Friday, June 23, 2006

No thanks, I don't need anything

Elisha the prophet went to Shunem, where a rich but childless woman provides a room for him. She furnishes it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. He says to 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?" (2 Kings 4.13)

How would you like that? Help out a traveling preacher, and he offers to talk to the President or the Governor for you -- what would you ask for if that happened to you?

The woman (we never learn her name) can't think of anything to ask for. I don't think it's only because she's rich. I think it's because she has learned not to expect too much in the way of things that would bring real joy to her. If you don't expect too much, you won't be disappointed.

So when Elisha says, "About this time next year you will hold a son in your arms," the woman objects. "No, my lord," she says. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" (2 Kings 4.16).

Life has taught her to lower her expectations. Or maybe it was her genes. In any case she is completely unprepared for a big blessing. But God wants to give her one, anyway, because "the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her." (2 Kings 4.17)

What joy she must have felt! We don't have any details, because in the very next line he is walking and talking.
[H]e went out to his father, who was with the reapers. "My head! My head!" he said to his father.
2 Kings 4.18-19
He dies that same day, and the mother can't even tell anyone about it. But somehow she knows where to find Elisha. She leaves the boy on the bed in Elisha's room and goes to him.
When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet.... "Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"
2 Kings 4.27-28
There, she was right all along. You get your hopes up, and maybe for a little while things are looking up. But life will always zap you in the end.

And yet, look at what happens next. Elisha returns with her. He prays to the Lord. Then a miracle happens. "The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes." (2 Kings 4.35)

This is yet another reason the Bible says there is no god like the Lord -- his astonishing generosity and goodness. In those days, it was assumed that the gods of a city (or nation) would help kings in battle, grant a bountiful harvest, this sort of thing. But a god who cares about a dead young boy and his mother, and wants to give her enough joy to burst her heart -- that's the character of the God we serve.

She was childless, I guess for some time. She was more or less resigned to that condition, and hope came suddenly. She didn't want to believe that she could have a child, and yet one came! Life was good for a few years, but then he died, her only child. She could have decided to settle into her old life of resignation, but she didn't! She seized the day, even in her bitter distress, and went to the man of God, maybe not even knowing why. Then the impossible happened and her son came back to life.

What a roller-coaster!

The Lord gave her a gift that she didn't even want at first, but now she has experienced life at its fullest. Not all happy -- she had a huge disappointment -- but she's seen two miracles. Life for her is an adventure again.

And how about for me? What do I want from God today? Dare I hope?

If not, why not?

posted June 25, 2006

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