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enjoying and embodying the Gospel for the glory God and the good of St. Augustine

St. Blogustine

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The Shunammite Woman

Luke Brodersen

By Jillian Nemecek

I will be 37 years old this July, and that will mean I’ve been a Christian for almost 30 years. I’ve spent 29 years routinely studying the Bible in large groups, small groups, via sermons, and by myself. So my pride took a hit when I realized that in those 29 years I had failed to read all of the books of the Bible. I had always shrugged off never finishing the Bible due to the belief that between Sunday morning services, Bible Studies, and all the other extracurricular God-focused activities I’d been doing I’d probably heard everything I needed to hear from God’s Word. I was wrong. Seriously wrong! The proof came when I introduced myself to the Shunammite woman!

Let me quickly say that I’m a huge comic book nerd. Even if you are not, you can probably guess from the movies something that I noticed as a young reader: the male to female ratio of super heroes is off. Way off! There was never enough super awesome, strong women for me in the comic book worlds! The Bible had some strong women, but I always felt like their strength was in quiet, passive tones or in their vulnerability and kindness. I wanted a Sampson or a David in female form to look up to! Someone who trusted in God and took on issues with fierce determination! Why had no one pointed me to the Shunammite woman?! In 2 Kings 4:8-37, there is a generous, strong, and daring woman that I hadn’t met until this year! When I read her story, I was quick to tell other women in the church about her. To my surprise they also never heard of this woman! What a disservice to us and to her!

So, let me tell you this woman’s story: while Elisha, a prophet of God, was in the Shunammite woman’s city, she continually made meals for him. Eventually, she says to her husband that they should make him a room so that when he is in town he can stay with them. The next time Elisha visits, he is very touched by the spare room and offers her anything she wants. He says, “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?” Her response is that she is content with her home among her people! Quick modern day translation: “I’m heading to the White House next week, anything you want me to ask the President for? Maybe your governor or senator?” Her response: “Nah, I’m good!” Can you imagine being that content?! There’s no money, tax breaks, land interests, extra food, a better school for your kids, a great job hook up, some gift cards, a travel package, or anything that you’d think to ask for? Would I be that content with what I had and just be happy to provide service to God?! Honest answer: most likely not.  

Back to the Shunammite woman. Elisha realizes that she doesn’t have a son and he promises her that next year she’ll have a son in her arms. She pleads with him not to get her hopes up, but sure enough the next year she has a son. Many years later the boy complains of his head hurting, so he is sent to sit in his mother’s lap and at noon he dies. She calmly puts her dead son on Elisha’s bed and shuts the door. Then simply asks for a donkey from her husband so she can go see the Man of God (Elisha). His response: “Why go to him today? It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.” Translation: Why are you going to church? It’s not Sunday or Wednesday!” Her response: “That’s all right.” She then takes a donkey and heads to Mount Carmel to see Elisha. From a distance, Elisha sees her coming and sends his servant to see what’s going on, but she won’t even tell him. She waits until she is in front of Elisha and throws herself at his feet and latches on. She finally has the reaction I would have had hours ago! She falls to his feet and grabs on while sobbing, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

Did you catch all of that? Her son died in her arms! Did she scream, rant, rave, cry, post on Facebook, call her best friend over, hide in her room, or go get drunk?! If I am being honest, I probably would have done most of those things before thinking of heading to see Elisha or dropping to my knees to protest to God. This woman knew a Man of God had given her this son and she knew that she should return to Elisha in order for God to revive her son. She would not be distracted with uselessness when her son needed a miracle! Could you imagine having this sort of crisis and driving directly to your church, barging in, and pushing your pastor out of the way while making your way to the foot of the Cross! That is the level of faith this woman had!

This is what happens next. Elisha sends his servant with his staff ahead of them to the dead boy. The Shunammite woman says she will not return home without Elisha. Sure enough, the servant and the staff cannot revive the boy, and so Elisha returns with her to her house and revives the boy! Hallelujah! And that is where this story ends. The husband is never mentioned again. No house servants are mentioned. I ponder if she even mentioned it at dinner time. Does the boy just think he took a nap and awoke to that guy his mom usually feeds hanging out at their house again? I could see her steadfast nature seeing the whole thing as being something that she simply needed God to deal with.  

Maybe if I had found this passage when I was younger, I wouldn’t have seen the undertones of what all happened to this woman. Even reading the passage again this morning, what strikes me the most is how opposite she handled her life events over how I handle mine. She is continually filled with generosity and contentment and when things go terribly wrong she goes back to the source of all things. She goes straight to God. I do not go directly to God. I go to everyone else and grump, moan, gossip, whine, rant, and then – THEN MAYBE I’ll mention it to God. How awesome would my life be if I stopped going to useless places with my problems and went straight to God first! How many of my dramas would cease if I latched myself to Jesus’ feet before seeking solutions elsewhere? All this to be said, I have a new favorite female Bible person and it’s this unnamed Shunammite woman! I really recommend reading 2 Kings chapter 4 for yourself. Oh, and she comes back later, taking her issues to the King in 2 Kings chapter 8. The woman knew how to get things done!