Monday, 15 April 2013

Matriarchs on a Monday - The Shunamite Woman {Part 2}

We come back to the Shunamite woman this week, because there is another precious truth that we can learn from her. One that every single person could benefit from applying to their life.

Before we get there, we first of all have to recollect the first miracle that God grants to her.  Elisha desired that this woman, who had shown so much kindness to him, should be blessed in some way as a recompense.

She didn't want recompense.  She didn't want special treatment from kings and captains.  She was happy to just to be with her own people.  Content, right where she was.  However, Gehazi discovered that she had been unable to have a child, and her husband was too old to father one.  So, Elisha told her that she would have a son.

She simply couldn't believe it!  But, exactly as he had said, she had a son the next year.

What a joy it must have been for them! To be blessed with a son, when they thought their arms would be forever empty.  To be blessed with a child, to bring them joy and blessing.  To see him grow up and carry on the family name.

That was a great blessing and lesson all on its own.  God does miracles.  He STILL does.  Things that seem impossible to man, are possible with God. We need to remember that EVERY day.  To hold onto it with both hands, when things seem bleak and the things we long for are outwith our grasp.

Precious as it is, we're only now getting to the best bit.

How would a woman like this cope in a crisis?  When her faith and trust is tested?  When things are not going so well?

THAT is what I want to think about.

The years must have passed, because we then hear about "when he was grown".   They had raised him, as it was in those days, to go and help in the fields wit his father.  And, there he was one day, when tragedy struck.  He suddenly complained of a terrible pain in the head.  The father told someone to bring the boy to his mother, where he sat on her knee until noon.  You can imagine the scene.  The gentle, kind mother, holding her precious son close.  Rocking him on her knee, trying to soothe him in his pain.  There was no Calpol of Nurofen.  No doctors or A&E.  She simply held him, and gave him all the love she could.

It wasn't enough.

He died.

Sitting there, on his mother's knee - the child she had waited so long for, and had been so thankful for, was dead.

What happens next blows my mind.  At the same time, it gives me courage.

Carrying his heavy, lifeless body in her arms, she brought him into the special chamber they had built for the prophet, and laid him on the bed.  Next, she went to her husband, back in the fields, and asked for an ass to be saddled, so that she could go for a quick visit to the prophet.  Her husband was confused.  It wasn't a special holy day, why would she need to go and see him?

She assured him, with simple words.

"It shall be well"

She ordered the servant to get them going as quickly as was possible, and they headed to Mount Carmel, where Elisha was.

He saw them approching, and recognised the woman.  He sent Gehazi to enquire as to the wellbeing of her family.

Her reply?

"It is well"

Her son was dead.  But, she could say with peace and assurance that "it is well".

Wow.  What an incredible response.  No panic.  No distraught hysteria.  No tearful breakdown.

She just KNEW that all was well.  How could all be possibly "well", when her long-awaited and precious son, was DEAD?


Se trusted God.  It's that simple.  She knew that God was good- that He was in control - that He was able to do miracles.  If that was all true, then all WAS well, because it was what God had in His plan.

I read this account, and I feel shame.  I have struggles far less serious than hers was, and yet I don't always have the peace and trust that she had.  Just the other week I was worrying about something I shouldn't have been, and within a few days I saw the silliness of my anxiety.

Do you know the story behind the hymn "When peace like a river"?

Let me just remind you of the hymn, first of all.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

The story behind this hymn is heart-breaking.  Mr Spafford had sent his family ahead of him to the UK, from the USA.  In those days, they travelled by ship.  On the way there, the ship went down.  Mrs Spafford prayed with her girls as the ship went down, that there lives may be spared if it was God's will, but they all perished that day.  Horatio Spafford received a message from his wife, with these words.  "Saved alone".

He went to England to bring his wife back, and on the return voyage, as they passed the spot where his daughters died, these words came to his heart and mind.  Thinking about the rolling sea billows, and his intense sorrow, he could still say "It is well with my soul".

The second and third verses sum it all up, though.  It's only because Christ has shed His blood for us - because our sins, ALL of our sins, nailed Him to the tree - that we even have this peace at all.  Faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  that is the only source of true peace.

Such was the peace of the Shunamite woman.  The trust and Faith that she had in the Lord was so complete, that she knew that all was well.

The end of her story is one of joy.  Despite the fact theat Gehazi's faith is so lacking, that he could not facilitate the return of life to the boy, Elisha's was not lacking and life indeed was returned!  What an incredible miracle.

From start to finish, this woman's life is a challenge.  A challenge to live a life fully for the Lord, and filled with faith and trust.

My prayer is this - that no matter what trials and struggles the Lord may allow in my life, that I have the faith and trust that this woman had, and I can say confidently "It is well"!!

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