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.( 2 Kings 4:8-11)
One of the critical differences between the ten tribes (Israel) and the remaining two tribes(Judah) after the nation split apart, was the fact that Judah retained the Temple of Solomon and the priestly ministry of mercy and intercession.
Israel’s Kings kept the ten tribes away from the temple, sinfully inventing their own worship and priesthood. They were afraid that the people’s loyalties would return to God and to a re-united Israel, if they allowed them to go on pilgrimages to the Temple as God commanded. So instead the Kings turned the people to “golden calves” to worship.
Here we are told that there was a married couple of the tiny remnant of God fearing people in Israel, who recognized that Elisha the man of God, was “Holy” and that the presence of God was with him.
So they set up a place on the wall of their own house, consisting of a room with simple furnishings. The room had a bed, a table a lamp stand and a chair, and was a provision for Elisha as a “rest” for him, as he traveled throughout Israel.
Thus it was as though, for a people without a temple, God established a temple… (The high place, the room, the table, candlabra,and chair…corresponding to the holy hill, the sanctuary, The Holy Lamp, the table of shewbread and the Ark ) through the ministry of Elishah.
What is it that people would go to the temple for? Healing, life, The Word, cleansing, access to God himself through Priests. Israel had been cut off from the life giving services of the temple and it’s ministry of mercy.
Elijah and Elisha were God’s provision, He would not abandon his people, even in their worst moments, not even in the darkest times of consequence of their sin, God comes to them, when they cannot come to God.
Notice that Elisha speaks to the woman through Gehazi, ( as though he was a Priest/mediator);
He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.” Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”“No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”( 2 Kings 4:12-16)
Again the ministry of Life overcomes the power of death, when Elisha pronounces that the woman would have Son by that time in a year. Sin and idolatry kill, they make barren and strip away all of the possibilities of Life, but Elisha was a representative of the Living God, and out of his ‘temple’ God speaks life.
What Elijah and Elisha were doing in Israel would be categorized as a renewal movement. The damage of more than a hundred ears of idolatrous Kings, false priests, Baal worship and the judgment of God, had wrought havoc and death on the land.
The Southern Kingdom had the well established temple, with it’s God appointed priesthood, services, sacrifices, all of which anyone could point to and look at as an obvious sign of the favor of God.
What did the remnant of the Northern Kingdom have by contrast?
God provided them a prophet who dwelt in a small upper room, sparsely furnished. In the room was a table, chair and lamp ( a substitute ark, mercy seat, and lamp stand). Wherever he went, Elisha carried the presence of God to the Northern Kingdom, for those who no longer had access to the temple.
God’s power is surely known in weakness.
Within the year the woman of Shunem had a child, a boy.
Several years later her faith was put to a severe test when the boy had a heat stroke and died.
The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!”His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.” “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”“That’s all right,” she said. She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. (vs 18-24)
The woman lays her dead son in the room/sanctuary of the prophet, committing him to God. She then heads out to beseech the Prophet himself.
Elisha sees her coming and sends Gehazi out to meet with her, and to inquire of her need. But the woman will not open up to Gehazi, she holds out until she comes to Elisha personally. Then she lets out all of her anguish grabbing the prophet by the feet,
When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.” “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.” But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”( 2 Kings 4:27-31)
Gehazi shows his insensitivity to the desperate woman, by trying to push her away from Elisha, when she lit off of the donkey and desperately grabbed the prophet’s feet, as though they were the horns of the altar.
Elisha sought to assuage her fear and desperation by sending Gehazi ahead with the symbol of his prophetic authority, the staff, to touch on the dead boys face. This failed, Elisha himself would have to go to the boy, who lay in the ‘sanctuary’ built for the prophet.
When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out. ( 2 Kings 4:33-38)
Elisha shut the door, ie closed himself in with God, in the little sanctuary, just He, God and the dead boy. Then the prophet stretched out on the boy, as though he were dead, like the boy, “eye to eye, hand to hand, and mouth to mouth”. The body turned warm and the little boy revived and was given back to his mother, alive.
The sign, in this case was that death would be reversed once for all by another death, a counter death. A Redeemer will enter our situation, and his death (along side us) will bring us back to life again.
Into the sin cursed land of barrenness, oppression, exploitation and disease, God sends Life, in the person of Elisha, who is a type of the Messiah.
Elisha’s ministry also functioned as a temple, in the absence of a temple, for wherever he went, life countered death. In the chapters ahead, devout worshippers in the North, would bring first fruits offerings to Elishah and his school of prophets and He would cleanse a pot of poisonous stew by way of a meal offering, as a living temple of God.