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ment set aside for his use, where he may turn in and tarry as long as he will. But what a tale does its furniture tell! No provision for the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life. A bed, a table, a stool, and a candlestick, are all that it contains. A pilgrim's accommodation shews how entirely the Shunammite had appreciated the pilgrim character of her guest. Would that there were more of this heavenly simplicity amongst us, beloved. Would that our hearts were so in heaven, that we might feel, as to one another, that even our hospitality must be after a heavenly sort; cordial, largehearted, without grudging, as the Apostle says; but yet, not as though we looked upon each other as in the flesh, or thought we could gratify one another by making provision for its lusts.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have," is the exhortation of the Apostle. How the spirit of it was exemplified by the Shunammite. Elisha instructs Gehazi to say to her, “Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care, what is to be done for thee? Wouldst thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host?” God had wrought a great deliverance by Elisha for the king and his allies but a short time before; and thus, for the season, he could doubtless have had of the king whatever he had asked. But the Shunammite wishes for nothing that the king or the captain of the host can give. “I dwell among
mine own people,” was the reply of her contented spirit. Can we, in any way, so powerfully testify to the world of its vanity, and the emptiness of all it prizes, as by this holy superiority to its attractions and its offers? If anything can tell on the conscience of a worldling, it is to see a child of God so conscious of his portion in his Father's love, that he declines, when it is in his power, to accept of a portion here.
But if the prophet of Abel-Meholah, like an Apostle of later days, be destitute of silver and gold; and if the Shunammite cares not for what Elisha's temporary favour with the king might have procured her, he has interest at another court, and she refuses not what the prophet
promises on behalf of that “God who quickeneth the dead, and calleth things which be not as though they were." She is childless, and her husband is old; but the prophet assures her that at the set time she shall embrace
The promise thus given, God fulfils; and a child direct from His hand, crowns the faith which had already produced such lovely fruits. What that child must have been to the Shunammite. With what inexpressible tenderness must she have nursed him in infancy, and watched the unfolding of his faculties, as from infancy he passed to boyhood, and from that to youth. The mother only that loves the Lord, and nurses and brings up her offspring for Him, can form the least idea, and even hers must be but faint, of what that mother's feelings were; the deep throbbings of her heart, as she looks onward to the future in connection with the prospects of her child; and the calm but deeper joy which must have often pervaded and filled her heart, while encouraged by the occasion and circumstances of his birth, she trusted in God that that future was charged with blessing. But she had to learn the lesson already referred to, as the great moral of the history; and well will it be for us, if God's record of His dealings with her should be used of Him to aid us in learning that lesson too.
“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.” What a stroke was this! The child with the birth of which her faith had been crowned, and which she had received, as it were, direct from God's hand, snatched from her embraces and cold in death! And was this God's reward of the care which He had put into her heart to have for his servant, the prophet? Was it for this that God had made Himself known as the Quickener of the dead, causing the barren to bear, only that when the child was grown, he might be suddenly torn away? No, she has better thoughts of God than this. It is not that she questions His right to resume what His mercy had bestowed.
But her faith gathers from the
past, what God's meaning and purpose were in dealing with her as He had done, and she is not without hope
“But her son is dead.” What then? It was from God who quickeneth the dead she had received
“But what can she do?” Nay, that is not the question. What can, or rather, what can not God do? That is faith's question, and thus there is no case too extreme for faith, because there is none too extreme for God. Faith knows and trusts. “ With God all things are possible.”
A brother once wrote me, “Faith rejoices in a dead lift.” And so it is. Circumstances which produce utter despondency where there is not faith, are but to faith the occasion for more singly and entirely trusting God. “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. The husband remonstrates. It is neither the new moon nor the Sabbath day; and his faith goes not beyond the ordinary exercises of devotion, if indeed he be a man of faith at all. Faith like his wife's, who does not give
her son though dead, because she knows Him who quickeneth the dead, he seems to have no thought of. But his wife can neither be detained nor turned aside. “It shall be well;" is all the reply she makes, and hastens to the man of God to Carmel.
But here she is to meet with other trials of her faith. If there was any one or any thing in danger of being between her soul and God, it was the prophet, the man of God. To own him as the prophet of God was indeed at that time the test of faith in Israel. Singularly had God honoured him in fulfilling His promise in God's behalf that this woman should have a son. But it was possible then, as, alas ! we find it now, for the channel more or less to have the place with the soul which only belongs to the source from whence it is supplied. At all events the Shunammite is to learn that even the man of God of himself can do nothing for her. · To all the inquiries of Gehazi she has but one answer “Well:" she
is not to be detained by him. 66 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 not told me." One word from her reveals the whole, and the prophet at once despatches Gehazi with his master's staff to lay upon the face of the child. Whether the prophet did this under Divine guidance for a lesson to Gehazi as well as to try the Shunammite's faith; or whether, as the case had been hid from him by the Lord, so now he was left to act in his own wisdom and strength without any direct guidance from God, I would not say. It is suggested as an inquiry for the prayerful consideration of brethren in the Lord. In either case the result is plain. The Shunammite can no more be put off with Gehazi and his master's staff than before she could be detained by her husband's expostulations, or Gehazi's inquiries. “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.” They meet Gehazi returning from his fruitless journey, one of a cloud of witnesses that the forms and circumstances by which the actings of faith may be attended are all nothing apart from faith itself, and the power of the living God on which faith rests. Elisha's staff in Gehazi's hands is as powerless as any other piece of wood. The prophet's staff without the prophet's faith accomplishes nothing: there was neither voice nor hearing : wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, " The child is not awaked.” The Lord grant us to lay to heart the serious lesson which these words convey !
What a scene ensues! There had been enough already to make even Elisha feel that it was no ordinary case, and that through it God was dealing with him as well as with the Shunammite. That it should have been hid
. entirely from him—that Gehazi's journey with the staff (undertaken at the prophet's instance) should have proved entirely unavailing-was enough to awaken the inquiry in the soul of the prophet, whether God would teach him too that the power was not in him, but in God Him
self. But even if Elisha had to learn this lesson more deeply than he had as yet learned, it was not that his faith in God might be shaken or weakened, but tried and strengthened. Tried it was; but not shaken. . 66 When Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed." The mother's faith had
, placed the dead body there. " He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord.” Brethren, do you know what it is thus to retire, with some matter that can only be settled between God and you? There are times when the presence of the nearest friend, even the most valued saint, is felt to be an incumbrance. He shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord. The prophet, a dead corpse, and the living God, the Quickener of the dead! “ 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." So completely does he identify himself with the one for whom he intercedes. It is as though he would tell God that if the child were not restored to life, he could only lie there with him in death. What faith! What holy boldness! Nox is it left without encouragement—" the flesh of the child waxed warm.' There were some signs of returning vitality to strengthen the prophet's faith and encourage him to persevere.
5. Then he returned and walked in the house to and fro; and went up and stretched himself upon him.” What is all this the witness of, but of that agony of prayer, that energy of faith, of which, alas, in our day, and in
our poor souls, we know so little ? “But the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much “The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.” Prayer was heard; faith was crowned; God showed Himself once more to be in very truth the God of resurrection; and when the mother came in to the prophet into the chamber, he said, “ Take up thy
“ Then she went in and fell at his feet [her heart too full to utter a single word], and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out."
The Lord grant us, like her, to know nothing, to