Bible Study on the Prophet Elisha
Good Old Fashioned Kindness!

By I Gordon
 

Introduction

In 2 Kings 4 we are introduced to a remarkable woman and we will focus in on this woman for the next two studies. This study then will be half of that story. You’ll have to read the next study to find out how the story ends! But I’ll let you in on a secret… it has a great ending! This study will mainly be centered around the 5th fruit of the spirit which is seen in the life of this woman. As you have memorized the fruit of the spirit in order I have no need to tell you that it is about good old fashioned kindness. Let’s have a look at the story!

One prominent woman…

2 Kings 4:8-10 One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”

Now, the version I have quoted from above says that a ‘well to do’ woman lived in Shumen. Other versions use the word ‘notable’ or ‘prominent’ which is far more descriptive. You see, this woman stood out. Amongst all the people living in this town, there was something extraordinary about this lady that made her stand out amongst her peers. She was prominent [1] . She was noteworthy. So what made this woman prominent? [2] Well, we don’t know much of her background but there are certainly things that we can pick up from the passage before us that allow us to understand why she stood out. And one of those attributes that we will focus on in this study is that which I have named this study – ‘Good old fashioned kindness!’

When you did it to the least of my brethren…

Look at what the text says – She first of all would make sure that Elisha, when he passed through, had a place to eat. But it didn’t stop there. Before long, Elisha not only had a place to eat, but a place to stay for this woman organised with her husband to build an extra room onto her house for Elisha! Now, what was her motivation for being so kind? Well, she recognised that Elisha was ‘a man of God’. He represented God in all that he did and was part of the family. And, as Jesus said ‘if you do it unto the least of my brethren, you do it unto me’. The Bible tells us to be kind toward one another, but especially towards other believers.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Gal 6:9-10)

It was through this love and kindness towards each other that the world was meant to see and know that we are believers!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love [3] one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Kindness, it has been rightly said, is a language that the dumb can speak and the deaf can hear. It is a language as old as the hills and one that God has emphasised for some time! The question is, do we do it? Read again this passage from Micah 6:8 which states what the Lord looks for in his people [4] .

‘The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God.’ (NCV)

The response to kindness - kindness returned

2 Kings 4:11-16 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “Well, she has no son and her husband is old.” Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord,” she objected. “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!”

So here’s Elisha, all snug and warm in his new bed, an he’s thinking to himself – ‘This lady has been wonderfully kind to me. She has done all this and asked for nothing in return. What can I do for her? What.. can… I… do… for… her???’ It has well been said that kindness is the hardest thing to give away because it is always returned! So true and we see this very thing in the passage above. Elisha, having been the object of this prominent woman’s kindness, now wants to know what he can do in return.

It is interesting that this woman, when asked what she needs, seems very content with what she has. Her kindness wasn’t displayed for some kind of reward. Well, not in this life anyway! But there is something that that she did long for in her heart – something that she had given up hope of being able to have… a son [5] .

But they didn’t live happily ever after…

2 Kings 4:17-20 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her. The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. “My head! My head!” he said to his father. His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died.

It would be nice to say that because of the kindness of this woman, she was blessed by God and lived happily ever after without any problems. But this is real life, not a fairy tale and the scripture tells us that though a son was born just as Elisha had said, after he had grown the boy dies in his mothers arms.

Conclusion

We’ll pick up the story in the next study for though the boy has died, death, for this boy, is not the end! For, as we shall see in the next study, this woman was remarkable for more than just her kindness… but that’s jumping ahead! But before we leave this study, let me just bring you back to this word concerning kindness. Believe me, God may not be asking you to build an extension onto your house like this woman and her husband did! But even the small things that we do for one another matter! Look and ponder on this verse:

Matt 10:40-42 ‘He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

If you do something kind towards another of the Lord’s brethren you shall be rewarded. It says that above quite clearly. It may be something great… it may be something as small as a cup of water. Whatever it is, it will not go unnoticed by God by WILL be rewarded. It may even be a kind word to sustain a weary soul. As it says in Proverbs 12:25

‘An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.’

In this age of self focus, pray that the Lord will keep your eyes off yourself, onto Him, and on those around you that need help. Ask the Lord to put people on your heart that He would wish to minister to through your hands and your kindness. You never know what he may want to do! [6]



[1]  If I were to ask who is ‘prominent’ in today’s world, you would probably name some film star, or sports star, or some wealthy successful businessman or good looking model. For those are the types of things that our world flocks to and sees as important. It is those types of people that are ’prominent’ in our age. But take note that they are all things that God puts no weight or emphasis on at all. There are far more important things in the sight of God, some of which we shall see in the story of the ‘really’ prominent woman.

[2]  Have you thought about what attributes you really admire in people? Have you seen something in someone and wished you were like that? I agree with the late Abraham Heschel who said ‘When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.’ Let me ask you… would you consider yourself to be kind? Have you done anything lately for someone that was out of the ordinary? It is interesting that a sign of the last days, as mentioned in 2 Tim 3, is that people will be ‘lovers of self’, ‘without natural affection’ for others. In other words, everything will revolve around themselves and kindness and affection towards others will be out the back door. Beware the spirit of this age!

[3]  It is useful to remember that you can know all mysteries, be able to expound the depths of the Christian life, have the greatest spiritual gifts in the world… but without love, you are nothing but a clanging bell! (1 Cor 13) And love is a verb! It is a ‘doing’ word. It is action towards others.

[4]  I listened to a tape a while back of a talk given at a Capernwray Bible College by Peter Reid. During the talk, he said that he believes that there are two things that the church needs to rediscover. That is, the reality of Christ in you, and each other. He believes that the church has followed the world in focusing only on our own lives where as we need to discover each other! Very true.

[5]  It is interesting that a lot of very prominent woman in the Bible were barren and unable to conceive. We think of very prominent woman such as Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth in the New Testament. And, yet, though they had to wait far longer than there peers, when God did supernaturally bless them and enable them to produce a child, what a child it was! If God makes you wait, it may well be that he is wanting to bring forth something special. Look at the children these woman had even though they had to wait and endure hardship and ridicule in some cases for so many years. Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the promised son who typifies Jesus in many ways. Rachel gave birth to Jospeh, who was more prominent than all his brothers and of whom the Bible only speaks well of. Hannah gave birth to Samuel, the amazing prophet of the Lord. And Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said there were none greater of those born of a woman. If God makes you wait, there will be a reason and He may well be wanting to bring forth a greater blessing for you.

[6]  Ok, one very late footnote to illustrate this. A good friend who used to go to the same church as myself was in a large shopping mall. As he was passing the fast food takeaway area, he saw a lady serving behind the counter and he felt the Lord say to him ‘Go tell that lady that I love her.’ At first he resisted (as we probably all would! Not easy approaching a complete stranger with such a statement out of the blue!) But he felt it was from the Lord so he obeyed (while probably feeling a tad silly!) He went up to the counter and said ‘Look I don’t know you, but as I was walking past I just felt that the Lord Jesus wanted me to tell you that He really loves you.’ Upon hearing this she burst into tears. Turns out, she was going through a really hard time in her life and had left the church she was going to. She may have left the church but she certainly didn’t escape God’s care and thoughts.