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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Walking by Faith
Text:2 Kings 8:1-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:2017/04/30
Added:2017-05-16
Updated:2017-05-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
Walking by Faith”
2 Kings 8:1-6
 
If ever there was a person who could have put their trust in material wealth it was the Shunammite woman. You may recall that she is the one who had a son, late in life, only to see him die. But God raised him back to life again through Elisha’s ministry as we read in 2 Kings 4.
 
Some of you may remember how she is described in 2 Kings 4:8. It says: One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat.
 
She was well-to-do, or in the words of the ESV, she was wealthy. Part of her wealth, what we would call her net worth today, included a house. There was a back stairway on the house that went up to the roof, and since she was a godly woman and realized that Elisha could use a place to stay, she and her husband built a room for him on their house. They furnished the room with a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp so that Elisha could not only rest from his labors but also have time to study and to pray.
 
As soon as we met this wealthy woman, through the description in 2 Kings 4:8, we saw that she exemplified what it means to have wealth as a Christian. It means that we don’t put our trust in material wealth, but rather that we use whatever material wealth God blesses us with to be a blessing to others, as she and her husband were a blessing to Elisha.
 
She is an example of what the apostle Paul would write about centuries later to Timothy, when he wrote in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
 
The main reason not to put our hope in wealth is that wealth can easily sidetrack us from putting our hope in Christ alone. He alone grants true security in this life and the life to come. He must be our center of hope, in prosperous times as well as times of famine.
 
But another reason why Scripture tells us not to put our hope in wealth is that it is so uncertain. This woman, who had so much wealth as described in chapter 4, has now endured a seven year famine which led to the loss of her home. Many commentators believe that at this point she is now a widow. They take that by inference since in chapter 4 her husband is described as being old, and in this chapter no mention is made of her husband. We see that she and her son had struggled for some time. It is a reminder that our fortunes can change so very quickly.
 
Have you noticed both the panic and euphoria of those in the New York Stock Exchange?  On days when the market has swung sharply upward stock traders are almost delirious with joy as they ring their bells in jubilation. But on days when the market falls sharply a tragic pall enshrines all the traders at the closing bell. Whether you view the stock market as a bull or as a bear, you cannot help but realize that nothing can be more uncertain than material wealth.
 
Some of the most frugal people that I have known are those who have lived through the Great Depression. Many of them saw just how quickly they lost everything. After the Great Depression, and even after World War II and the prosperity that followed in the United States, they lived frugal lives recognizing just how uncertain material wealth is.
 
Our hope and our security, like that of the Shunammite woman and Elisha, must always be focused on God alone. He is the one who provides for his people. He is the only secure hope that anyone of us has in this life. And in this passage we see that truth – the truth that our true security is in God alone. God had decreed the famine as verse 2 points out. The famine came because of the wickedness of the people. And God’s people often suffer when God brings judgment on the wicked. But God will always provide for his people in their suffering with his faithful and abundant care.
 
The Perfect Timing of God’s Providence
 
In the case of the Shunammite woman, God provided for her through the perfect timing of his providence. In verse 3 we read how this woman came back from the land of the Philistines where she had gone during the time of the famine. But when she got back she found that someone else had taken over her home. Someone else had taken over the fields that belonged to her, raising crops on those fields when the famine had let up enough for them to grow.   
 
Consequently, the woman went to the king to beg for her house and land, and who should the king be talking with just at that time? It was Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. And what were they talking about? Verse 4 describes how the king had just asked Gehazi to tell him about all the great things Elisha had done. Verse 5: Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land.
 
That is remarkable timing! But it should not be surprising to anyone who knows the Lord God revealed in Scripture. When did the band of Midianites - Ishmaelites - travel by a remote cistern on their way to Egypt? It was just after Joseph’s brothers had put him in that cistern, ready to leave him there to die.
 
When did Haman fall on the couch to try to convince Queen Esther to spare his life? It was right when King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) walked back into the room and, filled with rage, decreed that Hamen would be hanged on the gallows that he had made for Mordecai.
 
And when did the Lord Jesus Christ offer himself as the Passover Lamb, whose blood alone is sufficient to cover your sins and mine? It was at the time of the Passover, when the full significance of his sacrifice would be known by all gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover feast.
 
The Lord is the creator of time. Time is his servant to accomplish his purposes. There is, as the speaker of Ecclesiastes pointed out, a time for everything. And the reason why is that God controls time for his purposes.
 
The day of your physical birth was known by God, as is the day of your spiritual birth if you have a true saving faith in Jesus Christ. And the same is true for the day of your death. How does Psalm 139 put it? All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16)
 
So although the timing is truly remarkable, it should not be surprising to us. Our God created time; he set the moon and stars in their place to mark the seasons, and the sun to mark hours and days. So we should not be surprised that at the right time he works his sovereign will through his hand of providence.
 
And that should also be of great encouragement to us. This woman had suffered for seven years through a severe famine; she had lost all that she had by way of material wealth.  But she had not put her hope in what she had by way of material possessions; she had put her hope in God, trusting that at the right time he would restore to her what she needed to provide for herself and her son.
 
And the same is true in your life and in mine. There will be seasons of famine, hardship and sorrow, but God, in his time, will provide for us all that we need through those difficult times. As Jesus said in John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!"
 
God’s Faithful and Abundant Care for His People
 
We can be sure of God’s provision for us because we know from Scripture that he faithfully cares for his people. We read in verse 6 how the king assigned an official to this woman’s case and said to him, “Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.”
 
Not only did she get her house and land back, but the Lord made sure that she also received all the income from the land, from the day that she had left the country until the present time. It was the Lord who used the king – who was not a godly king by any means – to provide abundantly for this woman and her son.
 
In some ways it is reminiscent of Job’s restoration. Job was also a very wealthy believer in God, the greatest man in all the East, in the land of Uz, but he lost everything. He lost his crops, he lost his dear children, and he lost the respect of his friends and, to some degree, the respect of his wife. He also lost his health.
     
But in due time, at the time of God’s choosing, what did Job gain back? Job 42:12 tells us, The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. Those numbers are exactly double of what Job had in the beginning as described in Job chapter 1. Furthermore, and far more importantly, he was also blessed again with sons and daughters.
 
God provides all that we need, even in lean times. And he often provides in great abundance, beyond what we can ever ask or even imagine. That was true for the Shunammite woman. It was true for Job, and it is true for you and for me. 
                             
But to know God’s faithful and abundant care for his people we must have faith in him. And by way of application, in this passage we see that the essence of saving faith involves taking God at His word, walking by faith and not by sight. That was true for the Shunammite woman, and for you and me as well.
 
Taking God at His Word
 
Can you imagine just how hard it was for this woman and her son to leave her home and farm that had been so prosperous? The famine was not yet upon them, but in verse 1 Elisha told her that it was coming. He said, “Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.”
 
Many people, even many professing Christian people whom God has blessed financially, would be inclined to add up what they had by way of savings accounts. In her case she could estimate how much grain was stored away. The famine wasn’t already upon them, and since they had a farm that had been prosperous maybe they could weather out the famine on their own. That would be the natural inclination of many a human heart at hearing such news.
 
But that is not the way the Shunammite responded to the news that Elisha gave her. Instead verse 2 tells us, The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years.
 
And as we visualize her leaving the farm that had been prosperous, and leaving a home that had been filled with many good memories, we see that the essence of saving faith involves taking God at his word.  At that moment in time when Elisha warned her of the famine, it didn’t seem as though a famine was imminent. At that moment in time she could have made a decision to stay. But instead the Scripture tells us, The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said.
 
That type of faith is required by each one would claim the promises of God. Elisha is a foreshadow of the eternal man of God, the eternal Son of God, the Messiah born in human flesh, Jesus Christ. When we proceed to do as the man of God says – the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ – then we find great blessing. Then we find the greatest blessing that can ever be conceived. By taking God at his word we find assurance of the forgiveness of our sins, and then also we find blessing after blessing.  In the words of John 1:16, For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
 
But as she proceeded to do as the man of God said we understand that she was walking by faith and not by sight. And that is also required of us. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, For we walk by faith, not by sight. And Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
 
As the hymn writer put it:
Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.
 
The Full Realization of Romans 8:28
 
A second application is that God works out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Verse 6 foreshadows Romans 8:28 which tells us that we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
 
The famine was in the purpose of God. As verse 2 points out, the Lord had decreed the famine. It came as a judgment upon the land for their rejection of his word. But through that famine God would yet be true to his promises to his people. Although the Shunammite woman went through seven years of hardship, she knew that God would be faithful, and in the end he did indeed work all things for her good. She received back her house, her property, and even all the income that had been made in her absence.
 
This portion of biblical history has a storybook ending. It has the type of ending that Walt Disney, before the company became politically correct, would have loved. The outcome of all the troubles that this woman experienced lead to a joyous, storybook ending.
 
And the Lord does indeed bring many a happy ending to the sorrows that his people face in the pilgrimage of this life.  But even though he does so frequently, we are reminded from Scripture that ultimately he works out all things for our good in our heavenly home, not here on earth. Our real home and our true citizenship is in heaven, and it is in heaven where we find the complete fulfillment of Romans 8:28.   
 
Consider the people whose lives are recorded in Hebrews chapter 11. In verse 8-10 we read, By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
 
You see, God blessed Abraham, and provided for him. In that sense the Lord fulfilled the promise that would later be written in Romans 8:28 for Abraham. But ultimately that promise was fulfilled for Abraham when he reached the city having foundations whose architect and builder is God.­ And the same is true for you and for me.
 
The author of Hebrews brings that out even more clearly later on in the 11th chapter. In verse 35-38 he writes: Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
 
For some, such as the Shunammite woman, life takes on an almost storybook like ending. She fit the description of Hebrews 11:35, Women received back their dead by resurrection. But just because we are Christians doesn’t mean that our lives will always have that storybook ending here on earth. As the author of Hebrews points out, Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. Yet for them the passage in Romans 8:28 is also a reality, but it is a reality realized in heaven more clearly than on earth.
                     
But that is also true for all of us, no matter how our lives end here on earth, we will realize most clearly that God worked through all our circumstances for our good when we enter through the glorious gates of heaven.
  
When you are going through those hard times, and your circumstances don’t have the storybook ending that some other believers seem to have, remember that the story of God’s work in your life isn’t over. He may yet bring great blessing after many years of great sorrow. Or he may wait until you enter into the glory of his presence, at which time you will exclaim with the Apostle Paul, in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Amen!
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.” The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years. - 2 Kings 8:1-2
 
“Walking by Faith”
2 Kings 8:1-6
 
I.  This account teaches us:
       1) Not to put our trust in material wealth (1; 2 Kings 4:8; 1 Timothy 6:17-18)
 
 
 
 
 
 
       2) The perfect timing of God’s providence (3-5)
 
 
 
 
 
 
       3) God’s faithful and abundant care for His people (6)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 II. Applications:
      1) The essence of faith for the Shunammite, and all who believe, involves taking God at His word (1-2), walking by faith and not by sight
          (2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1)  
 
 
 
 
 
 
      2) God works out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (6, Romans 8:28), but ultimately He works out
          all things for our good in our heavenly home, not just on earth (Hebrews 11:9-10, 13, 35-38)

 

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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