Welcoming God into our lives

I want today to tell a story from the Old Testament, from 2 Kings; one of the stories about the prophet Elisha.

2 Kings 4:8 One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a meal.

The first question this story raises for us is to ask: how welcoming are we to have God in our lives?

Elisha, the man of God was passing through the town of Shunem north of Mt. Gilboa in ancient Palestine and an unnamed lady invited him in to dine; subsequently he was a regular at her table whenever he passed through town.

What do we know of her?  She was a Shunamite, like saying someone from Invercargill is an Invercargill-ite. Shunamites are Israelites of the tribe of Issachar; she was married but without children; she was a believer in God and she invited the man of God to come into her house. She also had some clout in her house as it appears she ruled the roost.

So, we know very little about her and don’t even know her name. 

In this first verse though, I hear an echo from Revelation 3, when the church at Laodicea is being addressed

 Revelation 3:20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me

The invite in Revelation comes from the believer for God to enter: the Shunamite woman invited Elisha into her house to eat, so he comes in.

I hear another echo, this time from Jesus:

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

The relevance for us today is that even though we may have accepted Christ as our saviour, the question we need to ask is how welcoming and accommodating are we to have the Holy Spirit in our innermost lives?  Is he/she someone we know from a distance or is he/she someone right inside our kitchen so to speak?

The second question is this:

Are we happy with just temporary passing through experiences of Jesus in our lives or do we want to experience his presence in a more permanent way?

She said to her husband, “Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”

 

And this is the particular passage I want to unpack further:

She went out of her way to accommodate the man of God in the life of the family. 

 

She rearranged her life to accommodate him.  There would have to have been a rearrangement of sleeping arrangements. Remember households in that time were multigenerational.  It would not only have been an inconvenience to her, but to her husband and anyone else who lived there.

 

It cost her:

 

Purchases of a bed table chair and lamp.  If you have a wife that frequents Briscoes and Harvey Norman, you know the cost of these things!  The household budget needed to stretch to buy anything in that non-consumer, not throw away society of that time; and the grocery budget would need to be amended.

 

It is interesting that the writer was so particular about what was placed in the room.  I guess he was highlighting that it was not just a space for an itinerant prophet to lay down his bedroll, but that it was a well-furnished homely room with all the trimmings.

 

She also gave him the best place. 

 

The roof in the middle east was the highest place in the house.  Animals were on the ground floor – next floor up got the smells of the animals. The roof got the fresh breeze.

 

So again: Are we happy with just the experience of Jesus passing through our lives or do we want to experience his presence in a more permanent way? Is he an inconvenient and occasional add on or is he a valued and respect guest in our place?

If you want God’s presence to dwell with you, then I encourage you to make room, expand, reorganize and even reconsider your [house].[1]

The third point is this:

 

Blessings came because of her welcome of God’s man. Not because she expected something. In fact, she initially said there was nothing that she needed.  So much for the “give in order to get” gospel! Her accommodation of the prophet was not in order to get something from him.

 

13 He said to him, “Say to her, since you have taken all this trouble for us, what may be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?” She answered, “I live among my own people.” 14 He said, “What then may be done for her?” Gehazi [his servant] answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood at the door. 16 He said, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.”

In those times, a son was the highest gift one could give a wife.  Think of the lives of other biblical women Elizabeth and Hannah and Sarah who were barren but had babies later in life. 

She did not accommodate the man of God in order to receive. It was an unexpected bonus for a freely given expression of her love of God.

And the 4th point:

She had faith because of this relationship or accommodation.  She had a personal relationship with the man of God. He had eaten at her table, slept under her roof.

When the bonus child was older, he got sick and he died.

21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” 23 He said, “Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” She said, “It will be all right.”

She took her only child to the room of the man of God and placed him there.  She had a faith, unexpressed, that something would happen there. I have no doubt in that time she prayed.

Unfortunately, if we haven’t made the room for God in the good times, then we will have no place to go when things go wrong in life.[2]  But she did, she had faith in God.

And 5thly:

Miracles happened

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunamite woman.” So he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left

There is an echo here of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.

1 Kings 17:19ff

17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 19 But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. 22 The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24 So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

In both these incidents, God delivered.

But note the difference between the reactions between the mothers after the death of their sons:

The widow of Zarephath: 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

The Shunamite woman: She said, “It will be all right” …When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, "Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why."

The Shunammite woman had faith that God would be there for her. The widow of Zarephath only had complaint.  The faith of the Shunamite woman was built over the time of her dwelling with the man of God.

One other thing to note:  The husband of the Shunamite woman did not have the faith. He told her not to bother the man of God even when his son was dying. 23 He said, “Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.”

Noticeably when the son was resurrected he was returned to the mother, not the father. The faith of the mother saw her son returned to her.

All this stems from the woman’s relationship with God which started with her offer to invite the man of God into her house to eat, and to provide a more permanent place for him in her home.

Of course, unlike the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit rested on particular ‘men and women of God”, the Holy Spirit lives within us now. 

The Holy Spirit resides in the believer. The verb most often used to describe this unique relationship comes from the Greek word oikeo. Oikeo actually comes from the Greek word for house-oikos. It means to live in, reside, or dwell. The significance of the term oikeo is that it speaks of permanency. The idea is that the holy spirit takes up residency in believers-for ever. He doesn't just pass through. He makes us his home. He comes to stay[3]

 

All believers now have the Holy Spirit within them.

The analogy of the house links the OT story and our state:  The Shunamite woman invites God into her house to set up a residence there; we invite the Holy Spirit into our heart and ask him to set up residence in our lives.

The whole secret of victory in the Christian life is letting the Holy Spirit who dwells within you, have undisputed right of way in the entire conduct of your life. [4]

 

The questions that only you can answer for yourself are these:

Do you quash the Holy Spirit in your life or are you welcoming and accommodating him to take over your life?

Are you prepared to go out of your way to accommodate him/her?

If we do not have an indwelling relationship with HS, how can we have faith that he can come through for us when the wheels fall off?



[1] Ken Gott Anointed or Annoying 7

[2] Gott 24

[3] Charles Stanley The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life 31

 

[4] R A Torrey How to Succeed in the Christian Life 33