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. And 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.” – 2 Kings 4:8-10 (ESV)
God-willing, this will be a six part series. I’m hoping to dive into various aspects of the encounter between Elisha and the Shunammite woman. It’ll be a leisurely stroll through twenty-nine verses and hopefully, we’ll get a glimpse of what’s going on here and maybe more importantly, what God is telling us through it. Without further ado…
Elisha is a prophet of God. For one reason or another, he is traveling through Shunem. While he’s passing through, a wealthy woman offers him some food. This is standard hospitality towards travelers. In those times, it was common to take in travelers and provide food & lodging for them. So he accepts it. And evidently, it is pleasing. Whether it was the food, the company, or something else… Elisha came back repeatedly. So we can conclude that she has good hospitality and is generous.
After a couple of encounters, this woman recognizes Elisha is no simple traveler. “I know that this is a holy man of God…” She probably had enough spiritual wisdom to recognize a prophet. There were no flashy miracles, no commands from this man. Yet she still recognized Elisha as a man of God. Whether the husband had similar thoughts is not readily apparent, but her suggestion does come to pass.
She suggests building an addition to their house, exclusively for Elisha’s use. This addition would be fully furnished. This is above and beyond simple, standard hospitality. To illustrate, let’s try a modern take on the idea. A pastor passes through your town every couple of months. Since you know him, you decide to add a small apartment studio to your house so he’ll be comfortable when he passes through town. Ridiculous!
But really, what is going on here? The woman is showing her enormous respect for God by how she treats His prophet. She took great pains to account for the prophet’s every imaginable need. A lamp for light. A bed for rest. A table and chair for other tasks.
What is God trying to say?
For me, I think God is asking me whether I make room for the things of God. Do I take pains to make sure that my service to God is whole-hearted like this woman? She took hospitality above and beyond the common courtesy of the day. Do I have an enormous love and respect for those who serve God?
How about you? Have you made room for the man of God? (or did you give him a little food and send him on his way?)