A Heart for Hospitality
One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.2 Kings 4:8-10
For the whole story, read 2 Kings 4:8-37
The Bible often commands us to show hospitality to others. Today we read of a woman who was blessed for taking that to heart. She is referred to as “The Shunammite Woman”. What we do know about her is that she was “prominent” and “well-to-do”. We also know that she was observant and looking for opportunities to be hospitable. She noticed that a man of God, the prophet Elisha, often came her way and she offered him food.
When it became a routine event, she took her hospitality a step further and asked her husband to build him a room that he could stay in whenever he comes their way. What stands out to me is that this woman does not seem to have any selfish, ulterior motives. She seems to genuinely want to help provide for a man of God.
In 2 Kings 4:11-17
, Elisha asks her how he can repay her. Her reply? “I live among my own people” which means, “I am content.” She did not ask the man of God for anything in return for everything she had given him. So Elisha asks his servant what he thinks they should do for her? Elisha wanted to bless her because she had been such a willing blessing to him. The servant notices that she doesn’t have any children and her husband is old. Her husband may die a childless man. She was a barren woman in a culture in which motherhood was everything to women and passing on the father’s name was so critical. And yet, she did not make this request, someone else had to make it on her behalf.
Elisha calls her back to him and tells her that at this time next year, she will have a son. And she says, “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant” (v. 16
). She doesn’t want to get her hopes up, so she begs him to tell only the truth. She just didn’t see how it would be possible. He wasn’t lying and it wasn’t impossible. That season next year, she gave birth to a son.
That isn’t the end of the story. Her son eventually becomes sick while out in the fields with his dad and tragically dies in his mother’s arms a few hours later. What she does next is interesting. She doesn’t tell her husband that the child is dead but tells him that she is heading to see Elisha that day. When Elisha sees her coming from afar and sends ahead his servant to see what is wrong, she doesn’t tell him either. To her husband and Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, she makes essentially the same response, “It’s all ok. Everything is fine.” But it wasn’t fine! Her son was dead! She wanted to speak to one man and one man only-the man of God who had prophesied that God would give her this son. She was distraught, of course! In verse 28
, she tells Elisha, “Did I ask for a son from my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me’?” She felt betrayed. She’d been given a gift she hadn’t asked for but she loved very much only to have him taken from her? Why was she even given him in the first place if this was to be the outcome?
Thankfully, God was not done working miracles through Elisha. In an account that rings very similar to Elijah raising the widow’s son, Elisha stretches himself over the dead boy and raises him to life! In response, the woman fell at his feet and bowed down.
The WORD about women in the story of the Shunammite woman is that God both commands and blesses hospitality given in His name. In Mark 9:41
, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” When we share with others that which God has given to us, it is like we are giving directly to God. Sisters, let’s be like the Shunammite woman who gave, not out of compulsion or because she was expecting a reward, rather she freely gave out of what God had given to her. Let’s give because He first gave to us. We are called to be hospitable, not to be blessed ourselves but to be a blessing to others. ReflectWhat keeps you from showing hospitality to others? What is one way you can bless others using whatever gifts God has given to you this week?PrayGod, You have given me so many good things. Help me to be a cheerful giver who practices hospitality as well as the Shunammite woman. May others see your love through the gifts I share with them. Amen.