Elijah and Elisha:
Answering God's Call

Part Three

In this final part of our study, we'll look at God's response to Elijah's complaints, and the anointing of Elisha as a helper for Elijah. God had twice asked Elijah what he was doing out here in the desert, knowing that God had not sent him there. Twice, he replied to God's question with complaints against the Israelites for their unfaithfulness, and complaints about the effectiveness of his ministry. He was feeling sorry for himself, and asked God to let him die rather than make him go on any longer.

And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when you come, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shall you anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shall you anoint to be prophet in your place. And it shall come to pass, that he that escapes the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and he that escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. (1 Kings 19:15-17)

God instructed Elijah to go back, indicating that He had not sent him there, and this was not where God wanted him to be. God had told Elijah to anoint Hazeal to be king of Aram, and Jehu as king of Israel. God declared that the wicked reign of Ahab would be cut short, that the people of Israel shall be punished for their sins. Any who managed to escape from Hazeal would be slain by Jehu, and anyone who escaped Jehu would be slain by Elisha, Elijah’s successor. This was God's way of telling Elijah that judgment will indeed come to Israel, but in God's time, not his. Make no mistake about it: God will punish wrong-doing, in His divine time and way.

God also told Elijah that He would provide someone to carry on his ministry, just as He did to Moses, to be a helper to him. Elijah was told to anoint Elisha as his replacement. Elisha's name means “God is salvation” or “God saves”, and his name was the essence of his ministry. It would be through Elisha that the faithful in Israel received the covenant blessings of God. Thus every single one of Elijah’s complaints were answered and provided for.

Each of these three people that Elijah was told to anoint would be instrumental in the punishment of idolatrous Israel. Of the three, however, the only one Elijah actually anointed was Elisha. As it turned out, it was Elisha, not Elijah, that anointed the two kings. He carried out the command given to his master to anoint Hazael king over Syria (II Ki 8:7-15) Hazeal subsequently became a serious threat to the nation of Israel during the reigns of Joram, Jehu, and Jehoahaz, and Ahab himself later died in war with Syria. After that, Elisha directed one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, as king of Israel, instead of Ahab. (II Kings 9:1-3) Jehu had been a military commander under King Ahab and his son Joram. He was given the mandate to destroy the house of Ahab.

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which has not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:18)

God also showed Elijah that he was not the only faithful one left, as he had supposed: God had in reserve a remnant of 7000 in Israel whose knees have not bowed, and who have not kissed the idol. This kissing was literal, as it was customary in pagan worship and certain ceremonies to actually kiss the idol. This is a vivid example that we can always trust God, because we have no way of knowing what all God is doing behind the scenes. God is always at work to bring about His divine purpose, we are never just working on our own!

So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. (1 Kings 19:19)

Elijah found Elisha by Divine direction, but not where one would suppose. He was not found n the schools of the prophets, but in the field; not reading, or praying, but plowing. Twelve yoke of oxen probably indicated that Elisha was a fairly well-off man. Elijah appointed Elisha to the prophetic office by casting his mantle upon him. Many religions appoint their priests in such a manner, by a mantle thrown across their shoulders by another priest or holy person. Elisha had most likely been educated in the schools of the prophets, and so would have immediately understood the significance of this act.

And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray you, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to you? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. (1 Kings 19:20-21)

Knowing that he was being called of God, Elisha showed no hestitation. Elisha’s eagerness to follow his calling was so great that he immediately slaughtered all his oxen, and burned his plow to cook them, rather than taking time to sell or give away the animals or the equipment. All he asked was to kiss his earthly parents goodbye. Elijah answered, in effect, yes, you can go, but remember the sacred ceremony we just enacted. You have been called by God, not man.

Anyone having a call from God must be sure not to allow any earthly affection keep them from obeying that call. Nothing and no one should ever come before the calling of God in one's life. Elisha cheerfully left his home and family to accompany Elijah, just as the disciples later left all to follow Jesus. Jesus promised great reward for those who would do as Elisha did:

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. (Matt. 19:29)

Elijah trained Elisha in the ministry, and Elisha became his attendant, and ministered to him for several years, until Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. The word "minister" used here is the same word was used of Joshua’s relationship to Moses. It indicates a position of servitude, accompanied by devotion.

If we are to be faithful to fulfill our own calling, we have to have a servant's heart. We must be willing to spend some time under the direction of those who are older and more experienced. We must be willing to minister to them, and to learn from their wisdom. Those who would be teachers must first take time to learn; and those who hope to lead must first be willing to serve. Jesus taught this same truth when He said:

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (Mark 9:35)

As we wrap up our lesson today, the question that remains for each of us is this: Am I, like Elijah and Elisha, willing to answer God's call? Am I, like the disciples, willing to forsake my family, my home, my possessions, in order to answer God's call? God's calling will cost us something, it is very true: it may even cause our very life to be at risk. We will certainly have to humble ourselves and be willing to serve. But the question remains, are we willing to be faithful to the Lord's calling? The cost may indeed be high, but the benefits are eternal!

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