When your pastor preaches on the same verses you've been reading and journaling the last week, reverberating each perfectly placed point in your spirit, you know God is speaking. And that's what happened this week for this devotional about the Shunammite Woman - a story of unswerving faith in God. As we look at the Shunammite woman's story in 2 Kings, the fundamental truth is this: there is hope even in the most devastating of circumstances, for our God's word is faithful - always.
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23
Unswerving Faith: The Shunammite Woman
In 2 Kings 4:8-37, we meet the Shunammite Woman, a wealthy and capable woman who shows great kindness, generosity, and hospitality to the prophet Elisha. This woman literally prepared a room in her home for Elisha where he could stay on his frequent visits.
We live in a culture of "guest bedrooms," these neatly decorated (or sometimes filled with all of our extra crap until company comes) spare rooms used for hospitality. This woman so beautifully demonstrates literally hospitality and metaphorically the posture of her heart to this prophet of God. What if we cleared out our spare rooms (our hearts) of all of our crap, and made space for God, space for Him to dwell and for us to realign the posture of our hearts? How beautiful and effortless would our faith become?
God is always faithful. And Elisha, moved by her kindness, asked what he could do for her. "I'm alright," was her reply (basically). The Shunammite woman was unable to ask for the deep desires of her heart, to pray the big, scary, beyond comprehension prayers - to ask God for a child. But Elisha, finding out she was childless, spoke a word over her - a promise: "About this time next year, you will hold a son in your arms" (vs. 16). This promise of God was received with doubt - she answered, "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" Despite the posture of her heart being hospitable to God's presence in her home, she was afraid, for she had known a broken heart.
A year later, as Elisha had promised, the Shunammite woman had a son, fulfilling God's word and the deepest, unspoken desire of her heart. Talk about renewed trust in God! But God's work was not yet finished. And the Shunammite woman would face further devastation and temptation to doubt God's promise.
In verse 20, her promise literally dies in her lap. Her son, this prophesied gift from God, dies. And what is her response when he dies? Complete and utter faith in God. Without a word, she carried her son to the room she had prepared for Elisha and laid the boy on his bed, an act demonstrating her trust in God. And that trust in God fueled her hope in a miracle, in not collapsing under the weight of grief.
She made the twenty-five mile journey north to find Elisha at Mount Carmel, and asked him, "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?" Elisha at first instructed his Gehazi, basically his sidekick, to return to her home and lay his staff on the boy's face. But the woman wasn't going to settle for a stand-in to this mouth-piece, this prophet of God. Miraculously, the boy is revived, after Elisha warmed the boy's body with his own, praying all the while. The boy sneezed 7 times upon awaking --- the sacred number representing the completion of God's word.
Once again, in verse 37, the woman shows a beautiful posture of her heart --- worship and thanksgiving. For God had been true to His word, fulfilling His promise to her and then preserving it in the face of impossible circumstances.
May this beautiful woman of the Bible speak to your own faith and trust in God. May her example of kindness teach us to seek opportunities to care for others in basic and practical ways. May her attitude to "seek first his [the Father's] kingdom and his righteousness" empower us to trust that "all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). When we aren't fretting over God's provision, we experience it abundantly. So this week, realign the posture of your heart by practicing practical hospitality and kindness for someone, and, in turn, trust in a God that is always faithful to his unswerving servants.