Elijah & Elisha Message #18 “The Shunammite Woman’s Son” Ed Miller, April 26, 2023

Listen to the audio above while following along in the transcript below, which is also available for download in Word at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com

“As we come to look in the word again, I remind my heart and yours that when we come to study the Bible, there’s an indispensable principle, and that’s total reliance upon God’s Holy Spirit.  It’s His book, and we need to trust Him to teach us. 

I want to share a couple of verses, very, very famous verses and much beloved from Matthew 11:25-30, the section, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden…” but it doesn’t begin there; it begins a little earlier, and it says that He’s rejoicing that the Father has revealed the truth to babes and hid it from the wise, the prudent, the intelligent.  Then He said, “No one knows the Father except the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and whoever the Son wills to reveal Him.”  So, knowing God is a revelation.  Then we come to that wonderful verse, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.”  Many sinners have found the Lord through that wonderful invitation, but the context is not really for sinners to get saved, though it can be used for that.  It’s for studying the Bible, because He says, “Come unto Me, learn from Me,” not “of me”.  He is the curriculum and He’s the teacher.  So, He’s invited us to come to Him to learn from Him, so that we will know Him.  With that in mind, let’s just give our time to the Lord.

Our Heavenly Father, we thank You again for the privilege that we have to gather together in this place and to have the liberty and the freedom to just trust the Holy Spirit to unveil Jesus.  So, we wait upon You now and thank You that You’ll meet us where we are and take us where You’d have us.  We commit our meditations, our session unto You in the matchless name of Jesus.  Amen.

Welcome to our meditation to the written word that is a window to the Living Word; so, we look in the Bible in order to behold the Lord Jesus.  In our meditation together we’re in 2 Kings 4.  This morning I’d like to wrap up the first of the five miracles in chapter 4, and then introduce the second miracle in chapter 4.  We were discussing the miracle of the widow with the oil, the jar of oil, and the filling of the empty vessels.  The next story is about the family at Shunam, the woman who was given a son, and then the son died and was raised from the dead. 

Let me summarize the message of the oil that we’ve already looked at, and then I want to make a few more observations about that story, and then we’ll introduce the next story.  When we review, and we go back to the story of the widow and the oil, we asked the question, “How does the story begin, and how does the story end?”  The story begins in verse 2, “Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you?  Tell me, what do you have in the house?’  She said, ‘Your maid servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.’”  The story begins with a jar of oil, and apart from that jar of oil, you wouldn’t be reading about this story.  Everything revolves around this jar of oil.

On the level of earth, the woman was very burdened with circumstance in the will of God.  Her husband had died, and her two sons are in danger of being taken away as slaves to pay off her debt, and so on.  The story begins, “What do you have in the house?”  The answer is, “Only a jar of oil.”  As we showed you, that jar of oil pictures the life of the Lord, the Holy Spirit.  All through the Bible He’s pictured as oil.  So, what do you have in your house when you are faced with circumstances in the will of God that are contrary?  The answer that you have a jar of oil; you have the Lord; you have His Life.  Whatever else you might think you have — I have heartache, I have loneliness, I have discouragement, I have frustration — you also have the Lord.  We always have the Lord.  That’s how it begins.

Let me underscore the wonder of that by quoting the first couple of verses of Psalm 45, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and fall, though the mountains quake at the swelling pride. Think about that.  Selah.  Think about that.”  And the last verse of that Psalm is verse 11, “The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.”  So, we have Him.  We always have the Lord.  That’s how it begins.

How did the story end?  The spiritual message of this story ends in verse 4, “You shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all those vessels, and set aside what is full.”  You remember in our discussion that the oil was the only provision for empty vessels.  The Lord is pictured by the oil; the Lord is the only provision for empty vessels.  He will not fill any of your emptiness or mine with things.  He will not fill us with gifts.  He will not fill us with virtues.  We say, “I need power.”  He’s not going to give His Son and something else called “power”.  He’s only going to give His Son.  He’s not going to give His Son and something else called “patience”.  You don’t need patience.  You need Jesus.  I need Jesus, and He’s going to give us Jesus.  He’s not going to give you joy or rest or victory, and something else called “Jesus”.  He’s only going to give His Son.  So, the oil was the answer to every emptiness.  Colossians 3:11, “Christ is all, and in all.” 

When we closed last time I quoted Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not with Him freely give us all things.”  He’s not denying us to have joy and peace and victory and all the rest; He just doesn’t want us to have it apart from His Son.  He gives us His Son, and with Him, He freely gives us all things.  So, it begins with a jar of oil, and it ends with the truth that Jesus is unqualifiedly enough for all of my emptiness for this moment, for all of the future, and for all the ages of eternity.  That’s the great message of that story.

I’m not quite finished with that story, yet.  The main message is clear enough; Jesus is all I need, and He’s all I ever need — that’s the main message.  But I want to go through the story again and just pick up, sometimes it’s just a word, or an expression.  I want to pick up what I was going to call “warnings”, but I think that’s a little strong, so I think I’m going to call them “cautions”.  There are several cautions in this particular story which are suggested by individual words or expressions.  I want to make mention of four of them, and every one of those I’m taking out of my own life, my own experience.  If I would say I got burned by those, that might be a little strong, but I was certainly affected by these, and the Lord had to readjusted my heart and my thinking.  I just want to suggest those, because someone here or someone later listening electronically on tape might be struggling with these things that once gave me a great problem.

The first caution comes from the word “emptiness”.  In verse 3, “Go borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few.”  Just that express, “Empty vessels.”  If this story deals with anything, you must admit it deals with emptiness and fulness.  You can’t read this story and miss emptiness and fulness.  The whole room was filled with empty vessels.  So, what’s the caution? 

At one time I believed, and there may be some that still believe, that if I’m ever to know the fulness of the Lord, I must empty myself.  Think about that — I must empty myself.  So, for a while I was constantly struggling to die to self, and to deny myself, and to empty myself.  It was because of my desire to be filled with the Lord.  It was a good desire; I wanted to be filled with the Lord, and I wanted to enjoy oneness with Him.  So, I was struggling to make sure I was empty.  The problem was I never arrived; I couldn’t get empty enough.  So, I missed out on a lot of His fulness because every time I tried to empty myself, I found more self, and I found more pride and I found more flesh.  So, I was just thinking, “Well, that fulness must be for spiritual hotshots only, and for those who have really been able to empty themselves.” 

I don’t think anyone, if they began to examine their heart, would say, “Finally, I’m empty.”  I don’t think that they could come that far.  Does the Bible teach anywhere that we are to empty ourselves before we can know the fulness of the Lord?  The answer is it does not.  What does the Bible teach?  The Bible teaches that I am empty; I don’t have to empty myself.  I am empty, and so are you.  Take it by cold blooded faith; you ARE empty.  We are nothing; we ARE empty.  We could save ourselves a lot of bondage by taking it by faith that we’re already empty.

Let me give an Old Testament illustration of it.  When the temple of Solomon was being dedicated, 2 Chronicles 5:13, “The house of the Lord was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”  2 Chronicles 2:7, “The priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.”  If you want to know how you’re emptied, you are emptied by being full; the fullness of God washes out all of the other stuff.  So, you are emptied by being full.  It’s true that the Lord fills an empty vessel.  That’s my only hope, and your only hope, that God will fill an empty vessel, but He fills you, and like Solomons temple, when the glory fills you, the temple stays empty.  In other words, the priests weren’t allowed in; the priest couldn’t even get in to minister.  When the glory of the Lord fills the temple, you are empty and you’ll stay empty, but you’ll be full of the glory of the Lord.  Enough of that, but I wanted to mention it, just as a caution; don’t try to empty yourself.  The same faith by which you reckon yourself dead, is the faith by which you reckon yourself empty.

The second caution has to do with a lesson I really had to learn.  I used to study the Bible to apply the story, the facts, to my life.  I didn’t want to have no application, so I said, “I’ll read it and apply it to my life.”  I don’t do that anymore, and I’ll tell you why.  It’s because the Lord taught me to read the story, find the principle, and apply the principle.  If I apply the facts, I only have one or two applications.  If I apply the principle, I have unlimited applications.  Every story in the Bible contains age abiding principles.  The Holy Spirit can discover those to you and to me; He can show us what they are.  We need to apply the principle.

Let me give you an illustration.  I think it’s perfectly illustrated by Jesus walking on the stormy sea in the New Testament.  If I just apply the facts, here is what would be true; if I’m ever on a ship in the middle of the night and it’s stormy, I can expect Jesus to come to me walking on the water.  The problem is, what are the chances I’ll ever be on a ship in the middle of night during a terrible storm?  So, for example, I could say, “Well, I read about the blind man, but I’m not blind.  I read about the leper, but I’m not a leper.  I read about the crippled man, but I’m not crippled.  I read about the deaf man, but I’m not deaf.  So, those stories don’t apply to me.”  You see, we need to get the principle, and once you get the principle…

Let me give you the principle of Jesus walking on the sea.  I think you all know it already, but I’ll give it anyway.  In the darkest moments of my life, during the most violent storms, I can expect Jesus to show up, identify Himself, and let me know that the storm is under His feet.  That’s the principle.  Now, that can be applied everywhere in your life, every time there’s a storm in your life.  If you only look at the facts…  For example, in the widow story, if we look at the facts, we see that this widow on one precious day in her life had all the emptiness filled for the rest of her days, until she died — one day in one moment in that single experience, the Lord met her need at that time and all the needs she would ever have until the day she died.  If I applied the facts, I might think that there’s going to come a time in my life, once for all times, and it will only happen once, and I’ve got to go into a room and shut the door and be in the presence of the Lord, and bring all my emptiness, and He’ll fill my emptiness/my jars for the rest of my life.

1958 when I accepted the Lord Jesus, I gave Him a great big “YES”, but I’ll tell you, in the sixty-five years since then, I’ve been giving Him a “YES” every day.  It’s not once and for all.  He died once for all, but now I have to every day…  In 1965 I accepted Him as my substitute who died for me.  I accept Him as my substitute to live for me every day of my life, His Life and not mine.  So, this woman who had a one time experience for the rest of her life, illustrates a principle.  What is the principle?  The answer is that every time there is emptiness in my life, I am to go in before the presence of the Lord and shut the door, and expect that He will apply His life to my emptiness, and I’m to do that for the rest of my fleeting life on this earth.  That’s the principle, and now there’s unlimited application.  I’m only using that as an illustration; don’t apply the fact that it’s once for all and I’ll never have to meet with the Lord again.  No, you’ve got to meet with Him every day and every moment of every day, and so do I.  That’s the second principle; don’t try to empty yourself, and don’t just try to apply the facts; ask God to show you the principle, and then how to apply that principle.

The next principle is in verse 7, “Then she came and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go sell the oil, and pay your debt; you and your sons can live on the rest.”  And just like that one time act was an everlasting attitude, there’s a principle here.  When the Lord filled the vessels that were in that room, she had a room full of oil.  I don’t remember reading that she called her son and said, “Sons, look, we’re rich; look at all the oil we have.  I never saw such a provision.  Let’s go on a cruise.  Let’s by a mule.”  She didn’t say that.  What did she do?   The answer is that she went to the man of God, and she said, “The Lord has just given me a lot of provision.  What should I do with it?”  She didn’t consider it her own.  When the Lord provides for you, it’s not yours; it’s still His.  When the Lord provides for me, it’s not mine; it’s still His.  I need His direction on how to use that wonderful provision. 

When she came to him, he gave her direction.  He said, “The first thing you are to do is to pay your bills.”  Once again, don’t apply the fact, or all you’ll have are bills.  The principle is, meet your responsibilities.  That’s the principle.  That’s bigger than a bill, because you have many responsibilities, and God is going to call you to responsibility.  You might be called to be a caregiver.  You might be called to show some hospitality or meet the need of one of your neighbors or visit the sick or the prison or the widow.  You know what your responsibilities are, but whatever they are, that’s what He provides for, and that’s the first thing that you do.  You say, “Lord, how would you have me use this?”  Then the rest you’re to live on, but you’re to know that it doesn’t belong to you.  It belongs to the Lord.

I remember when the Lord provided when Israel left Egypt and they were to collect all that wealth from the Egyptians, they didn’t know what to do with it, because God didn’t tell them yet.  That was for the tabernacle, but they didn’t know anything about that, and now they were rich, but there was no Walmart out there in the desert, so what were they going to do with all of the wealth God gave them, “Let’s make a golden calf.”  See, you’re going to use it in the wrong way, if you don’t have guidance from the Lord.  Everything God gives you doesn’t belong to you.  You and I are stewards, and we are stewards that will give a careful account one day at the judgment seat of Christ.  We need to be good stewards.

Let me tell you a little story.  I remember when I was at Bible school, there was a man who had great influence on my life.  He was independently wealthy.  That’s not the influence I’m talking about.  He pointed me to Christ.  That’s the influence.  But he was also independently wealthy.  I don’t know why he chose me, but he chose me as a conduit.  He handed me a stack of twenty dollar bills one day, and this was in the seventies, so that was a lot of money, and he gave me a list of married students, and who to hand it out to, because he was providing for a lot of the married students.  I remember one day I was in the bookstore.  The bookstore not only sold books, but they also sold candy and soda.  I was in line to get some kind of refreshment, and Mrs. Sells, his wife, was two people in front of me, and we all were in line, and when she got to the register, I don’t know what she bought, but she made a fuss, and that surprised me.  She made a fuss because the cashier had shortchanged her a nickel.  She’s handing out twenty dollar bills and she was shortchanged a nickel.  Then she turned around, I’ll never forget the grin on her face, and she said, “Students, God has made me a steward of my nickels as well as my twenty dollar bills.”  Exactly so!  I could never forget a story like that.  That’s what’s being taught here.  This widow did not consider the oil her own, and went to the man of God and said, “I need guidance; I need help; what am I to do with this wonderful provision?”

So, those are the first three cautions; don’t try to empty yourself, and don’t just limit yourself to applying facts when you can have principles, and don’t ever think that anything you have is yours.  It all belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ.

There’s one other caution I’d like to mention before I introduce the next story.  2 Kings 4:6, “When the vessels were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel,’ and he said to her, ‘There is not one vessel more,’ and the oil stopped.”  The fact of that lesson is that the Lord filled the vessels right to the rim.  I was checked one day by a dear brother because he heard me say, “Jesus is more than enough; He’s more than sufficient.”  This man works for the government and he’s very intelligent, and he told me he could tell me what he does, but he’d have to kill me.”  He’s off the charts on intelligence.  He said to me, “You made a contradiction there when you said that He’s more than sufficient.  You can’t be more than sufficient.”  He challenged me to look it up in the dictionary, and I did, and sufficiency says, “Just enough.”  If something is sufficient, it’s all you need and not a drop more. It’s sufficient, and he was bothered when I said, “More than sufficient, all-sufficient, super sufficient.”  “No such thing,” he said.  His idea was that God has promised to provide everything you need, and not a drop more.  You’ll have fulness, and you’ll have a perfect supply, your vessel will be full, but not a drop more.

It’s possible that I’m just talking semantics here, but I did struggle with this.  If I am full — here is the caution — I have said, and I’ve heard others say, “God knows how much I can take, and God knows how much I can bear, and He’ll never give me more than I can take.  He’ll never give me more; He’ll only give me exactly what I need, because God knows my frame and He knows how much I can take.  Usually that is applied to pain.  God knows how much I can take.  Or it could be some kind of sorrow, or some kind of disappointment; God knows how much I can take, and He’s not going to put more on me than I can take.

Lillian’s grandmother died of cancer, and she refused to receive any kind of medication, even pain medication.  Her argument, she was a good Lutheran, you know, and her argument was, “God knows what I can take, and if I can’t take any more, He’ll just take me home.”  She refused, right to her dying day, to have any pain medicine whatsoever.

That’s a caution.  Is that a Bible truth, that God will not give you more than you can bear?  Listen, please, to 1 Corinthians 1:8&9, “We do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively beyond our strength, so that we despaired, even of life.  Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves, so we would not trust ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”  Now that’s the Apostle Paul, and you know how much suffering he endured, but here he says that he was excessively burdened beyond strength, despairing even of life.  That sounds like God gave him more than he could bear.  This idea that God won’t give you more than you can bear is not Bible.  God not only will give you more than you can bear, He must give you more than you can bear.  The reason is, if there’s one drop that you can still bear, you’ll be trusting that drop; you’ll be trusting yourself.  He has to take you beyond your threshold, so that you can learn to trust the One that raises the dead.  He will put the sentence of death on us, so we will live a supernatural life.  He has to take us beyond our threshold.

It’s a blessing that the Lord drives us beyond ourselves, or we’d never trust.  You only trust Him when you must.  You always must, but we don’t always know that we must.  We always need to trust the Lord.  When the Lord teaches me something like that, one of my outlets is poetry, and when the Lord began to teach me that, He gave me these lines:

In mercy He adds to the cross I must carry,

In grace every trial by Him is bestowed.

He knows in my weakness I’ll run straight to Jesus.

He adds to my burden to lighten the load.

Exactly!  He will give you so much, that you’re going to wise up and crawl out from under it, and start looking to the Lord.  He WILL burden you; He’ll put so much on you, that you’ll realize, “I can’t bear this,” and when it’s excessive and beyond your strength, you’re going to call upon Him who raises the dead, and you’re going to experience the Life of God.

Whenever the full vessels mean, He fills to the brim, it can’t contradict Psalm 23:5, “My cup overflows.”  I heard one lady say, “And my saucer, too.”  My cup overflows, and my saucer, too.  Philippians 4:19, I’m going to misread it, “And my God shall supply the bare essentials…”  Well, it doesn’t say that, does it?  “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Now notice that God does not provide out of His riches; He provides according to His riches.  If He provided out of His riches, He’d be getting poorer with every provision.  If I had a thousand dollars, which I don’t, and I gave you twenty-five, I wouldn’t have a thousand anymore; I’d only have nine hundred and seventy-five.  God doesn’t give out of His riches.  Once again, when He started teaching me this, another lyric; bear with me:

His wealth is not diminished by giving,

Nor is He made poorer by granting a plea,

The infinite stores of His riches in Jesus,

Are never depleted by giving to me.

The sea would be smaller, less one drop of water,

The universe dimmer if one star should die,

The spectrum reduced if a soft hue was missing,

But nothing can decrease an endless supply.

That is how He gives.  Let me quote another Bible verse, and I’m going to quote the verse, and then quote it again, adding one modifier at a time.  Ephesians 3:20&21, “Now unto Him who is able to do far more abundantly, beyond all we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations forever and forever.  Amen.”  I’m going to quote again now and adding one modifier at a time, “The Lord is able to do; the Lord is able to do more; the Lord is able to do far more; the Lord is able to do far more beyond what we ask; the Lord is able to do far more beyond all we ask or think — that’s my cup runneth over. 

Let me give a final illustration and return to the widow’s story.  We learned last week that God’s only provision is Christ, the oil; that’s His only provision.  He has no more to give than His Son.  When He gave Him, He gave His everything.  Let’s say I lost my car keys (that happens now and then), and let’s say I lost my coffee cup (that happens now and then), I lost my glasses, I lost my pen, I lost my way (I’m a loser; I lose a lot).  But let’s say I Iost my Lillian, I lost a child; if I lost my Lillian would I need the Life of the Lord?  You better believe it!  But I need His Life if I lose my keys.  I need His Life no matter what I lose.  I need His Life at all times.  When He said, “My grace is sufficient for you,” He was really saying that the revelation of Me and My love for you is all that you are ever going to need.

Let me give a weak illustration.  Let’s say that the Lord gave Jay the muscles, the power to lift one thousand pounds, and then he was required to lift twenty-five pounds.  Jay, if you had the power to lift a thousand pounds, could you lift twenty-five pounds?  It would be easy to lift twenty-five pounds.  I want you to think about the martyrs.  The martyrs faced the lions, they faced the flames/fire, they faced the torcher chambers, and they were really mistreated, and they were crucified, and they were killed with the sword.  I don’t think I’ll ever have to face a fiery furnace, but you never know these days, or a lion’s den, but I want you to know that I have gout (you’ve got to feel sorry for me, now), and I have a backache, I have a toothache (I’m speaking generically), I’ve got problems.  I come to the Lord and I say, “Lord, I really need grace; I need help for this gout.”  He answers back, “The only grace I can give is that which will sustain the martyrs.  Will that do for your gout?  The only grace I have is that which enabled them to face the lions and face the flames.  Will that help with your backache?”  That’s all He has.  He only gives Himself; He only gives His Life.  We’re the ones that say that this is a big problem, and this is a little problem.  There’s no such thing as a big problem with Him, or a little problem, because His provision is all the same. 

Going back to the widow’s story, and my friend, it’s filled to the brim and that’s it, and it won’t overflow, it’s true when He filled the vessel and it got to the top, He didn’t keep pouring it and it went all over the floor.  That didn’t happen.  What did happen?  It kept flowing; it didn’t flow on the floor; it flowed into another empty space.  Then what?  It kept flowing, and it flowed into another empty space.  So, there’s no contradiction with the Lord filling me to the brim, and my cup runs over, because He fills me and His Life keeps flowing in every situation in my life, and fills every empty vessel.  He’ll always give us more than we can bear naturally, so that we can experience His Life.

One more little thought about, it’s sort of a question, that I have to tell you before we leave this story.  I know it’s not necessary to have every Bible detail fit into place like a puzzle.  I know that illustrations are illustrations, and if you push them too far they’ll break.  Every illustration seems to break down.  Let me give an example from John 15, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he’s thrown away as a branch and dries up.  They gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”  The context of the parable in John 15 is that fruit bearing comes from abiding in Christ.  That’s the message of that parable; fruit bearing comes from abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Every detail in that parable should drive home that one truth.  Some have taught, just taking chapter 14 and verse 6 that it’s possible for a Christian who once was abiding in the vine to stop abiding in the vine and end up in hell.  They get it from that verse.  They say that branch was abiding in the vine, that branch stopped abiding in the vine, that branch was cut off, that branch was bound in bundles, and that branch ended up in the fire.  The problem is, that interpretation goes to a different parable.  The parable is teaching that if I abide in Christ I will bear fruit.  That’s what the parable teaches.  It’s not talking about a Christian getting saved and going to heaven or hell.  It’s not talking about that.  What that verse is teaching, that illustration, is that if I don’t abide in Christ, I’m as worthless as a branch not abiding in a tree.  I’m worthless as far as fruit bearing is concerned.  That’s what that illustration teaches. 

All of that, and I don’t want to confuse you, but when I read verse 3, “Go borrow vessels for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels, and don’t get a few,” — no, that’s my second confusion.  My first confusion was from verse 7, “Go sell the oil,” and that’s a roadblock for me.  If the oil is the Life of Christ, then what in the world does it mean to go sell the oil.  I know naturally I could understand that she had to sell it to support herself and her family, but is there spiritual significance.  See, I had the same problem when I read the parable of the ten virgins in the New Testament, “Go sell the oil.” 

My second confusion was this, “Go borrow vessels.”  I know what the word “borrow” means; it means that you ask somebody for something and you have full intentions of returning it.  Did she ever return the vessels that she borrowed?  Well, it’s possible.  It’s not recorded.  Maybe when she sold the oil, she returned the vessel.  But anyway, I just want to end with that question.  I have zero light on “go sell the oil”, and I have zero light on the way the word “borrow” was used.  If you have anything to offer, I’d appreciate it.  I just wanted you to know that I can’t go there because I don’t know anything. 

With that in mind, and fully satisfied that I completely explained everything in that story (I speak as a fool), let me introduce this next story.  It’s about the Shunammite family that took in Elisha.  2 Kings 4:9:10, “And she said to her husband, ‘Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually.  Please, let us make a little walled upper chamber and let us set up a bed for him there and a table and a chair and a lampstand, and it shall be that when he comes to us, he can turn in there.’”  Now, you may be familiar with this Bible story, but there’s a possibility that some are not familiar with it.  Elisha, because of that hospitality that was shown to him, wanted to express his thanks; he wanted some way to say “thank you” to that woman and her husband for their kindness.  The family was rather well-to-do and, as we’ll look at when we go into the story, didn’t need anything physically.  He couldn’t give them anything.  He couldn’t give them money or influence or anything like that, but Elisha finally found out that she was barren, and that she had no children.  There was no heir, no one to carry on the family name.  So, when he found that out in verse 16, “Then he said, ‘At this season next year you will embrace a son.’  And she said, ‘No, my lord, oh man of God, do not lie to your maid servant.’”  We read in verse 18, “When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father to the reapers and he said to his father, ‘My head, my head,’ and he said to his servant, ‘Carry him to his mother.’  When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then died.”  He died sitting on her lap.

The entire story that we’re going to look at revolves around this child.  It revolves around the promise of this child, the birth of this child, the death of this child, the resurrection of this child, and the mother’s response to each of those segments in the child’s life.  We’ll not understand the story without knowing that relationship.  If we’re to see the message of the story, and of course that’s what we’re heading for, the distinctive revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ in this story, we’re going to have to understand what’s going on in the mother’s heart, not only in her heart but in her head.  How is she thinking?  What is she thinking?  What’s going on in her mind?  What were the promises?  And in her mind, what are the limits of those promises?  We’ve got to stay focused on her and how she responds and how she reacts.

When she first heard that she was going to have a child, she made that comment, “Do not lie to your handmaid.”  She brought it up again when he died.  2 Kings 4:28, “She said, ‘Did I ask for a son from my lord?’”  And the answer, of course, is “no”.  That was all grace, “That wasn’t my idea.  That was your idea.  Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me.’”  We’re going to get into that next time, Lord willing, and it’s crucial to the spiritual understanding of this story, but let me give you just enough now to introduce the story, and to suggest the revelation of Christ.  I won’t develop it now, but I’ll suggest it, so that we don’t end this lesson without seeing Jesus.  We’ve got to see Jesus.

I want to introduce you first, to get into this, to a person who is mentioned for the first time in the Bible, and he’s mentioned in this story.  His name is Gahazi.  2 Kings 4:12, “He said to Gahazi, his servant…” and that’s all I want you to know now, that Gahazi was the servant of Elisha, probably in much the same way that Elisha was once a servant of Elijah.  According to 2 Kings 3:11, he used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.  That doesn’t just mean he washed his hands.  That means that he tended to his needs.  He was a servant; he carried his luggage, and that kind of thing.  We’re just introduced to Gahazi in this story.  So far, if all we had was this, we wouldn’t know his heart.  Once we know his heart we can come back and we can get some hints about his heart in this story, but we don’t know his heart.  You aren’t going to know his real heart until you come to 2 Kings 5 in the story of Naaman, the leper that was cleansed.  I’m just going to give you the pith of it now. 

In verse 16, the leper was so thankful to Elisha, he wanted to pay him for his cleansing, and we read in verse 16 chapter 5, “He said, ‘As the Lord lives before whom I stand, I will take nothing.’  He urged him to take it, and he refused.”  We’ll get into that when we get to chapter 5, but Gahazi, his servant, didn’t have that same attitude at all.  Verse 20, “Gahazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, thought, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman, the Arminian, by not receiving from his hands what he brought.  As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” 

Elisha refused payment.  Gahazi said, “I’m not letting him get away with that.  I’m going to take some money.”  So, he went after him, and concocted a lie, and he said, “You know, as soon as you left, my master had unsuspected visitors, a couple of the sons of prophets showed up, and he doesn’t have provision.  So, he’s changed his mind.  If you still have a mind to, we’d like to have some of that provision.”  He collected this money, and so on.  Anyway, we get to know his heart.  The reason I’m telling you that, even though we don’t know that yet, is because of this detail in the story.  2 Kings 4:29, “He said to Gehazi,” this is after he learned the boy was dead, “’Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go your way.  If you meet any man, do not solute him.  If anyone solutes you, do not answer him.  Lay my staff on the lad’s face.”  “Take my staff, the prophet’s rod, and put it on the face of the dead child.”  There’s a picture right there.  The prophet’s staff in the hand of a hypocrite.  We know what kind of a heart he had, and now he’s got the prophet’s staff in his hand.

Supposedly, that staff was to be the instrument by which God would raise that child from the dead.  Did it work?  Verse 31, “Gahazi passed on before them, and laid the staff on the lad’s face, but there was no sound or response.  So, he returned to meet him and told him, ‘The lad has not awakened.’”  See, God looks at the heart.  He doesn’t look at what’s in your hand.  He looks at the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7, “God sees not as man sees.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  If your heart is not right, it doesn’t matter what’s in your hand; it’s not going to bear fruit, and it’s not going to have ministry in the Lord.

Someone says, “Well, God is certainly going to use me because I’ve been accepted by that mission board.”  That depends on your heart, not on the voting of the mission board.  “Yeah, but I’ve got a theological degree; I went to seminary, and God is going to use me mightily in his work.”  No, you can have a degree in your hand, but if your heart is not right, you’re not going to see life from the dead.  “Do you mean my ordination doesn’t mean that much?”  Well, I know what my ordination meant when a bunch of people with empty hands laid their empty hand on my empty head and said a few words.  I don’t know how to undo an ordination, but I wish I could.  Anyway, the whole point is that God looks at the heart.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a Bible teacher and it doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor or a priest or wear a robe or have a collar or some kind of position.  Just because you’ve got a prophet’s rod in your hand, a staff in your hand, there’s no life in a staff, and the Lord looks at the heart.

Now, I brought that up to say that I don’t think God let Gahazi fail so that we would have a revelation of Gehazi’s heart.  I don’t think that’s why He let him fail in that story.  I think it’s connected to the message of the story.  We’ll develop it next time, but let me give it to you now.  One of the keys that opened this story for me was found in the New Testament, Hebrews 11:35, and that’s the faith chapter, “by faith, by faith, by faith.”  We come to verse 35, “By faith, women received back their dead by resurrection.”  This can only refer to the two women, one that Elijah ministered unto, and now one that Elisha ministers unto. 

The reason I bring this up is because I can’t study this chapter without knowing that by faith she is trying to bring that child back.  By faith she’s receiving this child, and in her thinking, all that she’s doing is she’s responding by faith.  So, the failure of Gahazi was for her, and not for him, not so we could see his heart.  She’s living by faith, and all through the story God is testing her faith.  One of the tests of her faith is failure.  We’re going to isolate all of the different tests of faith as we go through the story, but this is how we’ve got to approach the story. 

Somehow this woman connected the promises to have a child, in her head and her heart and mind she said, “If this child dies, the promise is broken.”  Somehow, she connected the birth of that child with the preservation of that child.  We’ll get closer to that next week.   Whether she was right or wrong, at this point I’m not going to talk about.  We’ll get to that, but you need to know this much now; in her mind and in her thinking and in her heart she’s got to bring that child back by faith.  That’s where she is in this story.  The death of her son, to her, was like the breaking of a promise. 

When she was first given the news, the very good news, that she would have a child, verse 16, “She said, ‘Do not lie to your maid servant.’”  We need to understand what she meant by that.  When the child died, she brought it up again.  We don’t know how old the child was —five, six, seven — we don’t know.  Verse 28, “And she said, ‘Did I ask a son from my lord?”  “I never asked for a baby; I never asked for a child.  This was grace and this was your idea.  Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’”  Why did she bring that up?  I think she felt betrayed.  I think she felt somehow the promises were broken.  “You said that you were going to give me a son, and now I don’t have one.  What happened to your promise.”  Again, I’m going to address her thinking next time, but for now I hope you see where she’s coming from.

Let me just state the revelation of Christ, and then we’ll wrap it up, and next week, Lord willing, we’ll dive into it.  This woman, in order to live by faith, faith needs an object, and the object is always a Person and the Person is Christ.  What was the object of her faith?  She needed to discover to trust in a covenant-keeping God.  That’s what she needed so desperately, a God who would keep His word, and wouldn’t trick her and wouldn’t deceive her, and wouldn’t lie.  That was a big thing on her heart.

Let me give you these verses to drive home that wonderful truth, even though I won’t develop it now; knowing that we have a covenant-keeping God should be enough to thrill your soul.  We’ll really look into that in the days ahead.  Hebrews 6:18, isn’t this a wonderful expression, “It is impossible for God to lie.”  Titus 1:2 you have the same truth, “God, who cannot lie, promised…”  Boy, when you come to the promises of God, claim those little verses, “Lord, here’s your promise, ‘God, who cannot lie, promised…’”  You can lay hold of it. 

Isaiah describes in a graphic way our covenant-keeping God, Isaiah 54:10, “’The mountains may be removed, the hills may shake, but my lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be shaken,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  Then one more, Jeremiah 1:12, “I am watching over My word to perform it.”  You have a covenant-keeping God; I have a covenant-keeping God.  His promises, His vows, His covenant are binding upon Him.  As I said, we’ll look deeper into that.  The fact that this woman is by faith, walking by faith to see her son raised, in her mind, her understanding is that somehow His birth and His preservation are tied into the same promise.  “I need somebody that will keep His word.  I begged you not to lie to me; don’t deceive me.  I need a covenant-keeping God.”  Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have one.  Let’s bow together.

Father, thank You for Your word, for all that You’ve inspired it to mean.  Work that in our heart.  We want to thank You, Lord, corporately and individually, that You are a covenant-keeper, and that You will never break Your word, and all that You say You are, You ARE Truth, and Lord we thank You for such an anchor that could anchor us within the veil, by those two unchangeable things, Your character and Your oath, that we are anchored within the veil.  Thank You again for such security.  We ask that You would work these truths into our heart.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen. “