Because the father of British composer Thomas Arne was an undertaker, the younger Arnes violin teacher, the eminent violinist Michael Festing, once found Arne practicing with his music propped up on the lid of a coffin. Rattled by his students unusual arrangements, Festing said that he himself would be unable to play under such conditions for fear there might be a body in the coffin. “So there is,” replied Arne coolly, raising the lid to provide proof.
Death is always unsettling, and Festing was certainly not alone in feeling uncomfortable in its presence. But when death is sudden and untimely, its effects are more than just unsettling. Witness, for example, the agony and bewilderment of the Shunammite woman in verses 22-28 of todays lesson. Shunem was a tiny village, nestled in the rolling hills south of the Sea of Galilee. This woman seemed to have everything. She was wealthy and apparently happily marriedjust the opposite of the widow we met yesterday. Her only regret may have been that she was childless.
One day she saw the prophet Elisha walking down a street in her village. Realizing that he was a stranger in town, she invited him in for a meal. That meal started a family tradition in which the prophet and his servant Gehazi would eat at her house each time they visited Shunem. Eventually the woman and her husband built a cozy bed-and-breakfast for the prophet on the roof of their house, and he became a regular guest. Wanting to repay the woman, Elisha told her that she would have a son. But what God gave, God seemed to take away when the boy fell ill and died. After his death, the woman searched separately for Elisha. The look on her face and distress in her voice was enough to tell him what had happened, for the boys death was never mentioned to the prophet. In seeking Elisha, of course, the woman was really reaching out in faith to Godand she was rewarded with the restoration of her son, just like the widow from Zarephath (I Kings 17).
Elisha duplicated the greatest miracle of Elijah, and another village had undeniable testimony to the true God.