Study 6 THE RAISING OF THE SHUNAMMITE’S SON
Studies in the Life of Elisha
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 2 Kings 4: 18-37)
This study will be of particular interest to parents and to all who have the responsibility of children. It is based upon the incident recorded in 2 Kings 4:18-37, and the key words around which the whole story revolves are in verse 26: “Is your child alright?” The child has the central place in the story - compare Matthew 18:2. Notice:-
1. THE CONDITION OF THE CHILD.
What is the spiritual condition of every boy and girl? It is important that we should be clear about this, and the answer is emphatically stated in verses 20 and 32. In verse 31, Gehazi speaks as though the child might just be sleeping, but the scriptures declare that the child was dead - and that is the spiritual condition of every boy and girl who is not a Christian. This does not mean that our children are necessarily morally bad; it means that they are spiritually dead - look up and compare Romans 5:12 with 1 John 5:11-12. We are all born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and we are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) until we receive new life through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:36). In Matthew 18:1-11, our Lord, in speaking of children (verse 5), whom He describes as “little ones” (verse 6), goes on to say that they are “lost” (verse 11). How would you feel if you knew your child was lost or dead in a physical sense? Notice how this mother of Shunem felt:-
2. THE CONCERN OF THE MOTHER.
Quite naturally, when this tragedy fell upon her this mother was moved to action - see verses 19-24. This raises the question: What should be our first concern for our children? Should it be for their physical welfare, their education, their career…or should our first concern be for their spiritual welfare? This mother knew her child was dead, and she was filled with a deep concern that he should be raised to life. That, surely, should be our attitude towards our boys and girls. It is here that the Sunday School teacher has a special ministry, because many parents do not have any concern for the spiritual welfare of their children. What a glorious opportunity this gives to the teachers to become spiritual foster parents of such children by leading the little ones to the Lord Jesus who can give them life and salvation and who waits to be their Friend! This is the greatest work in the world. It is great to win an adult to the Saviour, but far greater to win a child. Think of the potentialities of one child. That boy may prove to be a Billy Graham; that girl may become an Amy Carmichael; that rather clumsy lad may be a Moody or a Carey! Have you a real concern for the salvation of the boys and girls in your care?
3. THE FAILURE OF THE SERVANT
Gehazi was sent by Elisha to lay the prophet’s staff upon the child, but when he did this nothing happened! - see verses 29-31. What is the lesson here? It is a warning against becoming formal and professional in our service for God. It is easy to serve Him without having first prayed about the matter. Are we out of touch with Him when we go to speak for Him? It would seem that Gehazi went to work without praying or making any special preparation. It is a great temptation for Sunday School teachers to go to their classes quite unprepared for the important task of teaching the word of truth to the children. It would seem that Gehazi had no prayer, no preparation, no persistence and no faith, and therefore nothing happened - look up 2 Timothy 3:5. His service was a formal matter - but see how different was Elisha’s approach to the whole problem!
4. THE TRIUMPH OF THE PROPHET.
- 1. He began on his knees. Compare verses 32-33 with Matthew 6:6. The man of God must be alone with God before he can communicate the life of God. Before we can minister life to those who are dead in trespasses and sins we must be in touch with God ourselves. How glorious if we can say what Hannah said - 1 Samuel 1:27! Are you praying regularly for the salvation of your children or for someone else’s children?
- 2. There was personal contact. Notice in verse 34 what intimate contact there was of eye, mouth and hands. This suggests that if we are going to win the children to Christ we must: (1) be able to see things from the child’s standpoint; (2) be able to speak in the child’s language; (3) be able to enter into the child’s interests. Each of these is essential if we would establish real contact with those we are seeking to win for the Lord.
- 3. There was intense desire and effort. In verse 34, we are told that the prophet “stretched himself out upon him”. It is true that “with strong great wrestlings souls are won”, and this applies to work among children just as much as it does to work among adults. It is always hard work, demanding the sacrifice of time and energy. It often proves disappointing, but it is gloriously worthwhile work and brings great reward to the worker.
- 4. There was patience and perseverance. See verse 35. The miracle did not happen all at once. Elisha had to hold on to God and to work on in faith. Maybe we fail because we get impatient and give up just when we should be pressing on believingly and trusting God to give the victory.
In conclusion, notice the three signs of life which we are to look for as we bring the gospel to the boys and girls in our care:-
- 1. In verse 34 there is the sign of warmth, and if there is warmth there must be life.
- 2. In verse 35 there is the sign of sneezing, and this surely indicates more life still.
- 3. In verse 35 there is the sign of vision, for we are told that the child “opened his eyes”.
Closing Thought: Proverbs 22:6.