Saturday, 10 March 2012

18. The Shunammite - hope and disappointment

We are told the Shunammite woman was 'well to do'. She seems to have had that wonderful gift of hospitality which can so bless other people. It blesses the prophet Elisha, for whom she sets up a small room in her house, with a bed, table, chair and lamp, so that he can be assured of a welcome and somewhere safe to stay on his many travels through the Israelite countryside.

Elisha desires to offer something in return and, being aware of her childlessness, predicts that she will soon have a son. This tests her faith severely - she can't believe it will come to pass. It's not that she doesn't want it - she wants it too much. Better not to hope than to be disappointed, surely?

She gives birth within the year.

But 'the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away', as the King James renders Job 1:21...A few years later the boy is in the field and suffers some sort of seizure. He is carried to his mother, in whose arms he dies shortly afterwards.

See, it's better not to have loved, than to have loved and lost. She was right.........

The Shunammite goes immediately to Elisha with what is essentially a spiritual battle raging inside her. Before God's unlooked for gift she had got used to that ache of childlessness. Why raise her hopes only to dash them? 'Did I ask you for a son?', she rages at the prophet. 'Didn't I tell you, don't raise my hopes?' (2 kings 4:28).

Elisha attempts a healing from a distance, sending his servant with his staff to lay on top of the boy. This doesn't work, so they all tumble into the house together and, leaving the others outside the door, Elisha goes in and lays his own warm body on top of the boy's cold one. Twice, pacing up and down the room in between. The boy sneezes seven times and opens his eyes.

The Shunammite is speechless. Those we love are in His gift always. We cannot control hope.  

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