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Hero of Faith: The Woman from Shunem

Hero of Faith: The Woman from Shunem #facingfearPhoto by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

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The woman from Shunem is one the unnamed woman of the Bible. She lived during the time of Elisha. We find her story in 2 Kings 4:8-37. For whatever reason, she invited Elisha home for a meal. From that moment, whenever he passed her way, he stayed with her. I think it was because she treated him well and made him feel welcome. Her hospitable nature was displayed when she took it a step further and encouraged her husband to build a special room for Elisha.

Soon, the prophet had his own little room whenever he came to stay. Elisha was so pleased with the arrangement he wanted to do something nice for her. ‘What do you want?’ he asked. ‘Nothing.’ was her reply.

The truth wasn’t that she didn’t want anything; it was that what she wanted was so big she didn’t know how to share it. Her dreams were too big to be spoken. Gehazi got it right – her greatest desire was to have a son. Her words when Elisha suggested she would have a child proved it: 

“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that” (2 Kings 4:16 NLT).

Despite her protests, Elisha prophesied she would have a son in a year’s time. His prophecy was fulfilled.

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The next time we meet the woman from Shunem, she has her son on her lap. He had complained to his father about a pain in his head and had been sent home. The child died in her arms. I’ve never lost a child, but I’m told it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. Part of the reason is because there’s something unnatural about a parent outliving a child.

But, this woman from Shunem didn’t panic. She started living her faith. She put her son on Elisha’s bed and made plans. How she knew where to find Elisha is anyone’s guess. But she left the house knowing Elisha could raise her son from the dead and that’s what was going to happen. 

The Woman from Shunem’s Faith

I know you probably think I’m reaching, so let’s go to the Bible and read what it says:

So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died.  She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there.  She sent a message to her husband: “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.”

“Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.”

But she said, “It will be all right.”

So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down 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, your husband, and your child?’”

“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.”

(2 Kings 4:20-26)

Twice, in this short narrative, the woman from Shunem reassures someone that everything will be alright. That reminds me of Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22. Abraham knew that God had told him to sacrifice his son Isaac yet, when he left his young men at the foot of the hill, his words were:

“We will worship and then we will come back to you (Genesis 22:5, emphasis added).”

The woman from Shunem had Abrahamic faith. She believed her son would be raised from the dead and she knew Elisha could do it. The strength of this woman’s testimony was that she refused to walk in fear. When her son died, she could have grieved.

Wailing, crying, and mourning would all have been natural responses to the death of a child. But she did none of those things. She pushed through her fear and reached out to the one person she knew could give her what she wanted- her son.

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We have the same opportunity. But, instead of putting our faith in any individual, we should put our faith in God. He will never let us down.

Challenge: What is one thing that you can trust God for today?

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