Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. — 2 Kings 4:10
It always began with a phone call to my husband, Jerry. “Sam,” (short for Samson or “strong man,” and her way of saying she had a need for someone with strong arms), “Could you stop by after school?” Immediately my husband knew that Sister Miller would be having houseguests, and there was furniture to be moved. Her home was not large, but it was always open to visiting ministers, evangelists, friends, relatives, those recuperating from illness or accident, a college student on Christmas break, or a recently reformed and released prisoner.
My husband chuckles when he recalls one particular time. A family with several children came to sleep and eat there. At the same time, a youth group arrived from out of town for dinner on Sunday, and of course, the youths from our local church needed to eat with them. Twenty-two places were necessary at the table! That meant putting an extra dining table into one of the bedrooms. Dutifully, “Sam” moved the twin beds to the basement so all the guests could be seated.
One of my best friends from my early days as a Christian made her home with the Millers, so I, too, had been part of preparations at the “Miller Hotel & Dining” long before I became “Mrs. Samson.”
Recently as my husband and I reminisced about Sister Miller’s hospitality, neither of us could recall that she ever inferred in any way that having company was inconvenient, or that she was unhappy to serve any particular person. On a few occasions, she did say after the event that she was weary. However, we could tell it was a satisfied weary.
She put as much love into cooking for the ravenous students as she would have for a visiting pastor. She wanted her home to be very clean, the beds to be comfortable, and the food to be healthy and plenteous. And there was always a quiet place with a Bible, a reading lamp, and a desk or other writing surface available for her guests.
Sister Miller reminds me of the Shunammite woman in today’s text, who recognized Elisha as God’s prophet. This Shunammite was passing along a wonderful example, for the Bible encourages gracious hospitality. She was not seeking a reward but was only concerned to help the prophet. And looking back I can see that Sister Miller had that attitude also.
Hospitality can be a contagious condition. My husband and I have discovered the blessing of sharing our home with others, especially those of the household of faith. Even though these guests may be recent acquaintances, they become part of our prayer network.
God blessed the Shunammite woman, and He will also bless us if we seek to have hospitable hearts.
The events of chapters 4-7 took place during the reign of Jehoram of the Northern Kingdom, but they are not necessarily recorded in chronological order.
In verses 1-7 of today’s text, one of the sons of the prophets had passed away and his wife and sons owed a debt they could not pay. According to the Law of Moses, debts could be paid by people selling themselves or their children to be servants until the year of jubilee. (See Leviticus 25:39-40). When this widow came to Elisha, the creditor was ready to force her sons to be slaves.
The pot of oil was the family’s only asset, and Elisha gave specific instructions. They were to borrow many containers. When they had collected the vessels, they were told to shut the door, and in the privacy of their home, God performed the miracle. The widow and her sons exemplified obedience and faith, and with the sale of the oil, they paid their debt and had money left for living expenses.
The second incident, recorded in verses 8-17, took place in Shunem, a village of the tribe of Issachar. It overlooked the Valley of Jezreel, with Mount Carmel approximately fifteen miles to the west. The village was nearly midway between the Prophet Elisha’s home in Abel-mehola and Mount Carmel, where he went to pray and meditate. Consequently, Elisha was frequently in this area.
The woman in this portion of text was prominent socially and enjoyed some wealth. She provided Elisha food when he passed through the town, and then perceived that a private room on the roof of her home would be helpful to him. Her generous hospitality was without selfish motivation, but she was rewarded in a way that was completely unexpected to her. She had a son even though her husband was aged.
This is the first mention of Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. It is possible that he filled the same role for Elisha as Elisha had for Elijah.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah
B. Jehoram of Israel
3. The ministry of Elisha
a. The miracle of the widow’s oil (4:1-7)
b. The resurrection of the Shunammite’s son
(1) The promise of the son (4:8-17)
God will bless us if we look for opportunities to offer kindness and hospitality to others.