provides
"The most devout among us become atheistic when we fail to trust
in God with all our heart." -- Oswald Chambers
One of the great experiences of life is coming to recognize that God is
able to meet our needs.
The commentators, to me, seem to focus attention on us in their
treatments of this passage. I want to focus our attention of the great
God it speaks of and make much of Him.
Often we dont learn that lesson until there is no where else to
turn. The book the The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren quotes Ron Dunn
without attribution: Youll never know God is all you need
until God is all youve got
Because when God is all youve
got, then you will come to understand that God is all you need.
We can come to that same understanding.
We face the same kinds of needs the needs of our family, finances,
future., questions about all kinds of things. The understanding that God
cares for the needs of his people, great and small needs, great and small
people. We may be surrounded by a hostile culture, a tiny group of people,
but the eternal God of heaven is concerned to care for us. We can cast
our cares on Him.
Thats a truth that runs through the scriptures and the Lord keeps
teaching it to his people.
Lets consider the context of todays lesson in 2 Kings 4.
This is one of the most serious times of apostacy in Israel before is
was destroyed in 722. According to 1 Kings 19:18 only 7000 (whom God had
kept for himself) had not bowed the knee to Baal. A
recent Barna report says that only 4 percent of Americans have a Christian
world view. This is one reason we are looking at these passages. The times
have great similarities. We live in a culture of oppressive sexuality
and lust for power. The church has become worldlier and worldlier being
in the world and OF it.
In this context, with Elijah and Elisha, we see one of the three major
outbreaks of miracles in history. The first was during the time of the
Exodus. The third time was in the work of Jesus and the apostles.
Chapter 4 at first glance seems to be a series of anecdotes, just some
things that happened in the life of the prophet. They are important stories
and significant enough, but they seem to be strung together and then all
of a sudden you begin to see the strand that is linking them all. That
strand is this: Whatever the needs of His people, even when Baal
worship is surrounding us and we are a tiny little minority of people,
we have a God who cares for the simplest needs, the most unpretentious
of needs and sometimes the most overwhelming of needs of His people.
There are five miracles in four stories with 3 connections:
Three great themes- God cares about our Finances, Family, and Food.
1. Widow: God takes the symbol of her poverty and meets her need based
on her obedience.
2. Shunammite woman: God gives, takes away, and restores.
3. Prophets: People are in desperate need in time of famine and in an
act of grace there is healing in the pot and supernatural multiplication
I will have to only allude to the story of the poor widow that God makes
provision for in the first part (vv. 1-7) of the chapter. In accordance
with the faith she exhibited in a public act of obedience, blessing was
returned to her.
We meet a very different woman- a wealthy woman of standing in verses
8-37. Then we meet the school of the prophets- the seminary students,
if you will, at the end of the chapter, vv38-44. In each way, Yahweh,
Elishas God, proves himself able to meet the needs of His people.
(Remember Baal worship is surrounding them).
In verse 8 we learn of another woman who was very different than the first
woman. The first one was a desperate woman pressed to the very edge of
life out of abject poverty and grief. This woman is a woman of wealth
and status and connections. She has no sense of desperation, but consider:
if her husband dies she has lost it all.
There is a deep hurt in her life, but she is not acting out of desperation.
She is acting out of a sense of love for God in vv 8-10 as she sees Gods
man ( text uses this designation eleven times) as one of Gods people.
Remember God had said to Elijah there are 7000 that have not bowed the
knee to Baal. She is one of these 7000. That is not very many in a nation
the size of Israel. Romans 11 refers to this very remnant and likens them
8 One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there,
who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there
One day Elisha went to Shunem.
On the surface this may not mean a great deal to you. Shunem is in the
great valley that runs from Mount Carmel down through the center of Israel
toward the Jordan River. There are a number of hills and a cliff area
and Nazareth is there on that cliff area and it looks down over the valley.
Just beneath Nazareth there is a hill called the hill of Moreh, a little
ways further there is another hill, Mt. Tabor. The hill of Moreh has several
little towns on it at the edge of the fertile and productive Plain of
Jezreel .Youll recognize the name of Endor where Sauls witch
was. Nain is another town. The Lord Jesus could have looked down from
Nazareth onto the Hill of Moreh many times as he was growing up. Shunem
was on this hill, and Nain was where the Lord was walking one day and
he saw a widow on her way to a funeral to bury her only son. As you remember
the Lord spoke and raised her son from the dead. That was just down the
way a few miles away from Shunem.
So there is an interesting connection here between Elisha and Jesus.
Shunem was kind of a halfway point from Mt Carmel to Samaria and Elisha
was travelling that way and visited the wealthy woman.
9 She said to her husband, "I know that this man who often comes
our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let's make a small room on the roof and
put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay
there whenever he comes to us."
One event became a habit . Hospitality was given in the name of Yahweh
to the prophet of Yahweh created a joy in this womans heart. She
wants to make it a more permanent arrangement so they build a room for
him on the roof. Roofs in those days were flat and accessible with parapets
around them by law. This was a walled room that would be cooler than the
open roof. The furnishings were simple- probably a flat mat to serve as
a table, a bedroll, a chair and a clay wicked lamp.
Her hunger for the Lord led to this.
11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there.
12 He said to his servant Gehazi, "Call the Shunammite." So
he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, "Tell
her, 'You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for
you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?'
She replied, "I have a home among my own people."
A woman of wealth, self reliant, had no obvious needs. She is resourceful
and spiritual. Note that she is satisfied with Gods provision. She
responded that she had no need, she was willing to trust the people around
her that God had provided and that loved her. She had no obvious needs
but she had a real need, but it was too deep for her to articulate, perhaps
too humiliating for her to even express.
Perhaps, in his question, Elisha was giving the Shunnammite an opportunity
to glorify God, which is what she did. I would note that this is a mark
of spiritual maturity. Some of the neediest people I have known felt like
they were the most blessed because in their need they ceased to focus
on it and instead realized Gods grace was sufficient. And in that
grace they stood.
We will come to see that she is also realistic- when we look at her response
when Elisha says she is going to have a child. She is shrewd, astute,
plans ahead, and is determined.
The Shunammite woman was a woman of purpose- she knew what she wanted
and determined to go for it. Caring and serving with nothing in it for
herself, Elisha wakes up one day and realizes how she has ministered to
their needs. I want to note here that time and time again in the scriptures,
the prerequisite for having needs met seems to be linked to being an obedient
servant. As we test God we will see that when the need of the servant
expands, grace superabounds.
14 "What can be done for her?" Elisha asked.
Gehazi said, "Well, she has no son and her husband is old."
15 Then Elisha said, "Call her." So he called her, and she stood
in the doorway. 16 "About this time next year," Elisha said,
"you will hold a son in your arms."
"No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant,
O man of God!"
Nothing was more hurtful to a woman in ancient Israel and it is no less
hurtful in our modern times though it doesnt carry the social stigma
it once did. One of the last bastions of that stigma in in the evangelical
church as we can attest to.
From her response and her realities, I think we can surmise that she had
a longing for a child. God had not opened her womb, and her husband was
old. The possibility of her giving birth had slipped beyond her. She had
closed her heart to that and yet from the power of the response in the
text - just to mention it was a raw point in her life.
Some commentators equate her fear with unbelief. I think that it is more
complex than that.
Were going to see more of Gehazi later and we are not going to be
very impressed with him. But here he is (on the surface) very sensitive
to the womans needs. That has led ancient rabbis to infer that Gehazi
may have been lusting for her himself, but I find no indication of that
As with the first widow of verses 1-7, theres no request from this
woman. I am reminded that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans
when we cannot even articulate our need the hurt is so deep.
In fact in verse 16 imagine the setting- heres this woman and the
holy man of God and you were thrilled to be in his presence- he looks
at you and you say I dont want anything- I just want to serve
you- next year at this time you are going to hold a son in your
arms. Can you imagine the emotions and feelings that must have rushed
over her at that time and just like Sarah centuries before, the news was
too much for her.
Even the thought was too painful to talk about. Dont mislead
your servant, Oh man of God That is not unbelief, that is fearfulness.
If I start to take hope in that it will crush something deep within me.
17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same
time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.
I love the way the passage reads the woman became pregnant.
No marvelous notes about it, just a statement of fact. The next year about
the same time she gave birth to a son.
Again the miracle is not fire from heaven to alert the nation- just quietly,
a woman who was unable to give birth and God gave the word. We dont
know if she told anybody else other than the immediate circle. Who would
believe her? It was simply the word of the Lord ministering to the need
of His people.
The next part of the story is even more marvelous. The Lord of the womb
is also the Lord of life and death. We can tell the story quickly since
you have already read it .
18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with
the reapers. 19 "My head! My head!" he said to his father.
His father told a servant, "Carry him to his mother." 20 After
the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat
on her lap until noon, and then he died.
That child grows until he is old enough to go out in the fields and work
with his father. Israel summers can be brutally hot. One day the child
is out with the workers in the heat of the summer and all of a sudden
my head, my head! Something like sunstroke hits him. The
father tells the servant Carry him to his mother (shes obviously
the resourceful one in the family). We dont know if he goes
it seems he stays in the fields. She takes the boy and hugs him to her
chest and feels the life ease its way out of him. The object of her hope,
the joy of her life, the fulfillment of her dreams and it all is oozing
Simply we read: He died.
That part is sad enough in its own way but now the remarkable stuff.
21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the
door and went out.
22 She called her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants
and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return."
23 "Why go to him today?" he asked. "It's not the New Moon
or the Sabbath."
"It's all right," she said.
She is not willing to accept that. She went up and laid him on the bed
of the a man of God., shut the door and went out. She takes him up to
that upper room and shuts the door so nobody can find the body. Some commentators
think this was also to spite the prophet, but I dont see that in
Funerals were nearly always exactly the same day. In the heat of that
time you did not wait to bury much less place the body on a hot roof.
At any rate, she delays the funeral she doesnt want there
to be one.
I think this is an act of real faith- she turns to the man of God who
represents to her God her sovereign provider. He is still Yahweh Yireh
of Mount Moriah, the first name of God revealed to man after the fall,
to Abraham when he was about to sacrifice Isaac, and God provided.
The woman who, like Sarah, felt God open her womb now believes God can
do more than this. Hebrews 11 says women receive their dead back by resurrection.
There is a faith in this woman that is real of something she had had no
experience of that the God who caused this child to be born can maybe
do something about it.
She calls her husband to provide a man and a donkey and doesnt even
tell him the son is dead. Its not Easter or Christmas (actually
he says its not the new moon or the sabbath, perhaps when the prophet
would be available, or perhaps that was a time she had already established
to meet with the prophet) and doesnt even specifically ask about
the child. This is a miracle child, one that was a long time in coming,
his only heir. Questions are curiously absent!
He seems to me to be distracted about his business and she pushes him
away. Its all right. Maybe he was rejecting her and the son because
he didnt believe it was a miracle? I dont wasnt to speculate
further, but I must note the curious construction of the interaction in
the Hebrew as well.
24 She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, "Lead on; don't
slow down for me unless I tell you." 25 So she set out and came to
the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi,
"Look! There's the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, 'Are
you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?' "
"Everything is all right," she said.
Verse 24 she saddled the donkey and went to Mt. Carmel about 15 miles
Elisha immediately recognizes there is something wrong and sends Gehazi
out to meet her. He is taken totally by surprise. At the state of affairs.
In order to get to Gods prophet she tells him everything is all
right. If she can just get to Gods prophet! That is the determination
of her heart.
27 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."
28 "Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't
I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?" She takes hold of Elishas
feet and Gehazi tries to push her away- this was totally inappropriate
to do this in public and especially a man who wasnt her husband.
Elisha tells him to leave her alone. There is no rebuke in Elisha- he
reminds me so much of the Lord Jesus here
She pours it out- you can
feel the hurt and anger and bitterness, (deep bitterness of sorrow, literally)
and yet the hope, because why would she come all that way to Elisha if
she thought all she was going to do was make her complaint? Its
more than anger- it is a cry for help!
29 Elisha said to Gehazi, "Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my
staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and
if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face."
30 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.
Elisha told Gehazi to tuck his cloak into his belt- that was the way you
prepared to run so the cloak would not interfere- gird up your loins
as the King James says- clear your legs for running- take the staff- the
symbol of the prophet of God- do not greet or be greeted- very unusual
behavior in the Middle East, by the way. Lay the staff on the boys
31 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 told
him, "The boy has not awakened."
Note: The staff is a symbol of prophetic power. The rod that turned to
serpent and back again, Aaron's Rod that budded as picture of resurrection,
Moses snake on a stick (that later became the idol Nehushtan that
Hezekiah had to destroy) as pictures of salvation.
Meanwhile the woman stuck to Elisha like glue. Two indications- it is
not magic or something touched by the prophet that had power. Not like
a prayer cloth. The staff has no power anymore than the mantle did.
32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his
couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the
LORD . 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth,
eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the
boy's body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth
in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more.
The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
This is a curious miracle and I cannot explain some of the details but
I do know this is not early mouth to mouth CPR. There had been a thirty
plus mile journey- this boy was stone cold dead. This miracle doesnt
happen again- its like Elisha is trying techniques he observed-
remember the widow of Zarapheth and Elijahs way of raising her son?
But the power doers not lie in the methods of the prophet. After another
prayer session, Elisha tries again and God works his wonders to perform.
It is an occasion to acknowledge that it is God who is at work to will
and to do according to HIS purposes.
The boy sneezes seven times. ( some translate this convulsed
I imagine the woman was outside the door with her ear to the door. Can
anyone sneeze seven times for me?
Dont you know if a woman recognizes the cries of her child she can
recognize their sneezes.
36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite." And
he did. When she came, he said, "Take your son." 37 She came
in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and
Elisha calls her and Gehazi in and notice what she does? What would YOU
do if you were this mother? Who would you go for first? She doesnt
do what I would have suspected. She comes in falls at his feet and bows
to the ground. She first worships, not Elisha, but Yahweh Yireh. Elisha
becomes a symbol of that.
Yahweh is the Lord of life, the Lord of family, he opens the womb and
he can raise from the tomb or from the dead. A focus on the greatness
of the character of God gives rise to a faith in that God. Faith is only
as good as its object, and God is the author AND finisher AND focus of
Question: can our lack of faith limit Gods provision? What
do you think? (remember who provides even the faith)
Can I say like Job, The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away- blessed
be the name of the Lord? Or Even if He slay me yet shall I
trust in Him?
Question- how should we respond to the loss of loved ones today?
Is death still an enemy? What do you think? Has Christ finally put this
enemy under His feet? How should we counsel someone who has lost a loved
one. Is grief still legitimate?
Death is not normal, it is a product of the fall. While there is no final
sting of despair about death, Christ has not yet cast it into the lake
of fire. There is a subchristian teaching in ultra reformed and super
charismatic circles that is almost Hindu like, that turns all suffering
into good in disguise. It ends up attacking those who grieve as lacking
faith, being unspiritual. The Bilblical idea is for us to HOPE in God.
We are to grieve with those who grieve. If we didnt need comforting
there would be no need to send the other comforter. Christians need to
express sorrow over the separation of death. The beauty of Lamentations
3 comes to mind.
Dont undermine compassion or heal wounds lightly.
C. S. Lewis said Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises
of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels,
it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too
weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex
and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who
wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what
is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
THE REST OF THE STORY:
In 2 Kings 8 we learn what happened to the Shunammites family. Elisha
warns them to flee the land because of the coming famine- when they return
seven years later their land is restored because of their relationship
with the man of God.
My Lord will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. Phil.
Testimony: Earnie and I have experienced the death of a dream
we are a childless couple.
We went through all the tests, the process of screening for adoption,
and eventually found God telling us we were striving in an area we needed
to take our hands off of. He wanted us to place our desire on the altar
where he would consume it as a sweet smelling offering.
We learned the lesson in the withholding of what we thought we needed
above all else. We were given Gods best for us and so discovered
that he applies his providence with wisdom, that he is still trustworthy
and true when we dont get the desires of our hearts, but the desires
of His heart for us
We have a greater than Elisha, to whom there is no need we cannot bring,
who never leaves us and for whom there is no need he cannot meet. His
grace is sufficient. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich , yet for our sakes, he became poor so that we
through his poverty might become rich.
We come in the confidence that God, our God cares for and responds to
the needs of His people. He is still Yahweh Jireh.
Other thoughts I may not get to cover...
There is an interesting difference in Elijah and Elisha. Elijah has as
his typical work of power under God Mount Carmel. Calling down fire from
heaven and lighting the altar despite all the water that had been poured
upon it, consuming the sacrifice, and the people are overwhelmed by the
power of God and the nation is impacted by that. Again, lightening and
fire were called from heaven in 1 Kings 18 on a series of people who had
come to attack him. Power to impress- overwhelming power- that is the
life of Elijah.
Elisha is very different. In Elishas life we see Gods power
not so much to overwhelm the unbelieving, but to encourage the faithful.
Its not the fire of Mt Carmel, its the quiet pouring of oil
in a closed room, or the opening of a closed womb, the feeding of the
The meeting of needs and the provision of care. It is not so much the
power to impress as it is the power to love, the power to provide, the
power to show compassion. Elijah is the bold confronter. Elisha more often
in his life is the man who comes alongside to rally Gods people.
Just dont make fun of his bald head or hell sick the bears
One of the great experiences of his life is when a young man looks on
the enemy and sees nothing but what causes fear., and Elisha says, Lord,
open His eyes! and all of a sudden he sees the power of God, the
angels of God around.
So even though Elishas ministry is different than Elijahs,
both have the same message, Loyalty to Yahweh alone when Baal worship
is all around. Remember Baal is the God of fertility. Baals
the God of the storm, the God of Life and Death, of vegetation. There
are very similar cultural idols we live in the midst of today- rampant
sexuality, the quest for power, things have not changed so much. The world,
the Flesh, and the Devil are no friends to Grace. But God, when he is
trusted by His people shows the hollowness of the worship of Baal
or any other false god..
In chapter 4 the Lord is caring for His people.