In 2 Kings 4, we find an interesting story of Elisha and a Shunammite woman. This woman, who had been a faithful helper to the prophet of God, was without a son—a major problem in those days. Elisha wanted to bless her for her kindness to him. So, as Elisha went to the Lord on her behalf, he was able to tell the Shunammite that she would have a son, and so she did.
The story gets weird when, later in the same chapter and a few years later in life, the son dies. It’s weird. This little blessing from God just gets a pain in his head and dies. The Shunammite goes to Elisha and tells him that she did not ask for a son. She did not want him to get her hopes up. Then she received a blessing only to lose it.
The story ends with Elisha going to the dead boy, seeking God, and raising the child from the dead. In the end the story is sweet and everyone lives happily ever after.
Here is the question that hit me this morning as I read through the story: Why? Why did we get this story in the text? What in the world are we supposed to think?
Let’s cover some simple ground first The crazy story sets up the magnificent miracle of resurrection. This is in a section of 2 Kings in which we are seeing that Elisha has the power of God on him just as Elijah before him. So, the event happened to show that the power of God was still in his chosen prophet.
We can also see a picture of Christ in this story in two ways. First, anytime we see someone coming back from the dead, we had better think of Jesus. Jesus died and then came back to life. The fact that Jesus came back to life after death is our only hope that we will live after our death. So the story certainly gives us hope that God is more powerful than death.
The story also reminds us of Jesus in the rescuing role that Elisha played. Jesus rescues us from being dead in our sin and transgressions. Jesus is the one who brings us to life, even though we have nothing that we could do to earn it or to make it happen.
But what else might we take from this passage for daily living? What hits me today is the truth that our lives, even the lives of the faithful, will have pain. The Shunammite suffered the sorrow of childlessness and then the horror of the loss of her only son. She received a blessing that she did not ask for only to lose it and then have it returned.
For me, I look at this story and am reminded that God works in our lives, even in our pain, to show us his power, his comfort, and his gospel. Like the Shunammite, any of us may suffer loss. When we do, we need to recall the fact that God is the God who raises the dead. He is the God who comforts the hurting. He is the God who has power beyond our imagining. But, we do not have to experience that power through the return of whatever we feel we have lost. God shows us these miracles to remind us that, in eternity, we get to be in the presence of the One who empowers the miracles. We get to be in the presence of the One who raises the dead. We get to have our souls satisfied by the One who is the source of joy and the Giver of all good things. This strange passage reminds us that God is better than the gifts that he gives us and that our hope is in the God who gives, who takes, but who is ultimately our only great treasure.