Change or transition is hard, but we can face it bravely and powerfully with God’s help. The transition in leadership from Elijah to Elisha reminds us that we can be obedient to what God is calling us to do without understanding all the details.
Elijah was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, bold, daring, full of faith. Elisha succeeded Elijah. Elisha wanted to be like Elijah and he was bold enough to ask for a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. And God, in his sovereign will, gave Elisha, who studied under Elijah, a double portion of this anointing. Elisha actually performed more recorded miracles in scripture than anyone, with the exception of Jesus.
What’s interesting about Elisha is he was very ordinary; he was a plow boy, an Aggie if you will! He wasn’t the son of a priest, he wasn’t a scribe, he wasn’t an outward spiritual giant. He was an ordinary guy who was living at home with his parents, working on a farm when God called him to do something incredible. He lived during the 9th century B.C. in a time when Israel was divided and there was great tension between the two. Many people were worshiping the false god of Baal and God raised up this ordinary guy and did something extraordinary through his life.
1 Kings 19:19-21 are the verses we’ll examine today.
Elijah finds Elisha plowing a field. Elisha’s name means “God has salvation.” Elisha was plowing with 12 yolk of oxen and he, himself, was driving the 12th pair.
What we’ll notice is he was doing the same job he had been doing for a long time. Think of the monotony to plow behind a yolk of oxen every single day? What do you smell? What is your scenery? Oxen rears!
Some of us may feel a little bit like Elisha. We’re not looking at oxen rears, but you’re doing the same thing day in, day out. And it gets really monotonous. You may be in sales and it’s just the same day in, day out. You may be a student and you think, “I study and I work.” Parents, what do you see all day long? Diaper, laundry and dishes; oxen rears are everywhere!
And this is where Elisha was, but was being faithful to the task at hand. God loves to reward those who are faithful in the little things. When we’re faithful with a little, he can trust us with much. And Elisha, even though it might not have been the favorite thing to do, even though it could have been incredibly draining physically, emotionally, he was faithful. And in the middle of his faithful daily routine, God sent something new!
The end of verse 19 says this — “”Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.” Elijah didn’t say a word to the young man but merely cast his mantle (outer garment) over him to indicate that the Lord had called him to serve the prophet and then be his successor. Meaning, “That which I was under, now you will be under. You will be my student; I will be your mentor. As God has been working through me, now God is going to work through you.” And he put his covering over Elisha. Elisha and his family were part of that “remnant of grace” that God had set apart for Himself. No matter how bleak the days may seem, God has His people and knows when to call them.
The cloak was the most important article of clothing a person could own. It was used as protection against the weather, as bedding, as a place to sit, and as luggage. It could be given as a pledge for a debt or torn into pieces to show grief. Elijah put his cloak on Elisha’s shoulders to show that he would become Elijah’s successor. Later, when the transfer of authority was complete, Elijah left his cloak for Elisha (2 Kings 2:11-14).
Let’s apply this story to our lives and see how an ordinary man responds to an extraordinary call.
First, God is going to call him to follow Elijah and he’s not going to know all the details. We don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately. When God calls you to do something, you don’t have to understand all the details to obey immediately.
First Elijah puts the cloak around him, then in verse 20, Elisha, what did he do? He simply said, “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye and then I will come with you.” Notice this: He didn’t have to pray about it. He didn’t have to do a list of pros and cons. “Here’s the reasons why and I should;” “here’s the reasons why I shouldn’t.” He didn’t have to consult his counselor. I don’t know the details but since I believe you’re in on this, I will obey immediately.
That’s the way God calls. God will rarely give details. I believe God is often vague in his directions. We want details; I believe God says, “You can’t handle the details. If I showed you everything, you wouldn’t do it. I’m just showing you the next step.” God often will guide even with just one word.
When God was giving Moses direction, you could summarize the directions in one word. “Moses, go.” “Go.” “Abraham, go.” “Go.” “Go to the land I will show you.” Peter, in the New Testament, Jesus was walking up on water. “Jesus, if that’s you, tell me to come.” And Jesus gave him one word. He said “come,” one word.
Maybe in your marriage you’re struggling and thinking about leaving and your one word is: “stay.” And you don’t have to understand completely to obey immediately. Maybe have a health situation and it doesn’t look good,and God gives you one word: “trust,” Maybe you’ve got an idea for business or ministry. You think “how” and “when” and “how are we going to pay for i?” And God gives you one word: “start.”
Maybe you’ve been hanging around the church for a while and you’re starting to grow with God but you’re still observing. And God may give you one word: “commit.”
2nd: Those God uses the most are the ones that hold on to the least.
Watch what Elisha does in verse 21. “So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yolk of oxen.” These were the animals that brought about his livelihood. And what does he do with the oxen? “he slaughtered them.” Then what did he do with the plows? “he burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people and they ate.” He made an Aggie bonfire out of the plowing equipment and cooked steak for his buddies! It’s crazy, kill the cows and burn the plows!
There are sometimes when you’re so convinced that you just burn the bridge back, because you’re not turning back because something has happened in you and you’re never going to be the same. You can’t go back because God is calling you forward. There are some of you, God is going to give you a plow-burning faith where deep within, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to follow God to the next place.
My brother was very successful in semiconductor installation business, it paid very well, but it meant moving all over the place. He wanted to be a family man, do what he loved to do which was welding and farm work, so we wanted to teach welding in a small town, he left a tremendously lucrative career to go and teach high school welding. And to this day, I’ve never seen him happier than living down the street from his Ag shop, his work, married to the small town girl, raising his kids in a small town and in church. He had to burn some plows to leave where he was so he could go to where God wanted him to go.
Some of us, we’re like a little kid holding onto our “blanky” or pacifier. We hold onto something that keeps us secure. To step towards our destiny, we have to step away from your security. God is going to speak to somebody and give you the faith to believe that he’s calling you to something new. You may be looking at oxen rears today, but in your faithfulness, God may call you to do something even greater for his kingdom. You have to have the faith to go and you don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately. Those that God uses the most, are those who hold on to the least.
Will you trust and obey?