Devotional Week 35 Thursday
“As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him with reverence, worship and awe. For He knows our frame. He earnestly remembers and imprints on His heart that we are dust…But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children.”
Psalm 103: 13, 14, 17
“A Father tender, strong, and true, -
That’s what He is to me!
A Father who knows all my heart,
Yet loves me just the same,
Oh, do you wonder that I love
To call Him this dear name?”
Edith Lillian Young
Today’s Study Text:
“And he said, ‘About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son.’ And she said, ‘Nay, my Lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thy handmaid.’ And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.”
II Kings 4: 16-17
“The Shunammite” -- A Father’s Good Gifts to His Children
“If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts, (gifts that are to their advantage) to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him.”
Luke 11: 13
As I review my life, what “gift(s)” have I asked my heavenly Father for?
What “good gifts” has my Father given to me?
“God’s gifts put man’s (woman’s) best dreams to shame.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens.”
James 2: 17
I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like to receive a gift – especially if it is something you have really wished for, or better yet, a surprise gift which exceeds all your expectations.
My friend Madonna is one of the best “gift givers” I’ve met in human flesh. Every August, when my birthday rolls around, I know I will be treated to some very special present that fills me with laughter and joy. Every time I walk out on my patio, I’m reminded about Madonna’s kindness when I use the purple garden hose she sent me several years ago. Knowing that my favorite color is purple, she hunted every garden shop she could find until she met with success. And I ask you, “Who do you know that has a purple garden hose?” Well, I do and I love using it for it reminds me of my dear friend.
It is the thought about gifts – astounding, wonderful, greatly desired gifts – which infuses our story today.
As I prepared to place the many thoughts, which are found in II Kings 4, on paper, my study led me back to words penned by Dale Ralph Davis in his exceptional commentary entitled: II Kings – The Power and the Fury.
His thoughtful, in-depth exposition of II Kings offers a very insightful point of reference, one in particular, that I had never thought about. It has to do with our Study Text Today which has at its heart the joyful news given to the great woman of Shunem that she would, in a season of time, bear a son.
Interestingly, some scholars argue whether or not she had wanted to have a child for when asked what gracious gift she would like bestowed upon her by Elisha, she replied that she was just fine and contented within the confines of her family and community. As some Biblical experts point out, the geographical region of Shunem was most likely not buffeted to the same extent by the political and religious upheaval so prevalent in other regions of Israel and this may well be one of the reasons she was desirous of just living a “quiet” and “contented” life, out of the spotlight.
But if we read the Bible just as it is written, I’d like to offer, from a woman’s point-of-view, the way I happen to read the response this lady gave when she was told she would be able to have a child. “After Elisha said, ‘About this time next year, you will hold a son in your arms,’ the woman came back with this response, ‘No my Lord,’ she objected, ‘don’t mislead your servant, O man of God’” (II Kings 4: 16, N.I.V.). In our everyday language, The Message Bible offers this reading: “O my master, O Holy Man, don’t play games with me, teasing me with such fantasies” (II Kings 4: 16, The Message Bible).
I find this response to be one I can understand for at the early age of 23, I was still unmarried and told by my physician that he doubted I would ever be able to have a child. His somber words to one as young as I was proved absolutely correct for within two years, after radical surgery, I was not able to ever think about or plan on having a baby. It was physically impossible for me. I can easily put myself in this woman’s place for she may have felt, at that point in time, that what she wished for, would never happen. To hear Elisha even suggest that in less than a year, her arms would be holding a child, may have been to her listening ears nothing but a cruel joke. Yet, we find that her firm faith in this, “man of God’s” words, kept her trusting and within the span of twelve months, a child was born.
It is the joy brought by the unexpected, the unbelievable, and the simply miraculous, that brings Dale Ralph Davis to a tremendously wonderful conclusion about our heavenly Father and His willingness to bring joy and happiness into your life and mine, despite what you or I are going through on this very day and at this very moment.
Here’s what Davis so astutely points out:
“Elisha announced God’s gift: ‘At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son’ (II Kings 4: 16). The woman thinks this incredible, but the Bible doesn’t…This is not the first time this sort of thing has occurred. There is a phrase in verses 16 and 17 (II Kings 4) kã’ët/hayyah (‘next year’ in NASB) which only appears in one other passage – Genesis 18: 10, 14. Of course, that is the story of another ‘impossible’ birth, impossible because Sarah had already been through menopause (Genesis 18: 11) and knew she couldn’t have kids. It’s as if the use of kä’ët hayyåh
in verses 16 and 17 is meant to give us a flashback to Sarah in Genesis 18.”
However, as author Davis so correctly underscores, it wasn’t just Sarah who faced the trauma caused by the apparent fact that she would never have a child. Rebekah was childless for the first twenty years of her marriage. And Rachel, too, was barren for many years before Joseph was born. So was “Mrs. Manoah,” Samson’s mother, and in 1 Samuel 1, we read about poor Hannah, who we studied about several years ago. What a trial her childless condition brought into her daily life for many years. And if we go to the New Testament, we find that Elizabeth, Jesus’ mother, Mary’s cousin, was also infertile until an old age.
But here’s what I found so revealing about the story of the Shunammite woman. And it is a tremendously critical point revealed by Dale Ralph Davis in his commentary:
“II Kings 4 is unique among all these instances of the ‘barren woman’ pattern. In all other cases either the birth of the child is essential for continuing a covenant people or the child becomes a significant leader in a time of crisis for Israel. Had Isaac and Jacob not been born, the slender line of the covenant people would have gone extinct. Without Joseph, Jacob’s family would have perished in famine. Samson was at least a wild boar in the Philistines’ vineyard that kept them from ever relaxing. And Samuel proved to be the glue that held Israel together during the turbulent transition to monarchy. And John the Baptist (of Elizabeth) prepared a people for the long-expected Jesus. None of this applies in II Kings 4.”
After this historical review, Davis offers what I believe for you and me today, is a tremendous lesson in the way our precious heaven Father responds to His children here on earth. Not just a Shunammite woman thousands of years ago, but to you and to me. Here’s how Davis so exquisitely sums up his thoughts:
“The birth of this child (was) not essential to national continuity; there (were) plenty of Israelite kids floating around. Nor does he become an outstanding leader or prominent figure in Israel’s life…We don’t even know his name. What’s the point? That sometimes Yahweh gives such a gift not because He will fulfill some grand redemptive-historical function but simply because He wants to make a woman happy with a child. Sometimes it’s far simpler than we imagine.”
I’d like to add my own personal observation to the perceptive thought expressed by Davis. Here we are, in the 21st century, God’s daughters and sons all around the world, studying about our Father’s gracious-kindness in giving a desired gift to a woman long ago and for the simple reason that in this life, we are witness to the great desire our Father in heaven has to “give good gifts to those who love Him.”
Just think of the faith-building power the birth of this young son had on the life of everyone in the home and community of the Shunammite. A faith, I might add, that was to be tested and stretched and pulled as time went by. But when that faith was tested, there was always a point in time, call it the focal point, which could be returned to, that reminded everyone that looked at this child of the gift-giving, miracle-working power of a Father whose love is so expansive that His heart longs to bring delight and joy into the lives of His children. It’s as simple as that!!!
In the words of Pat Corrick Hinton: “Let our belief in You and our trust in Your care be so complete that our joy will be the sure sign of Your presence in this world that needs You so much.”
“(God) delights to give you good gifts not because you’re so prominent (note: we don’t know the Shunammite’s name) or useful, but simply because He’s that kind of God who ‘richly supplies us with all things to enjoy’” (I Timothy 6: 17).
Dale Ralph Davis
“May the Lord be blessed for ever for the great gifts that He has continually heaped upon me, and may all that He has created praise Him.” Amen.
Teresa of Avila
To Our God
“Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
I Timothy 6: 17
“Dear indulgent Father, could I be alone, while clinging fast to Thee in continual prayer of thanksgiving? Prayer of joy, wonder, and delight to feel that what I had so fondly hoped and confidently expected really proved in the hour of trial to be more than I could hope, more than I could conceive, that my God could and would hear me through the most severe trials, with that strength, confidence, and trust which, if every circumstance of the case was considered, seemed more than a human being could expect or hope? But His consolations! Who shall speak of them? How can utterance be given to that which only His Spirit can feel?”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
P.S. Over the past few weeks, because of the generous outpouring of gifts from God’s “Garden daughters and sons,” we were able to complete our current projects and send 10,000 bookmarks to Papua New Guinea. We also sent 500 bookmarks in the Hindi language to Northern India. Thank you. Now we are undertaking the challenge of sending bookmarks to Russia, Lithuania and Brazil and to several domestic abuse shelters here in the United States.