Archive for the ‘Shunammite Woman’ Tag

Elisha, the Shunammite Woman, and Revolution in Aram   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hazael of Aram

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXVII

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2 Kings 8:1-15

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If you do a kindness, know to whom you do it,

and you will be thanked for your good deeds.

Do good to a godly man, and you will be repaid–

if not by him, certainly by the Most High.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 12:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ben-Hadad I of Aram (Reigned 880-842 B.C.E.)

King Hazael of Aram (Reigned 842-806 B.C.E.)

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2 Kings 8:1-6 is a sequel to 2 Kings 4:8-37.  The juxtaposition of the two stories in 2 Kings 8:1-15 reveals (not uniquely–see 2 Kings 6:1-23, too) Elisha’s concern for individuals and geopolitics alike.

Back in 1 Kings 19:15, God had commanded Elijah to anoint Hazael as King of Aram.  Elisha fulfilled that order in 2 Kings 8:7-15.  God’s choice grieved Elisha, properly.  King Hazael came to the throne via murder and went on to oppress Israel from 2 Kings 9 to 2 Kings 13.

The second story invites us to ponder uncomfortable questions about divine purposes.  In following that lead, I seek to strike a balance.  On one hand, I want to acknowledge that God refuses to fit into human theological boxes and categories.  Any God concept that does fit into them is merely an idol and an example of creating God in one’s own image.  On the other hand, I strike to be careful not to depict God as a callous figure.  Whenever I hear many people’s statements that a terrible event must have been the will of God, I cringe at the God of their faith.  No wonder many people reject belief in God!  If I thought that God was like that, I would seek solace in atheism, too.

Theological balance is essential.  I strive for it without knowing where it is sometimes.  Fortunately, I need not rely on my own powers in these matters; grace abounds.  Besides, I doubt that one must pass a canonical examination to receive salvation.  Faith and false certainty are opposites.  Faith leaves much room for many unanswered questions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HUGH O’FLAHERTY, “SCARLET PIMPERNEL OF THE VATICAN”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARCELLUS THE CENTURION AND CASSIAN OF TANGIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 298

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLEKSA ZARYTSKY, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1963

THE FEAST OF WALTER JOHN MATHAMS, BRITISH BAPTIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Four Miracles of Elisha   Leave a comment

Above:  The Shunammite Woman and Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXIII

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2 Kings 4:1-44

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In you, O LORD, I seek refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me!

Incline your ear to me,

rescue me speedily!

Be a rock of refuge for me,

a strong fortress to save me!

–Psalm 31:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Miracle stories attested to the bona fides of a prophet, in the cases of Elijah and Elisha.  These miracles were practical in 2 Kings 4.  A poor widow’s children did not become slaves because God, acting through Elisha, enabled their mother to pay her debts.  The Shunammite woman gave birth to a son, who died and whom Elisha restored to life.  Flour neutralized a natural poison.  A hundred men ate from a small quantity of food, and there were leftovers afterward.

One may recall 1 Kings 17 and think of the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.  One may detect similarities between that account and the first two stories in 2 Kings 4.

One may also notice a similarity between 2 Kings 4:38-41 and 2 Kings 2:19-22, another miracle story involving Elisha.

One, looking forward, may also detect a similarity between 2 Kings 4:42-44 and Gospel accounts of Jesus feeding thousands of people with a small quantity of food, as well as having leftovers afterward.  The difference between 100 men, in the case of Elisha, and 4000-plus and 5000-plus, in the cases of Jesus, point to the Son of God being greater than Elisha.

I live in a town in a university town in the U.S. South.  College football is the dominant cultus in my community.  (Sports have legitimate places in society, but not as quasi-religions.)  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one could easily stand at a particular intersection near campus on a home game day and see people holding signs reading,

I NEED TICKETS.

Desires are not needs.  Necessities include food, shelter, and clothing.  One can lead a full life without ever attending a football game.  Wisdom entails know the difference between “I want” and “I need.”  If one has wrestled with mortality, one may have a strong sense of what is necessary and what is merely desirable.

The focus on necessities in these four miracle stories reinforces a major teaching in the Bible.  God cares about what we need.  And God frequently provides our necessities via human beings.  There is enough for all people to have a sufficient supply of their necessities at all times.  The problem relates to distribution, not supply.  And the fulfillment of certain desires is harmless while the fulfillment of other desires is dangerous.  The fulfillment of proper desires can improve the quality of one’s life.  That is important.  But desires are still not necessities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXI

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1 Kings 17:1-24

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And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

–Psalm 2:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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For a while, kings have occupied the forefront in the narrative.  From this point to 2 Kings 13, they will continue to do so much of the time.  However, monarchs will occupy the background instead from this point to 2 Kings 13.  Stories of Elijah start in 1 Kings 17 and terminate in 2 Kings 2.  Stories of Elisha begin in 1 Kings 19 and end in 2 Kings 13.  Some of the most famous Biblical stories come from 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13.  Some of them are also repetitive, given the overlapping traditions regarding Elijah and Elisha.  1 Kings 17, for example, bears a striking resemblance to 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha, the Shunammite woman, and her son.

The sneak preview is over.  Now I focus on 1 Kings 17:1-24.

The deification of nature is one of the oldest patterns in religion.  The multiplicity of gods and goddesses with specific portfolios (rain, the Moon, the Sun, et cetera) for thousands of years and in a plethora of cultures proves this assertion.  Old habits can be difficult to break, and monotheism is a relative latecomer to the party.  Also, attempting to appease the gods and goddesses or some of them, at least, without the strictures is relatively easy.  Lest we monotheists rest on our laurels, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, the Law of Moses, the testimony of Hebrew prophets, and the New Testament warn us not to mistake God for an absentee landlord.  The Gospels, for example, contain many cautions to the self-identified insiders that they may actually be outsiders.  

Baal Peor, a storm god, was powerless against a severe, multi-year drought.  Of course he was; Baal Peor was a figment of many imaginations.

The drought of 1 Kings 17:1-18:46 contains a call back to Deuteronomy 11:13-17.  (I like connecting the dots, so to speak, in the Bible.)  Speaking of connecting the dots, Jesus referred to God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the synagogue in Nazareth, to the great displeasure of his audience, in Luke 4:26.  The Gospel of Luke, addressed to Gentiles, included that reference, absent from parallel accounts of the rejection at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6a and Matthew 13:54-58.

Zarephath was in Phoenician–Gentile–territory.  King Ahab of Israel had no jurisdiction there, but Queen Jezebel may have been familiar with the territory, given her origin.  The widow was especially vulnerable, given her precarious economic status.  Her faith contrasted with the evil Queen Jezebel and with the faithlessness of many Hebrews.

Whenever I read a text, I seek first to understand objectively what it says.  Then I interpret it.  The text describes Elijah as a wonder-worker.  The refilling jar of flour and jug of oil may stretch credulity, from a post-Enlightenment perspective.  The resurrection of the widow’s son does, certainly.  Yet, in the cultural context of 1 Kings 17, those elements fit in and give Elijah his bona fides.  If we understand that much, we grasp objectively what the text says.

Happy are all they who take refuge in God.  They may even include Gentiles and other alleged outsiders.  And many alleged insiders may really be outsiders.  The grace of God is for all people, although not everyone accepts it.  These are also themes prominent in both the Old and New Testaments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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2 Kings and Ephesians, Part III: Building Each Other Up   1 comment

female-sign

Above:  Female Sign

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:8-22, 32-37 (September 6)

2 Kings 4:38-5:8 (September 7)

Psalm 85 (Morning–September 6)

Psalm 61 (Morning–September 7)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–September 6)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–September 7)

Ephesians 5:15-33 (September 6)

Ephesians 6:1-24 (September 7)

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Some Related Posts:

2 Kings 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/proper-12-year-b/

Ephesians 5-6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/proper-15-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/proper-26-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-2/

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Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–Ephesians 5:21, Revised English Bible

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That is the verse upon which Ephesians 5:22-6:9 hangs.  To read any portion thereof outside of the context of 5:21 is to distort the meaning of any of those verses.  A common Christian expectation at the time was that Jesus might return next week or next month or next year, so a revolution in social structure or economic realities was not on the table; preparing for the Second Coming took precedence.  Since Jesus has not returned by January 4, 2013, when I type these words, I propose that those are matters worthy of moral and theological consideration.  To do so is to honor the Golden Rule.

I have kept the Ephesians readings together.  In so doing, however, I have divided the story of Naaman.  So be it; I will deal with that story in the next post in this series.  But I have been able to pair advice from Ephesians with miracle stories involving Elisha.  Many of those tales echo Elijah miracle stories, by the way.

I did notice a common thread involving women.  The Shunammite woman needed her son for her financial security in her patriarchal society.  But the text from Ephesians advises the mutual submission of wives and husbands to each other and both of them to Christ.  Wives and husbands have sacred obligations to each other; they belong to each other.  This is a beautiful teaching, even if patriarchy does stain it.

The Letter to the Ephesians, as scholars have noted, displays great unity.  The end follows nicely from what precedes it:  Act for the common good; build each other up.  That was what Elijah did for the Shunammite woman.  That is what we are called to do for each other today, where we are.  The only situational aspect of this ethic is what the details will be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I, KING OF SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, QUAKER FOUNDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-6-and-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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