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There is an amazing story in 2 Kings 4 that I’ve read a number of times. We meet a woman who isn’t even named but whose story stretches across a few chapters in this book. The Bible calls her the Shunammite and while we don’t a lot about her background, the story gives us a few details that helps us to get to know her better.
I won’t quote the entire passage, but it’s found in 2 Kings 4:8-17. I’ll paraphrase for the sake of time, but make sure you read it for yourself! One of the biggest mistakes Christians make are believing everything they’re told so please do your homework.
In this story, the prophet Elisha is a frequent visitor to the land of Shunem and a wealthy woman and her husband often host him for meals. The woman suggests to her husband that they should make a room on the top of their home so he has a place to stay whenever he stops by. While laying in his new room, Elisha asks his servant, Gehazi, what they should do for this woman to thank her for her hospitality.
She tells them she doesn’t need anything, but Gehazi tells Elisha she doesn’t have any children and her husband is old. He tells the Shunammite that at this time next year, she will have a son. And just as he said, it happened.
I love this story. It is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I say that about a lot of stories but hands down, I think this is it. At least until I come across another one I love! God has really been nudging me to get uncomfortable lately. To step outside of my little world and really look for opportunities to be a blessing to someone. There are 3 things the Shunammite woman did in this story that have encouraged me to be more mindful about how we treat and serve others.
SHE PROVIDED NOURISHMENT AND REFRESHING In November 2021, I ran my first marathon (you can read about it here!). Every 2 miles or so along the course, there were aid stations set up for runners. Aid stations had volunteers that provided water, gatorade, fruit, energy gels, or medical help for anyone who needed it. There were helpful, kind people there to help the runners keep going. One of the stations I ran through had a hockey team that formed a bridge with their hands for runners to go under as they yelled our names and cheered us on.
This woman provided an aid station for Elisha. She made sure that when he was in town, he had somewhere to go to be refreshed and energized (2 Kings 4:8). This is a practice that we have to return to as the body of Christ. When people come in contact with us, they should leave feeling refreshed and encouraged.
We have the responsibility as the people of the Way to feed them the love of Jesus, kindness, faith, the word of God, encouragement. But far too many Christians feed others their opinions. We set up aid stations with our ideas, political beliefs, and judgments. So instead of leaving feeling refreshed and strengthen, people leave feeling unseen and malnourished.
When we give people the life giving, soul quenching truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will leave us with the hope for change. Proverbs 11:25 says “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
SHE LOOKED FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE A BLESSING
This week, I planned to get up early to get some things done. I have a hard time writing at home so I like to go across the street to the coffee shop to write without distractions, then head over to the gym. I packed my bag the night before but couldn’t find my headphones. I knew I had brought them upstairs but couldn’t find them anywhere.
I looked in my kids’ room, the office, under my pillow. I looked in the closet and even the in the bathroom drawers. Nothing! I finally gave up and decided to work headphone free. Gross.
When I cam back home, I tried to find them one more time. Lo and behold, I found them under a lone sock on my dresser. After more minutes than I cared to spend looking for them, I had finally found them. What’s my point? We have to look for an opportunity to be a blessing.
The Shunammite woman (I wish she had a name; I’m tired of typing that!) didn’t wait for Elisha to come to her! She urged him to come to her home. She approached him. A lot of times, we expect people to come to our places of worship, bursting down the door to hear about Jesus.
Can I tell you a secret? They’re not coming. People who don’t know Jesus are not usually running into churches just because they drove by one. They are running into you and me, at Walmart, at the gas station, at the pharmacy, at our kids’ schools. We have to urge them to come. We have to look for an opportunity to bless them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Every time we leave our home, there is an opportunity to bless someone. But we’ve got to be on the look out.
SHE MADE AN INVESTMENT, EXPECTING NO RETURN I don’t know how many of you have ever invested in the stock market but I’m sure you know that the point of investing is to get more back. You expect a return. When a farmer plants corn, he expects to get more corn.
But in this story, this woman makes an investment into someone’s life without expecting anything in return. the Bible tells us that when we sow generously, we will reap generously, but that shouldn’t be the reason we sow. We give out of our love for God, not because of what we can get from him.
Theologians believe that this woman and her husband actually built a room on their roof. My husband and I are remodeling our basement right now, and let me tell you it is a lot of work! We’re building walls, a bathroom, doing electrical work, windows, lightening, like everything! So imagine that when this couple decided to make a room, it took both time and money to put it together.
She not only made a room for him, but furnished it as well. According to my trusted sources at Google, it costs on the low end about $10,000 to remodel and furnish a bedroom. That’s a big investment. And she did it because she wanted to honor Elisha, not get something from him. As a prophet who was known for performing miracles and hearing from God, I’m sure he was used to always doing things for people, but this woman wanted to do something for him.
Philippians 2:3 reminds to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” There will be times when God will prompt us to pour into someone that would never be able to repay us, and that’s ok. He sees our hearts and our work. We read in the story that because of her kindness and generosity, she was rewarded.
Moe then ever people need to experience the love of God and the life changing truth of his word. It won’t come just from church services and programs, prayer meetings and planning sessions, but from radical hospitality and opening our homes and hearts to other. Next week, I want to share someone’s story who did exactly that.