As we continue in our sermon series called Greater Things following the miraculous moments of Elisha’s ministry. He decluttered the past to make room for a greater future. He ferociously followed his master until he was ready to lead. He changed the course of kings, and last week we saw him change the life of one solitary woman who was facing disaster. A woman who felt like she had nothing, but found that what she overlooked was what God used to overcome. This morning in 2 Kings 4: 8-37 we go from a woman who had nothing to the other end of the spectrum, to a woman who seemingly has more than enough.
Background: It all started as Elisha’s work had him traveling throughout the land administering his duties, like Lincoln rode through IL on his legal circuit. Elisha would go from Mt. Carmel to Shunem, south to Gilgal, and each time he arrived in Shunem he received the hospitality—welcomed into the home of the Shummanite woman and her husband. It is one thing to get a home cooked meal, good conversation and friendship, but this couple went further, building on to their house, giving Elisha a motel 6 experience—“We will leave the light on for you!” From the outside the Shummanite looked content, like she had everything she wanted or needed, but God was about behind the curtain she was actually:
Living with Less (2 Kings 4:13, 16-17) 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” 14 “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.”15 Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”
The Shummanite woman was comfortable and generous. She was willing to do almost anything for Elisha—share her wealth, add on to her house, give him a room fully furnished with a lamp, bed, and table, but she wasn’t sure she wanted God to do anything to her! Elisha in response to her generosity asked what he could do for her! She is fine letting God work through her, but she isn’t sure she wants him to change anything in her life. She doesn’t want to be built up only to be shot down! In fact, as she objected what she is saying is—“Listen, I know you are grateful for what I’ve done, but don’t promise something you cannot produce.” This word for mislead actually is stronger in the Hebrew meaning—Lie. Don’t lie to me! She had come to a point of acceptance that she would never have a child, she had accepted living with less, and she had her husband, her home, her homeland. She didn’t need Elisha rocking the boat.
A man had not been feeling well and went to his doctor for a check-up. After the examination, the doctor left the room and had the nurse call the man’s wife into his office. She came in and the doctor said the husband was going to die, but there is one small hope. He said, ‘Your husband needs constant care. If you cater to his every whim for about six months, he might live.’ On the way home, the husband asked her what the doctor told her. Thinking about the options before her she said, ‘Honey, He told me you’re going to die.’
She feared the hurt of failed hope more than the certainty of hopelessness; that the cost wouldn’t be worth the payoff. Why does Elisha push forward? Author Mike Foster put it like this: “When circumstances or people break us apart and stir things up, they’re actually preparing us to grow.” The Shummanite woman needed her life stirred up so God could do more than she expected, in our lives too, there are times where we fight change but God is actually stirring up the soil to bring growth. Sometimes to avoid change or hurt, we give God a little room, we might even furnish it, giving him a place for the Bible on our Bookshelves, a piece of our paychecks thrown into the plate, or a corner of our hearts, and yet for all our talk of hope, oftentimes, we forget what actually having hope really means. We’ve settled for living with less—we want to be healthier but we’ve settled for just getting by, we want to grow spiritually, but we’ve settled for scraps, we want a better marriage but we’ve settled for marginal. That same fear that plagued the wife, the same fear of the Shummanite woman—“don’t mislead your servant”—Don’t lie to me—don’t promise me something you can’t produce creeps back into our minds, “What if I’m let down or I fail?” and we start to become content in our circumstances instead of content in Christ. Yet Elisha’s words were not empty lies, and after 12 months, regardless of her hesitancy, uncertainty, and hopelessness they became a fulfilled living, breathing, crawling baby!