The prophet had been pacing back and forth, back and forth in the small room that had been built specifically for him, waiting for a response. God would do this thing, the prophet felt, to establish His authority with the people.
Shunem, a small village in the land of the tribe of Issachar, had hosted the prophet before. Elisha had come through the area preaching God’s message, and had been entertained by a husband and wife who had great wealth. In fact, they had built a small room on the roof of their house, with a bed, a chair, a table and a lamp specifically so that Elisha could stay there whenever he was in town.
Elisha was grateful for the couple’s ministry to him, and asked what he could do for them in return. The couple did not want anything, but Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, said, “She has no son, and her husband is old!”
Having a son was very important to the people of ancient Israel. Every Jewish woman thought that giving birth to a son opened the possibility that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. But this woman had no son, and a husband who was not likely to give her one.
“This time next year,” Elisha said to the woman, “you will hold a son in your arms.” She protested. “Please don’t mislead me and raise my hopes,” she said.
But soon she and her husband found her pregnant, and she gave birth to a son just as Elisha had prophesied.
But now the boy, several years later, had been stricken. “My head! My head!” he had cried out. His father had a servant carry the boy to his mother, who had the servant lay the boy on the prophet’s bed in the room she and her husband had built for him.
Then she set out to find the prophet. At Mount Carmel she found him, and complained to him that she had not asked for a son, and now he was dying, and probably was dead and why did he do this to her?
Elisha sent Gehazi ahead with instructions to get to the boy as quickly as possible and lay the prophet’s staff on the boy’s face. Gehazi obeyed, but found no evidence the boy was breathing. He ran back to the approaching Elisha to report his findings.
When Elisha got to the boy, he sent Gehazi and the boy’s mother from the room. He shut the door and prayed to God. Then he did a strange thing. He stretched himself out on top of the boy on the bed, his mouth on the boy’s mouth, eye-to-eye, and his hands on the boy’s hands. He lay for some time, and the boy’s body was warmed by the prophet’s body.
Then he got off the bed and began pacing. Had the Lord not clearly given him the prophecy that the couple would have a son? And had the Lord not just now instructed the prophet to lay on the boy and give warmth to his body? And would the Lord not do what He said He would do?
Elisha tried a second time. He stretched out on the boy’s body once again.
Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!
The boy’s eyes opened. Elisha had Gehazi bring the mother in. “Take your son,” he said. And she did, bowing before the prophet and thanking him for what God had done through him.
Today, a sneeze reminds me of the power of God to keep His word to His people. It is appropriate to say, “God bless you” when a person sneezes. God certainly blessed a boy and his parents when the boy sneezed seven times.
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