Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Zarephath Hospitality

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Kings 17:1-24

TO CHEW ON: "So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke by Elijah." 1 Kings 17:15-16

God's response to Israel's wicked King Ahab was to whisper a prophetic message of no rain for three years in the ear of a man from Tishbe. That man, Elijah, delivered the message to the idolatrous king and then ran for his life. He eventually skipped the country to Sidon, where God told him he would find a widow to feed him.

Put yourself in the place of that woman. She was gathering fuel for the fire that would cook her last meal when this sight of a man approached her and asked not only for a drink but for food. The audacity! Yet, his promise (using words like "Thus says the Lord") that if she fed him, she would have a never-ending supply of food was attractive. What could it hurt? She took him in.

I am impressed with her hospitality. In our society of panhandlers and people living on the street, can you picture yourself doing the same? Of course there is a level of hospitality -- extending the generosity of our home to those we know -- that is safer. But do we even do that? Do we invite our friends from church, the folks we meet while delivering our kids to school, our neighbours, over for a meal or coffee? Do we even take the time to stop and chat (the first step of hospitality: giving a few minutes of our time, attention and interest)?

The story of Elijah and the widow isn't finished, though. One day her son became ill and died. "Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to kill my son?" the grief-stricken woman sobbed.

Elijah went to the room where the child was laid out. There he pleaded with God for the child's life -- and the boy revived.

Here we see another thing about hospitality. It boomerangs back on us in blessings, usually greater in number and scope than we ever gave out in the first place. I wonder if that widow ever pondered on the consequences to her and her son if she hadn't taken Elijah in.

Karen Burton Mains in her book Open Heart, Open Home tells of a period of time their home was hounded by problem after problem. That year she experienced firsthand the fruits of the hospitality lifestyle she had advocated and modelled in front of their parishioners. Here is her paraphrase of Matthew 25:31-4.

"For I was weary, and they dusted and cleaned and scrubbed and laundered.

For I was fatherless…and they tilled his soil with me in our helpless womanity, praying over the man-sized gas cultivator and stubbornly willing it to do a week's work in a day.

For I was hungry, and they brought stews of the products of the good earth, and hand-kneaded bread, and apple pies from the fruit of the backyard trees...
and she goes on, ending:
Yea, as they did this all for me, they did it unto Him who sent me."

Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome & Wanted by Karen Burton Mains p. 120-121 (1976 edition).

PRAYER: Dear God, please grow a hospitable spirit in me. May I be a conduit through which Your blessings can flow to others, and to which Your blessings will flow from others to me. Amen.

MORE: Hospitality resources

Links to articles for those interested in International Student Ministry (e.g. hosting an international student in your home).

The book I quote above, Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains has been republished in 2002 (my copy is dated 1976).


The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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