TODAY’S TEXT AND THOUGHTS OF ENCOURAGEMENT:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
“In one thousand trials it is not five hundred of them that work for the believer’s good, but nine hundred and ninety-nine of them, and one beside.”
“The Lord, who sees the end from the beginning,
Hath purposes for thee of love untold.
Then place thy hand in His and follow fearless,
Till thou the riches of his grace behold.”
Freda Hanbury Allan
TODAY’S STUDY TEXT:
“And (Elisha) said to Gehazi his servant, ‘Call this Shunammite.’ And when he (Gehazi) had called her, she stood before him. And Elisha said unto Gehazi, ‘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 Elisha said, ‘What then is to be done for her?’”
“The Shunammite” -- Living in the Land of Contentment
“There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.”
Would I define myself as a contented person?
What do I think it means, in practical everyday life, to be content?
“Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase.”
“A contented spirit is a fruit of divine grace.”
I hope that you never get tired hearing me say that the Bible, God’s Word, is the most fantastic book you and I could ever read. Again today, as we delve even deeper into the life of the “great woman” of Shunem, we find in the Bible, life-lessons, which apply directly to our world in the 21st century. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the stories we will be studying in the coming days, impact our contemporary society in a most significant manner.
As we have learned, this woman of Shunem was a noble lady. Most likely, as Biblical scholars reveal, she was a woman of wealth who came from nobility.
But unlike some individuals who let their money and status go to their head, this woman was noted in Scripture for her generous treatment of God’s servant Elisha. Not only was he a frequent dinner guest in her home, after some time, this dear lady asked her husband if they couldn’t build a room in their house where Elisha could stay on his trips through their town or geographical region. And so, a room was built and furnished just for Elisha’s needs.
It is here in the story where we find that Elisha’s spirit of kindness was also revealed, for in our study text today, we read that this prophet of God asked his servant, Gehazi, to please consider what it was that could be done to thank the Shunammite woman for her generosity on behalf of Elisha.
Now I want to put up a Transformation Garden “STOP SIGN,” which for those of you who have been coming to the Garden for sometime, will recognize is a way for us to halt in our journey through the Bible, while we “Stop” and take note of an important point. This time, I want to call to your attention the informative conversation which took place between Elisha and Gehazi. Up to this time, we haven’t heard a lot about Gehazi, but believe me, in the coming days we will, and as God often does when trying to teach us something critical, which will benefit our own lives, He places great lessons in close proximity so we can compare the difference between a positive and a negative characteristic. We have run into this feature in repeated stories: Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Esther and Haman, Shiphrah and Puah and the ruling Pharaoh of Egypt, Herod and John the Baptist, and Jesus and Satan.
It is when a quality of good is mirrored against a quality of evil, that we more clearly see exactly why a destructive force can undo or completely destroy the good if left unchecked.
So God, in His wisdom, in the story of the woman of Shunem, clearly allows us to uncover, not only the characteristics which made this woman great, but also how these qualities appeared in her daily behavior. It’s what I call practical godliness for God’s Word gives us a front row seat as we witness the daily demeanor of this woman. But in the future, we will also bear witness to how the opposite of contentment, as exhibited in the life of the woman of Shunem compares to Gehazi’s life.
As our study text tells us, Elisha wanted to do something to let this lady know her generosity and kindness meant a great deal to him. So he suggested to his servant, Gehazi that he see if this woman would, in our every day language, like for Elisha to, as the Hebrew notes with the word “dâbar,” “arrange for her to speak or commune with the king.” This same word also means that Elisha could act as a “spokesman” if necessary, putting in a “good word” on the woman’s behalf with the king. But Elisha didn’t stop with the king. He also included the governor or master or steward in his offer. He said he would intervene for her in any way she desired. You and I might liken Elisha’s offer to someone coming to us who was close friends with the President of our country as well as the Secretary of State and saying, “When I’m in Washington, D.C. is there a message I can deliver or is there something I can ask them to do for you.” Elisha was what we refer to as a person with connections. And now, he was offering to use his ties to connect this great woman to those in power.
I ask you, “How would you have responded to Elisha? What might you have asked for?”
It didn’t take long for the woman of Shunem to give her answer. II Kings 4: 13 states: “I dwell among my own people, they are sufficient. In Hebrew, the word “dwell” means “settled, in quiet, abiding.” I just love how these words read in our every day speech: “I’m secure and satisfied in my own family” (II Kings 4: 13, The Message Bible).
I invite you to think about what these words mean. As I read this passage, I was struck by the contentment that permeated this woman’s life. No words regarding what she thought she lacked. No moaning and groaning about what she was missing out on in her life. Only a positive response, “I have all I need right here with my own family.”
John of the Cross, whose life certainly was filled with immense difficulty as well as extreme lack and harsh treatment, in writing about the children of Israel and the food they were supplied from heaven’s storehouse, observed this regarding their meals of manna: “The children of Israel did not find in the manna all the sweetness and strength they might have found in it; not because the manna did not contain them, but because they longed for meat.”
Too frequently, when a simple gift of manna lies before us, we bypass the sweetness we would find if only we tasted of the divine gift, all because our wandering eye and dissatisfied heart longs for something else – in the case of the children of Israel – the meat of Egypt, which I might add, came at an extremely high cost to their lives.
I am deeply fond of the poetry by J. Danson Smith who carries a thread of remembrance that winds through many of the beautiful words he wrote. It is a thread that ties together the frequent thought and message that our contentment in life is based on the fact that we have a Father whose amazing love and generous gifts are ours for the taking. In these awesome words, we find this truth repeated: “Unfathomable wealth! Gold never to dim! Supplies to flow while life shall last! The wondrous wealth of having Him is ours to know till time be past.” All I can add is that this gives everyone of us a reason to say, “I am content and satisfied inhabiting life within my Father’s family and in His dwelling place.”
“Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money (including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions) and be satisfied with your present (circumstances and with what you have); for God Himself has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down nor relax My hold on you. Assuredly not!’”
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And I have no delight or desire on earth besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the Rock and firm Strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Hebrew for the word “Portion” is “inheritance” or “allotment”. Inheritance also means to take into possession from an ancestor or something regarded as a heritage. In other words: God is your heritage and mine! Praise Him for our inheritance!
“I have God, and, having Him, my portion,
Sharing His love, and trusting in His Word,
Life – is sweet, and rich with wondrous blessing,
And I enjoy the goodness of the Lord.”
J. Danson Smith
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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