|Elijah is nourished by an angel, Gustave Dore|
Elijah is often seen as the greatest prophet (after Moses and besides Jesus). He served the LORD strongly and stalwartly all the years of his ministry. He ended on an incredible note … he personally slaughtered 450 prophets of Baal with his sword. If you think about that for a moment, and realize that Elijah was just a man, and having to personally kill hundreds of screaming, pleading men in a bloodbath, must have done something to him inside.
And we do see that next, Elijah runs away from the scene into the sparse wilderness, and from Jezebel who he fears, and lays down under a tree and asks to be taken in death. He is like the old elephants who know they are spent and go off to die alone. He wants the LORD to take him, not Jezebel, but he wants to die nonetheless. “I am no better than my fathers” he cries, meaning, ‘I am dead anyway, useless to you, finish it, LORD.’ (1 Kings 19:4)
He just can’t go on. The LORD is so kind- he sends an angel to personally feed Elijah. (1 Kings 19:5-8). He urges Elijah on with personal appearing (He was the wind and the earthquake and the fire and the still small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12) encouragement (You’re not alone- there are 7000 who have not bent their knee to Baal. (1 Kings 19:18).
The word of the LORD was verbal to Elijah and today for us it is written in the bible, but either way, the word of God restores us and encourages us.
|Elijah in the wilderness: Frederic Leighton|
Though Elijah was restored and encouraged, he was tired. He spent his last few years going around to the 7000 who had not bent their knee to Baal in their schools of the prophets, teaching them. His almost last task is to anoint Elisha as his successor and mentor him for several years. In this way, God comforted Elijah because God gave Elijah a friend to be an encouragement to Elijah. Elijah wasn’t alone any more.
“So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.” (1 Kings 19:19-21)
The prophet’s mantle was the visible sign they were of God. Of course the most credulous sign were their words, which the LORD Himself put in their mouths, and came true exactly. (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). But the mantle was the symbol of the authority the LORD had laid upon the prophet’s shoulders. Everyone knew it and understood it.
Elisha was plowing when Elijah arrived. He was the last man on the twelfth pair after 11 pair of oxen. This indicates wealth. Elisha was comfortable, employed in a secure profession, and had a positive outlook for his life. All he had to do is name it and claim it. However, contrary to the word of faith movement’s insistence that God’s favor means a life of ease, when Elijah threw his mantle over Elisha’s shoulders, he immediately leaped down and accepted it. No hesitation, no dithering. He knew what it meant and he accepted the call. It was akin to picking up our cross daily and following Jesus. (Matthew 16:24).
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20).
Elisha asked Elijah for permission to return and kiss his parents goodbye, which was granted. His request was honorable, made more so by his burning his bridges by sacrificing the oxen he was driving and offering them to the LORD. He demonstrably showed God he was all-in and ready.
We often look at the followship of the apostles but being an Old Testament lover from not-too-way back, I like to look at the call of the prophets too. Elisha was a remarkable man. He must have been grieved by the sin of his nation, and have loved his LORD so much.
Let us follow Elisha’s example as well as the call to the apostles. We should drop everything and follow Him who is power itself, who formed us for His good purposes, and who enables us to do good work in His name. The Lord will be with us, He promised that. (Matthew 28:20)