Summary: The faith of the Shunnamite woman
It Is Well
January 24, 2010
“It Is Well” video from Bluefish
The story behind this song is sad yet inspiring. I wonder how many of us could lose so much and still say, “It is well.”
I was so struck by the background of the hymn this week that I researched it further, and I discovered that the phrase “it is well” is not actually Spafford’s words. It was spoken long before him by a woman in the Bible whose story is told in the book of II Kings.
This woman, known only as “the Shunammite woman,” was very strong in her faith. She noticed that the prophet Elisha was a man of God, and she had her husband build a room for him so that whenever he passed through the area he could stay and eat (4:8-10).
Elisha was grateful to the woman so he asked how he could use his influence to her benefit, but she seemed content with all she had. Her benevolence was sincere and she wanted nothing in return. However, it was noted that she had no son, so Elisha took it upon himself to declare to her that within a year she would receive one from God (4:11-15).
Her response was one of excited disbelief. She is recorded as saying, “Do not lie to your maidservant” (4:16). In effect she was saying to him, “Don’t get my hopes up!” Though she was well to do (:8), she lacked children, and here is Elisha promising a son. She wanted the child, but she didn’t dare believe it, yet the next year he was born.
It is at this point that I suppose the woman said within her heart, “It is well,” but the words are not recorded yet. It is in the midst of sudden and unexpected tragedy that we see her faith shine brightest and where we find her affirming words…
It Is Well
Look with me at II Kings 4:18-20 to see…
The Death of the Shunammite’s Son (:18-20)
When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father to the reapers. 19He said to his father, "My head, my head." And he said to his servant, "Carry him to his mother." 20When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then died.
#1- The Shunammite woman suffered great loss even while working for the Lord.
#1- Suffering and hardship are a part of life regardless of a person’s spirituality.
#1- Ignore or reject health and wealth teachings that claim faith dictates circumstances. This is both false and dangerous. The Apostle Paul often asked for his needs to be met (I Cor. 16:2; Phil 4:14), many of the heroes of Hebrews 11 lived in horrible conditions (Heb. 11:36-39), and Jesus Himself claimed to have no place to lay His head (Lk. 9:58).
Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. (I Timothy 6:6-8)
#2- Prepare yourself for suffering.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
God may use difficult circumstances to get someone’s attention, but hardship is not an instant indicator of faith.
This woman had at least good faith, yet she suffers a horrible loss.
The Shunammite’s Response (:21-24)
21She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door behind him and went out. 22Then she called to her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and return." 23He said, "Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath." And she said, "It will be well." 24Then she saddled a donkey and said to her servant, "Drive and go forward; do not slow down the pace for me unless I tell you."
#1- The woman’s immediate response is to lay the boy on Elisha’s bed. We know from verses ten and twenty-one that she had to carry her dead son up at least one flight of stairs to get him into the bed.
I can’t help but wonder why she would do this. Perhaps it’s because she wanted to get him as close as possible to the man of God (or his belongings in this case). Perhaps it was in preparation for when the man of God returned at her request. Regardless it seems that in her hurry she was immediately looking for help from God.