IntroductionSuppose your child—son or daughter—were to die unexpectedly. Suppose your child had been the result of a promise, yet now that child is gone forever…seemingly. Now suppose you were able to find a prophet, especially the one who assured you that your child was going to be born. What might happen next?
Something such as this actually happened in the days of Elisha the prophet. Elisha had been anointed to be God's prophet by Elijah, shortly before Elijah was taken to heaven. Elisha already had been able to perform several miracles, including the miracle of the Shunammite man and woman to have a child (
I. The Command from Elisha
"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" (2 Kings 4:29). Elisha sensed the urgency of that moment and promptly gave Gehazi clear instructions. These consisted of two parts, namely take Elisha's staff and the order to get moving; second, don't greet anyone on the way. I remember reading a book about Bible customs and manners several years ago and had to laugh as I read a transcript of one of these salutes. The abridged version is similar to:
A The Lord bless you!
B. And you, as well.
A. How is your health?
B. Thanks be to God.
A. That is a fine horse you have there.
B. He would like to carry you.
The list continued. One preacher said these salutes were rather elaborate ceremonies, so to ignore a greeting or fail to render a greeting was a serious social offense in those days. Elisha said, "Don't do it. Don't do any of that. Get to where the boy's body is, and lay my staff on his face." Gehazi obeyed.
I've often wondered why Elisha wanted Gehazi to lay the staff (a wooden rod) on the child's face. Miracles had happened with rods: Moses and Aaron had a rod apiece to demonstrate to Pharaoh that God was superior to any of the gods of Egypt (see
2. The Report from Gehazi
Gehazi had gone on his mission, as directed by Elisha. We're not told how long a journey he had to make, but Scripture gives us a clue. The woman, the Shunammite, rode on a donkey, but had one of her servants come along with her. So, it was probably too far to walk (especially for a woman alone) but not too far such that she might have needed lodging, food and water for her and the donkey, etc. Gehazi apparently made the journey on foot (we don't read of him finding or riding on any animals).
Now we read one of the saddest portions of Scripture. The mother is holding on to Elisha's feet, grieved as any mother would be for the death of her only child; Elisha is seeking to minister to her. Gehazi has a very important mission, and he doesn't seem to waste any time in getting to the place where the dead child was. According to David Guzik's commentary, it's in the same room, and the child is lying on the same bed the Shunammite woman had prepared for Elisha! (Compare
Gehazi came back with a very unhappy report.
What can anyone say in such a situation?
What can anyone do in such a case?
The mother is suffering from the despair of losing her child. She has seen this first attempt to raise the child, her only child, from the dead, the hopes of restoration.
All of that was gone.
Think of David and the grief he must have felt when the child born to him and Bathsheba (
3. The Restoration of the Child's Life
We read now in verses 32 and 33 that Elisha himself sought for the child to be made alive again. These verses read, "When Elisha had come into the house, behold, the child was dead and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door and prayed unto the Lord."
A similar incident had taken place previously when Elijah was staying in Zarephath. We read in
Elisha did something different here. He went in and shut the door and prayed, as we read in verse 33. Now, he placed his body on the child's body in several places, and the child's body grew warm, according to verse 34. Then he did something strange: "He returned, and walked in the house to and fro," according to verse 35. We're not sure why he did this, and Scripture doesn't give the reason. Later, he went back to his room, laid his body on the child's body again, and watched the child come back to life! We're not told why the child sneezed seven times, but we are told he opened his eyes!
He was alive again! This child was one of the few who returned from the dead to live again. The woman received her son, thanks be to God!
I've always been puzzled about why there isn't more of a celebration or rejoicing when the boy came back to life. The whole incident from the mission of Gehazi to the resurrection of the Shunammite's child is mentioned very matter-of-factly without mention of anyone giving thanks to God. Verse 37 says the woman took up her son and went out, which I believe meant back to her home. We don't read that Elisha or anyone else said, "Go thy way," or anything else to the woman for that matter.
Another thing that is a puzzle is the ministry of Gehazi. Elisha told him to take Elisha's staff or rod and place it on the child's face. When that didn't work (could it have worked?), Gehazi returned to where Elisha was staying. He didn't so much as get a word of encouragement from Elisha. Again, Scripture is silent, so we should respect this when we find it in the Word.
Still, there is a message for us. Sometimes we're told in so many words to "Go thy way" into a mission that at first doesn't seem to work. The expected healing doesn't happen. The desired effects from a visit or conversation don't occur. A hoped-for reconciliation never takes place. Are we to blame? If we do this in our own strength, we'll never accomplish anything with lasting results. Remember, there is no mention of Gehazi praying or asking Elisha to pray for him. However, if we do things according to God's way and with His power and blessing, we may never fully comprehend all He might do through us.
Prayer: Lord, may we always be willing to be obedient to You and do what is right in pleasing in Your eyes when You tell us to "Go thy way." Teach us never to look for what we did for the results, but to look for what You want to do and be the blessings You want us to be.