“We understand God’s commitment to dwell among his people, and we should commit ourselves to emulate him and contentedly dwell among our own. Does this condemn travel, promote ethnocentrism, or stand against missions? No.”
One of the most beautiful statements of contentment came from the mouth of the Shunammite woman. You remember the story in 2 Kings 4. The itinerant prophet Elisha passed through Shunem occasionally, and this wealthy woman and her husband hosted him at their table. His frequent visits motivated this woman to suggest to her husband that they add a small but comfortable room to their home where he could stay; so they did. He had a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Elisha was so blessed that he told his servant, Gehazi, to ask her what they could do for her. Her simple but profoundly contented answer:
I dwell among my own people. (1 Kings 4:13)
In our day of unparalleled mobility, we would do well to recover her expression of contentment.
Notice that she didn’t need to go anywhere to be fulfilled. She didn’t even need travel to make her happy. She didn’t ask for a seven day luxury cruise, a vacation adventure, or a trip to see the king. She didn’t need things to satisfy her. That was amazing because we soon learn in the story that she was barren and had no children.
Notice too that the word “dwell” is not passive. It’s a verb, an activity to be performed. By self-definition, it can only be done where you live. The Shunammite woman was alive with activity! She kept her home with her husband. She also counted her home as something larger than her immediate family and house. She knew she was part of God’s people and was contented to live in Israel and serve whomever she could around her.
Service is at the heart of true dwelling. The essence of what God reveals about this lady is that she served Elisha, which also tells us something of her love for and commitment to God’s word. To dwell, in this biblical sense, is to live locally with a heart of service for your neighbors and to see such service as among the greatest callings on earth.