2 Kings 4:8-37 (Part 1) – Have I Been Here Before: Imitating Our Christian Mentors

Posted: April 17, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 4:8-37 (Part 1 of 3)

Elisha and the Woman from Shunem

Have you been in a situation where you felt you had already experienced it before but you knew that was not true and that it was completely new experience? In his 1863 travelogue Our Old Home, Nathaniel Hawthorne described a visit to Stanton Harcourt, a 15th century manor house near Oxford, England. As he stood in the building’s enormous medieval kitchen, the writer recalled, he was washed over by an eerie sensation:

“I was haunted and perplexed by an idea that somewhere or other I had seen just this strange spectacle before. The height, the blackness, the dismal void, before my eyes, seemed as familiar as the decorous neatness of my grandmother’s kitchen.”

Hawthorne had never been to Stanton Harcourt before, but yet the feeling of have encountered the experience before was palpable to him. Scientists have often found that feelings like this come from fuzzy memory bytes in our brain that are so fuzzy and less firmly entrenched in our memory banks that a trace memory can cause a feeling of having been somewhere before. That is almost certainly what happened with Hawthorne in the kitchen. Recall that it was the “height” and “blackness” of the room that stirred his global memory of having been there before. Indeed, Hawthorne figured this out himself, without the tools of modern memory research. He later summoned up a dim memory of a poem by Alexander Pope, who had also been moved to write about the cavernous rooms of Stanton Harcourt.

That is the feeling that comes to mind when you read 2 Kings 4. There are two miracles performed here that you know you have read somewhere before. You think to yourself, “I have read this before! That can’t be! Can it?” But you persist in that feeling. So you do a little research and, yes, your vague recall of having seen these miracles before is real. If you read 1 Kings and 2 Kings right after one another, your feelings are valid. We’ve been there and seen that already! It is because God’s 2nd and 3rd miracles performed through Elijah in 1 Kings 17 are substantially similar to the 3rd and 4th miracles God performs through Elisha. In 1 Kings 17:12-16, the widow’s food was multiplied beyond your wildest dreams of just having enough for one next meal. It’s counterpart in 2 Kings 4 is the widow’s oil being multiplied such that the widow would have some financial security from its sale. In 1 Kings 17:17-24, that same widow’s son was raised to life by God through Elijah by the prophet laying on top of the son. In 2 Kings 4, we find the counterpart miracle of the raising of the child of the woman from Shunem from the dead in similar fashion. The similarities are there. The similarities of Elisha to Elijah are strong. Maybe it has something to do with Elisha having been mentored by Elijah over the years.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Elisha’s ministry, particularly early on is quite similar to that which he observed from his mentor, Elijah. Elisha experienced first hand at the feet of one of the great men of God of the Bible, Elijah. Elijah was such a great man of God, he was one of the two men with Jesus in the vision given to the disciples. So, Elisha did well to imitate his ministry as he was learning his role early on. Certainly after this early period of Elisha’s ministry, the similarities begin to fade simply because Elisha encountered different people, different times, different circumstance that caused his ministry to become unique and standalone from that of Elijah. Maybe, these early miracles were to demonstrate to other’s that Elisha was indeed a man of God in the same way Elijah was. Maybe, these early miracles were because Elisha was sensitive to the same things that Elijah was trained by God to be sensitive to. Regardless, the evidence is there that Elisha had been with Elijah.

That similarity of miracles was what caught my eye this morning as we begin a three-part review of this passage, 2 Kings 4:8-37. It was the similarity of the miracles that brought to mind that Elisha was indeed a student of Elijah and was sensitive to the same things that Elijah had been sensitive to. That Elisha’s early ministry was so similar to that of Elijah reminded me that I have my own great men of God to imitate in my upcoming ministry where I will be a solo pastor for the first time in my life. I have four men of God that I have observed closely as I have been preparing for this next phase of God’s call on my life. Let’s read the passage now and recall the similarity of this miracle to one that we have already seen similarly in 1 Kings 17:

8 One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat.

9 She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”

11 One day Elisha returned to Shunem, and he went up to this upper room to rest. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the woman from Shunem I want to speak to her.” When she appeared, 13 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tell her, ‘We appreciate the kind concern you have shown us. What can we do for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king or to the commander of the army?’”

“No,” she replied, “my family takes good care of me.”

14 Later Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?”

Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.”

15 “Call her back again,” Elisha told him. When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, 16 “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!”

“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.”

17 But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said.

18 One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. 19 Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!”

His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.”

20 So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. 21 She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. 22 She sent a message to her husband: “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.”

23 “Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.”

But she said, “It will be all right.”

24 So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down unless I tell you to.”

25 As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. 26 Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, your husband, and your child?’”

“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.”

27 But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the Lord has not told me what it is.”

28 Then she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?”

29 Then Elisha said to Gehazi, “Get ready to travel[a]; take my staff and go! Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Go quickly and lay the staff on the child’s face.”

30 But the boy’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So Elisha returned with her.

31 Gehazi hurried on ahead and laid the staff on the child’s face, but nothing happened. There was no sign of life. He returned to meet Elisha and told him, “The child is still dead.”

32 When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead, lying there on the prophet’s bed. 33 He went in alone and shut the door behind him and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he lay down on the child’s body, placing his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. And as he stretched out on him, the child’s body began to grow warm again! 35 Elisha got up, walked back and forth across the room once, and then stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes!

36 Then Elisha summoned Gehazi. “Call the child’s mother!” he said. And when she came in, Elisha said, “Here, take your son!” 37 She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs.

In this passage, we see the similarity of this miracle to one performed by God through Elijah in 1 Kings 17. From the expanse of the testimony of the Bible, we know that Elijah was a great man of God. He is like one of the hall of fame of God’s chosen prophets and leaders of God’s people. Elisha did well to imitate this great man of faith. That was the idea that came to mind. We all have people in our lives that are far ahead of us in the walk with God that we can imitate, who set the example for us on how we should live and lead as Christ followers.

For me, there are four men that I owe a great debt in my development as a Christ follower and I will imitate the best of each of them going forward. The first one is Luke Brower, my pastor at Livermore Alive Community Church. Luke simply made being a Christ follower fun for me. It was no longer a struggle after having met him. It was no longer a box that I got out and played with and put back up after having met him. He taught me that being a Christ follower is a 24/7/365 thing. It’s a lifestyle not a thing you do on occasion. He taught me that we must live for Him all the time in everything we do and that it can be fun not a chore. The second man is Jeff Hickman, the senior and founding pastor at LifeSong Church. He taught me about the basics of leadership and that we have to own our own faith. He taught me that our faith is not about having favor from your pastor. Our faith is between us and God and that we have to own it. He also taught me about leadership and casting vision. He taught me about being passionate about souls and not just about a selfish form of Christianity that’s all about me. Next are two men that I work under currently. First, is Jeff Duncan, the worship pastor and second in command at Calvary Church. He has taught me about being in the ministry of reconciliation. He has taught me that conversations we have with people always should have discipleship in mind and not just the current situation and moment. He has taught me that we should have an eye even in tough conversations toward how this conversation will effect someone’s maturity in Christ not only today but years down the road. We must always be seeking reconciliation with God as the goal. We must seek unity as the goal in all we do, even in the tough conversations. And finally, there is Tim Bowman, the senior and founding pastor of Calvary Church. He has taught me much about how planning is a part of ministry, how things in ministry don’t just happen – they come from being prepared and then because of that, there’s nothing to get in the way of God doing what He’s going to do. He’s taught me that leadership of a church can be a lonely thing and a tough thing when you truly care about the souls on your staff and the souls in your congregation. He has taught me about sermon preparation. He has taught me so many things without even thinking that he is teaching me. I have observed these men of God and I will do well to imitate the best of each of them.

These are my Elijahs. These are the men of God that have influenced me and will continue to influence me in the future. The time under each of these men has been necessary and worth the lessons learned – sometimes hard lessons learned. If I can cobble together a good ministry for the Lord from observing these men operate in the spirit of the Lord, I will have done well at the end. None of them are perfect and each has their own struggles but men of God each is and each serves Him with passion. I will do well to imitate the best of their ministry efforts just as Elisha imitated Elijah.

Who is your Elijah? Who is ahead of you in their walk with Christ? We all need an Elijah to imitate!

Amen and Amen.

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