And the child grew. Now it happened one day that he went out to his father, to the reapers. And he said to his father, “My head, my head!” So he said to a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door upon him, and went out. Then she called to her husband, and said, “Please send me one of the young men and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and come back.” So he said, “Why are you going to him today? It is neither the New Moon nor the Sabbath.” And she said, “It is well.” Then she saddled a donkey, and said to her servant, “Drive, and go forward; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” And so she departed, and went to the man of God at Mount Carmel. So it was, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to his servant Gehazi, “Look, the Shunammite woman! Please run now to meet her, and say to her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?’ ” And she answered, “It is well.” Now when she came to the man of God at the hill, she caught him by the feet, but Gehazi came near to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone; for her soul is in deep distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me, and has not told me.” So she said, “Did I ask a son of my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me’?” Then he said to Gehazi, “Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on your way. If you meet anyone, do not greet him; and if anyone greets you, do not answer him; but lay my staff on the face of the child.” And the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her. Now Gehazi went on ahead of them, and laid the staff on the face of the child; but there was neither voice nor hearing. Therefore he went back to meet him, and told him, saying, “The child has not awakened.” When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed. He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm. He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. And he called Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite woman.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” So she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; then she picked up her son and went out. (2 Kings 4:18-37)
A Most Unusual Healing
The period of miracles was always marked with powerful testimonies of God’s power. Jesus healed every kind of disease but not always in the same manner. The Lord healed a blind man spitting on the ground making clay with the saliva and instructing the still blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam. When He healed Bartimaeus the healing was immediate by speaking the word. During the days of the prophets, unusual miracles took place and none as peculiar as the healing of the Shunammite’s son. Her story began earlier when she convinced her husband to build a small upper room for Elisha. As a blessing for her kindness she was granted the birth of a son.
One day as the young child was with his father in the fields he fell ill. Sadly, as his mother held him in her arms he died. It is hard to imagine the intense grief the mother felt in the loss of her promised son. Taking the child into the room prepared for Elisha the mother concealed his death from her husband. Asking for a donkey to make a journey to the prophet the husband (still unaware the boy had died) wondered why his wife needed to go and see the prophet at this time. Providing the escort the woman makes the journey of about fifteen miles to Mount Carmel. Her calm demeanor hid her sorrow as she tells Gehazi that all is well. When at last she comes to Elisha her heart pours forth the grief of her son’s death.
Elisha immediately sends Gehazi to the child to restore him. However, the insistence of the Shunammite woman tells the prophet that nothing would be accepted but his presence alone. Gehazi arrives at the home of the child but is unsuccessful in reviving him. When Elisha enters the room he leaves everyone outside. The first thing the prophet does is pray to the Lord. He then lays on top of the child mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes and hands to hands. This brings warmth to the child. Walking around the house for a moment he again stretches himself over the child. The child sneezes seven times and opens his eyes. A smile breaks across the face of Elisha. Calling Gehazi and instructing him to bring the mother a tearful reunion is shared between mother and child.
This story began because of the benevolence of an unknown woman. She wanted to show the prophet of God how much she loved him and the work he did for the Lord. Building a room was not a small adventure but she did so for his comfort. Without asking for a reward, the prophet blessed her with something she had longed for but was unable to have because of the age of her husband. The son born to them was a son of promise. How her heart sang the songs of Zion for the graciousness of the Lord as she looked in the eyes of her little baby boy.
Tragedy struck hard when he died. Everyone else would have grieved and buried the child. But the heart of the Shunammite woman was a heart of great faith. She had a history with the powerful hand of God. Her husband was old yet she bore a son. Now she believed by that same power the Lord could raise her son. Believing the impossible she sought the prophet. Her faith was so great nothing would hinder her from bring the prophet to save her son. By God’s mercy and grace, she received her son back to life.
Faith is not merely a religious feeling of words. The deepest meaning of faith comes from a history of seeing the power of God. There can never be a reward for the veneer of faith that shows the world only a hint of belief. Deep faith comes from hearts that have walked the halls of the impossibility and felt the hand of God in their lives move them and guide them. The small thing of asking for a son prepared her for the greater thing to revive her dead son. Small victories ensure greater victories. She believed! She trusted! She accepted an impossible answer! She believed the prophet could raise her son from the dead!
Jesus told the disciples that true faith in prayer could say to a mountain move from here to there. We scoff at that today and say it was a figure of speech and it cannot really be done. Don’t miss my point – but do not miss the lesson of Jesus either. Faithful prayer can raise the dead. I am afraid so often the reason the world does not change is because we are content to bury our son than to seek the prophet believing he can raise him from the dead. That kind of faith should not be rare among the ranks of God’s people. We need more Shunammite women who will leave us examples of abundant faith to believe – yes believe – in the impossible. Now that is a great story.
When we pray, we link ourselves with the inexhaustible power that spins the universe. We ask that a part of this power be apportioned to our needs. Even in asking our human deficiencies are filled and we arise strengthened and repaired. (Alexis Carrel, Reader’s Digest, March, 1941)