Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Breath of New Life, Part 4

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks: “When a crisis interrupts your peace, where do you turn?”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You go to where you can find God. That’s where you turn. You don’t ultimately turn to your husband. You don’t ultimately turn to your friends. You ultimately turn to God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 29, 2015.

In any given moment, your story can take a tragic twist. If you’ve been dealt a huge blow, I know today’s program can give you comfort and perspective. It’s part of a series called “A Breath of New Life.”

Nancy: I don’t know about you, but I’ve so enjoyed getting to know this Shunammite woman, as she’s known in 2 Kings chapter 4. We’re seeing a woman who is generous, hospitable, gracious, contented, and a woman who’s blessed by God in many ways as a result of her investing in the lives of others.

For those of you who are just joining us in this series, let me just go back and read the passage we’ve talked about so far. Then we’ll continue in the next section today—2 Kings chapter 4, beginning in verse 8:

One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. And she said to her husband, "Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.

One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, "Call this Shunammite." [Shunammite is the woman from Shunem.] When he had called her, she stood before him. And he said to him [Elisha said to Gehazi], "Say now to her, 'See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?'
She answered, "I dwell among my own people.

And she put that in the context of this whole passage. We said in the last session that she’s saying, “I have what I need. I’m content. What I have is enough." She didn’t have everything that she could have ever wanted—we’ll see that in a moment—but she was content with what God had provided for her and was using what she did have to be a blessing to others.

So, verse 14, Elisha said, when he got this report back, “What then is to be done for her?”

"What can we do for this woman who has everything, who needs nothing, who’s content? We want to bless her in some way because of how she’s blessed us.”

Gehazi answered, "Well, she has no son, and her husband is old. [Read: She can’t have children. She’s barren. They have not been able to have this longing fulfilled. That was a huge thing in Jewish culture, for lots of reasons.]

[And so Elisha says to Gehazi] "Call her." And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway. And he said, "At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son." And she said, "No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant." [Don’t get my hopes up only to have them dashed.] But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her (vv. 8–17).

So, here we have this kind, generous women who has served. She’s invested in the lives others. And now, after years of infertility, God gives her this miracle child, a great gift from the Lord. Great joy and fullness comes to this woman’s house. You can imagine as she watches her son grow, she takes great delight in him. This is the child of her husband’s old age. We don’t know how old she was.

I imagine Elisha loved this child, too, as he would come and visit the home. Now, I don’t know if the child called Elisha “Uncle Eli” or what, but now there were different noises in this house. There were little footsteps pattering on the floors of that home, and just such a joy and a delight.

Now you think, Wow, end of story. What a great story. You would have thought this woman would have lived happily ever after with her husband, her son. She already had a home. She already had a husband, and now she has a child. Fairy tale ending, right? But life is not like that.

All of a sudden, with no notice, a huge storm bursts out in this woman’s world. Where she’s had great joy for these last several years, now that joy turns to great sorrow.

One commentator on this passage said, “How precarious is every earthly possession.”

Anything that you have that is physical or tangible, material, visible, anything that you can hold in your hand or touch or feel or taste, it is temporal. It is precarious. Every earthly possession can be taken away, and, at some point, will. That’s why people who hold on to their stuff—people, friends, houses, material things—those people are insecure because all of that stuff can be taken away from you. Truly secure people are people who set their hope in God who can never be taken away from us.

Truly secure people are people who set their hope in God who can never be taken away from us.

How precarious is every earthly possession. And we see this in verse 18: "When the child had grown . . ." We don’t know how old he was, but he was old enough to go out to the field. ". . . he went out one day to his father among the reapers."

And we’ll see in just a couple of verses that he was young enough to still be held on his mother’s lap. So some commentators have thought maybe he was four to six years of age, maybe seven, eight years of age—not a grown-up child, but not an infant child either.

When the child had grown, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. And he said to his father, "Oh, my head, my head!" The father said to his servant, "Carry him to his mother.

Now, we don’t know what happened to this child—possibly sunstroke. It was harvest time so the sun would have been very hot, even in the morning. It was this scorching hot weather. But whatever it is, this father apparently assumes this is a temporary problem. He doesn’t realize how serious it is. He figures the child’s mother can help. So he says to the servant, “Take the child home to mom.” Verse 20:

And when he had lifted him and brought him to his mother, the child sat on her lap till noon, and then he died.

In three verses this woman’s world is turned upside down and inside out. Total devastation. In the morning she sends a healthy child off to work with his dad in the field. The child comes home before lunch time complaining of a headache. And within a short period of time, as she’s holding this child on her lap, her son takes a final breath and is gone. In the course of a few hours, everything in this woman’s world has changed.

Some of you have been there. You've had in a moment your whole world change. In one day—before the day’s over, before lunch time—you get a call, you get some news. It may be with a child. It may be with a mate. Maybe it's a house burning down—just something that you totally did not expect when you got up that morning.

And in this case, intense joy that this woman has experienced through God’s miraculous provision, that intense joy has turned to inexpressible sorrow.

Here’s this woman who initially was barren, infertile, but God has miraculously allowed her to birth this child. She raises the child. Now she loses the child. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions and different seasons of life. First you’re up, then you’re down, and now you’re up, and then . . . You get whiplash just reading how quickly all this happens in her life. 

In the present, she’s lost the joy of her life. And then as she thinks about the future, if she even stops to think about that at the moment, she has no hope for the future, humanly speaking. Death is so final, and now there is no son who will carry on the family name, who’s going to care for her in her old age. I don’t know if all these thoughts raced through her head at that moment or if she’s just in . . . We don’t know what was going on in her mind, but if she stopped to think, these are the things that she would have thought of.

But she also knew that this child was the result of a miracle. This child was a gift of God. This child could only be explained in terms of God. So, if God could give her a child after years of barrenness, somewhere deep in her heart she knew that God could give that child back to her.

So verse 21: “She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God and shut the door behind him and went out.”

She puts this child’s body in a private place, where nobody will disturb the body. Maybe she doesn’t want anybody to know that he’s died. She knows she’s going to go see the prophet, and she doesn’t want anybody to bury the child before she gets back—because they would have had quick burials in those days. By putting this child on the prophet’s bed, it also seems to be an act of faith and an act of hope; that maybe the prophet will be able to restore this boy back to life. Verse 22:

Then she called to her husband and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.

I’ve just been pondering this passage, kind of living in it, which, by the way, is a great way to do Bible study. I’ve been helped by commentaries, but mostly, I’ve just been living in the passage and trying to experience what this woman experienced. She takes immediate, decisive action. She doesn’t fall apart and have a meltdown. In fact, she exhibits, I think, remarkable self-control under the circumstances. She’s not frenzied. She’s clear-headed. She determines what needs to be done, and she does it.

In this crisis I think here’s a woman who displays a lot of wisdom and grace. Which, by the way, you won’t have that in the crisis if you haven’t been developing wisdom and grace before the crisis. Here’s a woman who had learned contentment, who had learned grace, who had learned generosity, who had listened to the man of God. Now all that comes to bear in this horrific crisis moment of her life.

If you want to respond in a crisis with wisdom and grace, you need to develop them before the crisis.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t tears. It doesn’t mean she’s not extremely grieving and sad and torn apart by the loss of this child, but it doesn’t strip the wisdom and grace from her. She demonstrates that in this crisis.

One writer said, “Self-possession is that state of mind in which, though a person cannot hinder his feelings, he can govern them.”

I think that’s what we see her doing here. She has the feelings. You can’t help those. There would be something wrong with you if you didn’t have deep, troubled, sad emotions at this moment, but by God’s grace, she’s able to govern those emotions so she can do what needs to be done at the moment.

As she heads out, I think of that passage in Hebrews chapter 11, which says: “By faith, Abraham considered that God was able even to raise his son from the dead; and by faith, women received back their dead by resurrection.”

If you know God, if your hope is in God, you know a God of the resurrection. We’re going to talk about that as we continue in this series. But let’s continue in the progression here.

In verse 23 she calls to her husband. She says, “Get a donkey ready, send a servant ready so I can go to the man of God.” And her husband says, verse 23, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.”

So it seems that the father doesn’t know that the child has died, and for whatever reason, the Shunammite woman doesn’t stop and tell her husband what’s happened. We can speculate as to those reasons are; we don’t know.

So the dad says, “Why are you going to see the prophet today? It’s not a new moon or a Sabbath.” Apparently, she and her husband, perhaps, had been accustomed to go to Elisha’s home, to consult the prophet, to worship with the prophet, to hear him explain the Word of God on the religious high days, the rest days, the special feast days. So they were accustomed to go here on special holidays, holy days, days of celebration; to worship, to pray, to hear the prophet read and explain the Word of God.

So he’s saying, “It’s not a holy day. It’s not a holiday. Why are you going?” And all she says is, “All is well.”

Now, that’s actually the Hebrew word, shalom—peace. She doesn’t tell him the shocking news that their son has just died . . . just shalom, peace. Now, in my translation that’s translated “all is well.” Some of your translations, some of the older ones read “all will be well.” I think it could be translated either way—all is well or all will be well.

Either way, it’s a statement of faith. The context is that she knows, loves, and worships a God who is wise, who is good, who is alive, who is at work, and who can do the impossible. So in that context, knowing that God, she goes: “Shalom,” “Peace,” “All is well,” “All will be well.”

Verse 24: “Then she saddled the donkey, and she said to her servant, ‘Urge the animal on; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.’ [Here’s a woman on a mission, a woman in a hurry.] So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.”

Now, I’ve read different things on this Mount Carmel. It’s somewhere between fifteen and thirty miles away, depending on where you were going at the Mount. It’s apparently common in the East for the master to ride the donkey (she would have, perhaps, been riding on the donkey), while the servant would walk alongside and “drive” the donkey.

So she says, “Urge the animal on. Don’t let up. This is not a joy ride here. We’re not going for a Sunday ride in the park. We’ve got to get there fast.”

She hasn’t told anybody what’s happened. The servant doesn’t know, apparently. Her husband doesn’t know. But she knows, and she knows she’s got to get post-haste to the prophet’s house.

Again, remember, she’s not driving a car there. This is a journey that’s probably going to take some hours. I don’t know how fast they’re going, but not faster than the servant can walk. So they’ve got a few hours at least where she’s pondering and contemplating and thinking about what’s going on. She's and keeping this to herself, not being able to talk to anybody about it.

But she knows where she’s headed, and she’s headed to the man of God. She knows that Elisha is a holy man who knows God, who listens to God, and who speaks the word of God. She doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but she knows that she’s to go to get to someone who can tell her what God says.

So her heart in a crisis is you go to where you can find God. That’s where you turn. You don’t ultimately turn to your husband. You don’t ultimately turn to your friends. You ultimately turn to God. By going to Elisha’s house, that’s what she’s doing. She’s turning to God in the crisis because she has found God to be a very present help to her in every season of her life. Now when the chips are down and she’s on the worst day of her life, the worst moment of her life, the day when it feels that her heart’s been ripped apart; she knows that the only solace she can find, the only help she can find, the only wisdom she can find, the only whatever she needs, all she can do is go to God and seek to find that.

Verse 25:

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, "Look, there is the Shunammite. Run at once to meet her and say to her, 'Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?'"

So he’s concerned about her. She’s obviously got something on her mind. She’s coming in a hurry. It’s unusual. It would not be typical for her to come on a day like this. “Is everything okay? Are you okay? Is your husband okay? Is your child okay? And again for the second time she answers, “Shalom.” All is well. All will be well.

Now, what did she mean by that in this context? I think there are several things she could have meant, and maybe more than one of these.

First of all, she’s was talking to Gehazi at this point, who is Elisha’s servant. She’s not at Elisha’s house yet. Gehazi, the servant, has gone out to meet her. I think maybe she didn’t want to open up her heart and share her need until she could get to the man of God. Gehazi had stayed in her home each time Elisha had been there, so she knew this man. She may have felt that he just didn’t have, didn’t know God the way Elisha did. And we see that comes out in this passage and also in the next chapter, which we’re not going to study in this series.

We see some qualities in Gehazi that are not becoming of a man of God. We see a man who doesn’t have the same kind of compassion that Elisha does. We see a man who is more motivated by personal gain than by serving and giving. He doesn’t have a servant’s heart. She knew this man, and so she’s not going to unload her heart to him to somebody who doesn’t really know God or have God’s heart.

As I was thinking about that last night it makes me wonder when I ask people “How are you doing?” are they so convinced that I know God and that I really care, that I have a compassionate heart, that they’re going to be willing to tell me what’s really on their heart? Or are they more likely to just say, “Fine. I’m fine.”

I wonder how many people say to me when I say, “How are you doing?” they say, “I’m fine.” It's not because they are fine but because they don’t think I really care, or maybe they don’t know that I will take the time to listen, to be concerned, or maybe they don’t just feel that I really know God in a way that is going to minister to them at that point of need?

That may be one reason she says to Gehazi, “All is well.” She also may have meant by that that she was expressing an acceptance and a surrender to the will of God. “The Lord gave; the Lord has taken away; whatever God does is good.”

Now, to say, “All is well” in that sense is not to pretend that there is no pain, that there is no hurt, that there is no loss, that there is no grief. But it’s to acknowledge that in the midst of tragedy, when your world is falling apart, that “all is still well.”

Then to say that “all will be well” (which is a possible translation) may suggest that she had faith and confidence that God could intervene yet and that all would be well. Regardless, whether He did or not, God’s providence was to be trusted, even while her heart was breaking. And so she says, “All is well”—“All will be well.”

Matthew Henry makes this comment on this passage:

When God calls away our dearest relations by death, it becomes us quietly to say, "It is well both with us and with them." It is well, for all is well that God does; all is well with those that are gone if they have gone to heaven, and all is well with us that stay behind if by the affliction we are furthered in our way thither.

If we’re brought closer to heaven by God’s affliction in that process in our lives, then all is well.

If we’re brought closer to heaven by God’s affliction in our lives, then all is well.

I got an email from a friend recently who has a prodigal child that is way out in the far country, and this friend has been praying with me as I’ve been working on this series on the Shunammite woman. She says:

I’m thinking about my life . . . thinking about the Shunammite woman. Twice she said, "It's all right. Everything is all right." Well, everything was not all right. Why did she say that? She said it because of her faith and deep trust in a God she knew in an intimate way. I can imagine she would sing with deep, heartfelt feeling, "All is well."

And then she sent me in this email the link to a Christmas song called “All Is Well.”  She said,

I've grown to love this song. God gives the grace to sing even in the midst of trials, disappointments, and heartache.

Then she signed it, “Resting,” and put her name.

I don’t know where God finds you today or where He may find you tomorrow in some really major area of your life—with a child, with a mate, with a situation in your life, a circumstance over which you have no control, where your world just takes a sudden turn and it all looks disastrous.

The question is: Do you know God in such a way that even through your tears you can lift your eyes up and say, “All is still well, and all will be well”? She said that before she heard the end of the story, before the story played out . . . all was going to be well. Regardless of whether God reverses your circumstances or not, if you are in His hand and belong to Him, then all really is well, and all will be well.

Leslie: “All is well.” It’s a phrase one woman uttered in the middle of a tragedy—an example to all of us.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been telling us this story as part of a series called “A Breath of New Life” from 2 Kings 4. Now maybe you look around are tempted to think all is not well. You look at violence and unrest in the world, attacks on believers, and refugees seeking asylum. You see growing evil in our own nation. Or maybe things don’t seem well in your own home. We are encouraging you to cry out to the Lord, the only one who can ultimately make things right.

Throughout 2016 we’ll be returning to this theme of “Cry Out.” We’ll be crying out to God on behalf of our families, churches, and world. To remind you of this urgent call, we’d like to send you the Revive Our Hearts 2016 Wall Calendar. The theme is “Cry Out.” Each month of the beautifully-designed calendar includes quotes on the power of prayer.

Here’s Nancy to tell you more about the Cry Out calendar.

Nancy: In our 2016 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar, we've assembled quotes from a number of my friends, challenging us to cry out in earnest to the Lord in prayer. Each month you'll read a different quote from someone like Mary Kassian, Anne Graham Lotz, Evelyn Christenson, Shirley Dobson, Elisabeth Elliot, and others. Each month you'll be inspired to cry out to the Lord, seeking Him to do what only He can do in our hearts, our homes, our churches, our land, and our world, for "such a time as this."

Leslie: We’ll send you a copy of the calendar when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Call us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll send one calendar per household for your gift of any amount. Tomorrow, Nancy will continue preparing your heart for any crisis that may come your way. Please join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

"All Is Well." Christmas. Michael W. Smith. Copyright 1989, Reunion Records.

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