The Fruit of Hospitality

     Bible students know about Elisha the prophet. He became what we might call the chief prophet after Elijah was taken up from the earth by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2). The sons of the prophets (likely preacher students) concluded that the “spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha” (2 Kings 2:15). Elisha had many adventures as God’s man and accomplished many remarkable things by the power of God up to and even a bit after his death (2 Kings 13:21). Indeed, the period in which Elijah and Elisha worked is one of the few times in history when God chose to work supernaturally. God made clear that the preaching work of these two men was without question authentic and that their message was from Him.

     Therefore we are not surprised to learn that Elisha was famous as a “holy man of God” (2 Kings 4:9). He was called that by the Shunammite woman. She is called “notable” in the NKJV and “great” in the KJV. She was in no way ordinary, particularly with regard to what we call hospitality.

     When she found that Elisha was passing through Shunem she persuaded him “to eat some food.” After that Elisha ate with them on a regular basis. This notable woman spoke with her husband about preparing a “small upper room” for Elisha to use when he came that way. This preacher’s room was well equipped with a bed, a table and chair and a lamp. It sounds like she made Elisha a good preacher’s room.

When we read the account in 2 Kings 4 we learn that the Shunammite woman did what she did because she wanted to do it. She was not interested in a reward for her efforts. This is one of the hallmarks of hospitality. A person is not hospitable for any reason other than wanting to do something good for someone else. It is a tremendous way to show love and consideration. Being hospitable is listed as being a part of the will of God in Romans 12:13. Other New Testament passages on this subject are Hebrews 13:1-2, Titus 1:8, 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Peter 4:9.

     Consider some things about hospitality we can learn from the account of the Shunammite woman and Elisha. First, she looked for an opportunity to do a good thing (2 Kings 4:8). She did not wait to be asked. She saw a need and she met it. Elisha saw this element of her character and took note of it. Sometimes we say, “Let me know if you need anything.” The Shunammite figured out what would benefit Elisha and met that need.

     She was not satisfied with doing the minimum. She was in a position to do more than feed Elisha on occasion so she determined to use that ability. She talked with her husband, an older man, about making that famous room and they did it. I have always loved the fact that they put a lamp in Elisha’s room. Most preachers like to read before they sleep and you can’t read without a lamp. She thought of everything.

     As we noted, she was not interested in being rewarded for her hospitality. When offered recompense she said “I dwell among my own people.” She would take care of herself. But she had no son and Elisha nonetheless prophesied that she would have one. She did not really believe it but God did bless her with a son. Hospitality even now is like that. We do good and let the Lord figure out the rest. He provides the fruit of hospitality.

    She understood the challenges of life. When she lost her son she said “It is well.” It took some doing, but she knew that the only hope for the dead boy was with the man of God. She went to him and the boy was eventually raised. We do not look for such miracles today. We do not live in such a time. But we do know that the only hope we have in the absolute rests in God. Her blessings continued as her land was restored after the famine (2 Kings 6).

    Hospitality is essentially the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) made practical. We do well to follow the example of the Shunammite woman.