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2 Kings iv. 8—37. EVERY child of faith in past dispensations, as well as in the present, may be truly termed a child of resurrection. God, whose voice faith hears, and who is Himself its object, is the One "who quickeneth the dead and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. iv. 17). Of this our father Abraham is the great example. But examples of this abound in the Old Testament; examples, too, similar in circumstances as well as in principle to that of Abraham. Manoah and his wifeHannah, the wife of Elkanah-and, not to mention others, this godly woman in the history before us, were each of them examples in their day of the all-quickening power of that God in whom they believed. Their faith might not be strong like that of Abraham; but it had (like his) for its object the power, and for its warrant the word, of “God who quickeneth the dead.” And so now, every poor sinner who through grace receives God's testimony to His Son, believes in Him “ who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. iv. 25). Yea, and “by Him" (Jesus) all such“ do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Pet. i. 21). Christ risen and glorified, and God who raised and glorified Him are thus the objects of our faith; yea, and more than that, the
very faith which does thus rest on Christ and believe in God who raised Him from the dead, is itself the result of the quickening power of the Holy Ghost. It is the faith of the operation of God” (Coloss. ii. 12.) Us, “hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. ii. 1). So that in every sense, and that from the very outset, the child of faith is the child of resurrection.
But the God of resurrection, thus known to faith from the first, has to be known as such all through. Blessings which, when we receive them, are felt to come not from any resources of our own, nay, nor through any natural power we possess, but direct from Him “who quickeneth the dead," when we have enjoyed them for a season, come to be regarded by us as things of course; we fail to realise that the tenure on which we hold them, as well as the ground on which we received them, is the resurrection-power of God. Hence many of those dealings of God with us, by which we are brought to sympathise with Paul when he said, "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (2 Cor. i. 810). Is not this the lesson, brethren beloved, which our God designs that we should learn from all that has occurred? When our souls first drank of the deep joy of fellowship in the Spirit, was it not in direct and conscious dependence on the resurrection-power of God? Was not the flesh, the old man, accounted by us, even as it is accounted of God, crucified with Christ? Was there not, as the fruit of this, the practical denial of all the resources of nature, of self in its fairest forms, as competent in any way to worship or serve God acceptably? And was there not a simplicity of dependence on Him who having given His Son for us, and given us to His Son, had given us besides, as the seal of His love, that Holy Spirit, the Comforter, by whom we were conscious of being vitally united to Christ and made members one of another? Was there not, I ask, a simplicity of reliance on His presence, on His teaching, on His power, as that by which alone there could be wrought in us or amongst us what would glorify our God, or refresh and edify one another? But when he had thus wrought, and we had tasted a joy which many of us had never expected on this side the glory, was there not a transfer (gradual, and so almost imperceptible, but not less certain) of our confidence from Him whose presence
gave this joy, to the joy which His presence gave, and to all its varied fruits in the happy worship and living service of those amongst whom He had thus manifested Himself? Did there not creep in a looking upon these things as a matter of course without the continued and deepening recognition of the source from whence they flowed to us poor saved sinners, and of the Power by which alone they could be maintained and increased amongst us? And why the blighting which has followed? Is it that our God would resume what His royal bounty had freely bestowed? No; “His gifts and calling are without repentance." But He would have us learn that we can no more retain than obtain blessings of ourselves; that we can no more keep out death than we could at first rescue ourselves from its dominion: that it is with God who quickeneth the dead that we have to do; that it is Him and Him alone we have to trust. Happy for our souls, beloved, if we should be taught this lesson. Bitter and humbling as may be the process through which our God conducts us, the lesson of resurrection twice learned will more than repay all the sorrow of learning it; and what is of infinitely greater consequence, our God will have all the glory, all the praise. But let us turn to the narrative. There are sweet truths unfolded in it besides this great one, for which, doubtless, it is specially recorded.
To trace the family likeness among God's people is a refreshing and heart-cheering exercise. Nor does it in the least derogate from His glory whose "workmanship” the saint is, to observe in Scripture the marks by which His “ workmanship" is distinguished. Works, except they be the result of faith, the fruit of the Spirit, are worthless, and worse than worthless; but the work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope are precious in God's eyes; and it is for our profit to meditate on the records of such in God's holy word. A lovely specimen of the workmanship of the Spirit is presented to us in the Shunammite, whose faith, with its fruits, trials, and triumphs, forms the subject of the narrative before us.
One fruit of faith much commended in Scripture is that enjoined upon us in such passages as the following; "Given to hospitality” (Rom. xii. 13). “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet. iv. 9). “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb. xiii. 2). “I was a stranger, and ye took me in” (Matt. xxv. 35), What a beautiful instance of such hospitality is presented to us here. “ 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.” The lowly husbandman of Abel-Meholah a welcome guest with the
great woman" of Shunem is a lovely illustration of what grace can do. Nor did she know, as it would appear, anything, of him when she first " constrained him to eat bread” save the homely garb, the unpretending exterior of the man.
Another fruit of faith much noted in Scripture, is the capacity of discerning and owning “like precious faith" in others. Its very first exercise is discernment-discernment of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. When He was here upon the earth, while He was faith's object, so was He God's great test of where there was faith and where there was not. Where there was not faith, His person and His glory, were unknown and unconfessed. Where there was faith it perceived, through the veil of His humiliation, the glory that it enshrined, and confessed Him as the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. To as many as thus received Him, to them gave He power
to become the sons of God. So now, whosoever is quickened by the Holy Ghost to behold the glory of God in the once marred face of Jesus Christ; in beholding that receives the assurance of salvation and everlasting life. But the same faith that beholds the glory of God in its fulness there, can discern its transmitted and reflected rays in those of whom it is said, “Ye are the epistle of Christ;" of whom Christ Himself says, “ Ye are the light of the world.” This capacity of discernment exists, of course,
various measures as faith is strong or weak. But more or less of it there must be in order to "love as brethren.” Plainly, I must discern who are my brethren, or I cannot love them as such. Who could give a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of a disciple, if he had not the capacity of discerning the badge of discipleship? Beautiful is the display of this spiritually intuitive discernment of where God had set His mark and put His honour, in the case of this godly Shunammite. She had shown him hospitality as a stranger, “as oft as he passed by afterwards, he turned in to eat bread;" but in these repeated interviews she saw enough of him to make her long on other and higher grounds to provide for him more permanent accommodation. " 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." The Lord grant us, beloved, to be so in communion with Himself, that wherever His name is truly confessed, and His Spirit dwells, we may be quick to discern and joyful to own His handiwork.
The Shunammite's appreciation of the tastes and habits of her guest, is another lovely trait which the Spirit has been pleased to note in this delineation of her ways. It was Martha's failure, that, while she really and devotedly loved the Lord, she so little appreciated what His glory really was, and the errand on which He had come from heaven to earth, that she thought to please Him by providing for Him a sumptuous feast. To think of entertaining God manifest in the flesh with a feast! Not so Mary. She knew that He had come, not to be ministered to, but to minister; and to give His life a ransom for many. She spread the table and provided the feast that He had really come for the purpose of enjoying, by sitting at his feet, and opening her heart to drink in the words of eternal life from His lips. Like-minded with her was this godly Shunammite. She had Martha's hospitality with Mary's appreciation of her guest; and her guest was but a mortal, a child of God indeed, but still a mortal man. Martha's and Mary's guest was the Lord from heaven. Elisha has a hearty welcome to the hospitalities of the Shunammite; there is even an apart