Thursday, July 19, 2012

Restorative Justice

We have been looking at the justice of God as it was enacted through some of His righteous leaders. We studied the leader Samuel (1 Sam 7:3-11, 15-17), as well as King David (2 Sam 23:1-7; 1 Chron 18:14). We also studied the wisdom and justice King Solomon used as a vessel for God in judging His people. (I Kings 3:16-28; 2 Chronicles 9:8) In today’s lesson we see God’s justice enacted through an indirect and unintentional belief in Elisha, the man of God. (2 Kings 8:1-6)

Our lesson can best be understood by a review of 2 Kings 4:8-37. We are introduced to the prophet Elisha, the faithful servant of Elijah. It was Elisha who received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit when he witnessed his master disappear in the heavens. In chapter 4 of 2 Kings, we are also introduced to a certain woman who lives in Shunem. Elisha finds cause to pass through Shunem often in performing his ministerial duties. His servant is Gehazi. The woman is married and they possess some wealth. They have a home, land, livestock, and servants. She is a Godly woman, very hospitable. She would often encourage Elisha and Gehazi to break bread with them. Elisha accepted her gracious offer. So she asked her husband for permission to build an additional room for the sole purpose of extending a more comfortable stay to Elisha. He accepted and because of such gracious hospitality he inquired ‘…Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.’ (vs 13) At that point Elisha discussed with Gehazi how to bless the woman and they decided she had no son. Elisha called her and advised her she would be blessed with a son “…about this season, according to life…” (vs 16) She dearly wanted a son as she did not have children. She had not sought anything and was hoping Elisha had not deceived her. She did conceive the son, as prophesied, but years later he became sick in the fields. The father had a servant carry him in to the mother and he died in her lap. She put him in Elisha’s bed. She did not begin making funeral arrangements. She asked her husband for permission to go to Mt. Carmel. He did not know she was going to see Elisha and wondered why she was going when it was not a holiday. Yet he gave her permission. When Elisha saw her coming he sent Gehazi ahead to find out the problem. She did not tell it to the servant. She wanted to speak to the prophet. When she reached Elisha, she asked why he deceived her by giving her a son she did not ask for only to take him away. Elisha sent Gehazi ahead with his staff to Shunem to heal the child. However, she refused to leave Elisha behind. She must have felt the staff would not be enough. Gehazi met them on his way back from Shunem to let them know the child was not breathing. Elisha ‘…went in …, and prayed unto the LORD. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.’ (vs 33-35) The thankful mother received her child back to life.

We now understand the relationship between the Shunammite woman and the man of God, Elisha. She truly trusted him and knew his word to be of God. So when ‘…spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years. And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.’ 2Kings 8:1-2, we understand she put her trust in the word of the man of God. (This may have been the famine that is recorded at 2 Kings 4:38.) It was good to know the prophet told her a seven year famine was forthcoming. She could plan and move while she still had healthy livestock and wealth. Her household moved out of Israel to the land of the Philistines where there was no drought. Israel was under punishment by God for its disobedience and she had been blessed of God to have been warned by the man of God to leave the land.

‘And it came to pass at the seven years' end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land.’ 2 Kings 8:3 At the end of the seven year period prophesied by Elisha, the Shunammite woman immediately returned home with her household. Nothing is said of her husband. But she alone finds that her house and land has been taken from her. Scripture does not say who seized her land. It could have been the government (king) using various avenues, a neighbor who extended his boundary, the family of her deceased husband, etc. It does say she wants it restored and she does not go to Elisha. She will go to the king herself because she did not want to lose her land for listening to God’s prophet to save her family from famine.

‘And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done.’ 2 Kings 8:4 The King has summoned Gehazi to acquaint himself with all Elisha’s miracles and his complete ministry. Who better able to advise the King about the famous prophet than his armor bearer, Gehazi? Unfortunately, some people think this chapter must have been out of sequence because Gehazi was stricken with leprosy for his greed when Naaman was cured and attempted to pay Elisha in chapter 5 of 2 Kings. They reason that Gehazi, as a leper, would not be in the king’s presence. I believe that God would have Gehazi, the leper, in the king’s presence at just the right time to make sure he was not ignorant of any situation. Nothing is impossible with God. A leper is able to communicate with the king if it is the will of God.

‘And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.’ 2 Kings 8:5 Gehazi looked up as he was witnessing to the king about all the good things Elisha had done. It was then that he saw the Shunammite woman and her son walk in to see the king. “Verify my story with her! This is the woman and her son who was raised from the dead!” he said.

‘And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now.’ 2 Kings 8:6 And it was by the mighty hand of God that the Shunammite woman so happened to be in the king’s presence at that very same hour. When asked of all the miracles, she confirmed Gehazi’s story. Then she petitioned the king stating she owned house and land, the prophet Elisha stated she must leave it because the Lord would bring a seven-year famine, she had returned immediately after seven years, and someone had taken her house and lands. The king responded by not only restoring her house and land, but all produce or proceeds from the crops that was grown during the seven year period. He also appointed a certain officer of the palace, a eunuch to handle her restoration affairs. The Shunammite woman was restored through God’s justice.

In today’s world we see people move temporarily to take jobs and, upon their return, they find their homes are occupied by squatters. They are in court fighting adverse possession laws. People are fighting the government for their land under eminent domain laws. Then there are so many foreclosures. God’s justice is the best justice for restoration. Seek it and things happen you don’t expect.

Written by Deborah C Davis

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