Prominent, Prosperous and Pious

The woman from the Old Testament in today’s story is unnamed. It is not because she was insignificant. Many women’s names are left to our imaginations such as Lot’s wife and daughters. In 2 Kings 4:8- 37, we read the story of the Shunammite woman’s interactions with the prophet Elisha.

She is introduced as a well-to-do and prominent woman who showed hospitality to the prophet whenever he passed though the town of Shunam. Elisha frequently stopped at her home for a meal, and one day,

“She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”

Elisha was grateful for this kindness, and I’m certain was pleased with having the comforts of home while on the road with his ministry. He had his servant Gehazi ask his hostess what he could do for her to show his thanks. She replied that she was content with what she had. He asked if he could speak to the King or Captain of the Guard on their behalf in case there was some dispute, but they needed nothing.

Elisha and Gehazi discussed this further and the servant pointed out that the couple had no son and her husband was old. This is significant in that the family name would not be passed on, and there was no heir to inherit their great possessions. But when Elisha told the woman she would have a son in the next year, she said, “No. Don’t get my hopes up. I didn’t ask you for this.” She must have given up hope for a child after many years of infertility and struggled with the disappointment month after month, year after year. She was not willing to reopen that wound.

IMG_0697.jpegNevertheless, a year later she did have a son, just as Elisha prophesied. The boy grew until he was old enough to join his father in the fields one day. But he suddenly was struck with severe head pain, so his father had a servant carry the boy home to his mother. After a few hours, the boy died in his mother’s lap.

Normally, the burial would take place within a very short time, but the Shunammite woman did not tell anyone about her son’s demise. Rather, she carried him up to Elisha’s room on the roof, lay him on the bed, shut the door and went out. Then she asked her husband for a servant and donkey, told her husband she was going to see Elisha. When her husband asked why, she said, “All is well,” then set off quickly. It could have been as far as twenty miles to Mt. Carmel where the prophet had his school, but she did not stop.

Elisha and Gehazi saw her coming from a distance and asked if there was trouble, but she did not disclose the reason for her trip to Gehazi, but rather said, “It is well.” Then she knelt at Elisha’s feet in bitter distress.

“Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

He understood that the child was dead and sent his servant to awaken him, but the woman refused to return home unless Elisha went with her.

 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 3He 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.”

Once having loved a child, she now had a great need. She knew to whom she had to go because she recognized that the prophet Elisha was a man who exercised the power of God and could use it to restore her son to life. The miracle in itself was remarkable, but this woman was also remarkable though in a very human way…in ways we, too, can follow.

  • She was content with what she had;
  • She honored her husband in seeking his approval for the building project and her journey;
  • Had discernment regarding the prophet’s needs and the servant Gehazi’s lack of power (as we see later, he was greedy and a deceiver);
  • She did not judge a dire situation by appearances, but
  • Spoke words of faith

She would have been aware that Elijah had raised a widow’s son from death and surely remembered her own son’s miraculous conception; therefore, she maintained her faith when the boy died, proven by her words and actions.

The Shunammite Woman is an example to us today. How many times do we:

  • Envy those with more than we have, whether it’s financial, children, great spouse, etc.
  • Disrespect a spouse by ignoring their counsel, demeaning them to others;
  • Trust those who are untrustworthy rather than using discernment;
  • Fail to pray in faith for our needs or the needs of others.

Are you able to relate to this woman’s situation whether in showing hospitality, setting a good example for young women as to how to relate to their husbands, believing God for miracles? Please feel free to share.

*** In the last post I asked for suggestions on O.T. women you’d like to discuss. Who fascinates, scares, encourages you–one that I have not already written about? Let me know and I’ll enter you in a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card. But reply by Saturday, November 9. I’m looking forward to some great conversations.

(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Har-Noy, Southern District, Israel)

This is for you

gift box.jpg

Dear Reader,

Thank you for reading my blog and offering great comments. I love the interaction and look forward to hearing from you.

Since these posts are TO YOU AND FOR YOU, I’d like to know what female bible characters you are interested in.

I’m going to have a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card to someone who makes a suggestion for a blog on an Old Testament woman whom I haven’t yet written about, and briefly explain what intrigues you about her or what you see in her that you relate to personally.

Here are some ideas to get you started thinking:

  • Hagar
  • Rahab
  • Naaman’s wife’s slave girl

I look forward to getting some interesting feedback. I’ll announce the winner on November 10.

Thank you and may the Lord bless you richly.

Different responses to loss

Most people have heard of “the patience of Job” and it would be a good guess that we don’t know anyone, other than his wife, who lost as much as he did—all earthly possessions, employees and ten children. In addition, Job was smitten with painful boils from head to toe. He didn’t understand why these things happened and didn’t know that God was testing his faithfulness.

Women mourning
Women mourning

Job’s wife (another nameless woman of scripture) also had no idea why these tragedies had struck since they affected her as well. Out of her own grief, she said to Job, “Curse God and die!” She apparently doubted God’s love for them in the face of their great losses.

In his grief, Job said he wished he had never been born, but in spite of all the calamity, he did not turn against or curse God. His reply was,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 NKJ)

As it turned out, Job’s steadfastness was rewarded. The Lord gave them another ten children and more wealth than he had at first.

“After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations.” (Job 42:15 NKJ)

How do we in the 21st century respond to the loss of health, material things, finances, a spouse or child? Our reactions are as varied as our personalities and beliefs. Do we write it off as fate? Do we lash out against God as Job’s wife did?

I knew two women who lost children about the same age of seven. One blamed God and never again stepped into a church; her bitterness poisoned the other relationships throughout her life. She asked, “What did I do to deserve this?” As the Lord asked Job, “Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8 NKJ)

The other woman also grieved, but devoted herself to her other children. Decades later, my friend still lives for the benefit of others. Loss in one way or another comes to all of us over a lifetime. Do we allow it to strengthen us and give us greater compassion for others, or blame God and live with bitterness?

How have you responded to loss? Was it a job that fell through, the death of someone dear to you, or the end of a relationship you thought would last forever? Please share your thoughts.

 

(Photo/Manners and Customs of the Bible 1972)

Naomi’s House of Bread

                I          

          Naomi

My name means Pleasantness
I am blessed with a good husband
And two sons.

What more could I want?
Bread.
We live in a city called Bethlehem, House of Bread.
But a famine has stolen it from us.
Some say it’s because we have drifted from Jehovah
And are under His judgment.

IMG_5037.jpg 

My husband wants to move to Moab where there is abundance.
The inhabitants there have oppressed us nearly twenty years.
They worship gods we do not know.
But we go because there is abundance.
We think, “This is good!”
I find wives for my sons for they are now men
The land has bread, but it steals my husband
The land has bread, but it steals my sons.
 
I heard in Moab that Jehovah visited His people in Judah
Bethlehem again has bread
Let me return home though I am empty
No inheritance there without my men
My husband, my sons. But it is home.
“Stay in Moab, my daughters. Go back to your fathers
Because Jehovah’s hand is against me.”
They cry and kiss me, and cry some more
But Ruth will not leave me, cannot be persuaded.
 
“Where you go I will go…your people will be my people
And your God my God.
Where you die I will die…”
So we go to Judah
But I take a new name.
It is Mara because I am bitter.
“I went away full, but Shaddi has brought me back empty.”
 
 
            II

Jehovah-jireh
The Lord my provider

          Ruth

My name means friend
Naomi said Jehovah had visited Judah
He met us there
And sent us a Redeemer
A kinsman redeemer named Boaz

He bought my father-in-law’s land
He redeemed me from poverty
Took me as his wife
and gave me a son
His name is Obed
father of Jesse
father of David
Yes, that David, King of Judah
 
 
 

Michal, King Saul’s Daughter and Pawn

Originally, King Saul swore to give his older daughter Merab to David as a reward for killing the giant Goliath and defeating the Philistines, but he later reneged and gave her to someone else. Perhaps the young man didn’t mind because David hadn’t yet made a name for himself and felt unworthy to be Saul’s son-in-law. But as his victories mounted, Saul became jealous of the young warrior and wanted him killed.

The King’s younger daughter Michal loved David passionately, so after he paid a bride price for her (which Saul assumed would get David killed in battle), he was forced to give Michal to David. He had an ulterior motive in agreeing to his daughter’s wishes. He thought, “I will give her to him so that she will be a snare to him.” It backfired on Saul because after his unsuccessful attempt to kill David with a spear, Michal lied to her father in order to protect her husband’s life. She let him down by a rope from a window in their house at night, then put an idol in the bed to appear like David was sick and unable to obey Saul’s demand to come to court.

This act of loyalty to her husband and disloyalty to her father ended her dream of a happy marriage to the man she loved. When David escaped to the wilderness, he never sent for her. Perhaps he thought the princess would be an encumbrance to him as he moved from place to place and lived in caves. Whatever his reason, he eventually married many other women. 

Meanwhile, Saul dissolved Michal and David’s marriage, and gave her to another man, Paltiel. They were together at least ten years and apparently loved each other because when David eventually became king, he demanded that Michal be returned to him in a political move to seal the bond between Northern Israel and Judah. 

There was no sign of love on David’s part toward Michal when he left her behind in Jerusalem after she risked defying her father the King, nor when she was in a marriage to Paltiel who loved her dearly. It was merely a show of his power. In fairness to David, it may have been necessary to have the prior king’s daughter in his harem to help solidify his status as the new monarch. In any case, Michal was used as a pawn by both her father and her first love. She was betrayed by those who should have cared for her, then robbed of the one who offered her genuine love.

After being restored as one of David’s many wives, her bitterness prevented her from enjoying his company. When she felt humiliated by his unfettered dancing in the procession to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, she confronted him, but this resulted in a permanent rift in any relationship they might have tried to reestablish. Their conversation is recorded below.

(Photos of Jerusalem at night, bottom right is an excavation.)

“When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”

2 Samuel 6:20-23 (NIV)

Have you ever felt like a pawn in a relationship? Not just male to female…but by a parent, coworker or friend? Or have you known a narcissist who tried to exert their power and unfounded authority over you? Did you fold under the pressure or have the courage and self-respect to get out from under them? I have. It was heartbreaking when I realized that rather than being loved, I was being used. It took me a while to recover emotionally, but I thank God that with the help of counseling, my heart did not become hardened. I gained wisdom and have more compassion for others.

Is there anything you’d like to share?

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

The Samaritan Woman

Do you know anyone who has been married multiple times, other than me, or been in too many relationships to count? How do you treat them? With skepticism and fear that they’re out for your man next? With confusion and wonder what’s wrong with them? Or with compassion because they’ve never found what they were looking for?

The Gospel of John, chapter four, tells the story of an unnamed woman who was married five times and was living with another. On a day like every other day, this woman of Samaria went to a well outside the city with her water jar—not when all the other women went to socialize as well as fill their containers—but after the others had gone because she wasn’t considered “acceptable” as a companion for her more righteous community members.

But on one particular day when she arrived, there was a Jewish man sitting at the well. (His companions had gone to get food, but Jesus was tired and stayed behind.) Cultural norms would have prevented a man to speak to a woman when they were alone; and also, Jews and Samaritans did not mingle. They avoided each other at all costs and Jews would normally travel a longer route rather than pass through Samaritan territory. When Northern Israel was conquered by the Babylonians, there was a forced migration into the land by people from other nations so intermarriage was common. And rather than worship in Jerusalem like those in Judea, their conquerors built them a temple at Mt. Gerazim. In spite of their differences, the Samaritans and Judeans were both looking for the Messiah.

The woman in this story was astonished when the man she encountered asked her to draw water for him. She replied with, “How can you ask me for a drink? You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.” But as they talked, Jesus drew a contrast between the physical water she needed and “living water” which he offered to her. He was referring to Jeremiah 2:13, 

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, The spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jesus saw into the woman’s heart which had been broken and hardened as a result of her failed marriages. By confronting her, he became personally involved in her life by offering her the water that would finally satisfy her soul. She realized that he was a prophet when he knew everything about her, but Jesus identified himself as more than a prophet, he was the Messiah, “I who speak to you am he.”

After she ran into town to tell everyone about him, many of the Samaritans believed in him originally because of her testimony. But after listening to him for two days they said,

“We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” John 4:42.

This woman who had spent many years searching for love and fulfillment seemingly had accepted her lot, including rejection by her former husbands and neighbors. But when Jesus confronted her about her sin, the symptom of deeper needs, she was awakened to what she truly lacked, the Living Water that she could obtain only through God. Isaiah 12:3 states, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

In Isaiah 55:1-5, the Lord gives an invitation, 

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?…Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”

This invitation is for today as much as it was millennia ago. Are you thirsty for Living Water? I’d be glad to talk further. God bless you and satisfy your heart.

#woundedwoman #wounded women #divorce #livingwater #Isaiah55 #John4

A Woman’s Influence

“There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.” (Italics mine) 1 Ki 21:25

At all levels of society for millennia, women have influenced their men for good or for evil. It could be in small matters or large, and all bore consequences. The Bible is full of many examples including Delilah, Abigail, Jezebel, Lot’s wife, Sarai, Esther, Eve and others.

Have you named a daughter Jezebel or have you ever had a family member or friend do so? It’s uncommon, to be sure, and that’s due largely to the negative connotation of the woman it represents. In Hebrew the name is ‘īzebhel meaning impure or wicked.

In 1 Kings 16 through 2 Kings 9, the story is told of how this Phoenician princess influenced her husband, the Israelite King Ahab, to promote the worship of Baal in Israel which involved, among other things, self-mutilation, infant sacrifice and ritual sex—all expressly forbidden by God.

In addition, when her husband King Ahab was depressed that his offer to buy a field was turned down because the land has been passed on through many generations, Jezebel had the owner killed and took the land from the rightful heirs.

It’s good to look inward and evaluate how our feelings, words and actions affect those around us. It’s a sad legacy when we harm others this way. Is there a child in your life who never meets with your satisfaction and you let her know it? Or a husband who needs respect and affirmation, but we hold back for fear we’ll make him conceited when we really want to keep him down, perhaps to make ourselves feel superior?

Out of love for our families we should strive to build others up, not in a way that makes them think they are the center of the universe, but to encourage them to do their best even if they don’t come in first, are the top of their class, or the prom queen. Every person has worth and is unique. Let’s celebrate those things and resist the urge to pressure them so much they get exhausted and frustrated trying to get our attention and approval.

There is a balance between nurturing narcissists (society already has enough of them) who think they do no wrong and are superior to everyone else, and praise for accomplishments based on honest, hard work, good attitudes and self-respect. 

If we recognize an area where we can change our behavior or thinking toward someone, let’s begin to affect positive influence on them rather than negative. We’ll all benefit. The future depends on it.

Have you seen this in your own life? Were you brought down by a demeaning parent, boss or spouse? Have you been able to get beyond it to see the truth about your own good qualities and character? It can take a lot of self-talk and sometimes counseling, but we can get past it. Care to share?

Photo: Baal, right arm raised. Bronze figurine, 14th-12th centuries, found in Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit).  Unknown – Jastrow (2006) Public Domain

1 Thessalonians 5:11 
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”

#idolatry #badinfluence #Jezebel #Ahab #wickedwoman