Come Back to Life 

~~MTS-2684
Come Back to Life
“As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm.”
           2 Kings 4:34

The boy had been dead for a while now and his body was cold, but the prophet threw himself on top of him, mouth to mouth and eye to eye, as if to breathe life into the lifeless body. The coldness of the boy’s body might have given the prophet a slight chill, reminding him of the cold reality of death, causing him to summon all his faith to overcome doubt, murmuring to him that all was for naught.
I have seen lifeless bodies lying deadly still in caskets many occasions during visitation time and I always tried not to get too close to them as I was walking by to pay my last respects to the deceased. It had never occurred to me that I could cover their bodies and summon life and warmth back to their bodies. I have always felt like escaping from the scene, running away from the stern reality of the irreversible, the finality, the death.
The prophet knew it could be done and he might have done it before. He had witnessed the power of God manifested far too many times to cast doubt on anything. All he needed to do at the time was to make sure that the Lord intended for the boy to come back to life again, which was indeed the case.
Incidents such as that were rare and, in most cases, nature just ran its course and the dead returned to dust, never to return to the embraces of their loved ones.
Even if the dead do return to life again, the inevitable will eventually strike again after a number of years and the living must go through the same routine of mourning, resignation, and final acceptance. Death cannot be conquered by life, it can only be overcome by death, since there is a resurrection afterward, and the resurrected body, which is spiritual in essence, will not be subject to death and decay.
Even so, the prophet still gave his best effort to bring the boy back to life, to his mother, demonstrating to the world the Lord is truly gracious and merciful, and would not put the woman through something so cruel and utterly unbearable.
God’s mercy abounds as well when suffering abounds. There is still life in lifelessness and a glimpse of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. First, there was warmth returning to the body and then the heart started to pump and the blood rushed through the entire body and the boy was revived, awakened as if from a long dreamless dream.
Wasn’t this what our heavenly Father intended for all things to be? Wasn’t it his original design for all of us, his beloved children? Even though sin and death were introduced into the world, eternal life is still his ultimate goal for us all.        

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, February 28, 2014 6:32:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Doubt 

~~MTS-2683
Doubt
 “When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.”
          2Kings 4:32

What the prophet thought would work didn’t do the job. His servant came back and informed him that his staff did nothing to the boy. The dead child hadn’t come back to life.
“I might have misread God’s will this time,” he thought. He had been fully confident that after his staff was laid on the boy’s body, the lad would come back to life and all would be well. It would have spared him a long trip to the woman’s home.
It didn’t work as the prophet had expected.
How would it have worked anyway? The staff was an instrument by which Elisha performed his miracles, yet without the prophet’s presence, the wooden stick became rather ordinary. Indeed Moses did all his signs through his shepherd’s staff as well; but it was the man who held the staff that possessed the spiritual power, which caused all the signs to take place.
To be more exact, it was the Lord who determined whether to bring the boy back to life again or not. If the sovereign Lord determined otherwise, the deceased would have remained lifeless just as all the deceased throughout human history have remained dead.
The prophet might have had second thoughts about the whole thing. A slight self-doubt might have crept into his heart. What if the Almighty refrained to work on his behalf this time?
It was entirely possible, wasn’t it? The negative was still possible even if all things pointed to the positive. His first attempt to revive the boy had failed; would his presence at the scene make any difference? He was concerned.
Yet he must remain completely confident before the Shunammite woman. He had learned to love the woman for all the charitable deeds she had done for him and his faith in God would waver a bit if things didn’t work out to the woman’s favor.
What the prophet was attempting to do was impossible from a human point of view, and success would be zero unless the Lord intervened. Elisha found it necessary to pray extra hard since this tragedy had become personal to him, and failure was just not an option. It made no sense that the Lord would take the boy at such a tender age and yet the Lord owed no one any apology if he decided to do just that.
The prophet was hoping for the best, yet he had to be preparing for the worst if the matter turned out badly. I guess we would fare much worse had we been put in his situation. Even though we are fortified by faith in God, doubt may still creep in from time to time and render us defenseless and frightened. By faith Elisha knew the boy would come back to life, but such knowledge didn’t seem to give him full assurance that it would actually happen.       

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, February 27, 2014 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Desperation 

~~MTS-2682
Desperation
“When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet.”          2Kings 4:27

The woman was trying very hard to hold onto her faith in God, but the image of her lifeless son lying on the prophet’s bed in the upper room still surfaced repeatedly before her eyes as she was making the quick journey to Mount Carmel to meet Elisha. “Was there any hope for the dead child?” she asked herself time and time again.
How could a mother fortify herself from such a devastating loss? Not long before, the boy was skipping and running to the field to play, a perfect picture of good health. Yet just a few hours later, he was lying on his mother’s lap, struggling to breathe. How could this be? The woman looked at her beloved son with utter desperation and disbelief.
Something could have been done while the boy was still alive, but nothing could be done when the child was gone. Most mothers would have accepted it as final and started the grieving process, but not so with this woman of faith. She knew the prophet Elisha could do something.
Desperate measures had to be taken under such a critical situation. The woman didn’t bother to explain to her husband what was occurring; she took off with a few servants.
The possibility of her son coming back to life did exist, for nothing was too difficult for the Lord, yet the probability was quite slim. Many of the mothers in her neighbors have lost their children, and none had come back from the other side. Why should her son be any different? The more she thought about this, the more frightened she became. Her faith was strong, but reality was ringing much louder. By the time she got to the prophet, she was at the point of exhaustion both physically and emotionally.
“When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet.” She fell down on the ground before the prophet and held his feet as if she was hanging on for dear life. Her son was gone, and she seemed to have lost her desire to live.
Years spent in serving and following the Lord seemed to be a perfect preparation for moment such as that. Some might easily have broken down at such a critical juncture, but the woman knew exactly to whom she could turn - she rushed to the Lord and his faithful servant. Her faith in God might or might not have worked in her favor, but what mattered most was the timely exercise of her faith, indicating that for better or for worse, her faith remained vibrant and solid still, and her trust in God would not have wavered had things made a turn for the worse.
In most cases that we have encountered or witnessed, things did make a turn to the worse, yet most people still held fast to their faith, surrendering to God’s sovereign will, which is far better than our desire or design.       

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, February 26, 2014 6:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Hopefulness 

~~MTS-2681
Hopefulness
“So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.”
           2Kings 4:25

The Shunammite couldn’t have dialed 911 or taken her child to the emergency room for treatment. All hope was gone because her son was dead and nothing could have been done. The breath from the boy was gone and no finality was more final than that. Humanly speaking, the woman should have given up hope and started thinking about the burial of her only child.
There was a prophet in Mount Carmel, which represented a slim hope the woman was holding onto. It was a miracle child that she received from the Lord’s hand; and she was praying for another miracle that the child would come back to her alive and well.
It just made no sense to her that the Lord would give her a son only to keep for a few years and the precious gift would be taken away. Was the Lord playing a game with her?
Isn’t this the case with all things that we treasure? Life is given to man only to be taken away after some seventy years, perhaps a little longer. There is nothing we treasure more than our lives, yet deep inside we are all aware that we don’t get to keep them forever. The countdown starts from the moment we are born and the clock will never cease ticking until we are no more.
The woman didn’t ask for a child from the prophet, yet a son was given to her only to be taken away from her in a few years, as if the Lord were teasing her with something precious and the thing vanished instantly moments after she got a hold of it.
“Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Nonsense! Is the gut wrenching hurt of losing one’s love worth it? Not so for those who have experienced it. Life might have been rather bland for the Shunammite without a child around, but life would have become so utterly bitter and intolerable with a precious love lost. The whole thing just didn’t make sense, so the woman rushed to the prophet, attempting to make sense of the whole ordeal.
By faith, the woman must have believed the Lord would make things right again, which was to give back to her her precious jewel. She wouldn’t have placed the boy’s lifeless body on the prophet’s bed and run to Elisha had she not believed he could and would do something for her son and, ultimately, a miraculous sign took place. 
Hope may still come to fruition even if we hope against hope. Even if it doesn’t, our hope in God will still materialize, for “hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us,” stated the apostle Paul. What makes our hope so hopeful is our hope in God is in no way confined to time and space. Eternal hope is indeed eternally hopeful. 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, February 25, 2014 6:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Faith 

~~MTS-2680
Faith
“Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”
           2 Kings 4:16

The Shunammite had faith in all things except one - her ability to produce a baby. They had been trying for a long time to no avail and now the husband was old, so any hope for a child was hope against hope.
The woman didn’t have the luxury to hope. We dare to hope for what is humanly possible, and leave the humanly impossible to the Lord, which pretty much means that we have given up all hope.
“Let’s leave this in God’s hands.” We all know what this means, don’t we? This is more a statement of desperation than an indication of hope, for rarely does the Lord do the humanly impossible for us. He simply allows whatever has befallen us run its course most of the time and closes the case. Whatever nature brings forth nature takes over, and the Lord rarely intervenes.
Therefore we go through the motion of prayer and wait for the inevitable to strike, resigning ourselves to the fact that nothing can be done for whoever is undone.
What’s faith in God? Are we fooling ourselves?
Faith does have the power to move mountain, stated the Lord. It doesn’t seem to have the power to remove the slightest doubt in our heart, yet it’s doubt that keeps the Lord from exercising his power through our faith. Isn’t this a catch 22 situation?
I am merely speaking from a human viewpoint, which is always a hit-and- miss proposition, for faith can never be rationalized through human rationality.
“Your faith has healed you,” the Lord said to the woman with the issue of blood. My question is, how in the world did the ailing woman muster enough faith so that she could be healed? Was faith an essential condition for people to get well? If that was the case, how did some who seemed to have no knowledge of Jesus become healed? 
The Shunammite evidently didn’t have enough faith at this moment to believe what was humanly improbable, or even impossible; therefore she thought the prophet was misleading her. Her having a son appeared to have more to do with God’s mercy that her faith in God.
Faith in God is more of God’s mercy than men’s merit. Mercy is free, and merit is earned.
"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Isn’t this our predicament as well? By nature, we are inclined to believe in the naturally possible, and struggle to embrace the naturally impossible; therefore we need faith from the Lord to overcome our lack of faith.
May God’s mercy abound in his children whose faith is far smaller than a mustard seed. 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, February 24, 2014 6:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Discontentment 

~~MTS-2679
Discontentment
“She has no son, and her husband is old.”
        2 Kings 4:14

The Shunammite woman was content with her life in every way except one thing - not having any children, which did bring her some discontentment. How could she not be? She was deprived of the bliss that most women desire and would never experience the thrill and joy of being a mother. How could she not sense an emptiness in her heart and a void on her lap when she witnessed other women cuddling their babes in their arms and nursing them at their breasts?
It wasn’t for lack of effort the couple didn’t produce any baby, for they had been trying for the longest time, yet there were disappointments one month after another, which caused them to lose hope all together. By this time the time frame of childrearing was becoming shorter and shorter, for her husband was getting old.
Being a godly woman, she must have prayed for a child for a long time, yet year after year her womb remained empty and she found herself praying less and less. At last, she started praying that she would accept the reality that she would never taste the sweetness of being a mother. She had given up hope and no longer prayed for a baby.
After the Shunammite resigned herself to reality, she was able to find joy elsewhere and found solace in other areas. In fact, not being able to conceive and having been mocked and ridiculed by people with ill-will somehow made her a kinder and humbler person. Instead of turning from the Lord, she constantly went to him for comfort. Suffering had done its job on the woman and made a saint out of an ordinary person. It was not an accident that she was so charitable toward God’s servant had gone beyond the call of duty to provide for the prophet.
Contentment is a choice.
Had the Shunammite woman dwelt on what she didn’t have, contentment would have become impossible; yet by counting her blessings in life she was able to attain what was difficult to achieve. She became a joyful person despite the deficiency she had experienced. Surely she was deprived of the joy of being a mother, yet there was still an ample amount of happiness elsewhere, waiting to be discovered.
May our lives be a journey of exploring joy that passes understanding.

     
 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, February 21, 2014 6:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Contentment 

~~MTS-2678
Contentment
“I have a home among my own people.”
           2 Kings 4:13

Being a well-known prophet, Elisha was probably very well-connected and he could have helped the Shunammite women had he wanted to. He thought the woman might have been motivated to show charity to him by something other than her devotion to God. His suspicion turned out to be wrong; for the woman told him that she was pretty content for being who and what she was. “I have a home among my own people,” she said.
It was a simple statement, which indicated that the Shunammite was happy with her lot and didn’t have any ambition to advance herself in the world. She and her husband were well-established in the community and had all they needed, yet they could have desired to possess more had they been ambitious and discontent. They could have used a few more dollars or a political position or two. People who aren’t discontent with what they have will always want some more no matter how greatly they are endowed.
What more could a woman have asked? She had a home of her own and a husband who loved her, which was quite enough.
Fear of insecurity is what keeps people from practicing charity. C.S. Lewis implied in Mere Christianity. The issue is: how secure must we be before we feel completely secure; and how big must our savings be before we feel we have saved enough?
“If I continue to move at this pace, I will be able to retired comfortably at age 45,” a young professional said to me in our casual conversation.
“I will never be able to retire, then, considering how little I have saved for it,” I responded, with faint hint of dejection.
I wasn’t at all dejected, however. Why should I be? “I have a home among my own people.” Isn’t this good enough? We have a lot to learn from the Shunammite, who based her future security upon what she possessed at the time, not what she might need in the future. Her present need was a known commodity and her future need was beyond her ability to meet, therefore faith in the Lord was needed.
“It’s foolish to be so concerned about retirement since we may never retire,” I told my wife. “Did the wealthy man who built more barns to store up his grain get to retire at the end?”
The woman would never outgrow their home since there were only two people in the family. Even with the coming of another member, they could still fit in the house rather comfortably. She had absolutely no intention to move to a retirement town since she was among her own people and all her friends were nearby. She seemed to possess the key to happiness defined by the apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
 
  

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, February 20, 2014 6:41:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Reward 

~~MTS-2677
Reward
“You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you?”
           2 Kings 4:13

Elisha thought the Shunammite woman did all the good things for him with some interest in mind, not realizing that she did all the work of charity disinterestedly. “Now what can be done for you?” he asked. The prophet just wasn’t accustomed to something like that happening to him. Although he was a man of God, he couldn’t help but perceive what the woman was doing from a human point of view.
The prophet was mistaken. The Shunammite woman did all the good things to Elisha out of the goodness of her heart and her pure devotion to God. As far as getting some reward from above from what she did for the prophet was concerned, it never entered her mind. She did what came naturally to her as someone who loved the Lord, and it would have been unnatural had she expected something in return. Things done out of love should expect no reward, I think.
Rewards will be lavished on those who give their best to the Lord nonetheless. They may not be in the form of material or tangible things, but for sure some type of payback will be handed out to God’s servants.
Will we be rewarded for being good? This doesn’t make any sense because being good is what we are meant to be and created to be. A banquet was held to honor the prodigal son, for he had been bad; but the elder son received nothing for being good. Indeed being good is its own reward, and a reward is needed only for those who have turned from evil to good. “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours,” the father said to the elder son as he pouted.
What reward is better than God’s presence in our life? The one and only thing that we seek by giving the Lord our best is nothing but this simple statement - “you are always with me.”
How about what comes next - “and everything I have is yours?” some may question.
Some may be inclined to consider God’s possessions in material terms, which is a mistake. “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” yet he was able to feed ten thousand plus people at one time and the ones who were following him were never in want. None of the disciples became wealthy worldly wise, yet they all became rich blessings to others. Indeed they were, “poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
That was the “everything” that I am talking about, which should be the only reward that we seek by following and serving the Lord. “Now what can be done for you?” asks the Lord. The response to this is quite simple, isn’t it? 
 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, February 19, 2014 5:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Beyond 

~~MTS-2676
Beyond
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.        2 Kings 4:10

The Shunammite woman surely did what was beyond the call of duty, didn’t she? Inviting the prophet home for a meal or two was a common thing to do, for she was well-to-do and it was required of her to practice hospitality, but the woman seemed to do more than she was called upon to do; she did much more. For the godly woman, doing enough wasn’t enough at all; she wanted to do more, for she reckoned the man of God deserved more.
Doing just enough is a call of duty; doing more than enough is the demand of charity.
“Drink, and I'll water your camels too,” Rebecca said Abraham’s old servant, in response to his request for some water. It would have been enough for her to give the old man some water, yet she did more than enough for the stranger. Watering a group of camels was entirely different from giving water to a person, for it would demand from her more time and energy. This kind gesture did reflect what kind of girl the future wife of Isaac was. She did what was asked of her but, furthermore, she did what wasn’t asked of her. The former revealed to us she was a courteous woman; the latter indicated that she was a charitable person.
We may be willing to help others when we are asked, but mere willingness isn’t quite enough, really. We need to go beyond willingness by doing more than we have been asked. “Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.” I suppose this is another way of looking at the same thing. Most of us can travel the first mile, but only a few of us can make the second.
“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.”
The Shunammite woman and her husband did this totally on their own and it might have been a surprise to the prophet. Elisha would never ask for such cushy accommodations from someone he hardly knew and, besides, it wasn’t really necessary since he only frequented the place once in a while. Yet what was done for him was done out of reverence of God, and the prophet was more than happy to accept it.
We do have a lot to learn from this couple.
My initial reaction to any sort of request for help has always been negative, yet I always managed to turn the negative into a positive by properly processing the requests, and consequently, I was able to help people joyfully most of the time. Doing charity out of obligation is the first step for us to take, and the practice will become joyful if our hearts become seasoned in doing it consistently. 
          
   

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, February 18, 2014 6:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Woman 

~~MTS-2675
A Woman
“And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal.”
           2 Kings 4:8

The Shunammite woman likely had heard about Elisha and was looking for an opportunity to serve the man of God. She admired the prophet because she was a devout woman who feared the Lord and was always on the lookout to serve God by doing something for God’s servants. What made Elisha appealing to the woman wasn’t his outward appearance or his divine power of performing signs and miracles; it was the prophet’s undivided devotion to God that drew the woman to him.
What separated Elisha from all the prophets of the time? Indeed he was endowed with great gifts from the Lord, yet unless his godly attributes caught up with his gift of miracle-performing, he wouldn’t have been any good to either God or men. People’s spirituality must match their ability for them to be beneficial to God’s kingdom.
Surely the prophet seemed to have started his prophetic career with a loud bang, yet it was after years of serving Elijah before he assumed his new role. He was kept in the shadow of Elijah for a long time before he appeared on the scene. He had learned to serve man faithfully before he became ready to serve God.
What could have been the motivation behind the woman’s expression of charity toward the man of God? She was a well-to-do woman and evidently had no more need of any material blessing from the Lord. She probably just wanted to be in Elisha’s presence and learn something from him. Her interest in the prophet was spiritual in nature.
Being a minister of the gospel, I do have the privilege of telling people’s spiritual state by observing the way they interact with me. I don’t necessarily claim that much respect or attention being a man, but I should demand a certain amount of reverence being a servant of God. I am merely stating a simple fact and am by no means demanding any admiration from people at all. We pay respect to God’s servants just because of the fact that we respect God, not anything else.
David was greatly insulted when the envoys he sent out to console the Ammonite king for his father’s death came back with their beards shaved and garments cut off. What King Hanun did to David’s envoys was indeed a great affront to the king of Israel and a war would soon break out because of it. Their perception of David was revealed by the way they treated David’s servants, and to view it otherwise is self-deception.
The way we view God’s servants reflects how we perceive the Almighty; and how we treat them tells exactly how we will deal with the Lord.
The Shunammite woman has remained anonymous for thousands of years, but the lesson she taught us through her example stays fresh even today. While all the prophets were mostly mocked and persecuted during her time, she alone revealed to us through her act of charity how God’s servants should be treated.   

   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, February 17, 2014 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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