Talk about being in the right place — at just the right time.

It happened for a woman in the Bible.

She was called a Shunammite, because she lived in a town called Shunem.

Her story starts in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings in chapter four.

The text begins with the prophet Elisha going to Shunem.

While he is there, a wealthy woman invites him to the house where she lives with her husband and offers to feed the prophet.

After that, whenever Elisha passes through this area, he goes to this woman’s home.

The woman knows Elisha is a holy man. So she asks her husband if they can make a small room on their roof with a bed, table, chair and lamp.

Elisha can stay there when he comes to town.

I guess you could call it the guest bedroom.

I’m sure it didn’t have cable TV or cute little paper-wrapped soaps like some hotels, but I’ll bet it was a nice place to stay.

Elisha must have thought so, too, and at one point asks his servant, Gehazi, what can be done for the woman who’s done so much for them.

Gehazi says the woman has no son and her husband is old. After Elisha hears this, he tells the woman she will have a son the next year.

It must have sounded too good to be true.

“Oh man of God,” she says. “Don’t lie to your servant.”

But sure enough, she has a son the next spring, just like Elisha said.

She must have been the happiest woman in Shunem.

Then one day the child is out with his dad and workers harvesting a crop, when the boy appears to have a terrible headache.

“Oh, my head, my head,” he says.

The boy is carried to his mother and sits on her lap until noon.

Then he dies.

The woman doesn’t tell her husband what’s happened, but asks for a donkey so she can go see Elisha.

When her husband questions her, the woman just says, “All is well.”

How can she say that?

That doesn’t sound like the truth.

Or did she think Elisha could help her son?

I wonder.

Anyway, when Elisha sees the woman, he sends Gehazi out to her.

Gehazi asks about her husband and son and gets the same “All is well” response.

But when the woman reaches Elisha, it sounds like she falls at his feet and grabs them.

Elisha can tell she’s in bitter distress.

“Did I ask you for a son?” she says to Elisha. “Didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me?”’

Elisha will end up going to woman’s house. He prays and touches the child, who becomes warm and later opens his eyes.

“Pick up your son,” he tells the woman.

The woman again falls at Elisha’s feet then picks up her son.

She must have been so relieved and grateful.

Chapter eight records something else Elisha did for the woman.

Elisha warns her to leave the place where she lives, because the Lord has called for a famine that will last seven years.

So she and her household go live in the land of the Philistines.

That had to have taken a lot of faith, but the woman obviously believed Elisha.

And a severe famine did occur.


Commentary in the Fire Bible explains that the people had rejected God. They weren’t obeying or being faithful to him and dreadful things happened.

What happened to the woman?

At the end of seven years, she returns home and goes to see the king about getting back her house and property.

Here’s where we see miraculous timing.

The king is talking to Gehazi when the ruler says, “Tell me the great things that Elisha has done.”

Gehazi is telling the king about Elisha and the boy whose life was restored at the same time the Shunammite woman makes an appeal for her home and land.

I try to imagine the surprised look on Gehazi’s face.

“My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life,” Gehazi says.

The king asks the woman about the situation and she verifies it. The king then appoints an official for her and says, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.”

Wow. How likely is it that the woman would come to ask for her property — just as Gehazi was telling the king about the miracle?

It was perfect — and amazing — timing.

What do we learn from the Shunammite woman? Here are some of my thoughts:

It’s good to care for those in ministry.

  • In the margin of my Bible, I found that I’d scribbled this: “When we make provision for the things of God, we set the stage for miracles.”

The woman provided for Elisha when he came to town — with no thought of compensation. In the end, she was rewarded in ways she never dreamed possible — including the birth of a precious son.

Expect to have your faith tested

  • . The Shunammite woman was a faithful person, but even good people face trials and tests. Yet the Shunammite woman didn’t give up. She could have wailed to her husband that their son was dead. Instead, she rushed to Elisha with her heartache and questions.

Turn to God for help

  • . The Shunammite woman sought out Elisha. Similarly, we need to rush to God — the only one who really can help us — with our pain and questions, trusting that he has our best interest at heart. He can perform amazing miracles and bring us comfort, strength and peace when we need it most.

Desperation isn’t always a bad thing

  • . The woman’s determination not to leave Elisha prompted him to go with her.

We see similar examples of tenacity in the New Testament stories of blind Bartimaeus, who cried out to Christ despite people in the crowd telling him to be quiet; a woman who just knew she would be healed if she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment; and parents determined to have Christ heal their demon-possessed children. I believe Jesus has a tender spot in his heart for people such as these and responds.

God can provide amazing miracles

  • . The story of the Shunammite woman is just one of them. The Bible is filled with stories of God’s miracle-working power.

It’s good to listen to sound counsel

  • . The Shunammite woman listened to Elisha’s warning about the famine. She packed up her household and they lived somewhere else for seven years. It probably wasn’t fun or comfortable to leave home, but they were spared from horrendous suffering.

God’s timing is perfect and he blesses those who follow him

  • . The Shunammite woman’s meeting with the king as Gehazi was telling the story wasn’t a coincidence. I believe God orchestrates time and circumstances according to his will and plan. The faithful woman was given back her home and land — with interest.

And it all started because years earlier, she encouraged her husband to let her show some hospitality to a traveling prophet.

I guess you could say she was in the right place at the right time — at more than one time in her life.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.


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