Sunday, February 16, 2014

Unending Oil and Shunammite Resurrection

Elisha’s world had turned upside-down. He was working in the field one day when some guy named Elijah came along and told him to come be a prophet. After a few years of training, Elisha watched his teacher taken from him in one of the most dramatic ways imaginable. The fiery horses and chariot disappeared into the sky, the waters of the Jordan River parted, and Elisha started a new life as a prophet. As he had requested, God granted him a lot of prophetic power, and with God’s help, he did some amazing things.

One day, another prophet’s time came to go. We don’t know this prophet’s name, but he had a wife and two sons, and they were left very poor when he died. The woman had bills to pay, and no way to pay them! At that time, that only left one option. The people she owed the bills to would be coming any day to take her sons away to be slaves! She loved her sons, and she didn’t want to lose them! So she found Elisha and told him about their problem.

“What do you have in your house?” Elisha said.

“We hardly have anything!” she replied. “Just a small jar of olive oil!”

So Elisha told her what she needed to do. It sounded really weird, but she knew Elisha knew what he was talking about. Following his advice, she went around to all her neighbors and asked for as many empty jars as they could spare. Pretty soon, there were lots and lots of empty jars in their house. Then the woman and her sons shut their door and went to work. They took their tiny jar of oil and started pouring it into an empty jar. When that was full, they started filling another one. That filled up, and they poured oil into a third jar! It just kept coming and coming out of the tiny jar until all the jars in the house were full!

“Bring me another jar!” she said to one of her sons.

“That’s it!” he replied. “They’re all full!” Then the oil stopped flowing.

So she went to Elisha and reported the amazing news. “Great!” he said. “Now go sell the oil. You’ll earn enough from that to pay your debts and to support your family!”

Not all the people Elisha helped were poor. He often visited a rich couple in the town of Shunem. In fact, he came so often that they decided to build a guest room on their roof so that he would have a place to stay when he visited. Elisha and his servant Gehazi really appreciated their hospitality, and Elisha wondered what they could do to help this Shunammite woman and her husband. They even offered to speak to the King on her behalf, but she didn’t think that was necessary. Elisha and Gehazi were brainstorming what they could do to help them when Gehazi pointed out that the woman didn’t have any children, and her husband was old. So Elisha told the woman, “This time next year, you’ll be holding a son.”

“No, don’t get my hopes up!” the woman said. But just as promised, she got pregnant and had a son.

A few years passed. The boy grew, and his parents loved him. One day, he found his dad working in the fields and complained, “My head hurts!” His dad asked a servant to carry the boy home, and the boy’s mom held him. He was very sick, and pretty soon he died. The woman couldn’t believe it. God had done a miracle by giving her this child, and now the boy was dead! She carried his body up to Elisha’s room and hurried to find Elisha. She found him at Mount Carmel, and he saw her and recognized her from a distance. He sent Gehazi ahead to find out what was the matter, and she said, “Everything’s fine.” But as she got closer, he told Gehazi, “She’s very sad, but God hasn’t told me why.”

So the woman said, “Did I ask you for a son? Didn’t I tell you not to get my hopes up?” When he found out the boy was dead, Elisha was alarmed. He told Gehazi, “Take my staff and run. Don’t stop for anything or anyone, and when you get to their home, lay my staff on the boy’s body.” The woman refused to go with Gehazi, though, unless Elisha went with her. So while Gehazi ran on ahead, Elisha and the Shunammite woman hurried back to the house. Before they got there, Gehazi came running back from the house and said, “I did what you said, but the boy is still dead!”

The first thing Elisha tried hadn’t worked. So when he got to the house, he went upstairs and found the boy laying on the bed. Elisha knelt down and prayed. Then he did something really strange. He laid facedown on top of the boy, eyes to eyes, mouth to mouth, hands to hands. Maybe it was something like CPR? The boy’s skin was cold, as it usually is for dead people, but pretty soon, it got warm. Elisha stood up and walked back and forth, then tried again. The boy sneezed and opened his eyes!

So Elisha had Gehazi get the Shunammite woman, and when she came in the room, she was overjoyed to find her son alive! God had just brought a boy back from the dead!

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