Elisha came to Shunem regularly because he served not only as a prophet but also as a kind of circuit judge. In that town on the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley lived a prominent woman who watched his walks and listened to his talks.
She gave Elisha the highest praise any man can receive. To her husband she said, “I perceive this is a holy man of God” (4:9). Nowadays the term “holy man” might indicate an Eastern guru, usually wooly and weird. But this woman meant she recognized Elisha as a man who walked with God.
One lady said to her pastor, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I hear people tell how very real Jesus is to them. I pray and read my Bible and go to church but he does not seem very real to me. Does God have favorites?” “No, dear,” said the old fellow. “God has no favorites, but he does have intimates!”
The woman recognized Elisha as one of God’s intimates. The greatest honor any man will ever get is to have people along the road he travels say of him, “I perceive that this is a holy man of God.” To her husband this woman suggested they build an upper room on the roof of their house where Elisha and his servant could stay when they came to town. He agreed and they did.
The prophet appreciated their kindness and asked if he could do something for them in return. “I have some pull with the king. I can get your husband a good job in Jerusalem, an appointment with honor and a good salary, if you like! Just tell me what you want!”
But she wanted no such favor. Plainly, she had no desire to rub shoulders with royalty. Nor was she a greedy wife who pushed her husband to fulfill her own ambitions. She said only that she was content with what she had and where she lived.
Later Elisha’s servant Gehazi took the prophet aside to say he often heard the old couple wish for a child. He suggested Elisha ask God to give them that child. So the prophet prayed and God gave the couple a son they loved dearly.
One day when the lad was maybe six or eight he went into the fields with his father where the servants were reaping grain. It was extremely hot. As the boy ran to and fro in the field, now helping, now playing, it seems he suffered severe sunstroke because he started to cry with his head. The lad’s father called for a servant to rush the child home. There his mother did everything she knew to do for him—perhaps wrapped his head in wet cloths—but nothing worked. A few hours later at noon her beloved son, her only child, died in her arms.
Heartbroken, the woman took his little body up and laid it on the bed in the prophet’s roof chamber. Then she ordered a servant to saddle a mount and go with her to find Elisha on Mt. Carmel, thirty miles up the valley. As they set out, she said to the servant, “Don’t let the tail of your robe tail touch your heels until we have found the prophet!”
Looking down from the crest of Carmel Elisha saw her coming and sent his servant to see what she wanted. But she pushed her way past the servant to the prophet’s side where she sobbed out her sad story. To shorten a longer story, Elisha got ready and went with her back to her home.
At Shunem the man of God climbed the steps to the rooftop room where the boy’s body lay. He stretched himself out on the little form and asked God to let the lad live again. Soon the boy’s cold body grew warm. Suddenly the little lad stirred, sneezed seven times and sat up. He was alive again!
In the middle of this great Old Testament miracle story stands a set of questions fit for Mother’s Day. As the woman of Shunem climbed the steep trail up Carmel looking for Elisha, the prophet sent his servant to ask: “Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?” The answers to those questions are answers every mother should know.
Question 1: Is it Well with You?
The Shunemite said she was well but she lies. Had she answered honestly she would have confessed things were not at all well with her. Private grief had shattered her world and stolen her pride and joy. Had she answered honestly, she would have admitted she was quite upset with God. “Vexed” (4:27) is literally “bitter.” “Why would he give me a son in my later years only to jerk him away so abruptly?” Truth be known, things were not well with her at all!
Mother, is it well with you? Give an honest answer. I did not ask how well your career is going, how nice your home is, how much money you have in the bank, or what elite schools your children attend. I want to know how things are where it really counts.
Are you saved? If not, nothing is well! Are you growing as a Christian and living for Jesus? If you are honest, would you have to admit that your life is a mess? You may remember a day when, as a rosy-cheeked youngster you heard the Spirit’s voice and walked the aisle to give your heart to Christ. But that was years ago and miles away. “You’ve come a long way, baby!” A long way from God, that is. The path you chose has led you far from God. Maybe bitter disappointment and pain have soured your spirit and hardened your heart. And in your heart, you rage against God, crying, “Why this? Why me? Why now?”
What better day than this day to give your heart to God or to give God a fresh grip on your life!
Is it well with you? Answer honestly.
Question 2: Is it Well with Your Husband?
The Shunemite said her husband also was well but she lied. Had she answered honestly, she would have admitted that things were far from well with him. In the years since the birth of their child her husband had drifted away from the Lord. Apparently, he got so wrapped up in his business that he took only casual interest in either the lad or the Lord who gave him.
Clues appear throughout the narrative. When his son fell ill in the field, this father thought he was too busy to stop and take care of the boy. Instead, he had a servant look after the lad. When his wife asked for a donkey to ride and a servant to go with her on her trip to see the prophet, he complained. “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath!” (4:23; days when people usually visited a prophet). To this man, religion was for special days, feast days or festivals. He could not understand his wife’s desire to find a preacher on any other day. Besides there was a harvest to gather and he could ill afford to part with a donkey and a servant. He was backslidden and hard hearted, so busy making a living he had not time to make a life! Truth be known, all was not well with her husband at all!
Mother, is it well with your husband? I did not ask how good a job he has, how the community has honored him, how many people know him, or how much money he is worth. Is he saved? Have you ever asked your husband whether he loves Jesus and where he will spend eternity? Or is that a thing you have never talked about with a man with whom you have lived for ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, or more? If your man is one that refuses to talk about the deepest things of life have you done your best to “win him without the word” (1 Pet. 3:1-2) by a beautiful life? Is he growing in the Lord and serving Jesus? Or is your husband backslidden, wrapped up in his business with only a token commitment to the Lord. Do you face a crisis in your home because he never takes spiritual leadership, never helps discipline the children, and never offers an ounce of encouragement?
What better day than today to re-shoulder a burden for your husband and begin again to pray for him to be saved or to serve the Lord better
Is it well with your husband? Answer honestly.
Question 3: Is it well with Your Child?
The Shunemite said her son was well but she lied. Had she been honest, she would have confessed (as later she did) that all was not well with her child. Actually, the boy was dead, stone-cold dead!
Mother, is it well with your child? Answer honestly. Is your child saved? Many a mother fails to realize that what was true physically of the son of the Shunemite is true spiritually of her own child. A child is not a sleeper that a mother can rouse from slumber on her own, but a corpse that can be brought to life only by the power of God! Face the fact that your child will spend eternity without God unless they come to know Jesus.
Billy Graham once told a story about a young girl who lay in the hospital with a fatal illness. She was an only child, the idol of her parents. They had given her everything she had ever wanted. One day when the doctor was in to see her, the girl asked him point-blank: “Doctor, am I dying?” His silence sent a clear message.
Calling her mother to her side, the girl took her hand and said, “Mother, you taught me how to dress, how to flirt, how to dance, how to make small talk, how to play bridge, and how to smoke a cigarette and sip a cocktail. But you never taught me how to find God! Now I die without him.” Those were her last words. Her hand dropped to the bed and she died!
A mother who teaches her child everything else but never introduces that child to God’s grace in Christ has failed her most important job. Is your child a Christian? Have you done everything you can to lead them to Jesus?
A godly mother with a big family lived in the country. Most of the time the children were outdoors, working or playing, checking in at meal time, but soon off again at full speed. As twilight drew a curtain across the end of each day, she counted her kids. She could not rest until she knew all were home. “Are all the children in?” she asked over and again. As darkness grew, so did her anxiety. She went to the porch and rang a bell again and again. She could not rest until she knew all the children were safely home.
Mother, are all the children in? If not, it is time to ring the bell until they are all safe within! Sons and daughters grow up and move away. They have children of their own. Still across the years and over the miles, spreading to cover grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, the question echoes, “Are all the children in?”
Is your child serving Jesus and growing in the Lord? Or have thye gone to the far country? Did you teach them to “live pure, speak truth, right wrong and follow Christ the King” (Tennyson)? Did you teach them to read their Bible and pray every day? Did you set their feet on the road of obedience to the Lord Christ? Have you done your best to encourage your child to live for the Lord?
There is no better day than today to get turn your child’s heart toward God and living for Christ.
Is it well with your child? Answer honestly.
A few years ago, I preached on this passage and asked these questions. After the service a woman came up to me. “I know things are not well with me and with my family. But I do not want to do anything about it.”
She walked out of that church and went on to wreck her life, rip apart her home, alienate her children, attempt suicide, and ruin her name.
Her story does not have to be yours! Turn your heart toward God and see that the family circle remains unbroken!!
A long-time teacher of adult and youth Christian groups, Cecil infuses his video lessons with his personable, thought-provoking style.