Understanding biblical hospitality must start in the Old Testament. The project research identified three critical principles that helped lay the foundation for the thesis of biblical hospitality as a strategy for making disciples who make disciples.
First, hospitality is deeply rooted in the character of God. In the Old Testament, we see hospitality as an attribute of the character of God.
Hospitality is reflected in God's character clearly in the creation story. God creates the universe and provides a special place for Adam and Eve to live in the Garden of Eden. "In the first chapters of Genesis, we see God's hospitality on display in full, creative force. He creates the heavens and the earth, and by doing so, fashions the perfect home for Adam and Eve. He provides everything they need to thrive in created joy."  Kevin Hall calls attention to the hospitality of God when he writes, "It is in the creation account that we find God's hospitality as host of creation."  The creative work of God in making a home for his most prized creation is a demonstration of hospitality and reflective of God's character. In the words of Reinhard Hütter, human hospitality is "both a reflection and an extension of God's hospitality—God's sharing of the love of the triune life with those who are dust."  As an attribute of God, hospitality finds its images in the biblical proclamation of the relationship between God and his people. Specifically, hospitality is seen in God calling out Israel to be his people and welcoming them into a covenant relationship with himself.
Second, hospitality is a command for God’s people. We see the command given to the nation of Israel to welcome the foreigner or stangers living in the land.
The hospitality of God is also an explicit command in the Old Testament. Repeatedly, the illusion is made to Israel's time as strangers and foreigners in the land of Egypt. This reality is the foundation of God's command for hospitality found in Leviticus, "When an alien resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You will regard the alien who resides with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33–34) God's gracious activity, seen in his care for the Israelites, was to be reciprocated. The Israelites had experienced firsthand the incredible hospitality of God through their deliverance from Egypt. Once aliens and strangers, the people of God are rescued from Egypt, provided for in the wilderness, and invited to take possession of a land that was not their own. Christine Pohl reminds us of God's hospitality to Israel and their corresponding responsibility when she writes, "Images of God as gracious and generous host pervade the biblical materials. God provides manna and quail daily in the wilderness for a hungry and often ungrateful people. God offers shelter in a hot and dry land and refreshment through living water. Israel's covenant identity includes being a stranger, an alien, a tenant in God's land—both dependent on God for welcome and provision and answerable to God for its own treatment of aliens and strangers.
Third we see hospitality intimately connected to the practice of sharing a meal. Consistently hospitality is practiced in the Old Testament as God’s people welcome strangers and provide a meal.
The recurring theme in biblical hospitality—is a meal. Tim Chester highlights the significance of meals when he writes, "Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance. "Few acts are more expressive of companionship than the shared meal. . . . Someone with whom we share food is likely to be our friend, or well on the way to becoming one." The word "companion" comes from the Latin "cum” ("together") and "panis" ("bread"). Abraham provides the strangers announcing the birth of Isaac with a meal, but this example only scratches the surfaces. Scripture contains numerous stories such as David welcoming Mephibosheth to eat at his table (2 Sam. 9), the prophet Elijah providing a meal to the army sent to kill him (1 Kings 6), and the Shunammite widow's hospitality to Elijah (2 Kings 4) are a few of the accounts of welcoming others to a meal. The invitation to the table for a meal is a powerful picture in the Old Testament that has its greatest fulfillment in the New Testament. A shared meal is the activity most closely tied to the reality of God's kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality.  There will be a day when the redeemed saints of God will take their place at marriage supper of the Lamb, for a meal with King Jesus.
Dr. George Ross is Assistant Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism, Occupying the Cecil B. Day Chair of Church Planting. This blog originally appeared at www.georgeross.net/blog in a series exploring biblical hospitality practices as a missional strategy.
. Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements, The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017), 37, Kindle.
. Kevin Allen Hall, “The Hidden Conversion: Divine Hospitality as a Framework for Christian Discipleship” (DMin proj. rpt., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 2015), 30, accessed January 2, 2018, Theological Research Exchange Network.
. Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 25.
. Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 16.
. Garwood P. Anderson, “Hospitality,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
. Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011) Kindle, 9-10.
. Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 30.