|Messages By Ovid Need|
The SHUNAMMITE - 2 Kings 4:8-37
After Solomon died, Israel, the 10 northern tribes, separated from Judah which contained the two southern tribes. The capital of the northern tribes was Samaria. NW of Samaria on the Mediterranean cost, was Mt. Carmel.
Mt Carmel was the location of a school of the prophets which was started by Elijah. Mt Carmel was the place where Elijah challenged Ahab and Jezebel's false prophets of Baal. Elijah had a servant named Elisha. When Elijah was taken to heaven, Elisha took his place.
Elisha also dwelt at Mt Carmel at the school of the prophets. It was about 45 miles between the Mt Carmel and Samaria, and evidently Elisha made this trip regularly. The mode of travel was by ass or by walking, so the trip between the two locations would take a couple of days.
Located along road between Samaria and Mt Carmel was the small village of Shunem. It would have been a convent stopping place for rest and refreshment before continuing on to either Samaria or to Mt Carmel.
In this town of Shunem was a woman that the Lord describes as a great woman.
This woman acted out our Lord's words of Mat 10:40-42 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold [water] only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
The promise of our Lord is that anyone who even gives a cup of cold water to a stranger, will not lose their reward. That is the case here for this great woman.
This morning I would like to look at a few things about this great woman, v. 8
1) She constrained him to eat with them. It sounds as though Elisha resisted and she insisted. He did not invite himself, she invited him. Notice also, he didn't knock on her door, she found him. We could mention here that we will find what we expect to find. Also, she went out of her way to help Elisha.
2 Kgs 4:8 & 9 reads like she did not realize who he was at first. Now, times were a lot different than they are now. There were very few inns along the way for the traveler to rest in; therefore, they were dependant upon the hostility of the people at the location where they had to lay over.
In other words, this great woman saw a stranger in need and she took action to help him, not knowing that he was Elisha the prophet.
This also shows us something about Elisha: he appeared just like anyone else, as a humble working man.
2) V. 9, this great woman made this unknown stranger so welcome that from that time on whenever he passed that way, he would stop at her house to eat. As Elisha stopped in several times, she recognized that he was a man of God. (Can others reconize this abuot us?) This shows us that this great woman was a godly woman because she recognized that Elisha was a man of God.
3) V. 10, Let us make.. she said to her husband. She influenced her husband and helped him to make special provision for Elisha. Her husband did not discourage her in her effort to be kind; rather, he encouraged her.
4) She desired to make provision to assure that the man of God would stop in every time he came that way. Notice she desired to have the man of God close at hand to her and her family. But, as we will see, this desire was a pure desire motivated by nothing except to be a help to Elisha.
5) The provisions were nothing fancy, but they was chosen by the spirit of love and set up by the hand of care. The chamber was lit by the genuine concern of a godly woman. V. 11, This was the first "prophet's chamber."
As time proceeded, the prophet thought of the genuine concern of the woman, and he was grateful, so he sends for her, v. 12. (Evidently the chamber was large enough for two people, Elisha and his servant.)
6) V. 13 to me is probably the key verse of the passage, and gives us some insight into the whole situation.
Elisha had connections in high places. The woman's family was just a typical hard working family, but she had made special effort to help the prophet in any way that she could without knowing that he was a prophet. Her godly effort was obvious to the prophet, so he asked her what he can do for her:
Elisha asks her: "Would you like for me to put in a special word to the king in your behalf?"
Or, "Would you like for me to speak to the captain of the army in your behalf?"
This shows us several things:
A) She took the initiative in this action. Her husband would have probably let things just continue on as they were, but she took action and helped him build a room. She didn't nag him; rather she said, "Here is what I feel we should do for this man and let me help you do it."
B) Even though she did not have an abundance of material goods, she was an exceptional woman; she did not let her circumstance in life interfere with what she could do. She did her best with what little she had, and she was not afraid to do what she could for the Lord.
Observe: I praise the Lord for our ladies which the Lord has given to us here. When we have asked them to do something, they at times may say, "I can't do much," but they go ahead and do what they can for the cause of the King and His kingdom.
C) The most striking thing to me about this story: She did this for Elisha with absolutely no self-motive in it for herself or for her family. Furthermore, she did what she did completely unknown to others.
Elisha was a stranger in need. She went out of her way to help him, not knowing that he was a man of God. She made this stranger feel so welcome that every time he was in the area, he stoped at her house. It was over a period of time that she realized that he was a man of God.
The obvious conclusion is that her motive was purely to serve the Lord; she did what she could because she was a godly woman, and not because she saw something in it for herself.
Observe: We meet many many man and women who have great & swelling words about their love for God and their fellow man; they do great and shinny religious activitys which catch everyone's attention and cause all who see them to say, "My, How they must love God. They are doing so much for the Lord and the Church." But over a period of time, their true motives came out: their religious words and activities were motivated by what was in it for them.
You say, "Aren't you judging?"
The Lord said that by their fruit you shall know them. Many times over, we see that when these people get out of the public's eye they no longer have any desire to do what they can for the Lord. If their activity had been for the Lord they would have been like this great woman: she did this unknowing who the stranger was, unknown to anyone else and not expecting anything in return.
Observe: Again, I am reminded of our ladies: I am so thankful to the Lord that they willingly (well, willing sometimes anyway, but they do it anyway) help in any way they can whether anyone sees them or not. This kind of an attitude is what the Lord blesses, and as you see from the letters in the bulletin this week, the Lord is blessing this attitude here at Linden Baptist Church. The problem is that the more the Lord blesses, the more work will be required.
We need to have another work day on a Saturday to finnish the little Salvation books. It will be worse yet when the book gets translated into Spanish. The missionary in central America we had here about 3 years ago, said that he could use as many of them in Spanish as we could afford to send to him.
D) We know that this woman showed kindness toward Elisha without any thought of reward because notice how she responded to his offer to improve her lot in life, v. 13, I dwell among mine own people.
In other words, she was content with where the Lord had her in life, and she did not want to move up the social ladder. A discontent and grumbling wife makes a cloudy home.
The Lord's answer for discontent is in He 13:5, 6. [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
The Lord was this woman's helper because she was without covetousness and content with where she was and with what she had.
This woman could have moved into the kings household or onto his royal staff. How many women dream of claiming the social ladder and they use any means possible to do this?
Observe: As I have worked around people the last several years something has stood out: Many times the men want to stand for right and are willing to even sacrifice their "good name" for a just cause, but their wives stand firmly against them. As I talk with these men, it is evident that the problem is that their wives are on the social ladder and on their way up in men's eyes. They are not going to tolerate anything that will hinder their climb.
Elisha would not place his godly name on the line for just anyone.
V. 14-16, this godly woman tells Elisha that she is content with all that the Lord has done for her and that she really doesn't need anything. So, look what the Lord does for her: He gives her the secret desire of her heart, something that all the money in the world could not buy: a child in her husband's old age. She had given up hope of such a wonderful event.
I love her response: Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. She recognized that Elisha was a man of God, but she feels that even he could not make such a wonderful dream come true. She did not want him to get her hopes up.
V. 17, Elisha's words came to pass just like he said they would.
> Think of the joy in this mother's heart;
> think of how thankful she was that she had been content with where the Lord had placed her in life and that she had not asked to be spoken of to the king;
> think of how thankful she was that she and her husband had done what they could where they were and with what they had for the man of God.
They were not able to do much, but it was enough to catch the Lord's attention. (She knew that what she did for Elisha was being done for the Lord Himself.)
Observe: Maybe what we can do for the Lord is not much in the eyes of men but if it is the best we have to offer to the Lord, it will be rewarded many times over. Notice here that when this woman did what she could for the Lord, the Lord did what she could not do for herself.
Faithfulness to and for the Lord has rewards which are beyond human value. And it is not faithfulness in the large things; rather, it is faithfulness in the small things which we can do.
We have the mistaken opinion that if we cannot do some great thing for God then it is a waste of time to do anything. This is a lie of the devil designed to rob us of our blessings from God.
Observe: This woman could not go shake her finger at the king in Samaria, nor could she confront the false prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel, but she could help the man of God who could do these great acts in the name of the Lord.
She just quietly helps in the way that she can and the Lord remembers her. The Lord knew the desire of her heart and give it to her.
Conclusion, 5 points:
1) One of the major identifying marks of Godliness in the NT is the willingness to help others with no thought of what we can get in return. This Christian Character trait was evident in this godly woman.
This godly woman is described by Paul to Timothy, 2 Tim 5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
As a side note here: I have had people from outside of my circle of acquaintances brag to me how friendly someone that I knew was to them and how willing they were to help them. I wondered if they were talking about the person I knew. In other words, the person treated a stranger far better than they did a fellow member of the household of faith.
2) This woman did what she could for the man of God, because she loved God. All of the book of 1 John is clear on this, especially 1 Jn 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
In other words, our love for God is shown in our actions and attitudes one toward another.
3) This woman's motives were pure. What she did for Elisha was because she loved the Lord. In Mat 6:1-18 our Lord warns against doing any kind of religious activity in order that one might be seen of men. He tells us that what is done in secret for the Lord will be rewarded openly by our Heavenly Father.
This woman secretly did what she could for Elisha and the Lord rewarded her openly with a child.
4) Elisha offered this woman great gain, but this Godly woman was content. She knew what was the true richeness of life was: contentment. One of the major marks of Godliness in contentment with where the Lord has us, 1 Tim 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
5) This woman just quietly did what she could for the Lord. Everyone can do something for the cause of Christ.
It does not have to be something great in men's opinion for it to be great in God's eyes.
As we do what we can for the Lord, He will do what we cannot do for ourselves.
Now, the second half of the story.
The boy was grown, maybe a teen or so, and he suddenly, the child of the dreams of this Godly woman, took ill and died. She takes him up to the room of the man of God.
We see that through the years, she remained faithful to the Lord. Many people, after they get what they want from the Lord, turn from Him, but not this godly woman.
Here we see that the first place she turns in her distress in to the Lord. She does not turn against the Lord when her dream parishes, rather it draws her nearer to Him.
In her distress, rather than sitting depressed as the world passes by, she takes action; she goes to the man of God.
The husband seems indifferent to the whole matter, but we only know what is necessary for the account of this woman.
The statement concerning her dead son here is great: It shall be well. She spoke in faith that it was all going to work out according to God's plan.
She hurried to the man of God with her concern who saw her coming. He sent his servant to meet her and ask her if everything was well with her family. Look at her answer to the servant, v. 26; it is well. Observe that she was not going to tell anyone her difficulties except the man of God, v. 27. V. 28, her saying was not in anger for the death of her son; rather, it was in disappointment. "Didn't I tell you not to get my hope up?"
Elisha offered a substitute for himself, but she was determined, v. 30.
Vs. 31-35, Elisha raises the child from the dead.
Vs. 36, 37, the woman's gratitude was obvious.
So many people, upon receiving what they want from the Lord, forget all about Him.
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