The Home of the Prophet "Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither" (2 Kings iv. verse 10)
There is something very beautiful in this incident in the life of the prophet Elisha. He is seen by a Shunammite woman passing through the little town of Shunem lying some few miles from Mount Tabor, and is summoned to her home to eat bread. The welcome given him leads him to call as often as he passed by that way. In course of time, the woman, discerning that he is a holy man of God, provides for him a little chamber, suitably furnished, wherein he can abide whenever his duties lead him to the town. Her home became the home of the prophet.
Now, in seeking some of the still deeper beauty in this passage, let us realise that it is recorded in the Word in order that it may influence our lives, that it may directly assist us in our present state. If we receive its message listlessly, it is as if the incident never took place. For to ignore it, now that it has found a place in the Word, and now that our attention is specifically called to it, would mean that the prophet of the Lord passed by the house of the Shunammite and received no welcome summons from her to enter and break bread. This " passing by" of the prophet Elisha, and being noticed by the woman, is really our individual perception of the Lord passing by, and our invitation to Him to enter into our life. He passes near our home when we discern in His Word of truth some divine message. We have at times read the Word and perceived no prophet. It was as if a mere man walked down the street. At other times, let us hope, every one of us has read the Word and its living message has "come home to us"; the prophet of God has been recognised; has entered our spiritual abode; has been received as the very Word of the Lord and has been summoned to abide with us. We can see the force of the spiritual meaning here if we bear in mind that the Lord is always with us, that His message of comfort, of assurance and of instruction, is always in the Word. But we do not always see Him therein. We are not always in the perceptive state. We do not always open its pages with a warm affection for the truth, with the burning intention of welcoming the prophet into our life. And so, when we do perceive a message, it is as if the Lord approached our spiritual home. For He, of course, is the only prophet. Prophecy is His Word of truth. His Word on the lips of a man constituted that man a prophet. It will be noticed, for it is important, that it is the Shunammite woman, not her husband, who perceives the prophet passing by, and it is the woman who suggests that the chamber be prepared for the constant reception of the prophet. The husband and wife living together in Shunem represent man's intelligence and affection. Now, our intelligence, when wedded to a genuine affection for the Lord's Word, will be a welcome host to the truth, nevertheless it is our affection for the Lord's message that will first make us recognise the prophet. Intelligence alone will not effect this. Nothing so breaks the silence of the Divine Word as does the will to hear it, the affection for its truth, the desire that its message be heard and received into our life. And be it noted that this urgency on the part of man's affection is clearly alluded to. The woman " constrained " the prophet to enter and eat bread. If man is to make the Divine Word a living power in his life, then there has to be constraint exercised upon it. This is not through any unwillingness of the Lord to speak to man and to supply the needs of his state. It is that the Word will speak only when there is a wholehearted desire on the part of man for its utterance. Man can make Divine Truth his, only by determination and self-discipline, and the self-discipline may mean the most grievous trials and anxious endeavours.
Now, the little chamber on the wall prepared for the " holy man of God " is representative then of the abode, with each one of us, of the Lord. The details of the provision made for the prophet by the Shunammite inform man of the provision he must make if the Lord is to dwell with him. As New-Church people, there ought to be, with each one of us, a deliberate constraint exercised for the purpose of making our life the abode of the Lord. Our life is our only real worship. It should be lived through from day to day in the conscious presence of the Lord - a receptacle, a home, a chamber prepared for Him that His counsel might ever enlighten and guide. But if He is thus to be with us, then provision must be .made for Him. It may at first appear strange that shelter and security and other provisions must needs be made for Him if He is to abide with us. But it must be borne in mind that these are not so much for His welfare: they are rather securities for our personal retention of His Presence. The little chamber is said to be " on the wall ", and this means that we are to provide for Him in our mind truths drawn from the Word, in which He can dwell as an inner, enlightening and vivifying Spirit. What better abode can our affection for Him prepare than the abode He Himself has chosen - the great, ultimate, fundamental doctrines of His Word? There are many people who believe the Lord will dwell with them through mercy though they disregard the Word. It is tantamount to expecting that love will animate their hearts though they disregard the principles of love. There must be, with each one of us, something that will literally protect the Lord within us, some chamber in a protecting wall, the strength of which will safeguard the Divine guest from harm. Every abode in the Holy City is a chamber within the outer protecting wall - the wall of protecting and fundamental truth - the literal sense of the Word, which guards the living spirit within.
Similarly, too, the bed, the table, the stool and the candle are provisions of our natural life, such that the Lord might find a fitting abode with us. All these are the contributions of man towards a reciprocal communion with the Lord. We shall here remember the doctrine " influx is according to reception." The furnishing of this little chamber represents man's arrangement and equipment of his natural life that the graces of spiritual life might flow in and continually bless him. The articles are all necessities for the prophet's life in the little chamber; and the Lord can abide with us only as our natural life is ordered suitably to receive Him. This reminds us of the fact that John the Baptist had to precede the Lord's advent. The gospel of repentance had first to be preached. Evils of natural life had first to be recognised and repented of. Before there can be any enlightenment of the spirit of truth, the natural mind of man must be furnished with the natural truths of the Word. Before high spiritual purpose cart animate the heart, it must at least be animated by natural good, the grace of charity to fellow-man. The candle provided is man's equipment of natural truth - the Word as its letter enlightens us. The table and stool are the good affections of our natural life, making possible the provision of the bread which is the food of heavenly life. A " bed " in the Word always signifies man's natural life, upon which are superimposed the higher spiritual powers. It has, too, of course, the representation of doctrine, the essential basis of all higher enlightenment.
With such provisions, the Lord can abide with man. The little incident crystallises in simple parable the whole duty of life. We are to become fit abodes of the Lord's Presence. The Word is always with us, and the Lord with His Divine Truth for our every need, is within it. May the affections of our heart be centred more upon Him as their supreme object. Let our desire for Him lead us more surely to recognise Him in His utterances. And once recognised, let Him be brought into closer communion with us, an abode being prepared for Him within the heart and mind, so that in the least, as in the greatest need of the soul, His counsel and grace may be at hand.