Bible Study on the Prophet Elisha
Good Old Fashioned Faith!

By I Gordon
 

Introduction

In the previous study in 2 Kings chapter 4 we were introduced to a remarkable woman. The Bible calls her a noble or prominent women. Now in the eyes of the world today she probably wouldn’t stand out. She wasn’t a model, a film star, a politician, nor did she ever make any Israeli national sports team that we know of! Yet in God’s eyes this lady stood out. Now last time we focused on the 5th fruit of the Spirit that was so evident in her life – that of course being her wonderful kindness. This study will focus on a 2nd reason she stood out and that is her amazing faith and expectancy in the midst of extreme difficulty and uncertainty.

What happened to the nice ending?

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.

In the last study we ended at verse 17 and God, through Elisha, had blessed the woman with the birth of a son. Now that would make a nice end to the chapter don’t you think? Godly woman has no child… Godly woman blesses Elisha… Elisha blesses godly woman with a son… Godly woman overjoyed and family lives happily ever after. End of story. Well, not quite, for life is not like that for anyone and a person’s godliness doesn’t prevent the difficult times from coming. And so we read on that the boy grew until one day, out of the blue, he was struck down with intense pain in his head and he died. Now, let’s try to put ourselves in the woman’s shoes for a while. Though she has desired children, she waited a good part of her life without having any. It gets to the point where she doesn’t have any hope left that it will ever happen. But she remains faithful to God… and finally, through the blessing of Elisha, she gave birth to a son! The promised miracle son! Her only child… Her joy is immense! But the heights of her joy are matched by the depths of despair as he now lies dying on her lap. For the entire morning she does all she can to help him but it is to no use and finally, around midday, he dies in her arms.

Now, wouldn’t that bring questions to your mind if you were her? Is God good? Is He faithful? Is God safe? [1] Didn’t He promise me this child? Why has this happened?

But these things remain… Faith, Hope and Love

2 Kings 4:21-23 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.” “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.” “It’s all right,” she said.

It is great to see in the midst of the confusion and doubt we see a stronger attitude shining through this woman – faith and hope! Grabbing her son, she quickly lays him not in a coffin or a grave but on Elisha’s bed. She had a hope, an expectation, that death would not be the end of this story. Faith expects God to do what is right, whether we see immediate deliverance [2] or not, and leaves things to His timing. [3]

Now this woman didn’t know how things would work out in the end… but she had hope, she had faith, and she had a sense that things would be well [4] . Her grief didn’t overwhelm her to the point of hopelessness but she quickly saddled the donkey and left saying to her husband ‘It shall be well’ (NASB, KJV). [5]

Although 40 k’s on a donkey might change your mind…

2 Kings 4:24-31 So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down on my account unless I tell you to.” As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, with your husband, and with your child?’ ”“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.” But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. Something is troubling her deeply, and the Lord has not told me what it is.” Then she said, “It was you, my lord, who said I would have a son. And didn’t I tell you not to raise my hopes?” Then Elisha said to Gehazi, “Get ready to travel; take my staff and go! Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Go quickly and lay the staff on the child’s face.” But the boy’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So Elisha returned with her. Gehazi hurried on ahead and laid the staff on the child’s face, but nothing happened. There was no sign of life. He returned to meet Elisha and told him, “The child is still dead.”

So the woman came to Elisha at Mount Carmel. That journey, according to my study Bible, is 40 km. Now that is a fair trip on a donkey! But the woman is determined and she obviously doesn’t want to talk to middle management in the form of Gehazi… She doesn’t tell him what is going on but just says that everything is fine. She knows that if she is to get an answer or deliverance she has to go straight to the top! [6]

Now of what does she remind Elisha? Well, she reminds him that it was his promise to her that she would have a son. “It was you, my lord” she says, “who said I would have a son. And didn’t I tell you not to raise my hopes?” If you have received a promise from God then it is fine to remind Him of it!

But the main point that I want to bring out of this passage is that God kept both the problem and the solution hidden from Elisha. We read above that Elisha knew that something was troubling the woman but God had not told him what it was. And so, once he hears that the boy is in trouble, he sends Gehazi off with his staff to lay it on the lad’s face. Gehazi does as instructed but nothing comes of it… the boy is still dead. [7] Mmmm… why no result? Why would God keep this little mystery hidden? What is it that He wants Elisha and us to learn?

Identification

2 Kings 4:32-37 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

We see that Elisha, upon arriving at the house, shut the door and prayed. Fair enough too for he didn’t know what to do! There are lots of things in this life that are kept hidden from us. God does this to keep us dependant and reliant upon Him. After praying, Elisha knew what God wanted him to do. He had to stretch himself out on the boy – mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. A simple question comes immediately to mind… um, why God do you want Elisha to do that? Do you know the answer? I believe that God wanted to teach both Elisha then, and us today, an important lesson. And that lesson is one of the most important themes of the New Testament - identification. I believe that God wanted Elisha to fully identify with this boy in his death – mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. No gimmicks with Elisha’s staff were going to bring life back to this boy. There were no shortcuts – Elisha had to totally identify with this boy in his death… that was God’s message after Elisha prayed.

I believe God asked Elisha to do this as a glimpse of a far greater identification that would occur hundreds of years later. This time, it wouldn’t just be one little boy needing physical life, but all of humanity needing spiritual life. This time is was God’s son Jesus who had to fully identify with humanity in order to bring life to the dead. But that mission would mean His own death on the cross!

But there is another aspect to identification that needs to be mentioned for identification goes two ways. Firstly the Lord Jesus had to identify with us and become a man in order to pay the price and redeem mankind. But having been redeemed, we are called to identify ourselves with Him and His death so that His life may be expressed through us. [8] We, like Elisha, soon find out that there are no shortcuts or gimmicks to giving life to the dead [9] . There is no five point plan to spiritual growth. There are just experiences and difficulties that bring forth the life and faithfulness of God because of their trying nature. This process was expressed by the Apostle Paul in quite a few different verses:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death . But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead . He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us… (2 Cor 1:8-10 – notice the past, present and future hope of deliverance that Paul had.)

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (2 Cor 4:10-11)

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death , and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)

Conclusion

We saw in the previous study that this noble woman had amazing kindness. That is something pretty rare in today’s world. But we have also learnt in this study that she had amazing faith. And that my friend, is quite a lethal combination! When things were falling down around her she didn’t throw in the towel. She died to her own ability to rectify the situation [10] and went off on her donkey to see Elisha saying ‘it shall be well’. Though her boy had died she didn’t walk by sight but placed her trust and hope in Elisha and the God of Elisha… and that confidence was well placed and didn’t fail her nor let her down.

Elisha said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

May you also see the faithfulness of God in the midst of difficulty and may you also learn to bow down at His feet in thankfulness, worship and awe.


[1]  All Christians need to learn that God is good, He is faithful. But He isn’t necessarily safe. What do I mean by that? Well, consider the following from ‘the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ where Lucy starts enquiring about Aslan (a type of Jesus).

"Is -- is he a man?" asked Lucy. "Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion -- THE Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh!" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he -- quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion." "That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly." "Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

The one who holds our lives in his hand is not safe. By that I mean He allows things to come into our lives that we would not choose for ourselves. If you have never doubted the love, faithfulness and intention of God, you will. That is not a strange thing – even John the Baptist had doubts when things were going contrary to what he would have liked and imagined (Matt 11:2-3) It is a part of Christian growth. “Aslan safe? Of course he’s not safe” said Mr Beaver. “But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”

[2]  I think it is important to realize that sometimes God allows pretty intense suffering without answers. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that everything turns out rosy in this life. It may be the sudden loss of a loved one. It may be an accident or health condition that has serious long term or permanent effects. People that have experienced such things tend to express a different level to faith. One such quote comes from Oswald Chambers in ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ when he wrote:

“Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, that I will stick to my belief that God is love.’

[3]  In 1895 Andrew Murray was in England suffering from a terribly painful back, the result of an injury incurred years before. One morning while eating breakfast in his room, his hostess told him of a woman downstairs who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any advice for her. He handed her a paper he had been writing on and said, “Give her this advice I am writing down for myself. It may be that she’ll find it helpful.” This is what he wrote:

“In time of trouble, say, ‘First he brought me here. If it is by his will I am in this strait place, in that place I will rest.” Next, say, “He will keep me here in his love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as his child.’ Then, say, ‘He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons he intends me to learn, and working in me the grace he means to bestow.’ And last, say, ‘In his good time he can bring me out again. How and when, he knows." Therefore, say "I am here
(1) by God's appointment,
(2) in his keeping,
(3) under his training,
(4) for his time."

[4]  In a sense it seems that her faith was like Abraham’s who, when faced with the command to sacrifice his promised son Isaac, was willing to obey because he reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. ’ (Heb 11:19)

[5]  While I’m giving quotes from great Christian’s from the past, here is another. Ever heard of Horatio Spafford? If you haven’t maybe you have heard of a hymn he wrote called ‘It is well with my soul’? The first verse says

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

It is a great hymn. But the story behind the hymn makes it all the more remarkable when you find out he wrote this after learning that his four daughters had died. Please read about the great faith of this man in the midst of overwhelming tragedy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Is_Well_With_My_Soul

[6]  Why talk to Gehazi when you could talk to Elisha? Or, for a modern day equivalent, why talk or confess your sins to a ‘Priest’ when instead you can talk straight to God? A ‘Priest’ has as much authority to forgive you of your sins as Gehazi had authority to raise the dead… not at all! God wants to hear from you personally. Go to Him!

[7]  The note in my study Bible says that “Elisha’s instructions to Gehazi were designed to teach the people that the power to work miracles was not magically inherent in his staff.” Personally, I don’t see it that way. I don’t think Elisha knew what to do as God had hidden both the problem and the solution from him at this stage. I think that is why Elisha had to shut the door of the room once he arrived and pray… God is trying to teach us a principle here as we shall hopefully soon see!

[8]  Vance Havner expressed it well when he wrote: “Where are the marks of the cross in your life? Are there any points of identification with your Lord? Alas, too many Christians wear medals but carry no scars. “

[9]  While it is outside the scope of this study, it should also be noted that when it comes to evangelism we are faced with the same need of Elisha here – how do the dead receive life? And like Elisha found, I would suggest you pray for everyone is at a different point in their search and the only thing that is sure is that God knows exactly where they are at and what they need! At the end of the day only God can restore life but He asks for our participation. And he may just be asking you to identify and spend time with someone that needs your help.

[10]  I once heard a speaker say that our problem, when faced with a trial, is that we faint. Fainting means that we are trying to deal with it ourselves. He said don’t faint, die. Die to your ability to handle the situation and bring God into the equation.