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. Elijah, that man, 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 woman to feed him.
Put yourself in the place of that woman. She was gathering sticks 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 do even that?
Do we invite our friends from church, the folks we meet while delivering our kids to school, our neighbors, 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?" (1 Kings 17:8) the grief-stricken woman sobbed.
Elijah carried the child's limp body to his room. There he pleaded with God for the his life—and the boy revived.
Here we see another thing about hospitality. In addition to giving us the satisfaction of company and the joy of sharing, it boomerangs back on us in blessings, sometimes greater in number and scope than we ever gave out in the first place.
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 modeled 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.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.
For I was imprisoned by despair and they sat on my bed and wept as I wept, and brought guitars to concert me privately…
For I was aggrieved by the broken world and they picked up my dropped baton and made the race with my battered friends for me. They sent prayers against the marred days and performed miracles over unwieldy faucets and the bent things that populated my heart.
For I was helpless and they mothered my children, buying circus tickets and planning bike hikes, making sure the days were special for growing up.
For I was bereaved from bearing too much pain in others, finding no room for my own and they sent me to restore in the mountains and rest in the sea.
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).
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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