A Home With A Difference

Bible Book: 2 Kings  4 : 8-17
Subject: Home

Years ago had you been standing on the street corner and watched the funeral procession; you would have been very impressed. You would have seen standing there, with his head bowed and his hat removed, and tears in his eyes the President of the United States. Around him would have been the Cabinet, officers and members of Congress and dignitaries from various parts of the world. There was a great crowd that watched that coffin, draped in the American flag, as it went down the road. Who was this person who was so honored? Well, he did not hold an elected office, he was not wealthy. He got into government service, ended up overseas in Tripoli and he died in Tripoli. But he so loved and so respected by the people of America and by people from all over the world, that they disinterred his body there in Tripoli and brought him back to the U.S.A. to give him this magnificent funeral. His name was Thomas Howard Payne.

Does that ring a bell? Do you know what he was loved for? Do you know why he was so honored at his death? Because of one simple verse that he wrote. Do you know what that verse was?

Mid pleasures and palaces

Though we may roam

Be it ever so humble

There’s no place like home

In those words this man he expressed the feeling of the hearts of many people about the home and the importance of the home. Some years ago a preacher visited an old feudal castle in England. The castle was so old that one of its towers dated back to the fifteenth century. At breakfast the minister noticed high overhead a massive beam that spanned the grand old hall. The beam bore this inscription, “That house shall be preserved and never shall decay, where Almighty God is worshipped day by day.” What a testimony concerning the home. Yet to day the home has fallen on hard times. For it is increasingly true in another way that there is no place like home. For the home, as we know it, and the home as God meant it to be, is becoming more and more like the buffalo, the sperm whale, it is becoming an endangered species. Think of what is happening in the state of California.” In a move with national implications, California’s state Senate passed a bill that establishes a new definition for ”sex,“ or ”gender,“ which threatens reference to ”mom,“ and ”dad.”

What does this mean? Well, words such as ”mom,” and ”dad,“ and ”husband,“ and ”wife,“ would have to be edited from all texts. Gender neutral bathrooms could be required for those confused about their gender identity. A man who believes he is really a female would be allowed into the women’s bathroom, and a woman believing herself to be a male would be allowed into a man’s bathroom. My, is it not time that we woke up? The home is under attack, the family is under attack. That’s why it is imperative that you fathers ensure that you pray together as a family, are active in a church together, serve God together, and make the Lord the determining factor in every decision for when you do that your are establishing a solid foundation for your home. Your home will be, “A Home with a Difference.” Now I think this home at Shunem was like that. Take a look inside it. It features a well-heeled middle class couple, who seem to have everything, large house, secure income, happy marriage and all of their material needs met. Everything that is, except a child to share this abundance with them.

It is noteworthy that the husband is a background figure in the story. He may have taken a back seat in other respects also. It’s possible for, example, that this man had little or no relationship with God. Certainly many marriages are like this, a keen believing wife coupled with a nominally spiritual husband who is busy with his work, interests, and long-term career. Now whether we have misjudged the Shunemmite’s husband or not we can say several things about this particular home. A Home with a Difference.


Now try and get the Geographical Position in your mind. You see Shunem lay in the north of Israel in the Valley of Esdraelon. Matthew Henry tells us that, “Shunem lay in the road between Samaria and Carmel, a road which Elisha was accustomed to travel as we gather from (2:25)which says, ‘ And he (Elisha) went from hence to Mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.’ (2:25 4:25)Now try and get the Agricultural Prosperity in your mind. For the plain of Jezreel was perhaps the richest ground in the land of Israel. The soil was fertile and well cultivated and as far as the eye could see their spread those rich fields. Even today the Jewish tour guide will tell you that this very area is the bread-basket of Israel. And tucked away in this bread basket was the small market town of Shunem that Elisha often passed through. Can you see this woman’s genuine hospitality? She urge’s him to stay for a meal. This becomes a regular occurrence and in this lovely, pastoral, farming setting she notes the godliness of his life. ”I perceive that this is an holy man of God.”

(4:9) Not just a man of God, but a holy man of God. What a tribute. What a testimony. Others could see only a prematurely bald young man wearing another’s mantle. Some could only see his unconventional manner of life. But here is a lady that sees beyond the outward appearance to the hidden man within. She did not designate him as a ”nice man, “or” a charming man, “she did not allude to him as” a learned man, “for scholarship and spirituality by no means always go together. She didn’t say, “I perceive hat this is a famous man of God, or a popular, or brilliant, or successful man of God. ”She said, “a holy man of God.” She was touched with the godliness of his life in a time of moral depravity (9:22)

“A holy man of God. ”Now when we speak about holiness we must distinguish between,

Positional Holiness which is Objective: Something wrought for us by God through Christ (Heb 10:10)and (2) Practical Holiness which is Subjective: Something wrought in us by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 7:1 Col 1:22 Eph 1:4 Heb 10:14)Now it was Elisha’s practical holiness that touched this woman most. ”I perceive that this is an holy man of God. ”You see Elisha’s Life in the following.


Clearly visible for all to see. She said, “I perceive.” How did she perceive the prophet’s holiness? Did she find him at prayer? Did she him immersed in the

Word? Was it his conversation and conduct? Whatever she could see God in the prophet. She knew that here was a man who kept company with the Almighty. Here was a man who carried an unconscious aura of heaven with him. (a) Is yours? Do the folk with whom we move, live, work perceive that we are holy men and women of God? Does our walk, talk, behavior indicate to them that this is so? Are we obedient to the clear command of God, “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” (1 Pet 1:15-16 1 Thes 4:17)

My, too often we smile at our low business standards, laugh at fashionable jests, tolerate ambiguous pleasures. So often we seek to be all things to all men to please all. There’s nothing distinctive about our character. Is it not a sad day for a preacher when he’s afraid that someone will think he is a preacher. And it’s a sad day for any Christian when he’s afraid somebody will think he’s a Christian.

Oh, to reflect His grace,

Causing the world to see,

Love that shall flow,

Till others may know,

Jesus revealed in me


So much so that she said to her husband, “I perceive .... that this is an holy man of God.”(4:9) She told her husband about Elisha, and can we doubt that others as well heard about this ”holy man of God. ”You see, this holy man of God became the topic of conversation. Its a searching thought that ”none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.”(Rom 14:7)Whatever we do has an effect upon others. We make an impression on others by our walk, and by our talk. Do you know something? We are constantly the subject of someone’s conversation. But what do they say about us? Are they saying, “If that’s Christianity I don’t want it.” “He calls himself a believer but he’s swindling the firm.” “She say’s she born again but the only person she ever thinks of is herself. ”My, we are constantly under the scrutiny of others but do they see Christ in us?

One of the greatest and most influential men of God in his generation was George Muller of Bristol. He made an enormous impact on his day and age. He raised five large orphan houses on Ashley Down in Bristol and housed, fed, clothed, educated and settled in employment hundreds if not thousands of England’s waifs and strays. In himself, George Muller was not an imposing person. On one occasion, when someone asked him the secret of his life he said, “there was a day when I died, died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will, died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends, and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God. ”Muller’s death produced a worldwide sensation. Tens of thousands lined the route of the simple procession. Bristol had never witnessed such a scene. Among those who followed the coffin were four who had been occupants of the first orphan home. The grief of the children melted the hearts of the spectators. Even the world recognized the passing into glory of a holy man of God.


You see it extended to all places at all times. There was a consistency about his godliness. Elisha was passing by continually, but he was always the same. Now he didn’t hide in a cave and polish his halo. He walked among men. Indeed his godliness was evident in the hardest of all places to live a consistent godly life, the home. Elisha was not exercising a mighty preaching ministry, he was not holding a campaign in the marquee at Shunem, he was simply going in and out this woman’s house, passing through when she paid this tremendous tribute, “I perceive that this is an holy man of God which passeth by us continually.”(4:9) Do you know what Major W. F. Bratt used to say, “Holiness begins at home and sanctification at the sink. ”You see, if you can pass the test of everyday living in the home you are real. (1) Are you living a holy life in whatever sphere God has placed you? I wonder in that factory, office, university, neighborhood are others saying, “I perceive, “Whether you like holiness or not, you’d better, because without holiness no man shall see the Lord.


The Bible describes this woman as ”a great woman.”

(4:8) The Hebrew word here (gadol) is used variously. Sometimes it refers to physical or material greatness (Gen 1:16 21)Other times its associated with social eminence (5:1 Pro 25:6)Here it indicates that this woman was a woman of wealth, means, and substance. (4:10 4:22-23)She was well - heeled, but she not hoard it, rather she shared it with the servant of God. Do you see how generous and hospitable she was? How did she help Elisha?


For as Elisha passed to and fro through Shunem on his prophetic ministry, there was one lady on the lookout for him. She sought occasion to do him good. Oh, others may have thought about this practical ministry but this lady took the initiative we read, “she constrained him to eat bread.”(4:8) Wilson tells us that the word means ”to be strong, to take fast hold.” That is not to let go. It appears that Elisha was not easily persuaded to eat at her home, but she persevered. For she was given to the ministry of hospitality. Has she not may faithful successors? Do you recall that little band of ladies from Galilee who befriended the Lord Jesus and ”ministered unto Him of their substance.”

(Lk 8:3) Do you recall Mnason of Cyprus who opened his home to Paul? (Acts 21:16)What about Gaius? For Paul speaks of “Gaius my host.”(Rom 16:23) This ministry of hospitality is urged upon us time and again in the New Testament. Listen to what Paul says to the Roman believers, “Distributing to the necessity of saints, given to hospitality.”(Rom 12:13)

Is this not to be a mark of the elders? Well, Paul’s tell us a elder must be”a lover of hospitality.”(1 Tim 3:2 Titus 1:8)

And lest you think that’s you off the hook Peter says, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”(1 Pet 4:9) Now do you see how this lady did it? Well, firstly she was marked by submission, she consulted her husband. Do you ladies do that? I mean she respected his headship over her life. After all the Word of God says that the husband is ”the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.”(Eph 5:22-23) She had no ”little secrets,“ which she kept from him. She urged him to build an extension especially for Elisha, setting this room aside to make life more comfortable for the man of God. This is true hospitality as opposed to mere entertaining. Do you know the difference? In entertaining the focus is upon the hosts and their home, the furnishings, decor and cordon - blue cookery which are all designed to impress the guests. In hospitality the focus is on the comfort, pleasure and refreshment of the visitor. Beans on toast before a blazing fire may be all that’s required because the design here is to bless the guests.


Look if you will at (4:8) This was no fleeting mood of kindness, which suddenly came upon her and suddenly disappeared. This was a steady and permanent thing. She did not tire of ministering to the servant of God but continued to provide for his need and comfort and at considerable trouble and expense. Do you know homes like this? I am thinking just now of one like this in Scotland, where ”a great woman, “has a prophet’s chamber, and continually ministers to the servants of God who come there. (b) You know, so often a church is elated when a pastor is inducted, and in those early days the members cannot do enough for the man of God but such enthusiasm soon cools. Someone has summed a pastor in a church like this. The first year they idolize you, the second year they criticize you, the third year they ostracize you. But not this woman.


Do you see what she did? She did not give him one of the rooms in the house? Do you know why? Well, she wanted him to come in and go out as he pleased, without more contact with the family than he himself chose. Living with folk even Christians can be stressful, but she was a real home - maker she had got the balance right. Did you notice what she put in the room? A bed. What does that speak of? Rest. A Table. What does that speak of? Provision, food. A Stool. What does that speak of? Communion, prayer. A Candlestick. What does that speak of? Testimony. Here was a place where this holy man of God would be undisturbed in his devotions and meditations.

Have you such a place? (Matt 6:6) A prophet’s chamber. Do you take time and make time to be holy? Are you speaking often with your Lord? I don’t what way my family will remember me, but I know what way I remember my father. As a man who encouraged the servants of God, as a man who promoted the cause of God, and as man who interceded at the throne of God. A Home with a Difference. Is this your home like this home?


Now I don’t want you to think that this home was unhappy before this incident for it wasn’t. Indeed when Elisha offered to use his influence to bring some material reward to this woman, her reply is striking.

She says, “I dwell among mine own people.” (4:13)

“Thanks, but no thanks. We really do have all that we need. ”No complaints, only contentment. Is that you?

Do you recall what is said of the virtuous woman in the book of Proverbs? “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord she shall be praised.”(31:30)Paul said, ”I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” (Phil 4:11)

Matthew Henry said,”It would be well with many, if they did but know when they are well off. ”But they don’t. There was contentment in this home and yet for all that it lacked one thing, the sunshine of a child’s presence and the music of a child’s voice. So we read,”And the woman conceived and bare a son.”(4:17) Do you know something? This lady’s


Now she didn’t engage in this ministry to be noticed.

She didn’t provide for the prophet in order to talk about it to others. She had no desire to be recognized ! (4:13 )

But her service was not unnoticed. Are you ministering away there in the background? Are you laboring away in some difficult sphere that is not glamorous or conspicuous? Do you find at times that it is a real grind and burden. Will you listen to God’s Word to you this ….”God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister.”(Heb 6:10)


Look if you will at (4:17)She knew that the God of Sarah and the God of Hannah still lived. The Lord Jesus said, “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward .... and whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water .... verily I say unto you he shall in no wise lose his reward.”(Matt 10:41-42)Do you know something? God rewards genuine hospitality.

The godly woman received the gift of a son, because she had taken care of the servant of the Lord. The Book of Hebrews says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”(Heb 13:2) Do you know what happened in the Old Testament? Many people took in strangers and found out later that the strangers were angels

(messengers of God) (Gen 18:1 Jud 6:11 13:2)And do you know something? These messengers left more than they took, rich promises, powerful encouragement, and outstanding advice were just some of the blessings that the angels left. Was this woman any different? The guest she blessed left a blessing with her too for God rewards genuine hospitality.

A Home with a Difference. There was Holiness there, There was Helpfulness there, and there was Happiness there. This was her home. What about yours?