A couple months ago I had the opportunity to teach the ladies of my church during one of our monthly Ladies' Fellowships. This year we have been going through different women in the Bible and learning from their example. As soon as I knew I would be teaching I knew exactly whom I would be teaching on...the Shunamite Woman. For some time this woman has been an absolute favorite of mine. Every time I read her story in the Word of God, God touches my heart. What a truly great and godly woman she was. I would like to share with you some of the things that God has given to me through the study of this great woman.
This lady lived in Shuanam and was known as a "great woman." Great may referred to her rank and position her riches and wealth, or her nobility and age. Whatever her greatness we will discover that she was a gracious and godly lady, ministering to others, despite her own trial of life. Although she carried a heavy burden, she never made it known or talked about it; little did she know the Lord would reward her for her gracious hospitality, only to have that reward snatched from her in a moment's notice. After experiencing suffering and grief, she would become a recipient of a great miracle.
The first thing I noticed about this great woman was she was a need meeter. The account begins with her often encouraging the weary traveler (Elisha) to stop, eat and be refreshed. She saw Elisha had the need of privacy, rest, and a place to study. So often when we have a need it is easy to become so consumed with our need that we neglect to see the needs of others. However, the Shunamite Woman did not allow that to happen in her case. Although she suffered from a tremendous need she didn't allow that to cloud her vision to the needs of the people around her.
During one of Elisha's visits, as he lay upon the bed in the little chamber, he called his servant Gehazi to come to him. He told Gehazi to bring the woman to see him. Elisha then offered this great woman to mention her name to the king in gratitude for all she had done for him. However, this did not interest her.
Gehazi knew of the woman's need and revealed it to Elisha. The great lady was barren and had no children. Elisha called her into his presence and told her that she would embrace a son within the next year. Long ago she had given up hope of motherhood and she begged the prophet not to lie to her and give her false hope. She had been disappointed so many times. People may point at this woman's response as a lack of faith. However, the more I study her life I truly believe that in this woman's life she reached a point of contentment. Of course, she never stopped longing for a child but she came to a point where she told God she would be content and happy without children. She determined to be happy in her difficulty. When Elisha spoke these words to her, a flood of emotion must have swept over her. Could this really be true? Would she truly have a child?
Much to her delight and that of her husband she conceived and bore a son! God rewarded her for her servant's heart and humble spirit.
"She built the prophet a room: God built her a house. You just cannot out give the Lord."
Every time I read this account in the Bible I like to stop for a moment and imagine the change throughout the house. The laughter that must have rang through the air. God had answered the secret and hidden desire of this great woman.
Just stop and imagine her joy...
Then suddenly we see how a dream came true turned into a tragic nightmare. Her son complained of his head hurting, the great woman gathered him in her arms and at noon he died. We see no outward expression of grief yet we know her inner spirit was hurting and broken She took him to the prophet's room and left him there. She took her burden to the Lord and left it there. How we today need to lay our burdens on our Savior..shut the door and allow Him to work.
She didn't tell anyone of her problem. She simply approached her husband and asked him to have a servant get a donkey so she could run to the man of God. It appears she didn't even share the tragic news with her husband. He questioned her trip, but she told him: "It shall be well." Although it wasn't presently well, she knew it would all work out for the good. As I read this portion of Scripture, a little saying came across my mind,
"Have you prayed about it as much as you have talked about it?"
How easy it is for us to run to one another with our problems, but how much have we talked to the One who can actually solve our difficulty? The Shunamite Woman knew who could solve her problem and she ran to him and him alone. Oh that we would have the same kind of boldness to approach the throne of God in the hour of need, to grab a hold of His promises in the same way. She did not run all over the neighborhood bemoaning her fate or asking every else to pray for her. She herself was in tune with God and knew where her help lay.
As you continue to read the passage you read of a great miracle. Elisha presented the lad to his mother and once again she fell at his feet and bowed herself to the ground. The great woman always showed respect and a grateful spirit. What a happy ending. However, her life trials didn't end there, the Bible reveals more disappointment to follow.
As Elisha continued to use his prophet’s chamber, he stayed in contact with the Shunamite family. One day he told the lady that the Lord was going to send a famine to the area for 7 years. He instructed her to take her household and go to another area to live. The lady went to the country of the Philistines. After the famine she returned to Shunam, only to discover that she no longer had a home or land. Imagine her heartache and dismay- no place to live, no plot for a garden, nothing!
How easy it would be for me to become angry and bitter. Here she had simply done what the prophet had adviced her to do. And this is what happens. No doubt this has occurred to all of us before. We do what we know is the right thing to do… Yet, it seems like as soon as we take this great step of faith hard times come. And how easy it becomes for us to question the goodness and love of God. We doubt his wisdom and we doubt His way. No doubt this woman’s heart was once again broken, yet once again she shows great faith.
Once again her determination comes into view. Her family and home were of primary importance to her. Using a bold, but respectful, approach she went to the king to beg and plead for her house and land. Responding to her heart’s cry the king told his servant to restore everything- her home, her land, and even the fruit of her field for the past seven years! How merciful God was to her! He provided a second miracle of restoration- first her son, second her home.
The Shunamite woman met another’s need without even thinking of or mentioning her own. How did she keep a positive attitude in her negative life situations? She knew where to find help! She knew Whom to run to. Her life provides us with many lessons. This lady faces barrenness, the death of a child, famine, loss of her home and property. Yet, she remained calm throughout all of her trials. She did not let her problems keep her from serving God, nor her emotions rule. Self- pity had no place in her vocabulary or actions. She remained determined not to focus on her problems, but when a problem did arise, she immediately sprang into action and ran to the Lord.