Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.
2 Kings 4:6
I. We see here how exactly the oil matches the capacity and number of the vessels provided. According to the provision made, so was the miraculous gift. This shows us the law of God's dealing with men's souls. He gives grace, but He gives it in measure. He gives grace as much as man is ready to receive; but He requires man to prepare vessels to receive the grace He gives, and to use and not "leave of it."
II. The oil is Divine grace. Our thoughts, our wishes, our purposes, our conversations, our acts, are all vessels into which the grace of God may be poured from the little cruse of our heart, filled with oil at our baptism. As often as we pour Divine grace into the vessels of our daily acts, so long it flows and fills; but if we stay our hand, the oil is stayed.
III. The oil was given to be used; so is Divine grace. If we use what God gives and value it, he who gathers much shall have nothing over, and he who gathers little shall have no lack.
S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii., p. 163.
References: 2 Kings 4:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1467; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 69. 2 Kings 4:8-25.—A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 91.
2 Kings 4:8-38What Elisha did for the Shunammite's son, the Church wishes to do for you.
I. The Church is like Elisha because it touches you. It touches you through its one book, the Bible; it touches you through its prayers, and praises, and sermons.
II. The Church is like Elisha because it fits you. As the prophet carefully adapted himself to the child, so the great truths of the Gospel fit your mind and heart. Christ lowers His vast mind to our level, and teaches us truth as we are able to bear it. The Bible truth is likened to bread, to water, and to light. All these are for young and old alike.
III. The Church would also fain warm you into life. It may do as much for your souls as Elisha did for the young Shunammite. Pray that God's Spirit may touch you, and then you shall be warmed into a new life that shall live for ever in the paradise of God.
IV. You will then be a blessing in the Church and in the world, like the revived boy in the home of the Shunammite. When the young yield themselves to the Saviour, the Church is like that boy's mother when, overcome with joy, she bowed herself to the ground and folded her living son in her bosom. That was the day of days in her history. The chief crown and joy of any flock is the fresh, warm life of young Christians who have life before them, and who mean, by God's help, to lay themselves on His holy altar.
J. Wells, Bible Children, p. 107.
Reference: 2 Kings 4:8-38.—Parker, Fountain, March 22nd, 1877.
2 Kings 4:9This brief, simple statement, taken in its general form, sets forth so far what we ought to be in our own life.
I. "A man of God"—a very striking title to give to a human being, and a very grand one, even if for the moment we drop the adjective "holy." And yet is not this the title which every man should be able to adopt and proud to bear? We all come from His creating hand. We live on His beneficence. We are subject to His providence. A great many different kinds of life men can live on the earth, lower and higher, but there is only one best life—that which a man may live in God. A man of God should be proud of his title. Other men are proud of theirs—the man of the world, the man of letters, the statesman, the man of honour. The man of God should never be ashamed of his name, if only he has the right to bear it.
II. "An holy man of God." Holiness means wholeness. To be holy is to be without disease and without defect, all the parts of the living personality present, all acting harmoniously. Scriptural holiness means keeping in health, and growing in grace, and rising towards the measure of the ultimate perfection in Jesus Christ—"a man of God; an holy man of God."
III. Contemplate now the man of God at work. "Behold now an holy man of God, which passeth by us." There can be no health of any kind, physical or moral, without movement. If we want to be men of God, we must do the duties of our life as they come. Let every one remember that there is a round of duty for him, along the track of which no feet but his can walk, a daily task which no hand but his can touch, a life-work that will be undone unless he does it.
IV. "Continually." All the great things in life are produced more by constancy and in quietness than in loudness and by force. Step by step will take you to the end of the longest journey. Duty after duty done, although poorly done many a time, will enable you one day to say with the Master Himself, "It is finished."
A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 104.
2 Kings 4:10I. How did this little chamber come to be? It originated in the quick and clear conception of this woman of Shunem. The perceiving, the observing, eye is the gate of knowledge, the quickener of sympathy, the informer to benevolence. It brings before the benevolent heart the material on which it can act. It is at least the hewer of wood and the drawer of water to nobler faculties than itself.
II. Let us see how these nobler things come out in this case. Immediate action is taken. It is good to know men and things somewhat correctly; but the higher pleasure is later born, and is always associated with doing and with duty. "Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it." There are duties and privileges which are possible to us only within a certain limit and line of time, and beyond that impossible for ever.
III. Do not think of these duties of helpfulness as involving great exertion, or very considerable expenditure of time or money. It is not so. It is even in some cases very much the reverse, as in this case of the good Shunammite. Her gift, after all, is very simple, and to herself and her husband very inexpensive. The room she gave the prophet was hung round with no pictures; the three inscriptions we may see on the walls are these: (1) considerateness; (2) simplicity; (3) contentment.
A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 115.
I. The little chamber was built by a great woman whose name is not told us. If we live to do good and to make others happy, our names will be where hers is.
II. The prophet Elisha conducted himself in such a way in this woman's house that she knew he was a man of God. If some of those who do not eat and drink to the glory of God could see themselves as others, and especially as God sees them, they would be ashamed.
III. In the little chamber Elisha raised the Shunammite's dead son. God pays good rent for all that His servants use.
T. Champness, Little Foxes that Spoil the Vines, p. 46.
References: 2 Kings 4:13.—J. Van Oosterzee, Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 479. 2 Kings 4:19.—J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 474. 2 Kings 4:20.—T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 104. 2 Kings 4:23.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, 2nd series, p. 400. 2 Kings 4:25-37.—A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 105. 2 Kings 4:26.—E. J. Hardy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 284; A. P. Stanley, Good Words, 1878, p. 140; A. K. H. R., From a Quiet Place, p. 117; G. D. Macgregor, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 49; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 411; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 179; M. Nicholson, Redeeming the Time, p. 286; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xi., p. 20, and vol. xxii., p. 93. 2 Kings 4:30.—Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 24.
2 Kings 4:31Here is a remarkable thing in Bible history, nothing less than that a miracle should miscarry. Here is an attempt to work a miracle which ends in failure. Is it without a parallel? Are there any proposed miracles suddenly broken in failure? We are bound to ask these sharp and serious questions.
I. Who was this Gehazi? An undeveloped hypocrite. Up to this moment he may have secured outwardly his master's confidence and regard, but we are more than one self. There were three or four different men in that Gehazi figure. The bad man spoils whatever he touches. Virtue perished out of Elisha's staff; it became in the grip of Gehazi but a common stick. There is nothing sacred to the bad man; what he touches he defiles. Where we are wrong in our relation to God, we are wrong in our relation to everything else.
II. The word of God is our staff, our symbol; and this inspired book should have an inspired perusal. There is a subtle temptation to inquire when we have not succeeded in our ministry whether the staff was good. But when the child is not awaked, we should not blame the staff; when the neighbourhood is unaware of our spiritual presence, we should not blame the neighbourhood or the word. We should ask, "Am I Gehazi? Am I the wrong man with the right staff?"
III. We ask next, "Was not Elisha partly to blame in this matter? Did he send a staff where he ought to have gone himself?" I would instantly encounter the inquiry with an indignant denial if I did not know that some of us are doing the same thing. Does any man here send a guinea when he ought to send a life? Jesus Christ gave Himself, and self-giving is the only true benefaction and donation. You ought to be made to feel that part of yourself has gone with every gift you give.
Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 315 (see also- vol. viii., p. 121).
2 Kings 4:31I. The reason why Gehazi failed to awaken the child was that he was not a fit agent for the wonder-working power. God saw in him the selfishness, the covetousness, which soon came to light, and so He refused to acknowledge him. To give life a man must have life, and have it in its purity and abundance.
II. There are some of you, many of you, who have lived long enough to have grown somewhat dull and dead. Boys and girls are "dead"—dead in spirit, dead in the worst kind of death—if they have lost all care for God, for truth, and righteousness, and kindness.
III. Some of you, if you are not dead, are at least "fast asleep." You are dreaming, and pursuing dreams. You have eyes, but they are not open.
IV. If you are diligent, thoughtful, quick to seize occasion as it rises, because it is your duty, because you love God and hold His law to be the true law of life, then you are alive and awake. And if you are alive and awake, your life will be a happy preparation for the better life to come.
S. Cox, The Bird's Nest, p. 64.
References: 2 Kings 4:31.—H. Macmillan, The Olive Leaf, p. 136. 2 Kings 4:31-34.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii., Appendix, p. 24. 2 Kings 4:32-35.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 78. 2 Kings 4:34.—D. J. Vaughan, The Days of the Son of Man, p. 400; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1461. 2 Kings 4:34, 2 Kings 4:35.—H. Macmillan, The Olive Leaf, p. 136. 2 Kings 4:36, 2 Kings 4:37.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i., p. 75. 2 Kings 4:38-41.—A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 115. 2 Kings 4:38-44.—Parker, vol. viii., p. 132. 2 Kings 4:40.—J. Thain Davidson, Talks with Young Men, p. 161; T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 104. 2 Kings 4:41.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 86. 2 Kings 4:42.—H. Macmillan, Sunday Magazine, 1873, pp. 42, 126; J. dimming, Penny Pulpit, No. 072. 2 Kings 4:42, 2 Kings 4:43.—T. Champness, New Coins from Old Gold, p. 21. 2 Kings 4:42-44.—A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 125. 2Ki 4—Parker, vol. viii., p. 113.
And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.
Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.
And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.
So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.
And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.
Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.
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 conceived, and 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, It shall be 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.
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, It is 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.
And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.
And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.
So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.
But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.
And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.
And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.
So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.