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THE GREAT WOMAN OF SHUNEM

(A MOTHER’S DAY SERMON)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, May 11, 2014

“And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman...” (II Kings 4:8).


Shunem was seven miles east of Megiddo overlooking the valley of Jezreel. The woman in this passage is called “a great woman.” The Hebrew word translated “great” can also mean prominent or well-to-do. However, we will see that she was “great” in other ways as well. But we don’t have to look up the Hebrew word to know that she was great in many ways. The Bible speaks of other wealthy women who were not great, like Potiphar’s wife, Athaliah, Lot’s wife, and many others. All of those women were wealthy, but they were wicked women. They were certainly not in the same category as the “great woman” of Shunem. I find in this chapter that this woman was great in several ways. On this occasion, on Mother’s Day, I want us to think of some of the ways of this woman that made her great.

I. First, she was great in her generosity.

As the prophet Elisha, and his servant Gehazi, travelled back and forth between Samaria, Jezreel and other cities, they often came to Shunem, where this woman and her husband lived. When the prophet passed by her house, she invited him in to eat dinner. “And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread” (II Kings 4:8).

But her generosity went farther than simply giving him a meal. She had a “chamber” built for him to stay in when he passed by. Dr. Ryrie said it was “a weather-proof room on the flat roof of the house” (Ryrie Study Bible).

My own wife has a generous spirit. One of the bedrooms in our house was used by my mother for several years before she passed away. After she was gone my wife has let several preachers stay in that room. She has entertained several men of God who stayed in that room, including Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., Dr. Bob Jones III, Dr. David Innes, Dr. Robert L. Sumner and his wife, Dr. Bill Hathaway and his wife, and others. Like the great woman of Shunem, my wife has a generous spirit. She worked for hours to prepare a lovely banquet for our mothers tonight. This woman of Shunem was generous.

I would not be a pastor, or even a Christian, if it were not for the kindness and generosity of Mrs. Joyce McGowan. She would let me spend hours in their home when I was a lonely, lost teenager. She often fed me dinner with her family. She even took me with her children on several trips and outings. She was the one who invited me to go to church with her family. I thank God for Mrs. McGowan. I would not be a preacher today if it were not for her. I thank God that we also have many women in our church who are kind and generous to the young people we bring into this church. These are women of great generosity and kindness. My own wife, Ileana, has taken several young men into our home and treated them like our own children. She is so proud when she sees them get saved and succeed in life.

II. Second, the woman of Shunem was spiritually great.

She had great insight into spiritual things. She said to her husband, “I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually” (II Kings 4:9). She believed in God, and she recognized that the prophet Elisha was a godly man.

She had great faith in God. As we shall see, she went to the man of God to pray for her son. She was a woman of great faith. My own wife prays for you every night. She is concerned about the children in our church, and prays for them continually. Mrs. Chan is like that too. Several young men have stayed in their home while going to college. She treats them like a mother and prays for them daily. Mrs. Cagan has done the same thing. She has helped so many young people, and even let them stay in their home. These are mothers who have great faith in God. The thirty-first chapter of Proverbs gives a description of a virtuous woman. In the next to last verse, it says, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

III. Third, the woman of Shunem had great love for her child.

One day when the prophet Elisha was staying in the chamber of the Shunammite woman, he had Gehazi his servant call for her. When she came in, Gehazi asked her what the prophet could do for her to repay her kindness. He asked if he could speak to the King or the captain of the army to do something for her. The prophet had influence with these men even though he opposed their religious policies. But the woman simply said, “I dwell among mine own people.” She was content with her life and felt she had no special needs.

After she left the room the prophet was still determined to do something for her to repay her kindness. Gehazi pointed out that she had no son and probably would never have one. The prophet called her back and told her that she would have a son in about a year. She didn’t believe him at first, but a year later her son was born.

The boy was still very young when he went with his father into the field at harvest time. The boy suddenly had a violent headache, probably a sunstroke from too much heat out there in the field. He cried out to his father, “My head, my head” (II Kings 4:19). The father told a young man working in the field to take the boy to his mother. She held him in her lap until noon, and then the boy died. The Bible makes it very clear that the boy actually died. What did the great Shunammite woman do then? It seems that she didn’t tell her husband. Instead she took the boy’s body up to the roof, to Elisha’s chamber, and laid it on the prophet’s own bed, shut the door, and got a donkey and rode as fast as she could to find Elisha, who was only a few miles away. When she got to the prophet she fell at his feet. She blurted out something to him about the boy dying. Elisha told his servant to take his staff, which was a symbol of his authority as a prophet. He said for his servant to lay his staff on the face of the child.

But the Shunammite woman told Elisha she would not leave him. Finally the prophet followed her. The servant ran on ahead and placed the staff on the dead child’s face, but he did not come back to life.

When the prophet got to the house he discovered that the boy was really dead. The prophet Elisha closed the door, leaving his servant and the woman outside. Then the prophet prayed to the Lord. Then the man of God lay on top of the child, “and the flesh of the child [grew] warm.” Then the prophet walked back and forth as he prayed for the boy. Suddenly “the child sneezed seven times, and…opened his eyes” (II Kings 4:35). The prophet called for the woman. She came in and found her son alive and well. She immediately fell at the prophet’s feet in an expression of great respect. She took the boy in her arms and left the room full of joy and gratitude for what God had done.

IV. Fourth, the Shunammite woman had great faith.

All through this account we see the woman’s faith. God rewarded her trust in Him by giving her a miraculous birth and a miraculous resurrection which brought the boy back to life. The people of Israel were backslidden and worshipping the pagan god Baal. This woman’s faith was a great witness to the unbelieving Israelites.

She lived in a time like ours. Most women were Baal worshippers. They never thought about God. There are mothers here tonight who live in that condition. Some of you don’t know any other woman who has strong faith in God. Some of them are members of other religions. Some of them are only nominal Christians. They don’t have real faith in God. It is my prayer that you will trust Jesus Christ and become a real Christian. And be here in this church with your child every Sunday. You will have a far better life than the godless women you know out in the world! And you will make your son or daughter so pleased if you do that! They long to have you trust Jesus and come to church with them. May you be like this great Shunammite woman and do it! God will be happy! Your child will be happy! And you will be happy too! When your son or daughter invites you back to church, please don’t be angry with them! Rejoice and thank God that they are concerned to get you saved. Wouldn’t it be awful if they were more interested in drugs or sex than in getting you to come to church with them? Then, rejoice and be happy, dear mother. And when your son or daughter invites you to come back to church with them, say, “yes,” and come! You will be glad that you did for all eternity! It’s a wonderful thing to be a real Christian like this great woman of Shunem! Amen!

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: II Kings 4:8-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Oh, How He Loves You and Me” (by Kurt Kaiser, 1934-).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE GREAT WOMAN OF SHUNEM

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman...” (II Kings 4:8).

I.   First, she was great in her generosity.

II.  Second, the woman of Shunem was spiritually great, II Kings 4:9;
Proverbs 31:30.

III. Third, the woman of Shunem had great love for her child,
II Kings 4:19, 35.

IV. Fourth, the Shunammite woman had great faith.