My current Old Testament reading is the Second Book of Kings, which is the source of the first passage in today’s post. It is the story of the Shunammite woman:
8 One day Eli′sha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. 9 And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who is continually passing our way. 10 Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.”
11 One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. 12 And he said to Geha′zi his servant, “Call this Shu′nammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” 14 And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Geha′zi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 And he said, “At this season, when the time comes round, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your maidservant.” 17 But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Eli′sha had said to her.
18 When the child had grown, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 And when he had lifted him, and brought him to his mother, the child sat on her lap till noon, and then he died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the asses, that I may quickly go to the man of God, and come back again.” 23 And he said, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” She said, “It will be well.” 24 Then she saddled the ass, and she said to her servant, “Urge the beast on; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Geha′zi his servant, “Look, yonder is the Shu′nammite; 26 run at once to meet her, and say to her, Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?” And she answered, “It is well.” 27 And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Geha′zi came to thrust her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; and the Lord has hidden it from me, and has not told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not deceive me?” 29 He said to Geha′zi, “Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet any one, do not salute him; and if any one salutes you, do not reply; and lay my staff upon the face of the child.” 30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her. 31 Geha′zi went on ahead and laid the staff upon the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. Therefore he returned to meet him, and told him, “The child has not awaked.”
32 When Eli′sha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and shut the door upon the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he went up and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 Then he got up again, and walked once to and fro in the house, and went up, and stretched himself upon him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Then he summoned Geha′zi and said, “Call this Shu′nammite.” So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, “Take up your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took up her son and went out.
There is a great deal of depth to this story, so I will cover only a few points of interest. The first thing I found noteworthy is that the husband of the Shunammite woman plays a minor role here. The faith of this woman comes from within, and should serve as a reminder that women are not aimless creatures incapable of demonstrating fidelity and true devotion. There are some around these parts who seem to believe that women aren’t moral agents, or that their faith is a lie. Passages like this give proof to the fact that their belief is not founded on sound doctrine or teaching.
Second, this story shows how faith in the Lord is tied to the giving of Life. It was the Shunammite woman’s faith, manifested in her works of charity and hospitality towards Elisha, servant of the Lord, that led to life in the form of her conceiving a son. Whether it be in the form of new children or in a restoration to health, life and faith are linked. Another example of this is found in the Gospel of Mark:
25 And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” 29 And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
The phrase that always fascinates me in this passage is “Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him….” It was not the intention of the Lord to heal that woman, yet she was healed. Why? Because her faith was so strong that it drew power forth from Jesus. Frankly, I find this astounding, the idea that our faith can seemingly compel God’s power to manifest itself. And yet, that isn’t really what is happening. We aren’t compelling God to manifest His power, because God already wants to manifest His presence in our lives. God is always sending his power forth, but it is only when our faith is strong, like this woman or the Shunammite woman, that we can feel it in our lives.