Hospitality: A Call to Open Hearts and Homes
2 Kings 4:8-17 (ESV)
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman
8 One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. 9 And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. 10 Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.”
11 One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. 12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” 14 And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 And he said, “At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.” 17 But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.
Digging into God’s Word
This is a beautiful and tender miracle! The first part of 2 Kings is so chock-full of miracles that if I focused on that in every devotion, you would get tired of me saying, “Look at that miracle! Isn’t God amazing? Look what He can do in your life!” All of that is remarkably true. Even so, let’s look at this account from a different angle.
If I were to draw a vertical line down the middle of a piece of paper and list on that line my spiritual gifts, with those characteristics the Holy Spirit has most gifted me with at the top and my lesser gifts at the bottom, we would find faith and teaching near the top, leadership maybe midway down, and at the very bottom, trailing off the edge of the paper, hospitality.
It is embarrassing! My pastor talks about offering “refrigerator rights” to guests in our homes, meaning people should be able to come in and grab what they want from the fridge, and I’m all like, “What you talkin’ bout, Willis?” So I am preaching to myself in this devotion.
The woman from Shumen is to be learned from.
First, she was wise about who she hosted. From her dinner conversations with Elisha, she knew He was a godly man. Don’t you wish you could have been a bug on the wall at her dinner table? Imagine serving supper to this great prophet of God, a man to whom God spoke directly.
Once the visits from Elisha became frequent, the woman suggested to her husband that they build an addition onto their home. Elisha could stay overnight and have a room to himself. Now, that is hospitality! I love the detail we get of this special room: It was to have a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, everything a person would need for a quiet refuge and a simple night’s sleep.
It’s not like Elisha’s message of hope and restoration was accepted by everyone. Remember the group of young men who made fun of him (see this devotion)? Yet, the Shunammite woman opened her heart and her home to a wise man of God.
Her life was changed by showing hospitality to Elisha. He shows great tenderness in seeking the miracle of a child for her. As he sought to gift her with something to show his gratefulness for the accommodations, his servant Gehazi pointed out her husband’s age. In that culture, and in some even today, the male member of the household was the sole source of income. And so, despite her protests to not offer something too good to be believed, about a year later, she gave birth to a son.
Don’t miss the next part of this account, in our next devotion together! I have grown to have great respect for this obscure woman in the Old Testament.
I am not at all suggesting that hospitality leads to conception! But what gifts must I miss by not welcoming people into my home and listening to others’ wise words?
Who will you care for or listen to today? How will you show hospitality this week?
(If you read this account from the Bible and the devotion with a chip on your shoulder or pain in your heart, please scroll down and read “The Elephant in the Room.”)
You will never regret making time for God. As you are able, spend time with God, reflecting on these questions or journaling your thoughts.
1. Recall a time when you received hospitality from someone. How did it feel? What made the incident stick in your memory?
2. Allow some quiet time to let the Lord bring to your mind ways in which you can show hospitality in the coming days and weeks. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill those occasions with His presence.
3. God, in His great love, shows tremendous hospitality toward us! Praise and thank Him for this. He invites us to be with Him, to dine with Him (Revelation 3:20):
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
And He has made us part of His family (Titus 3:4-7):
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
God is so, so gracious to us.
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The Elephant in the Room
I want to address the elephant in the room. If you or your spouse hasn’t been able to conceive or you haven’t found a spouse with which to start a family, passages like this cause emotions to well up inside of you. I know, because I am one of you. I remember indignantly asking, “Why do we read about all these women in the Bible who were given children, but we do not read in the Bible of the woman who had no child and was not given one?” Boom, I thought. I was thinking of Sarah and Elizabeth, who gave birth in their old age, and Hannah, for whom God provided a son. Today we learned about the Shunammite woman, who was given a son so that she would not be without income upon her husband’s death. Well . . .
What if I told you we do hear of childless people in the Bible? Consider Mary and Martha, friends of Jesus. It seems they had no children; it was their brother Lazarus who provided income for them. (See this link for a devotion about Jesus’ love for Martha.) Job lost all of his original sons and daughters, as well as his wife, and none of them were brought back to life. Many times we read of women and do not know their childbearing status. Time and again, we see Jesus showing great care for women, especially those ostracized by other people (see Luke 8:43-38, John 4:1-30, and John 7:53-8:11).
Even so, we wonder why this person or that person gets blessed in that way and we don’t. I suspect that if I had an answer for you, I would be mad at that answer, so perhaps it is best that I don’t know! What I mean is, we are often not content with what God has given us in this world. We know our life is full of abundant blessings, but we think if I could just (fill in the blank), it would be so much better!
I have lived past that stage of grief in my life, but I will admit that it was long and painstaking. It is freeing and peaceful to be on the other side, but in the midst of it, the despair was raw. I do not have an easy answer for you. What I do know is that God knows your pain, and He is not keeping you from having a child in order to punish you (Matthew 7:9-11). He will work astounding things in your life, and they may or may not include having a child.
I urge you to not view not having a child as a failure of faith or a failure of a life goal. No, no, no. Those are constructs that our society has put on us. Don’t buy into those lies. Reach out to Jesus and let Him heal your heart.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)