Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Breath of New Life, Part 1

Leslie Basham: Maybe you’ve never thought of it this way, but Nancy Leigh DeMoss says that preparing food can actually be an act of worship.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Don’t minimize the ministry of providing meals or a home for others. To do that is an expression of the hospitable heart of God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 26, 2015.

Everyone goes through a lot of ups and downs in life. Today, we’ll look at the biblical story of a woman who knew deep sorrow and great joy. Through the ups and downs, she saw God’s great power working in her life.

Nancy will lead you through the story in a new series called, “A Breath of New Life.”

Nancy: Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles today to 2 Kings chapter 4. Second Kings comes after 1 Kings in your Old Testament. As you’re turning there, let me just set the stage for where we’re going in this series.

This part of Israel’s history is a dark time. It’s in the latter part of the reign and rule of the kings of Israel. The king at this point is a man named Jehoram who is the son of wicked King Ahab. You may be more familiar with that name. This is a season of terrible apostasy in the land of Israel, backsliding, idol worship, pagan practices. Ultimately, the nation is going to be sent into captivity. God is going to judge them. He’s going to discipline them, chasten them for their wickedness, but it’s just a wild, wicked era in the life of Israel.

Throughout this season, God in His mercy sends prophets to warn the people that they’re falling away from Him and to plead with them to return to Him. They tell the people that if they don’t return, there are going to be consequences for their choices. So these prophets are pleading with them to repent.

Among those prophets are two men: Elijah and then his successor, Elisha. It's easy to get those two confused. Sometimes I have to go back and see, was that Elijah or Elisha because there were many similarities between their ministries. As we come to 2 Kings chapter 4, we’re in the era of Elisha, the second of those two prophets.

These along with others were holy men; they were men who knew God; they walked with God in a day when very few did. They listened to God; they were spokesmen for God. God would give them His word for the people, and then they would speak the word to the people. They were not politicians. They were not running for anything. They didn't put their fingers up to see which way the wind was blowing that, and they didn't take polls to see where people wanted the nation to go.

They were men who listened to God, and then when God spoke, they would say to the people, "Thus sayeth the Lord. This is the way it is. This is what God has to say." So they were often not popular. They were rarely popular. In fact, they were often stoned or killed or martyred in some way. They "rubbed the fur the wrong way." Many times the people didn't want to hear what the prophets had to say. They confronted the people's rebellion.

These were men who were swimming upstream. Most of the time, the people just refused to listen. They didn't care what God had to say. They didn't respond. But there were always a few who did care, a few who did listen, a few who did respond. This is what we think of in the Scripture as the remnant—that small minority who really had ears to hear and a heart to respond to what God was saying. It was through the remnant that God would often display His mercy, His grace, and His power in unusual ways.

What I just described about Israel you could in many ways is true about the day in which we live. I'm so thankful that God always has a remnant—even in a era when there are very few who care, very few listen, very few respond. God has a remnant who want to glorify Him in the midst of the darkness. It's one of the reasons you are here today, most likely, is because you are part of that remnant. You care about hearing what God has to say, and you want God's glory to be displayed through your life in these very dark times.

When we come to 2 Kings chapter 4, we see two women who welcomed the prophet of God (Elisha, in this case). Women who listened to God, who responded to the Word of God, women who were a rare exception in their day. Now, both of these women were God-fearing. They were women who knew God, they loved God, they walked with God. But in many respects, these two women were very different.

The first woman we’re not going to focus on today, but I’ll just give you a little glimpse of her here. In the first seven verses of 2 Kings chapter 4, you read about the first woman who was a widow.

The second woman, who we read about beginning in verse 8 and following (that’s the one we’re going to focus on) was a married woman, a wife.

The first woman was poverty stricken. She was on the verge of bankruptcy. She had no human means of providing for herself.

The second woman, by contrast, was a wealthy woman. She and her husband had the means to provide for themselves and to help minister to others.

The first woman had two children; whereas, the second woman had no children. She was barren—and we’ll see that’s a part of her story.

In the case of the first woman, her children were about to be taken away from her to pay off her debts because this widow had no money. God supernaturally intervened to spare her life and her children’s lives.

In the case of the second woman, God supernaturally intervened to give her a child, a son. Then, as we’re going to see, that son died, but God miraculously intervened to give that child back to her.

So both of these women experienced God’s miraculous intervention in their lives.

In the case of the first woman, God used Elisha to feed the widow, by means of a miracle.

God used the second woman to feed Elisha, by means, not of a miracle, but simply of the ministry of hospitality.

So as we focus on this second woman, beginning in 2 Kings chapter 4, we’re going to see that she illustrates several qualities of what it means to be a true woman of God. As I've been studying this woman's life and digging deeper into her story—I've been familiar with her story for many, many years. But as I've meditated on her account in 2 Kings 4 and 8, I've said, "This is the kind of woman that I want to be." I want to have the heart quality and characteristics of this woman. 

As we go through this study, I hope that you'll be drawn to these qualities and will want to say that's the kind of woman I want to be as well.

Lord, would You open our eyes; open our ears. Give us ears to hear and hearts to receive and respond to what You say to us today through Your Word. Lord, I want to thank You that You always have a remnant. As dark as these days are, You call out and You choose and You use women and men who will swim upstream and who will hear Your voice and who will say, "Yes, Lord." I pray that as we look at this woman whose name we don't even know, I pray You will give us her kind of heart, and that we will be in our day true women of God who reflect Your glory to our world. I pray it in Jesus' name, amen.

Let’s begin reading in 2 Kings chapter 4, verse 8:

One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food.

Now, we’re just going to walk through this passage verse by verse and comment on it as we do.

The town was Shunem. Shunem is a village in the tribe of Issachar, which is in the northern part in the nation of Israel. It’s a few miles north of a city called Jezreel, which figures prominently in Scripture. It’s on a main trade road from Samaria to Carmel, which was a route that Elisha frequently traveled. So this town was en route, and he would stop in there. This woman opened her heart and her home to him, and he would pause there and visit.

We don’t know her name. We just think of her as and call her the “Shunammite woman.” She’s actually referred to as “the Shunammite” in this passage. So the Shunammite woman is the woman from Shunem. That’s how she came to get that designation.

Now, we see here that she was a wealthy woman. If you’re using the ESV, that’s the word used there. Other translations translate this word differently. Your translation may say she was a notable woman or a great woman or a prominent woman. I think the NIV says she was a well-to-do woman. This is a word that can mean wealthy, as in material wealth, or it can mean influential. She was a great woman, a prominent woman, a wealthy woman—maybe both.

But here’s something else we see about this woman as we go through this passage, and that is that she was also great or rich in faith—a woman who was rich in faith. That’s interesting to me, because being rich in faith, unfortunately, does not often go hand in hand with being materially wealthy.

There are some who are materially wealthy and also are wealthy toward God, are spiritually wealthy, but not many. Most, if not all, of us who are in this room today are, by world’s standards, materially wealthy. But the question we want to ask as we go through this passage is: Are we spiritually wealthy? Are we rich toward God?

Are we spiritually wealthy? Are we rich toward God?

This was a woman who was all of that. We see here that she opens her home, and she extended hospitality to Elisha. Now, there is no indication that she initially knew who he was. Maybe she did, but it doesn’t indicate that she did. She just opened her home to this traveler only to discover that he was a man of God. As a result of her hospitality, a warm friendship developed between this woman and her husband and Elisha, the prophet.

I think that at the outset she had no way of knowing that this man she and her husband were blessing would end up being a means of great blessing and grace in her life and her husband. We don’t see that this woman gave to get, but as she gave, she did get. Her giving was greatly rewarded, not only in the short term but also in the long term.

Here’s a woman who was generous with what she had. She used her resources to support the work of God. She shared food with Elisha. She opened her home for meals. But, we can just imagine that as time went on and they got to know this prophet, this man of God, she thought, I’d like to do something more for him. What more could we do for him other than just providing an occasional meal for him as he’s on his way traveling?

So then she and her husband decided, as you’ll see in the next verse, to build a guest room. They added on to their house to be able to minister to the prophet. Verse 9:

She said to her husband, "Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there" (vv. 9–10).

So she actually does a renovation project. They add on to their home to make a private space, a private room for the prophet. Those of you who have ever done renovations or added on to your home, you know that this required some adjustments to have this man not only stopping by for dinner but also staying in their home, and to make room for him and his servant, Gehazi. As we will see, she was willing to be flexibility, to make adjustments so that Elisha and his servant could stay in their home.

As I think about this passage, I think about how often here in the affluent West we add on to homes. We buy larger homes. We buy second homes . . . not to minister to others but for ourselves, for our own pleasure. I wonder if we took a poll today, just in this room, how many extra, unused bedrooms we have in our houses between us.

Now, some of you have a lot more people in your house than you have bedrooms, but some of us have spare rooms. Maybe your children have gotten older or moved out—you’re an empty nester now. Maybe you’ve got a house that you designed for lots of kids, but now there’s room in that house. Think of how many people are just adding on so they can have more space. Why? For self, for pleasure, for enjoyment.

Well, here’s a woman who says, “I want to add on to my house but I don’t want to do it for me. I want to do it for somebody else. I want to do it to be a blessing, to minister to this prophet of God.”

Don’t minimize the ministry of providing meals or a home for others—starting with your own family, and then other guests who come into your home, and then servants of the Lord. 

I'm so thankful as I was growing up that my parents left room for missionaries, for pastor, for Christian workers, for guests, for people to come and stay in our home My mother is the "hostess with the mostest." She was always opening our home, she and my dad together, to be a blessing to others. To do that is an expression of the hospitable heart of God, our benevolent God, our generous God, who cares about our needs.

When we open our homes for meals, to host others in our home overnight, we become a reflection of God, a reflection of who He is, and a powerful witness in a culture that has very little concept of what God is like. It’s a great means of witness to extend hospitality.

So she says to her husband, “I know that this is a holy man of God. Let’s do something to serve him.”

There must have been something about Elisha’s life that demanded a supernatural explanation. It makes me wonder if people sense something different about my life, about yours. Do people who just have a casual acquaintance with you, do they know quickly that you are a woman who knows God, a woman who loves the Lord, a woman who fears Him? Are they drawn to that in your life as this woman was in Elisha?

We see in this woman a heart of kindness, a heart of compassion, a heart of generosity. We see a woman who was other-centered versus self-centered, a woman who was sensitive. She was alert, attentive to the needs of others, a woman who takes initiative to minister to the practical needs of the prophet. She provides food. She provides shelter. She provides for him a private place where he can retreat; he can rest; he can study; he can pray.

She and her husband provide fellowship, a family, relationship for this prophet who would travel by himself and was in this itinerate ministry. Notice that she and her husband were in this together. This wasn’t just something she had a heart for, but she did this with her husband’s engagement and knowledge and approval.

She was a woman who was attentive to detail. She thinks through, “What are we going to put in this room?” But she realized that this didn’t have to be extravagant provision. She didn’t build the Taj Mahal for the prophet, just a place that was suited for his ministry and to meet his needs.

She did it not just to minister to him once, but this became a pattern. Whenever he went through that area, he would go and stay in the home of this woman and her husband. She provided relationship for him, a “home away from home” if you will, for the itinerant servant of the Lord, along with his servant, Gehazi.

It reminds me of some sisters in the New Testament, Mary and Martha, who opened their home to Christ and to His disciples. They fed Him. They housed Him. They offered relationship to Jesus as He was traveling and doing His earthly ministry.

Listen, hospitality is a great way to minister to the Lord, to minister to servants of the Lord, to minister to your family, to minister to traveling people. We have so little opening of homes today in this era of restaurants and hotels. Rarely do we open our homes to others, but there is so much blessing to be had through the ministry of hospitality. By the way, do you hear the word that’s part of that—hospital? It’s a home where you care for wounded people, a place where you minister to the needs of others as this woman and her husband did for Elisha.

Hospitality is really just opening your heart and your home, being generous with what you have, looking for ways to minister grace to others, to meet their needs. Hospitality is really saying, “I’ve been a recipient of God’s grace. He’s blessed me with a place to live, with food to eat, with family”—whatever God has blessed you with. Hospitality then says, “I want to be a channel of that blessing to others.”

Hospitality is opening your heart and home, being generous with what you have, looking for ways to minister grace to others, to meet their needs.

So being a recipient of grace and then a giver of grace. God doesn’t just give those things to us so we can enjoy them for ourselves. He gives them to us so they can flow out through us to others and be a blessing to others.

To be hospitable is to have a welcoming heart, a heart that says, “Come on in! I want you to be a part of my life.” It’s a willingness to share; it’s a willing to be inconvenienced at times.

I have a family living in my home at the moment for a several weeks—a missionary family. They serve in Asia, but they’re home on furlough for a bit. So they’re in my home with their four children, ages eight and under, including a newborn. It’s been a lot of fun. I love having the children noises in my house.

I live alone, so I don’t . . . Usually it's really quiet in my house, but now there’s a lot of hubbub and activity. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work, as you know, if you open your home to others. There’s inconvenience. There are times when you’d rather it be quiet and there’s a squalling baby, a newborn. But there’s such joy to be found in extending the welcome of Christ to those who need a place to be encouraged.

And you see this emphasized through Scripture.

Romans 12 says to us: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (v. 13 NIV). This is a command. It’s a great privilege, but it’s also a responsibility.

First Pet 4:9: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” It’s one thing to open your heart, but, you know, I can be under my breath going, “Oh, this is a pain in the neck.” No . . . “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Realize what a privilege it is.

In fact, in 1 Timothy 5, verse 10, we read that hospitality is a qualification for a woman of God if she is to be cared for by the church when she’s a widow, that she has to have been hospitable. Listen to this verse (these are the qualifications if she’s going to be cared for by the church): She has to have "a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.”

What’s the Scripture saying here? If during your child-bearing and child-rearing years—those of you who are married—if you are using your home and your heart to show hospitality, to minister to the afflicted, to wash the feet of the saints, to care for others, you are laying up for yourself a treasure. You’re making an investment for later in your life when you have needs. Your needs will be met. “Give and it will be given to you.”

Hebrews 13 says: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (v. 2). And that takes us back to in the book of Genesis, the story of Abram and Lot. Men came to their house. They showed hospitality to these men, and it turned out they were hosting angels in their home.

That makes me wonder if there’s ever been an angel who stayed overnight in my house—not that I know of. But I do know this: Jesus said when we show hospitality, we actually welcome Christ Himself.

Jesus said when we show hospitality, we actually welcome Christ Himself.

You say, “Where do you get that?”

Well, Matthew, chapter 25 says: “‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. . . .’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me’” (vv. 35–40).

So with that couple and their four little munchkins who are staying in my home right now, as I serve them, as I bless them, as I open my home to them, I’m rendering service to Jesus. It’s a privilege to show hospitality.

And it’s a responsibility, in particular, to minister to the practical needs of those who are servants of the Lord. You see this emphasized in the Scripture.

Matthew chapter 10, verse 41 says: “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.”

As we receive into our homes and into our lives and into our hearts those who are servants of the Lord, we gain a reward along with them for their service and their ministry. Fixing that meal is no small task. Now, I say, “Fixing meals.” I can’t say that I’m actually fixing meals in my home right now, but I’m managing to get food there and to make sure that they are getting fed. I don’t want to make any claims to be much of a cook, but I make sure that they get fed, that they have a place to stay, that it’s a welcoming environment for them.

Galatians chapter 6: “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches”—ministering to the practical needs of those who minister to us (v. 6).

So we’re to minister to the material and practical needs of those who serve the Lord, of those who minister the Word to us. “They are,” as 1 Timothy 5 says, “worthy of double honor." And the ministry of hospitality is one way that we can honor these servants of the Lord.

Now, just a word in closing about this woman—back to the Shunammite woman. It says that she was a wealthy woman. Let me just remind us that the Scripture teaches that it’s not wrong to have wealth, but it also teaches that believers, followers of Christ should have a radically different perspective on wealth than the rest of the world does.

Let me read just a short passage from 1 Timothy chapter 6, that points this out. It says:

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life (vv. 17–18).

So what is that passage saying about the perspective that we should have on material wealth?

First of all, we should realize that it’s temporal. Don’t trust in it. Put your trust and your hope in God, and don’t live not for the present age, but instead, live for eternity. Don’t lay up treasures here on earth for yourself, but instead, lay up treasures in heaven.

We’re not to be proud of what we have, but to be humble-hearted.

We’re not to use our material wealth for selfish gain, or for our personal pleasure, but for kingdom purposes.

We’re not to hoard, but we’re to be generous, to share with others; not to accumulate just so we can have more stuff, but to bless others.

Not to store up treasures here and now on earth, but to store up eternal, spiritual riches for eternity.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss showing us why hospitality matters so much. 

Today’s program is part of a series called “A Breath of New Life,” taken from 2 Kings 4. We’re looking at the biblical story of the Shunammite woman. This six-day series includes discussions of contentment, widowhood, and losing a child.

We're able to give you practical teaching from God’s Word thanks to listeners who give to keep Revive Our Hearts coming to you each weekday. When you support the ministry this week with a gift of any amount, we’ll thank you by sending the 2016 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. Here’s Nancy to tell you more about it.

Nancy: As we think about some of the issues that are facing our world today, crushing issues, critical issues, it's really been on my heart through this next year that we would earnestly call God's people to pray, to cry out to Him, to seek His face for what only He can do in our world. That's the theme of our 2016 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. It's called "Cry Out—a Plea for Earnest Prayer." It includes quotes from women like: Shirley Dobson, Joni Eareckson Tada, Priscilla Shirer, Elisabeth Elliot, and others. Each month there is a quote from a variety of writers and speakers on this matter of crying out to the Lord.

The quote for the month of September is one from Joni Eareckson Tada. She says,

There is nothing that moves a loving Father's soul quite like His child's cry.

That's so true. And we're believing that God is going to use this calendar with these quotes to move His people to pray, to cry out to Him through the course of this next year. As we cry out, I believe that our loving Father will hear and respond to those cries from our hearts.

Leslie: Ask for the “Cry Out” wall calendar when you make a donation of any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

You don’t have to have a perfect home to serve others. We’ll hear from some women who remind us of that tomorrow. Hear a practical discussion flowing out of today’s teaching on hospitality. That’s tomorrow, on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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