2 Kings 4:8-37 (Part 2) – Wisely Recognizing Needs & Meeting Them

Posted: April 18, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

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

Elisha and the Woman from Shunem

How often do we pass by people in our lives that need our help but we rationalize away not stopping to help? I am as guilty as anyone. We have become so jaded about people “working the system” that we rationalize away not helping. We have people approach us at gas stations asking for gas money. We pass by people at intersections in our car with “will work for food” signs. We past by beggars on the street. We either say that we cannot help because we don’t have time or we look the other way. We don’t have time to get involved, we say. We tell ourselves that they are trying to scam us. And most certainly, these thoughts are valid. There are many who panhandle their way through life and prey upon the good hearts of good people. There is so much of “people working the system” out there that these feelings are valid and real. It is sad that often people in real need get overlooked by those who can help because of all those who are con-artists and scammers. We often think to ourselves, “get a job, dude!” or “if you spent as much time trying to find productive work as you did trying to scam people, you would not be in this situation!” It’s a common thing in the human experience.

Should you give to those who ask, whether they are knocking at your door or asking on the street? My answer is usually, yes. Usually, the default should be yes. I am not saying that we should not be wise, but we should not become so jaded as to avoid helping others altogether. We can be wise in how we help others. We must remember that love does no harm to the person you are attempting to love. Love does no harm. Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor,” — It doesn’t harm a neighbor — “therefore, love fulfills the law.” You have to ask, “Am I harming him?” Love aims to do good. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43–44). That means pray for their good. It doesn’t mean pray for their harm. You want this person’s good. So, you don’t want to just feed their bad habits. hat is the argument usually used for why you shouldn’t give to them. Love has real compassion. The parable of the prodigal and of the good Samaritan closes with this. Who proved to be neighbor to this man? The one who showed compassion. And Jesus said, “Go do that. Go be compassionate.”

Being compassionate does not always mean giving someone money. Being compassionate can mean buying groceries for the person standing outside the grocery store begging for money. Being compassionate can mean getting a prepaid gas card for the person asking for gas money. Being compassionate means meeting the need they ask for rather than giving money. Being compassionate means often stopping and taking time out of our daily pursuits to help someone in need rather than throwing money at them. Being compassionate means having real conversations with a person in need. It may mean that you say to them that giving them money is not wise and that you would like to meet that need that they are asking for. Often that very type of conversation will expose those who are just trying to scam you for money. Those in real need will accept a grocery gift card if they are in need of groceries. Those in real need will accept you paying for their gas at the register if they really need gas for their car. We must also be aware of physical danger through the warnings of the Holy Spirit and not put ourselves in situations that are not in public places with many witnesses. However, there are those in real need of real help out there so we must be wise but willing to help.

Being generous not only means recognizing needs of people in desperate straits. We must be willing be generous to all people in all walks of life. We should be able to bless others because we are a thankful people for the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. For example, we had a couple in our church that knew we needed a dining room table for our new home here in the Quad Cities. They were buying a new dining room set for their home and they just gave us their old dining room furniture. Just gave it to us. We had known them less than two months at the time, but they simply heard that we had a need. They had a way to fill it and they did it. Not because we were long-time friends at that point. They barely knew us. But they simply wanted to express the love of Jesus Christ to us by being generous. We could have gone out and bought a dining room set so it was not some dire straits kind of need. They were just sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in their lives to be generous to others.

That idea of going out of our way to be generous was what struck me about the woman from Shunem this morning as I read through 2 Kings 4:8-37 for the second time this morning. She did not have to be generous. And even being generous could have meant just giving some cash to Elisha. But no, she went out of her way and built this guy a room at her house. She went out of her way to meet a real need. Let’s read the passage once again now:

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 that the woman from Shunem realized that Elisha was a man of God, and, so, she prepared a room for him to use when he was in town. She did this out of kindness and because she sensed a need, not for any selfish motives. Soon, her kindness would be rewarded beyond her wildest dreams. How sensitive are we to the needs of those around us? Often, we get so caught up in our needs and, even, in our cynicism about the world that we do not offer to assist others.

One of the things that often prevents us from being sensitive to the needs of others is because we have mortgaged our own futures away by the gathering of things. We live in a society where it seems to be our bent to spend more than we make and acquiring things that we cannot afford. We are encouraged by our society to be selfish and that we must have the latest and greatest things no matter if we can afford them or not. The lessons that I take away from the generosity of the woman from Shunem is that it is apparent that she lived simply enough where she had the capacity to be generous.

That’s the first thing. Let us learn to be a people that lives on less than our income so that we CAN be generous. Let us be able to give to the Lord through our tithes and offerings and also be able to meet real needs of real people. That means we keep our cars a little longer. That means we don’t want that big fine brand new car with the huge car payment. That means that we forgo the big house. That means that we do that because we want to be generous and not let our STUFF get into the way. We want to be generous because we are thankful for God’s blessing on our lives and we want our generosity to be a testament of how good God is.

The second thing is that we should act on those divine leadings where God provides us those divine appointments to be generous. Sometimes, it means going out of our way and getting out of our comfort zone and cynicism. We should be wise as I said and we should pray for the Holy Spirit to give us that wisdom in recognizing real needs. But we should have a mind toward generosity. Jesus was generous enough to step out of heaven to die for our sins, so, then, we should have a mind to show generosity to the world around us and to recognize situations where we can.

Amen and Amen.

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