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woman might well entreat the prophet to help her. Elisha required of her and her sons an act of faith, in going forth to borrow every jar and other vessel they could obtain. Then, when all were ready, she was to begin pouring from the little pot of olive oil she had in the house. Behold, the oil never ceased flowing till every vessel was full, and she had wherewithal to pay her debt and maintain her children. Just so, that blessed oil, the grace of God's Holy Spirit, will never, never fail those who seek for it and use it aright. It will always come in proportion to our need.
Instead of living in the desert like Elijah, Elisha seems to have gone from one school of the prophets to another, to teach and train them, and never to have been far off when the king or the nation needed him. When visiting the college of prophets at Gilgal, the sacred place of passage of the Jordan, in the time of a scarcity, one of the scholars brought in some of the fruit of the wild gourd, and cut it in shreds into the broth that was being prepared. The large handsome fruits of the plants we know as gourds and pumpkins vary strangely in wholesomeness; though much alike in appearance, some are good and others exceedingly bitter and poisonous, so that the first taste might well alarm those who were eating of it. Elisha, at their cry, healed the bitter burning pottage with meal, and made it wholesome. So our Lord promised His Apostles that if they should drink any deadly thing, it should not hurt them. So, however bitter and poisonous the draught before us may seem, whether of hardship or affliction, the power of the Bread of Life can make it sweet and healthful to us.
Again, when a faithful Israelite, unable to carry the first-fruits of his field to the Temple at Jerusalem, brought the Man of God his offering of twenty barley loaves, and what seems to be properly sacks of the flour of early corn, at the time of the Passover, God granted His servant the power of showing a faint likeness of that miracle which, just before another Passover, filled not a hundred, but seven thousand men, with not twenty but five loaves, so that there remained twelve baskets of fragments—from the offering of the young lad. So God can ever bless and multiply the offering of faith.
The last miracle here described probably happened somewhat later, when the school of young prophets seems to have grown too
large for their abode—probably that at Gilgal—and Elisha led them to the thickly wooded gorge of the Jordan to cut down wood to build a new dwelling. There, when an axe-head fell into the river, he threw in a stick, upon which the iron rose to the surface. This wonder speaks to thoughtful minds of the power of the wood, the Cross of Christ, to raise our hard and heavy souls when otherwise they would be lost and ruined, when their cry is,
“I am come into deep waters,
And the floods run over me.” Then, as the wood in the hand of Elisha caused the iron to rise, so the Cross in the hand of the Lord Jesus will bring us back to life and light.
2 Kings iv. 8—24. And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick : and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care ; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host ? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.
And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.
And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.
And the woman bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.
And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.
And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.
And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.
And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.
And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.
And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to-day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, Well. · Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward ; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.
COMMENT.—Shunem is a lovely spot on the slopes of the great valley of Esdraelon, and here amid her waving cornfields dwelt an Israelite lady of much rural wealth and a devout and large heart, who, more than anyone else we read of, comes up to the description of the virtuous woman in the “ Song of King Lemuel which his mother taught him.” She saw the prophet go by on his rounds, and when he needed food, he found it at her house ; but her hospitality went further. She built for him a little chamber on the roof of the house, to be reached by steps from without, and put there all the holy man needed for his few and simple wants. So she “received a prophet in the name of a prophet, and therefore she received a prophet's reward.” What she had done was, however, so purely for the love of God and of goodness, that when Elisha asked what he should do for her, and whether he should speak for her to the king or the captain of the army, she made a reply of dignified contentment : “I dwell among mine own people.” Her lot had fallen to her in a fair ground ; she had friends about her, and she wanted nothing the king could give. But Elisha consulted Gehazi, who was attending him as he himself had attended on Elijah, and who suggested that she was childless. The promise of a son was then made to her in God's name, in the very words in which it had been made to Sarah of old; and the son was born, to fill her cup of joy to the full. Then came the day when, going out with his father into the harvest-fields, under the heat that renders the valley of Jezreel a furnace, the boy seems to have been smitten by a sunstroke. He cried, “My head, my head.” His father sent him
back to his mother, and she held him on her knees till noon, when he died. Then we see the deep, quiet faith of the mother. She laid the little corpse on the prophet's bed. She told none how it was, but merely asked her husband for an ass and a man to lead it. He could not understand her desire in the press of harvest, when it was neither sabbath nor the feast of the new moon; but she was not a woman of light fancies, and her quiet “ Well” satisfied him. And when we trust our troubles to God," it shall be well.”
So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite :
Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband ? is it well with the child? And she answered, Well.
And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet : but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her : and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.
Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord ? did I not say, Do not deceive me?
Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.
And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.
And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child ; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.
And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.
He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.
And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands : and he stretched himself upon the child ; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.
Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro ; and went up, and stretched himself upon him : and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.
Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.
COMMENT.—With all speed the Shunammite mother rode to Mount Carmel, ten or twelve miles off, where she knew she should find the prophet. Her answers to Gehazi, “It is well,” came from the yearning haste of her faithful heart. Well it must be, since God had done it, though as yet she knew not how it would end. She could not speak the word ; she could not find the entreaty; she only clung to the prophet's feet in the dumb earnestness of her supplication. Gehazi would have thrust her away, as Judas spurned the Magdalene, lest her touch should bring uncleanness; but the prophet rebuked him, for he saw her soul was vexed within her. Even then her words only reminded him of her first entreaty, that the promised joy might not be a disappointment. Then he knew all, and sent Gehazi to lay his staff on the child; but the mother's heart foreboded that this would not serve, and she would not leave the prophet till he himself could follow. We know not wherefore the sending the staff—the token of the Cross-failed. It may have been from the unworthiness of Gehazi, which was not yet known to Elisha. It was like the failure of the disciples to heal the lunatic boy, because “this kind goeth not forth but by prayer and fasting.” At any rate, it was not till Elisha himself had prayed fervently, and stretched himself upon the child twice, that God gave back the life that had departed, and the boy was restored to that faithful mother, who must have had the remembrance of the widow of Zarephath on her mind all the time, though in her deep humility she never presumed to plead it. For though both had fed the prophets, she had done so out of her abundance, while the widow had fed Elijah in time of dearth with her last handful of meal. But God, who accepteth a man according to that he hath, and not according to that he hath not, chose for the subjects of these crowning miracles of the times of prophecy, the poor widow and the rich lady, that so we may learn that it is the spirit which owns Him and His messengers that He blesses, not merely this or that station in life.