"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Raising The Standard: Hospitality Is Making Sure The Environment Is Suitable For Those We Serve

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." ~ John 14:2-3 "Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." ~ Hebrews 13:1-2
From The Pages of Scripture:
In the days when Scripture was being written, individual citizens were expected to welcome a traveler into the safety and comfort of their own home. Today the traveler simply stays at a local motel. But hospitality does not just comprise caring for the needs of a traveler. Hospitality also involves benefits and blessing for the host's home and family. Scripture urges us not to neglect hospitality. Through it some have even entertained angels unaware (Hebrews 13:2). There are many illustrations of genuine hospitality in Scripture. One example shows how a gracious hostess who provided a suitable environment for a traveler was greatly rewarded by her guest. The Scriptural account demonstrates the truth that in the same way we give to others, God gives to us.
One person in Scripture received a reward which meant joy, then sorrow, then great joy. It demonstrated the principle of birth, death, and fulfillment of a vision. Who provided hospitality that was not sought and received a reward that was not requested? The Shunammite woman.
Those who knew her might have assumed that she and her husband lived in two different worlds. He was old. She was younger and very vivacious. He spent his energy in the field with his hired men. She spent long hours at home. Perhaps their close friends wondered what held them together. There were no children to bridge the gap of their age difference and to provide common concerns and interests. But the fact was that she knew how to build fellowship with her husband and strengthen their happiness and security. Scripture calls her a "great woman." She was alert to the needs of those around her and discussed with her husband which needs they could meet with the resources God had given them. One day she invited a servant of the Lord to share a meal with them. They invited him to return to their home whenever he passed through their village. He accepted their invitation and ate many meals with them. She and her husband discussed how they could make their home more suitable for the needs of that servant of the Lord. They constructed an addition to their home --- an extra room --- and furnished it for their guests. God rewarded them for their care of His servant by giving them a child. But the joy that was brought into their home by that child was turned to sorrow years later when their son died. The servant of the Lord was summoned, and he raised the child back to life. After her husband died and a great famine spread throughout the land, the widow and her son were advised by the servant of the Lord to leave and live in a neighboring country for seven years. When she returned, she found that others had moved into her house and claimed possession of her fields. She went to the king to request the return of her house and land and was granted a hearing. After sh and her son entered the room a man who was talking to the king exclaimed, "Why this is the very woman I was telling you about and this is her son." This woman was then asked to explain in more detail how the servant of the Lord had raised her son to life. The king recognized that God had rewarded her and he purposed to add a further reward. He appointed an officer of the court saying, "Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day she left the land, even until now." She gave fellowship, food, and lodging to the servant of the Lord. God returned to the Shunammite woman a son, a home, and fruitful fields. With these provisions she could continue to demonstrate the hospitality that made her a "great woman." ~ From 2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6
How Did The Shunammite Woman Provide A Godly Atmosphere In Her Home?
Aside from the common laws of hospility, which her neighbors were ignoring, the Shunammite gives evidence of other noble motives. At first she "constrained him to eat bread" and later "she said unto her husband, 'Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.'" (2 Kings 4:8-9) How had she developed such a keen sense of spiritual discernment in a land of abject apostasy? The clue is given in a later reply by her husband, "Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? It is neither new moon, nor sabbath." (2 Kings 4:23) This indicates that it had been her practice to meet at the prophet's house for worship and teaching on those days designated in the Law (cf. Leviticus 23; Amos 8:5) Prophets provided the few faithful people of the northern ten tribes with a substitute for the missing priests and Levites. By inviting Elisha into her home, the Shunammite had the privilege of sitting at the feet of the leader of all the prophets to bring his teachings and influence into her household. Such a great privilege and opportunity would not be overlooked by this wise and godly lady.
Why Didn't The Shunammite Request A Reward For Her Hospitality?
When pressed for a favor that Elisha could do to show his gratefulness for the Shunammite's hospitality she responded, "I dwell among mine own people." (2 Kings 4:13) She lived in peace and had no appeal to the king Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, knew the real desire of her heart. Barrenness was often accompanied by the reproach of the husband and was considered a sign of judgment of the Lord (Genesis 29:32; 2 Samuel 6:23). The woman's husband was old; they had been unable to have children (2 Kings 4:14). Although she believed in the Lord, she just could not muster the faith to ask for a son. She also did not want to raise her expectations again, merely to be disappointed. When her young son died she expressed this concern to Elisha by saying, "Did I desire a son of my lord? Did I not say, Do not deceive me?" (2 Kings 4:28) When Elisha, as God's spokesman, gave her this unspoken request, her response was similar to that of her godly ancestress, Sarah (Genesis 18:12). "And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid." (2 Kings 4:16) How blessed was this faithful woman of God. She had proved faithful in little and now was to have the opportunity to be faithful in much (cf. Luke 16:10).
What Were The Lasting Dividends Of Her Generous Hospitality?
Because of the wickedness of the nation of Israel under the rule of King Jehoram, the Lord allowed the country to experience a seven-year famine to prod them to repentance. Elisha knew of the famine and told the Shunammite to take her household to Philistia for the duration. She returned to discover that her house and land had been illegally seized. It is almost certain that her husband had died by now (cf. 2 Kings 4:14, 18; 8:2). She should have been able to appeal to the town elders, but they were unsympathetic to the Mosaic Law and easily bribed. Shunem was only three miles north of Jezreel where Naboth had been murdered for his land through the proceedings of a corrupt court (1 Kings 21: 8-14). When she appealed to King Jehoram, Gehazi had just told the king of the miracle of her son's restoration to life.As a result of this supernatural timing, the king restored all that was hers (2 Kings 8:6). "The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, but he will establish the border of the widow." (Proverbs 15:25)
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
The dear mouse is a sociable little creature with a communication system all its own. Mice communicate with one another through a series of rapid taps against a hard surface. This sound can be imitated by drawing one's fingernail over a screen wire. The tone and volume of sound vary depending on the object on which they drum. It is an accomplished soloist, too. At its best it is able to buzz or sing for a period of five to ten seconds.
How Does The Mouse Illustrate The Need To Make Sure Its Environment Is Suitable?
It did not take them long to decide to stay. There was plenty of food and an array of assorted materials which could be used to build a warm, comfortable nest. The spot the mice had chosen was a summer home located on the Atlantic coast's oceanfront. Unoccupied for the past few years, the beach house had only recently acquired new owners. For the next few weeks the owners would visit only on weekends, but when school was over they planned to stay for the whole summer. They were not aware that two mice had chosen their cottage as headquarters. They carelessly left food out on the counter, and each night the little deer mice had a feast. But something even more important food was on the female's mind now. She needed to begin building a nest for her family. Searching in every nook and cranny, she looked for a suitable place. The nest should be close to the food supply and yet her young must be protected from possible danger. After looking for quite a while, she found what seemed to be an ideal location. She climbed inside a box-like structure for a final look of confirmation. Then she began to make many trips bringing soft material with which to form a warm, snug home for her expected family. Her mate came to join her. At first she fought his advances. Then the tables were turned, and the disinterested male played "hard to get." After much coaxing, she finally won his cooperation, and he joined her in the nest. But the reversals weren't over yet. When the time came for her to have her young, she again chased the male away. Not long afterwards five hairless little mice lay in the soft material. Until now, it seemed to be an ideal home. Then the owners returned to spend another weekend in preparation for their summer stay. The little deer mouse was extremely cautious not to expose her family or reveal the nest's location. She would wait until everything was quiet before slipping out of the nest to feed that night. But despite her intentions of good hospitality, the mouse family was in danger. As she sat on the nest waiting for the commotion in the room to subside, she grew warmer and warmer. It became uncomfortably hot. At first she did not sense anything unusual, but as the heat became more intense, she knew something was wrong. Because she was a good mother, she stayed with her helpless young. She hoped this would pass, but instead it grew hotter and hotter. Soon an awful aroma permeated the beach home. The owners had cooked their meal for the evening and they had cooked the visiting family of mice as well. The structure had provided a protected and secluded environment, but the oven made an unsuitable home for the infant family.
Scriptural References To The Mouse
"Wherefore ye shall make images of your... mice that mar the land." ~ 1 Samuel 6:5
Even though the Philistines were a heathen nation they understood that the destruction of their livelihood from the forces of nature or wildlife was in the control of God. They examined their ways and removed the cause of God's anger by returning the sacred Ark of the Covenant which they had previously captured in battle.
"These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth... the mouse... after its kind." ~ Leviticus 11:29
The Hebrew word for mice comes from two words which signify destruction of corn. The word referred to several different species of the rodent. One species will devour every kernel of corn and any sapling that is planted. It even burrows under the ground to dig out the seed before it sprouts. In spring it eats the green blades; in harvest it climbs the stalks to plunder the ripe ears. Later, the mouse invades the barn and continues to feast.

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