Everything Is All Right
2 Kings 4:18-37 Lent 5
Everything is All Right
Dear friends in Christ,
Within the last eighteen days death has struck our congregation three times. Whenever death strikes a Christian congregation or within a family circle, it leaves behind a certain amount of sorrow and grief. Suddenly the place where our Christian friend sat in church is occupied by someone else. Our loved one’s chair at the dinner table is empty. We cannot just pick up the phone and call to talk or share some good news.
We grieve over the death of family members and friends. Yet, as the apostle Paul reminds us, “We need not grieve like people who have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13). In the middle of our grief we can say with confidence, “Everything is all right.”
I. Everything is all right when tragedy strikes
“Everything is all right.” That’s what the woman in today’s Old Testament lesson said when tragedy touched her life. The setting is this.
After the LORD took the prophet Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha became the LORD’s prophet in Israel. As Elisha carried out his mission, he often traveled through the town of Shunem in the north central part of the land. In Shunem a well-to-do woman wanted to support the man of God in his work. So after discussing with her husband what she wanted to do, she had an additional room built onto the upper part of their house. Then she furnished the room so that whenever Elisha passed through town, he could stay there.
After the woman did this, Elisha and his servant Gehazi discussed what could be done for her, to show their appreciation for her kindness and her support of the LORD’s work. When Gehazi reminded Elisha that the woman was childless and that her husband was old, Elisha called her in and told her that by that same time next year she would be holding her own child in her arms. And that’s exactly what happened. The LORD gave this barren woman a son.
Imagine this woman’s joy! When, humanly speaking, she had no more hope of having any children, the LORD did the impossible! He gave her a son! But then, a few years later, the same LORD who blessed her with wealth, with prominence, and with this special child also permitted tragedy to touch her life.
The boy might have been seven or eight years old. He was in the fields with his dad and the harvesters when suddenly he cried out, “My head! My head!” Today it might be described as a “thunderclap” headache. Some guess that he suffered sunstroke. Maybe it was a brain aneurysm. In any case, the boy’s father told a servant to take the boy to his mom. She held him on her lap until midday when the boy died.
Now the woman’s joy turned to sorrow. Imagine her heartache and anguish. The miracle baby that the man of God had promised, the only child the LORD had given her, now lay dead in her arms. But the woman’s anguish did not paralyze her. Immediately she carried her son’s body to Elisha’s upper room and placed him on the bed. Then she sent word to her husband to send a servant and a donkey. She was going to go find the man of God. And when her husband asked why, she told him. “It’s all right.”
The tragedy, of course, was the death of the little boy. But there’s also another tragedy hidden here, and it involves the woman’s husband. The husband seems to have been a hardworking man, in the fields with the harvesters. He seems to have been a well-to-do man, owning several servants and animals. He seems to have a family man, providing for the physical and material needs of his wife and son. This is all good and God-pleasing.
But did you notice that on this day, when his son’s health was in question, he doesn’t seem to have asked about him. And when the man’s wife asked him to send a donkey and a servant so that she could go find Elisha, he didn’t offer to go with her. He could not understand why she would want to go immediately to talk to the man of God. “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.” His attitude is like the attitude of a husband today who wonders why his wife would want to go to church or talk to her pastor when it’s not a Sunday morning or Christmas or Easter.
Husbands, God has called you to serve your wife with the love of Christ. The most loving thing you can do for your wife is to be in church with her regularly and to grow in the grace and knowledge of your God and Savior. The most loving thing you can do for your wife is to listen and learn God’s Word together. Why? Because with this message God’s Spirit gives the direction, the desire and the ability to live the life to which God has called you. God’s commands will guide you, and God’s promises will sustain you, so that when life is good and when tragedy strikes, together you will be able to say, “Everything is all right.”
II. Everything is all right because the LORD raises the dead
The Shunammite woman traveled without her husband about 20 miles to Mt Carmel. When Elisha saw her coming he sensed that something must be wrong. He sent Gehazi to meet her and ask the kind of questions that her husband did not ask: “Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’” She said again, “Everything is all right.”
When she reached Elisha, he could tell that she was distraught, but he didn’t know why. The LORD had not told him. So she explained that her only son - the child whom Elijah had promised her, the boy that the LORD had given to her – had died. Immediately Elisha sent Gehazi with his staff, a symbol of the LORD’s strength and power, and told him to place it on the boy. The woman, however, wanted Elisha to come back to the house with her. As they were on their way Gehazi met them and told Elisha that the boy was still dead.
When they all arrived at the house, Elisha went into the room where he boy’s body lay and shut the door. The boy had been dead for several hours by this time. No CPR would have worked. But Elisha trusted the LORD who gives life to the dead. So the man of God prayed. Then he stretched himself out on the boy. The boy’s flesh grew warm. But the LORD didn’t answer Elisha’s prayer immediately. So Elisha paced back and forth in the room, no doubt, continuing to pray. Then he stretched himself out on the boy a second time. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha called the boy’s mom into the room and told her to pick up her son. The woman came in and fell down at Elisha’s feet, thanking the LORD and showing her gratitude to the man of God. Then she picked up her son and left.
Throughout this entire scene, the Shunammite woman displayed the faith of Abraham. Her circumstances were similar to those of Abraham. Both she and Abraham were childless. Each received the special gift of a son. And, after a few years, each had to deal with the death of that son.
Recall that Abraham’s son, Isaac, was the son of God’s unique promise. The LORD promised Abraham that the Savior of the nations would come through the family line of Isaac. But then one day the LORD told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mt Moriah. What did Abraham do? He got up the next morning, took Isaac and everything needed for the sacrifice. He was ready to do exactly what the LORD commanded him to do. Then at the last moment, the LORD told him not to hurt the boy in any way. The writer to the Hebrews explains how Abraham was able to follow the LORD’s command. He writes simply, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, his did receive Isaac back from the death” (Hebrews 11:19).
The Shunammite woman had the faith of Abraham. Tragedy touched her life and she was in anguish because of the death of her only son. But she was able to say with confidence, “Everything is all right” because the LORD is the God who gives life to the dead.
Christians, we have this same confidence. God has not promised any of us that he will immediately raise a family member or friend who has died, like he did for the Shunammite woman. But God has promised that the power and sting of death has been destroyed.
God’s promise is connected to the death and resurrection of his only Son. When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, he paid the full price that our sin and guilt deserves. He paid the wages of our sin. Then God raised him from the dead to assure us that he has accepted Jesus’ payment on our behalf.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead also assures us that all his promises are true. At the tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus promised, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). Again Jesus promised, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Because of God’s promises in Jesus…
- death for the Christian is only a kind of sleep.
- those who die in the LORD are blessed from now on.
- their souls are resting from their labors and enjoying eternal pleasures at God’s right hand.
- although their bodies return to dust, on the Last Day he will raise these same bodies, restore them, make them fit for heaven, and reunite them with their souls in heaven
- all who die in the Lord will rise again.
We look forward to that day with eager anticipation. In the meantime, because of our gracious God and our Savior’s death and resurrection, when life is going well, and when tragedy touches our lives, we can say with all confidence, “Everything is all right.” Amen.
Pastor Karl M Schultz
April 2, 2017