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8. The Ministry Of Hospitality, Or How To Minister With A Meal (Judges 19; Revelation 3:20)

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December 2, 1979

Introduction1

Cold churches are not a product of the present energy crisis.

Singer John Charles Thomas, now sixty-six, wrote to syndicated columnist Abigail Van Buren a few months ago about an interesting project he undertook because he moves about a great deal:2 “I am presently completing the second year of a three-year survey on the hospitality or lack of it in churches. To date, of the 195 churches I have visited, I was spoken to in only one by someone other than an official greeter––and that was to ask me to move my feet.”3

While it is painful to admit, the experience of John Charles Thomas is probably common to nearly all of us. It is often on the basis of hospitality (or its absence), that newcomers determine whether or not they will return to the church they have visited. I must say from my own experience that my wife and I nearly left a church which we were convinced was the most biblical we had ever attended because there seemed to be little interest in welcoming newcomers.

A Definition of Hospitality

In order to focus our attention on this matter of hospitality, we must first define it. Since there is no one term which fully conveys the entire spectrum of its meaning, we will begin by looking at the various biblical terms which refer to this gracious ministry.

The primary New Testament term for hospitality is philoxenia, (Romans 12:13), a noun referring to hospitality (literally, a lover of strangers) or its adjectival counterpart, philoxenos (1 Peter 4:9), given to hospitality. The emphasis of the term falls upon love (Phileo) bestowed upon those whom we do not know (Xenos, stranger). Another term, Xenizō, means “to receive a stranger” or “to receive as a guest,” “to entertain” (cf. Acts 10:23; Hebrews 13:2).

Another expression frequently employed is “to receive” or “to welcome.” While several Greek terms are employed with this meaning, the context makes it clear that it refers to the welcoming of those who are strangers into the hospitality of the home (cf. Matthew 10:40-41; Acts 18:27; 28:30; 3 John 9-10).

In other passages, no one specific term is employed (e.g., Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-3), but the activity is that of welcoming strangers and opening both hearts and homes to them. Usually this involves the sharing of a meal, and often providing accommodations for spending the night. Perhaps hospitality can best be defined as,

The ministry of making others (often strangers) at home in our home by welcoming them and sharing our home with them, providing food and lodging as needed.

Hospitality in the Old Testament

Much of the significance of the sharing of a meal in the New Testament is the outgrowth of Old Testament teaching and practice. Because of this, we must begin our study in the pages of Old Testament history.

1. Hospitality was a part of the near Eastern culture.

Let us begin by frankly acknowledging that hospitality was an activity highly esteemed by the culture of the saints of old.

Hospitality, we have said, is a necessity of life in the desert, but among the nomads this necessity has become a virtue, and a most highly esteemed one. The guest is sacred: the honor of providing for him is disputed, but generally falls to the sheikh. The stranger can avail himself of this hospitality for three days, and even after leaving he has a right to protection for a given time. This time varies from tribe to tribe: among some it is “until the salt he has eaten has left his stomach;” in big tribes like the Ruwalla of Syria it is for three more days and within a radius of 100 miles.4

2. Hospitality was a requirement of the Old Testament Law.

Hospitality was not only culturally expected, it was divinely commanded. Repeatedly in the Old Testament Law, strangers were to be kindly treated and warmly accepted.

The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:34).

And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do (Deuteronomy 14:29).

3. Old Testament hospitality was more than a meal or a place to spend the night.

The sharing of a meal with another was deeply significant because it symbolized the bestowal of greater blessings or benefits. Hospitality clearly implied that the guest was assured of protection (cf. Genesis 19:8; Judges 19:23). A meal was often eaten together as a part of the signing of a treaty (Genesis 26:30; 31:46, 54; Joshua 9:14-15). A meal was a vital part of the commemoration of the Passover (Exodus 12). David gave evidence of his intention to care for Jonathan’s son by providing for him at this table (2 Samuel 9:7). When Boaz invited Ruth to partake at his table (Ruth 2:14), it was an indication of his care, favor and protection. Isaiah foretold of the coming Messianic kingdom in terms of a great banquet (Isaiah 25:6-8).

4. Hospitality was an evidence of godliness.

It would be safe to say that the degree of one’s hospitality was proportionate to one’s love for God. This should come as no surprise, for our Lord taught, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

Abraham urged the three “strangers” to stop and rest and share a meal with him (Genesis 19:1-5). Lot, likewise, asked the two messengers to spend the night with him (19:1-3). The widow at Azrephath cared for Elijah (1 Kings 17:9f), and the Shunamite woman persuaded her husband to prepare a “prophet’s chamber” for Elisha (2 Kings 4:8f).

All of the above are evidences of the spirituality of those who showed hospitality to others. But the converse is also true. When one’s devotion to God wanes, so does his desire to minister to others.

No passage makes this point as forcefully as Judges 19. This book almost depressingly depicts the depravity of those whom God had chosen as His own people (cf. 3:1-7; 17:6). What a contrast there is between the hospitality of the father of this Levite’s concubine (verses 3-9)5 and that of the Benjamites who lived in Gibeah (verses 15-25). The Levite had to tear himself away from the hospitality of his father-in-law. As they traveled toward his home they found night falling upon them. Knowing the dangers of traveling at night, the Levite’s servant suggested that they stop at the nearest town, Jebus (Jerusalem) which was as yet not possessed by the Israelites (cf. verse 12). He would only feel safe when received hospitably by his brethren. They must press on to Gibeah or Ramah (verse 13).

Finally arriving in Gibeah, they went to the town square expecting to be welcomed and provided with a place to stay. No one responded (verse 15), even though the Levite would not have been a burden to them (verse 19). Finally an old man, who himself was not a Benjamite (verse 16), invited them to stay with him.

Not only did the Benjamites fail to offer the provision and protection of their homes, they threatened to do him great harm by sexually assaulting him. Rather than violate the protection he was obligated to guarantee his guests, the old man offered his daughter to these men (verses 23-24). Finally the Levite gave these men his concubine, whom they raped and killed.6 The magnitude of this outrageous act was evidenced by the dismemberment and distribution of the body of the concubine.

There is little doubt in my mind but that the author of Judges was graphically describing the depravity of the Israelites and their sad spiritual state by this account. Godly men showed hospitality to strangers, while the godless sought only to use or abuse them. Such is the picture of hospitality as we see it in the Old Testament.

Hospitality in the New Testament

We shall see that the New Testament virtually ratifies the Old Testament concept of hospitality in fact. This is true in the life of our Lord, in the life of the early church, and in the Epistles.

1. Hospitality in the life of our Lord.

In the first place, our Lord’s acceptance of the hospitality offered Him was an act of identification with those with whom He ate. Our Lord’s unashamed presence at the table with sinners evidenced His identification with such men, and thereby greatly troubled the religious elite:

And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax-gatherers and other people who were reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call righteous men but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:29-32).

We may rightly conclude that acceptance of one’s hospitality in some way identifies you with that person. In this way, our Lord chose to associate with sinners.

Second, our Lord not only accepted the hospitality of men, but He also extended it in His earthly ministry.

And disembarking, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. And when it was already quite late, His disciples came up to Him and began saying, “The place is desolate and it is already quite late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” (Mark 6:34-37).

Both the disciples and their Lord were exhausted from their rigorous schedule and desperately needed to get away (verses 30-32). Unfortunately (in the minds of the disciples at least), the crowds were not to be easily eluded (verses 33-34). As the boat landed, it was met by a large crowd.

No doubt the hearts of the disciples sank. They wanted a vacation, but instead they found only their vocation. Our Lord felt compassion on the crowd. They were as sheep without a shepherd (verse 34), and later on they were getting hungry. The exasperation of the disciples is thinly concealed in their request that Jesus send the crowds away (verse 36). Instead, Jesus told His disciples to feed them (verse 37).

In this feeding and others (cf. 8:1-9), Jesus revealed His compassion and concern for those in need. While Jesus did not have a home to share, He did minister to the physical needs of His sheep. In so doing, He revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10) and the Messiah for which Israel had waited. While God had provided mannah for the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus offered the bread which is from above, leading to eternal life (John 6:22ff.).

Third, men evidenced their acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah as they offered Him hospitality. Martha welcomed Jesus into her home, revealing her faith (Luke 10:38). Jesus invited Himself into the home of Zaccheus, knowing his heart (Luke 19:2ff.). Those who refused to receive the disciples revealed their rejection of the Savior. To welcome them was to receive Him (Matthew 10:14, 40-41).

Not only was this true during the life and ministry of our Lord, as is the case today, but it will also be so in the future:

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; …Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in” (Matthew 25:31-35, emphasis mine).

During the tribulation, men’s acceptance or rejection of the Savior will be reflected by their treatment of the saints. To offer hospitality to the people of God is to evidence faith in God and obedience to His Word.

2. Hospitality in the practice of the early Church.

One of the earmarks of the apostolic church was that of its hospitality.

And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . . And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart (Acts 2:42, 46).

The sharing of meals described in Acts 2 was that which occurred among Jewish Christians. It was not long until differences around the meal table threatened to divide the church into Jewish and Gentile segments. In chapter 6, the Hellenistic Jewish widows were being slighted in the daily feeding of those in need (verse 1). The apostles took decisive action to put an end to this division (verses 2-6).

The real danger is dealt with in chapters 10 and 11 of Acts. The Jews had used the Old Testament food laws as a basis for their rigorous efforts at separation from the Gentiles. These Laws (as interpreted by Judaism) when rigidly applied, meant that no devout Jew could ever eat with a Gentile. This would never do when the Lord’s table was conducted as a part of a meal.

Peter’s vision in Acts 10 was intended to inform him that in Christ the former ceremonial food laws were done away with. This removed the theological basis for segregation at the dinner table. As a result, he did not (better yet, could not) refuse the Gentile delegation from the house of Cornelius the hospitality of his home. They came at meal time (verses 9-10), so they must have eaten with him and then stayed the night (verse 23). They then traveled to Caesarea, where Peter preached to those gathered with Cornelius, and where Peter remained a guest for a few days (verse 48).

When word reached the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem, they were deeply distressed:

And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying,

You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them (Acts 11:2-3).

Once it was clear that this was the work of God, none could protest further, and it was concluded that God must have purposed to save the Gentiles also (verse 18). While Peter did not always live consistently with this revelation (cf. Galatians 2:11ff.), it was a decisive turning point for the church of Jesus Christ. How much is implied when Jewish and Gentile saints sit at the same table, and how seldom we realize the significance of it.

In Acts 16, we are reminded that conversion was evidenced, in part, by the hospitality of those who have come to faith:

And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us (Acts 16:30, 34).

Summarizing the New Testament teaching on hospitality, we can lay down several principles.

Principle 1: In the New Testament, hospitality is a command.

…practicing hospitality (Romans 12:13).

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).

Be hospitable to one another without complaint (1 Peter 4:9).

Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they bear witness to your love before the church; and you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth (3 John 5-8).

In the Romans passage, the emphasis falls upon the word “practice,” which is better rendered “pursuing” (the marginal reading in the NASV). It highlights the fact that hospitality doesn’t just happen; it is a matter of determination and discipline. People don’t happen to diet, or to jog; they purpose to do it, and they are willing to pay the price to follow through with it.

The Hebrew text emphasizes the need for hospitality to be practiced toward strangers, and not just with those whom we are acquainted and comfortable.

Peter reminds us that our attitude must be right in showing hospitality toward others. There is a likelihood that any ministry of grace will be abused. When we act like servants (as we should), people will inevitably treat us like a servant. In spite of this, we must carry on this ministry of hospitality joyfully (cf. that of giving, 2 Corinthians 9:7).

John is more specific in urging us to open our hearts and our homes to those who go forth proclaiming the gospel. Since they have determined not to accept help from “the Gentiles,” that is, unbelievers, they should be cared for by the Christian community. I cannot help but sense that this text blends our obligations to minister with food and shelter as well as with money.

Principle 2: Hospitality will be abused.

We have already alluded to abuses of hospitality, but let us linger on this for a moment. The Corinthians nullified the blessing of the Lord’s Supper by failing to reflect true Christian unity in the meal that was a part of the communion remembrance. The one loaf from which all partook reflected the unity of those gathered (1 Corinthians 10:17). And yet during their meal, some refused to wait for those who worked late (1 Corinthians 11:33-34). Some ate and drank to excess, while others (no doubt those who were late) went without (verse 21). This error had to be corrected.

In the Thessalonian church, some were using the Lord’s imminent return as an excuse not to work. They chose to abuse the hospitality of the saints instead of working with their own hands and providing for themselves (2 Thessalonians 3).

Abuses of these kinds must have been common. According to an Italian proverb,

A guest is like a fish––after three days he stinks.7

The Didache (11:4-6), a kind of ancient church manual, has this word of counsel:

Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord, but he must not stay more than one day, or two if it is absolutely necessary; if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when an apostle leaves you, let him take nothing but a loaf, until he reaches further lodging for the night; if he asks for money, he is a false prophet.8

In the light of biblical and extra-biblical evidence, the serious Christian should approach this area of ministry anticipating abuses.

Principle 3: Hospitality is a qualification for the office of elder.

The importance of the ministry of hospitality is suggested by the fact that being hospitable is a prerequisite for the office of elder:

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2, cf. Titus 1:8).

I believe there are several reasons why this matter of hospitality is so essential for elders in particular. First of all, elders will provide an example and set the pace for the entire congregation. I have yet to see a church congregation that was not a reflection of its leaders. Second, it is through hospitality that elders can get to know the flock and be known by them (cf. John 10:14, 27). Finally, the elders are responsible to guard the flock. Often false teachers would travel about, passing themselves off as teachers of the truth. If the elders were men who were given to hospitality, these men would be exposed and the flock protected.

Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work (1 Timothy 5:9-10).

Principle 4: Hospitality does more than meet a physical need.

As in the Old Testament, hospitality is significant not only because of what it provides, but also because of what it implies or enhances.

Hospitality binds together the host and the guest. This is evident in John’s Epistle:

Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they bear witness to your love before the church; and you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth (3 John 5-8).

Conversely, we must not offer the hospitality of our homes to false teachers:

If any comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives a greeting participates in his evil deeds (2 John 10-11).

To offer hospitality to a teacher, whether true or false, makes our home the base of his operation. We become a partner in the ministry of anyone to whom we offer hospitality.

Hospitality is inviting a guest to share in the intimacy of home and family life. This is necessary and beneficial in church life, but it must be withheld from those under discipline:

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler––not even to eat with such a one (1 Corinthians 5:11).

As I understand Paul’s words in this passage, they apply to professed Christians living knowingly and willfully in sin. These are to be “delivered over to Satan” (verse 5, cf. also 1 Timothy 5:20) for chastening and discipline. If one chooses to willfully disobey God and reject His Word, he should not be allowed to share in the blessings of “family life” but should be constrained to live his life, for the time being, in the sphere of Satan’s power and influence.

One’s absence from table fellowship (which in New Testament times would have included the Lord’s Supper) implied a definite spiritual problem. Likewise, one who refused to accept those who came in the Lord’s name evidenced an unspiritual attitude:

I wrote something to the church, but Diotrophes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, neither does he receive the brethren, and he forbids those who desire to do so, and puts them out of the church (3 John 9-10).

Perhaps the most significant aspect of hospitality is that it invites intimacy. The most intimate circle into which others can be invited is that of home and family life. And the time of greatest family intimacy is the sharing of the meal.

Until I grasped this, I never caught the significance of this most familiar verse:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).

The Laodicean church, was an apathetic church, not apostate; indifferent, not unbelieving (cf. verses 14-17). Of all the metaphors that could have been employed to picture a return to intimacy with the Lord Jesus, that of fellowship at a table was used. Hospitality is a picture of the deepest intimacy between a believer and His Lord, and between believers themselves, in the Lord. How vital is its presence, and how critical is its absence from our churches and homes today.

Conclusion and Application

We have seen from both the Old and New Testaments that hospitality is an essential part of godliness. It meets the physical needs of people. It is a matter of obedience to divine imperatives. It promotes the proclamation of the gospel. It both conducts and is conducive to the work of the ministry. It offers men and women “the intimacy of the soul” for which they are desperately seeking.

It is most profitable to contemplate the relationship of what we have learned about the “meaning of a meal” to the most important supper of all, the Lord’s Supper. In this weekly remembrance,9 our Lord invites us to participate at His table, to share intimately with Him, in what He has provided. How sad it is when people disdain His table and think it unnecessary, irrelevant, or repetitive. That says much more about our spirtuality, I fear, than about the Supper itself.

The meaning of a meal is nowhere better seen than at this remembrance of the Lord’s table. It implies spiritual intimacy and blessings (cf. Luke 12:15). It reminds us of a covenant which is symbolized in the elements (Luke 22:20). It assures us of God’s divine care and protection of those who are at His table. It warns those of the implications of neglecting it, or worse, of being banned from it. It binds together all those who share in it. What a privilege!

Then, too, it amazes me to realize that the sons of darkness are often wiser then the children of light concerning the value of a meal. Even the federal government recognizes the sharing of a meal as necessary for the carrying on of business. It is tax deductible! But Christians seem to have neglected hospitality as a vital means of carrying on God’s business.

What young man has failed to appreciate the usefulness of a meal? How many hopeful bachelors have chosen to propose to their sweethearts after a romantic meal? What a way to enhance the intimacy of soul between fellow Christians, between husband and wife, parents and children.

We have failed to make use of meal times as an opportunity to share ourselves with others. We often complain that we don’t have time to share with our families, but what use is being made of the meal table? Father hides behind his paper or in front of the television. Only the most mundane or routine matters are discussed. We hurry from the table to do “more important things.” God help us to rearrange our thinking and our living.

I must confess that I have never appreciated what my wife was trying to tell me when she would confess her desire to go out to eat together (alone––without the kids) once in awhile. I always thought she wanted a good meal. I always preferred to stay at home, pick up a nice steak, and so on. What she wants is what goes with the meal––a quiet, intimate conversation, a sharing of souls, like we used to do before we were married.

(One of my friends came up to me after I shared this in my sermon and said to me, “I hope all those young men understood what you were saying about taking your wife out to dinner.” He went on to share how long it took him to realize what his wife wanted and needed. He told me that recently when someone asked what they were doing on a particular evening, his wife said, “We’re finishing sentences.” That is, they were going out to eat so that all the things they started to say and needed to say could be said adequately. Men, take note!)

It is indeed a frightening thought, my friends, but I believe it to be accurate when I say that most of us look at our homes, not as a focal point for hospitality and sharing spiritual intimacy with others, but as a fortress. That is why we spend so much money on fences. We want to keep people at arm’s reach, or further. We have come to value privacy above intimacy. Good fences don’t make good Christians. Let us tear them down. Let us open our hearts and our homes to others. This is a part of New Testament ministry.

I hope the time will come when no visitor to our church leaves without being asked home by at least one family. That is what many Christians are desperately seeking, not just an open door, but an open heart and open hands to reach out and demonstrate the love of Christ. It is by this, more than by the doctrinal statement printed in our brochure, that men will measure us by, and to some extent, rightly so.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).


1 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Robert L. Deffinbaugh, teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel, on December 2, 1979. Anyone is at liberty to use this edited manuscript for educational purposes only, with or without credit. The Chapel believes the material presented herein to be true to the teaching of Scripture, and desires to further, not restrict, its potential use as an aid in the study of God’s Word. The publication of this material is a grace ministry of Community Bible Chapel. Copyright 1979 by Community Bible Chapel, 418 E. Main Street, Richardson, TX 75081.

2 The following are some of the passages that should be considered in a study of hospitality:

Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-3

Leviticus 19:9-10, 33; 23:22; 25:35

Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 14:28-29; 24:19

Judges 19

Acts 2:42, 46; 6:1-6; 10; 11;

  16:14f, 25-34; 18:1-3, 7;

  20:7, 11; 21:8, 16; 28:7,

  30-31

I Kings 17 (especially verse 9)

Romans 12:13, 20

II Kings 4:8-10

I Corinthians 5:11; 10; 11

Nehemiah 5:17ff

Galatians 2:12

Job 31:32

II Thessalonians 3

Proverbs 25:21

I Timothy 3:2; 5:10

Isaiah 25:6-8

Titus 1:8

Matthew 10:5-15; 40-42; 25:31-46

Hebrews 13:2

Mark 6:30-44; 8:1-10

I Peter 4:9

Luke 3:11; 10:1-12, 38; 15:2

II, III John

John 6:51-58

Revelation 3:20

3 “In Defense of Paper Carnations,” Christianity Today, Eutychus VIII, June 3, 1977, p. 4.

4 Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, 2 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1965), I, p. 10.

5 Hospitality was normally expected to last 3 days (cf. fn. 3 above). After three days (verse 5), the son-in-law prepared to leave, but the father-in-law urged him to stay on, which he did (verses 5-7). Even on the fifth day he was urged to remain (verses 8-9) and, at best, he got away late in the day.

6 Christians today are greatly troubled by this man’s offering of his virgin daughter to the crowd in place of the stranger (verse 24), as also Lot proposed to the Sodomites (Genesis 19:8). In the case of Lot, the angels did not allow anyone to be molested. In this instance in Judges 19, the concubine was ultimately sacrificed to the sexual appetites of the townsmen.

We should understand how seriously these men took their responsibility to protect those who came under their roof and sat at their table. No doubt they went too far in being willing to make any concessions to the violent desires of these perverts. Neither in Genesis 19 nor in Judges 19 is there any defense of the actions of those who would give up anyone to the hostile mob. Perhaps we are to understand that even the heroes of these accounts were tainted by the evils of their times. While the Levite went to “speak tenderly” to his concubine (Judges 19:3), persuading her to return home with him, he was not very tender in his actions (cf. verses 25, 28, 29).

While we should rightly be offended by the violence of this chapter, it is part of God’s Word, recorded for our instruction (1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We should rightfully be angry at sin. So often the absence of godliness and true hospitality are disguised as sophistication and are lauded as virtues. Judges 19 forces us to look at the matter in a much more sobering way.

7 Quoted by, J.N.D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1969), p. 179.

8 Quoted by, F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), p. 390

9 While some would try to convince us that the New Testament gives us no directives concerning the frequency of the Lord’s Supper, this is based upon very shallow reasoning. Our Lord instructed His followers to “be doing this” (present tense, Luke 22:19), “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). In the early church, this remembrance was done daily in Acts 2:46 and weekly in chapter 20:7.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church)

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