Elijah told God how he was feeling; overworked and under appreciated by the people. So God appointed his relief team; Elisha.
I am forever getting these two men’s names mixed up. I have learned to google the story points and see which name comes up in my search. After our time with them I MIGHT be able to remember who did what and when, but I’m making NO promises.
Before we jump into our story I want to note a couple of things I found interesting in this story. The first is that Elisha seems to be a wealthy man. I don’t know a lot about life in Israel at that time but Elisha had TWELVE yoke of oxen. I’m not certain if this means 12 oxen yoked together or 12 yokes with two oxen each. Either way that is a LOT of power on the hoof! And you wouldn’t need that many oxen if you didn’t have a sizable field to plow. Although Elisha wasn’t so rich that he stayed home while the ‘help’ did all the work.
Elisha was in the field doing the work. And the oxen were his because he killed them, broke up their yokes for firewood and offered them as a sacrifice (and food) before following Elijah. In doing this he also ‘burned his bridges’ by stripping himself of his wealth. He destroyed his own livelihood.
The second thing I noticed is that Elisha appears to know who Elijah was. I don’t know if Elisha had seen Elijah in action, had heard about him and knew him by description, or if everything was imparted to him when Elijah threw his cloak over his shoulders. It is possible that the Spirit opened Elisha’s eyes to who had just ‘tapped him for duty’.
Elijah, on the other hand, knew Elisha’s name and general location. He had to search him out. But there was no doubt in Elijah’s mind as to the identity of the man he approached. Was this by someone pointing out Elisha, by description, or by leading of the Spirit? I like how he tossed his cloak on Elisha as he walked on by. Talk about nonchalant.
The last thing that struck me is Elisha’s request; “Let me kiss my father and mother, and then I will follow you” (verse 20b). When Jesus was walking one day a man asked to follow Him but also asked first to go home and say good-bye to his family. Jesus told him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). What was the difference between Elisha and this man? Why was one allowed to have a ‘farewell party’ and the other verbally chastised by Jesus?
Let’s rejoin our story and walk in the shoes of the men God used.
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Elijah is excited to be traveling with a direction in mind. He knows what the Lord has asked him to do and where he is supposed to go. The last time he set out on a journey with the Lord he didn’t know his destination or what to expect when he got there. It didn’t matter though because as long as the journey was with the Lord ALL was good.
As Elijah makes his way towards Damascus he mulls over what the Lord wants him to do. He realizes this is a ‘long term’ plan and not something that he is to go and do this very day. The part of meeting his successor though he will do as soon as possible. He wants as much time with him as possible to train him in the ways of the Lord.
Elijah arrives at Abel-meholah. This is where the Lord said Elisha would be from. Now remains the task of finding this man. Elijah makes his way about town, asking everyone he encounters as to the whereabouts of the man Elisha, son of Shaphat.
“His land is beyond the hill on the right. It is a large parcel and he will most likely be out working it” offers an inn keeper.
Elijah thanks him and heads towards the place indicated. It doesn’t take long for him to recognize the field that was described or to spot the man working it. Elijah comes near where he is working but stays out of sight so he can watch him for a while.
Elisha appears to be a strong man who is used to hard work. His skin is deeply bronzed by the sun. He stands a head and shoulders over each of the oxen he is plowing with. His voice is strong but kind as he calls out to his charges. His directions are firm to his team and they respond to his hand like a practiced dance partner. He isn’t afraid to show affection or correction when needed.
Elijah has seen all he needs to. This is the man the Lord has called him to take at his side. The man who will one day wear the mantle Elijah now carries. He really didn’t need to watch Elisha work to know this because the Spirit of the Lord had already confirmed it, but Elijah enjoyed taking time to learn Elisha’s ways. It’s time.
Elijah steps out from the place he has been observing from and walks toward where Elisha is working. Elisha is engrossed in his work and doesn’t notice Elijah’s approach. A few steps before reaching Elisha, Elijah removes his cloak. He holds up between his hands and lays it quickly upon the shoulders of Elisha and continues walking on by as if nothing has happened.
Elisha is startled first by the weight of the cloak on his back and then by the sensations that charge through him. He turns quickly from the oxen he was just ministering to. His eyes search out who has come into his sphere. Elijah is already a few steps past him. Elisha looks at the man’s retreating back and his mind begins to race. “This must be a prophet of God. Has he just called me to his service?” Elisha’s heart supplies the answers to his mind’s musings. “He is the prophet Elijah, and YES, he is calling me!”
Elisha quickly calls one of his servants over to tend to the oxen and he runs to catch up with Elijah. He reaches him in a matter of seconds as his long stride eats up the distance. He bows in respect. He clutches Elijah’s cloak to his chest for a moment then holds it out to him. “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you” (verse 20b).
Elijah’s smiles but sadness peers from his eyes. “Is this man truly ready for what is being asked of him?” Elijah answers Elisha’s request. “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” (verse 20c). In his heart Elijah knows the burden he is asking Elisha to carry. “If he knew what is being asked of him, would he still be willing to follow me” wonders Elijah. “Lord please make it so.”
Elisha quickly returns to his servant who holds the oxen. “Gather the servants and call my parents. Have everyone meet me here for this is a special day and a special place.” The servant runs off to do as Elisha has instructed.
While those Elisha has ‘invited’ are coming he begins the process of making a special offering to the Lord. He has chosen to do so in the field where he stands because this is the spot on which the Lord called him out from among his family.
Elisha works his way through each of his oxen, slitting their throats quickly before they have a chance to register fear. Once all are dropped to the ground he takes the yokes from their necks and puts them into a pile. This will be the wood for his sacrifice.
The ‘guests’ began assembling as Elisha prepared his sacrifice. Once all are gathered Elisha stops his preparations and addresses them. “Mother, father, the most amazing thing happened today. The prophet Elijah has called for me to follow him. I am sacrificing all I own as an offering to the Lord. All I have I give to him and to you my family and friends. Please join me in a feast.
Shouts of joy and congratulations abound before Elisha’s mother brings up tasks that need tended to if this feast is going to happen. “You prepare the sacrifice. I will go and send as many pots as I can find for the meat. I will also prepare bread and dates to go with this meal. It is not every day that your son is called by the Lord to be his prophet!”
Everyone rushes to their tasks to make this day a special one for Elisha. It is the last they will spend with him in a long while. Two hours later everyone is gathered and enjoying the feast. Even Elijah has been called back to share in this occasion.
Elisha eats his meal with joy but also in haste. He is anxious to see what the Lord has planned for him. Once he and Elijah are satisfied, Elisha hugs his mother and father tightly to himself. “Thank you for raising me in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. I pray I make you proud and do justice to our family name as I serve the Lord.”
“You will my son” says his father. His mother nods her agreement.
Elijah and Elisha turn and leave. There is nothing for Elisha here now but memories.
(to be continued)
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Father God, I don’t know if I could have walked away like Elisha did. Probably a good thing that You haven’t asked that of me. I do pray that I have answered the calls You have placed on my life. Let NOTHING get between You and me and what You call me to do.