Is It Well With Thee?
December 10th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
2 Kings 4:8-37
IS IT WELL WITH THEE?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Kings 4:8-37
12-10-61 7:30 p.m.
The title of the sermon tonight is that hymn: Is It Well With Thee? We read together 2 Kings, chapter 4 beginning at verse 27, reading through verse 37. We are reading about a great Shunammite woman as she came to Gehazi and to Elisha. A Shunammite, Gehazi, and Elisha; those are the three words you will find in this story that we read together. Second Kings, chapter 4, verse 27 and reading through verse 37. Now all of us reading it together, 2 Kings 4, 27 through 37:
And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child. And the mother of the child said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.
And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked. And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. And he went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, 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 he 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. And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son. Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.
[2 Kings 4:27-37]
Following the life of these men of God through the Old Testament: the mantle of Elijah fell upon Elisha [2 Kings 2:13]. And the sons of the prophets who were in Jericho, seeing Elisha come back from the other side of the Jordan in the strength and the power of the translated prophet, looking upon his face they said, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha” [2 Kings 2:15].
Then the younger man begins his ministry in the Lord. And as he walked up and down the land of Israel, teaching Word of the Book, calling men to repentance and to faith and to Jehovah God, it fell on a day that he passed by Shunem [2 Kings 4:8]. On little Moreh, there are three towns; one here, one here, and one here. En-dor, and Nain, and Shunem; there they are, those three villages. And as he passed by that hill and the little town of Shunem, there was in the village an unusually gifted and noble woman.
The only time in the Word of God that a woman is called great is here in 2 Kings 4:8. And this unusual and gifted woman, as she saw Elisha in his journeys pass by, said to her husband, “This is a man of God that passeth by us continually. Come, let us build,” it has in your Bible, “a little chamber on the wall” [2 Kings 4:9-10], that is, on the second floor, upstairs.
“Let us make an upstairs room, a little chamber on the wall in the second floor. Let us build a little room on the second floor. And let us set for him there a table, and a stool, and a candlestick, and a bed. And it shall be that when he passes by, he will turn in thither” [2 Kings 4:9-10].
That is the beginning of the word, “the prophet’s chamber.” And for the thousands of years since then, it has been imitated all over this earth. When I was pastor of a country church, one of the godly men whom the Lord had prospered financially built a nice and beautiful home. And in that home, he built a room for me, and he called it the “prophet’s chamber.” And when I went out to the country to preach in that little church, usually I stayed in that room in that home that they had made for me. “Let us make a little prophet’s chamber. And I will set a table there, and a stool there, and a candlestick, and a bed, and in that little room, when he comes by, he will turn in thither” [2 Kings 4:10], and it happened just that way [2 Kings 4:11].
You want the preacher in your home? Invite him! You want to feed him? Cook for him! You want a place for him to stay? Make it! I don’t know whether he will do it nowadays or not, but he sure used to. Ah, I miss being with those people. There are many great things about a city; many wonderful things in the busy, flourishing, going life of a big town. But don’t you ever be persuaded that all the blessings are to be found in the big city; out there in that village and out there in that country, there are untold benedictions, and that’s one of them.
I used to know every dog, and every cat, every in-law, every skeleton in the closet, every circle of the whole family of everybody in the whole country. I lived with them. Why, man! I could put half of them in jail if I had just gone to tell the sheriff what I knew about them. Ah, just live in the heart and in the homes of the people. Well, it was that kind of a thing about Elisha. And when he passed by that little village of Shunem, on the side of the little Moreh, that’s where he stayed.
Well, it fell on a day that when Elisha was there that he got to thinking about the kindness of that blessed woman, so he called in Gehazi and said, “Gehazi, call this Shunammite.” And the woman came and stood before him. And he said unto her: “Look, thou hast been careful for us with all this care, good to us with all this goodness, kind with all this kindness. Now, I would love to do something for you. Would you like to be spoken of to the king?” [2 Kings 4:13]. Would you like to enter government service and you and your husband move to Washington D.C. and be appointed there to some high place of responsibility, would you? Or, said Elisha, “Would you like for me to speak of you to the captain of the hosts, and you and your husband in a military career and be connected with the army? Would you like the glamour and the glitter of the life political in the capital city of Samaria? Or would you like the authority that goes with being an officer in the army?”
Now, she was a great woman and wife. She said, “No, I don’t like the social bondage of that kind of a life.” I say, she was wise. Some people have to give themselves to the political life of America, or our country would not exist. And some people have to give themselves to the study of an authoritarian responsibility in the army, but I want you to know people—and especially women—who pant after social prestige and the glitter of social life, confine themselves to an everlasting and unhappy and miserable bondage! You have to do it? Fine. But to seek it, to me of all things, is impossible.
Why, I know people who do nothing else than go from one cocktail party to another and spend their lives trying to outshine and out-host and out-entertain and outdo where they have just been done with. And it just is a rat race! It’s an endless circle, on and on and on. This woman had the opportunity, she was great woman and a gifted woman; she had the opportunity with her husband to be in the court or to be in the authority over men in the army.
“No,” she said, “I love my country home, and my country life, and these country ways, and these country people.” Now, if I were a good song singer, I would sing for you “Those gentle hearts and those kind hearts, those dear hearts and gentle people.” Would you like for me to sing it whether I can sing it or not? That’s one of the sweetest songs that America has ever sung. Most of the times the songs they sing are so suggestive that they make you blush. And the rhythm of it is just impossible, but whoever wrote that song reflected the spirit of somebody’s hometown. That used to be the strength of America.
Just like this dear woman. “No, I’ll stay on the farm in the home.” Well, Elisha wanted to do something, so Gehazi said to him, he said, “My father, this is a beautiful country home with its spacious grounds and the fine furniture and all of the ability that they have to provide for themselves, but there’s no cradle in the home. And there’s no little rocking chair, and there’s no highchair, there’s no child” [2 Kings 4:14]. And Elisha said, “Call this Shunammite” [2 Kings 4:15]. And he looks at her, and he says, “According to the season of the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son” [2 Kings 4:16]. Ah, the gift of God! And according to the word of Elisha the prophet and according to the season of life, there came into that home, into the after years of their lives—for he was old—there came this little bundle from heaven [2 Kings 4:17].
Little Billy mused as he looked at his squalling baby brother, and he said, “I know why they say he comes from heaven, they put him out!” That little bundle of divinity that cries all night, but makes life, life.
So in the gladness of the home, the little boy grows up, and he’s a teenager now. And it fell upon a day that his father was out reaping in the heat of the summertime. I know this little boy was spoiled, and I know that he was the apple of his father’s eye, and I know that the mother petted him all day and all night because when the little boy went out there where they were working, he got a sunstroke [2 Kings 4:18-19]—you see, he hadn’t been outside—Mother kept him inside.
He hadn’t been with the boys. He was reared exactly like I was. My mother wouldn’t let me go hunting—I’d get shot. She wouldn’t let me go swimming—I’d get drowned. She wouldn’t let me go around with the boys, I’d pick up bad language. She certainly wouldn’t let me go with the girls, she didn’t dare think what might happen to me! Now you think I’m kidding you, but I was raised just like that, just like that. My mother doted on me all day and all night, seven days out of the week! If you know my mother, that’s exactly—and some of you do—that’s exactly the way I was fetched up. Man, had I been out there in the hot sun, I’d had a sunstroke, too!
Well, this little boy, the apple of her eye, the treasure of her heart, the gift of God, well, he went out to see his daddy while they were harvesting wheat and had a sunstroke, and said, “My head. My head.” And the father—and isn’t this typical?—the father said to one of his servants, “Carry the boy to his mother.” She had been taking care of him and loved him, “Carry the boy to his mother” [2 Kings 4:19]. And this is one of the saddest things that you could think of. So the boy was carried to his mother. She took him in her arms and held him, and he died in his mother’s arms [2 Kings 4:20].
Well, you would think that here is a case now of a neurotic woman, she’s going to pieces. You’d think, “Well, here is a case of everlasting despair!” For she put her life and her love and every dream of every future day, she had put it all in the life of that little boy. It will amaze you, the strength of a godly woman. It will astonish you!
One time—I remember my old pastor, when I was a boy—I remember my old pastor told a story that went like this: there was a little boy, the only child in the home, and the little fellow died. And as they did when I was a youth, they always brought the casket back to the home, and there you would sit up all night in what they called a “wake.” You would sit all night long with the family, and all the people came to the home to view the remains; that was always the way it was when I grew up and when I was a young pastor.
Well, the little boy’s body was in the casket placed in the living room in the home, and the big strong man went to see the doctor especially, and he said, “Doctor, I’m afraid for my little wife. This is our only child, and she loved the little fellow, and now that he’s taken away, I am afraid for the very life of my little wife. Won’t you come and comfort her and give her things to make her strong.”
And the doctor went with the husband, and they went into the house, this big strong man—the husband—and the doctor, and as they went through the house and to the room in which the little casket was placed, they heard somebody talking, and they stopped. And as they listened, that little woman—the mother—was down on her knees by the side of the casket, and she was praying like this: “Now, dear Lord, you know that my husband is not a Christian, and this great sadness has come into our home, and he’s not prepared. Dear Lord, I’m praying that God will give strength to my husband. And through this sorrow, may he come to trust in Thee and to lean upon Thee.”
Why, it was an astonishing thing! Here that big man was getting a physician, a doctor, in order to minister to the frailty of the needs of his little wife. And there she was on her knees praying that God would sustain him even in his unbelief and through the sorrow bring him to a saving knowledge of the blessed Jesus.
Well, I repeat, it will astonish you the strength of a godly woman And this woman was just such: she made her way all the journey to Mount Carmel [2 Kings 4:22-25]. And when she came, Elisha saw her down the road. And he said to Gehazi, “Gehazi, is that not that Shunammite? Run now, I pray thee, and ask her, Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? Why this long journey in the heat of the day?”
And when she met Gehazi, he said, “Is it well?” And she says, “It is well” [2 Kings 4:25-26]. And she passed him by and came to the man of God and fell at his feet, and Gehazi thrust her away. “No, don’t you do that lady like this,” said Elisha, “Don’t you do that. She is troubled, and God has not told me what it is” [2 Kings 4:27]. And then the mother poured out her heart. “You told me I would have a son, and why did you deceive me, that you took him away?” [2 Kings 4:28]. And Elisha said to Gehazi, “Take my staff and lay it on his face” [2 Kings 4:29].
So Gehazi left and put the staff on the face of the child [2 Kings 4:31]. The mother said, “As thy soul liveth and as my soul liveth, and as the Lord liveth, I will not leave thee except thou dost come.” So Elisha follows [2 Kings 4:30]. Gehazi puts his staff on the face of the child, and nothing happens [2 Kings 4:31], but Elisha puts himself on the child, and the child is raised and given back in the arms of the mother [2 Kings 4:32-36].
Now, I want you to look at this carefully: first of all, I want you to look at the difference between Gehazi and Elisha. Gehazi—let me say it like this: it’s a remarkable thing how intuitively a woman will know a man, intuitively. You don’t teach her, she’s had no experience with him, maybe never come in close contact with him, but intuitively she will know him. This great woman at Shunem intuitively knew what Gehazi was and what he was like. When Gehazi met her in her sorrow and asked her, “Is it well? Is it well?” She answered, “Why, yes. Everything is all right” [2 Kings 4:26].
Don’t you do that every day of your life? Walk down the street with a burden on your heart that crushes your soul and somebody says, “How is everything?” And you say, “Oh, just fine,” go right on. Don’t you do that all the time?
That’s especially the way she did with Gehazi. Had it been somebody to whom she would have entrusted her soul, and you’d ask, “How is it with you?” She might break into tears and say, “I have a burden on my heart that I can’t bear!” But you don’t do that to somebody like a Gehazi. “It’s all right,” she said, “everything was just fine” [2 Kings 4:26]. And there was a dead boy lying in her house at home [2 Kings 4:20], “It is just fine, everything is just fine.” You would never know; you would never know, not to a Gehazi.
Now, look again at Gehazi. When she came and fell at the feet of Elisha, weeping and sobbing, Gehazi came to thrust her away [2 Kings 4:27]. That’s very typical. “Get out. Get out. No time for you, get out!” And then you can tell intuitively in this woman, her size-up of Gehazi, he could have laid a thousand staffs and prayed a thousand prayers, that boy would never come to life.
And to show you the verification of her intuitive size-up of Gehazi, just turn the page to the next chapter, and there you’ll find that Gehazi—a liar and a thief—was afflicted with the leprosy that was an ailment all the days of his life and all of the seed of his house forever [2 Kings 5:20-27]. That’s Gehazi, and this woman knew it intuitively [2 Kings 4:26]; nobody taught her, she just knew it, like a woman knows things.
Now I want you to look at Elisha. Gehazi goes and puts his staff on the face of the child, that’s his way [2 Kings 4:31]. And I want you to look at Elisha, how he does. Elisha comes, and when he sees the boy lying on his bed, up there in the prophet’s chamber, when he comes up and sees the boy lying there, he puts himself on the dead body of that boy [2 Kings 4:34]. Spiritual life in contact with death; takes a whole lot of religion to do that. And he put his mouth over the mouth of the boy, and he put his heart over the heart of the boy, and he put his eyes on the eyes of the boy and stretched out his hands on the hands of the boy, and the warmth of the life of Elisha was poured into the dead corpse of the boy [2 Kings 4:34-35]. And he prayed, and he asked God [2 Kings 4:33]; what a difference between a staff and a life!
Now, listen to this: I don’t know how many times we are persuaded that we’ll get people saved by some kind of a mechanical gadget! We lay the staff on the face of the dead in trespasses and in sins, and we have the persuasion that if we’ll get this machine working just right, and if we’ll get these cogs turning just so, and if we get this organization producing just as it ought, why, there the dead in trespasses and in sins will be resurrected to life again. And we’ve got that persuasion, all of us, all the time.
We’re going to get these people to Christ by some kind of a gimmick. We’re going to get these people saved by some kind of, by some kind of an organized effort, and we’re going to produce great soul-saving results for Jesus by some kind of a mechanical maneuver! We’ve got a staff we’re going to put on the face of the dead child. When actually, the only way people are going to be saved is in the warm, spiritual, fervent devoted life of God’s people, and it won’t come any other way. Not finally, not finally.
Our hearts must be laid over their hearts, and our prayers and tears and the warmth of our spiritual life must be poured out for them. Most people tell me that when they go to church, the atmosphere of the church is cold and indifferent and removed. And once in a while, a stranger will come and say to me, “The greatest thing that I know about this First Baptist Church, this big downtown country church, is the warmth of its spirit and the open-heartedness of its people.” It’s in an atmosphere like that that the dead can be raised to life again. And Elisha put himself, not his staff [2 Kings 4:21], he put himself on the child [2 Kings 4:33-35]. And God answered prayer, and the dead were raised again [2 Kings 4:36].
Now, to my sermon. “Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? Is it well with thee?” [2 Kings 4:26]. If God were to call you into His presence tonight, are you saved? Are you saved? I am overwhelmed by how quickly one can be called into the presence of the Lord. I had a funeral service a few days ago at which a fine noble sister of the deceased was present. I want you to know, she went from that service with a headache, a tumor, and in a few days, she also was dead. Ah, these things. You say, “Oh, but preacher, I’ve got a lease on life, you’re not talking to me! I’ll be here fifty years from now. I’ll be here seventy-five years from now. I stand on the very threshold!” You don’t know, there’s no man has any mortgage on any tomorrow. We may be in heaven or we may be in lost damnation, according to whether we’re saved or not. We may be in one or the other by tomorrow morning, any one of us, any one of us, “Is it well with thee?
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
Or when sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
. . .
And Lord—and Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back like a scroll;
The trumpet shall sound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so—it is all right, I’m saved—even so, it is well with my soul.
[“It Is Well With My Soul”; Horatio Spafford, 1873]
That’s the song you just got through singing. How blessedly, preciously, comforting it is to lie down at night, “Lord, if I don’t wake up, I’ll be with Thee. If my eyes don’t open to this world, I’ll see Thee face to face before the rising of the sun. It is well with my soul.” Is it well with your family? Are they all in the fold? Are they? Is it well with the child? Is he saved?
When I was a youth, when I was a youth—a boy—I followed behind a mother and a father, weeping, oh, lamenting! They had to sustain her, the mother, crying over her boy that was dead, “Oh, my boy, my boy!” as she wept and she cried. You know, I philosophized then even as a youth, even as a youth. She had another boy, and he was in my class. That boy was sent to the penitentiary for attempting the robbery of a Post Office. And he was so vile and so wicked that in the federal penitentiary a fellow convict took a baseball bat and beat his brains out. That’s what happened to the boy that was in my class, and I repeat, as a little fellow, I philosophized as I walked along to the cemetery—as that mother and father wept over the boy that was dead, and I philosophized as a boy. It seems to me that what the father and mother ought to do is to weep over the boy that is alive. It seemed to me that way.
And as the days passed and I saw the progress, the retrogression of that lad and finally into the death by the hands of the fellow convict in the federal penitentiary, as I thought of it all the way through the years, I never changed my persuasion, that had the father and mother wept over the boy that was alive, he’d never landed in somebody’s jail cell, and he’d never died under the bludgeoning of another criminal. Now I’m not saying we ought not to weep over our dead, and I’m not saying we ought not to miss these that God has taken away. I am just saying that let’s mostly pour out our tears over these who are living that they might be saved. Is it well with the circle of your family? Are they saved?
Is it well with all whom you know? Is your boss a Christian? Are these who work for you, are they Christian? Does the milkman who comes to your door—is he a Christian? Does the telephone repairman who comes into your house—is he a Christian? Is the salesgirl that waits on you—O Lord, why don’t I do better for Thee? Why am I not a more consciously committed soulwinner for Thee? Is it well with thee? Is it well with the circle of the family? Is it well with the child? Are we saved? Are we saved? Is it right between us and God?
While we sing this hymn of appeal, and while our people prayerfully, earnestly sustain this invitation, if you’ve never given your heart to Jesus, do it now. “Preacher, I give my life and my soul to God, and in token thereof, I give you my hand. Here I come. Here I am.”
Is there a family God sends to us in the fellowship of our blessed church? You come tonight. Is there one somebody you, whom the Lord sends to us this evening? On the first note of that first stanza, make it tonight. Make it tonight. As the Spirit of Jesus shall open the way, shall say the word to your heart, while our people pray and sing the hymn of appeal, come, in this balcony round, you, on this lower floor, somebody you. And when you go out that door tonight, “Preacher, if I were to be summoned to face God before the rising of the sun, I can in faith and in trust look up. It’s right, it’s well between me and God. And I trust God for it, and in faith and in turning, I offer Him the commitment and the destiny of my soul, and here I am, here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.
IS IT WELL WITH THEE?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Kings 4:8-37
I. First great woman in the Bible
1. She recognizes Elisha as a man of God
2. Builds a room on her house for Elisha
3. Elisha stayed in that room regularly
4. She was not tied to worldly things
II. Strength of a godly woman
1. Loss of son results in prayer for unsaved husband
2. Loss of woman’s son results in her seeking Elisha only, the man of God
III. Gehazi could not bring the son back to life
IV. We should treat the grieving mother like Elisha
V. We should grieve over the lost like Elisha