Summary: Part 5 of the Sermon Series, "God of Elisha"
The cluster of miracles of Elijah and Elisha serve several purposes. One is to show Israel that Yahweh remains faithful to Israel even after her exile to Babylon. The other is to show Israel that despite the godlessness of her kings, Yahweh remains gracious and merciful in difficult times. The bottom line is the glory of Yahweh in Israel.
At this point, the author introduces us to the Shunnamite woman. She lives in Shunem (hence, Shunammite), a village about twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) southeast of Mt. Carmel where Elisha lived. The narrative is about the faith of the Shunnamite woman. It describes the faith journey of Israel and of ours as well.
Warren W. Wiersbe has rightly said that when you trust Christ as your Savior, God automatically enrolls you in a school—the school of faith. In the school of faith, the Bible is your textbook. The troubles in life are the exams. In school, we study the lessons and still fail the exams! However, in the school of faith, after we fail the exams, then we know the lessons.1
That is what happened to the Shunnamite woman. God rewarded her faith by the gift of a son, but her son died. She went through a difficult time of anguish. Yet in her anguish, she expected the mercy of God.
That is how Israel should trust Yahweh, her covenant God. That is also how we should also trust the same God today.
We note eight marks of the faith of the Shunnamite woman.
A Giving Faith
The woman is described as “prominent” (2 Ki. 4:8, NASB). The word (Heb. gadol) signifies greatness in importance2 or “significance.”3 She was prominent, important, and influential in her village.
She was wealthy. She can afford to build an extra room for Elisha. She had many servants and donkeys (vv. 18, 22). Yet the writer is not so much concerned about her wealth as in how she used her wealth. She used her riches to support the ministry of the prophet. She prepared food for Elisha, not just one time, but every time he passed by Shunem. She built a small room on the roof for Elisha. She said, “Let us make a small room on the roof 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” (v. 10). Hers was a board and lodging ministry.
In like manner, years ago, I was invited to lecture in Davao City. A Christian family received me into their home. On the second night, they put lots of durian and a bottle of Coke on the table. We ate it all. On the third night, they put durian and coke again on the table. I felt like we were in a durian eating session. We ate. Alas, I could not eat one more durian. I had a great time there because of the kindness of that family.
Why did this woman go through all this trouble for the prophet? The reason is that she served the living God. “And she said to her husband, ‘Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God’” (v. 9). She is supportive of Elisha, the man of God. She believes in God, in the word of God, and in the preaching ministry of this man of God.
If you believe in the Lord, you should be supporting the work of the Lord. You should open your homes to God’s workers. You should invite them to have a meal with you. You should invite visiting pastors and missionaries. I call my house a “Pastors Pension Haus,” because many pastors have stayed in my home.
Blessed are you when you open your home for Bible study, for small group, and for the workers of God. By doing so, you are promoting the work of God!
It is not the will of God to starve your pastors. Neither is it the will of God to spoil your pastors also. Paul wrote, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’" (1 Tim. 5:17).
Paul speaks of “double honor” in the context of “wages.” The word “honor” then refers to honor in terms of compensation or honorarium.4 “Double honor” therefore refers to generous compensation or plentiful provision for your pastor.
If you have faith in God, your faith will be a giving faith.
A Contented Faith
The prophet Elisha appreciated the woman’s generosity. He wanted to return the favor. She is childless. Her husband is old. Childlessness means no provider for her in the future. Children are the only “pension” of widows in ancient times (2 Ki. 8:1-6).