1 Kings 19:19-21 “So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.”
Elijah was nearing the end of his life and ministry. After asking the Lord to take his life, the Lord took his ministry and commissioned Elisha to take his place. Elisha was a successful farmer. When Elijah found him he was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen. The books of 1 and 2 Kings record the history of the nation of Israel from the time of Solomon through the division of the kingdom, the fall of the northern kingdom in 722 with the Assyrian captivity, and then the fall of the southern kingdom in 586 BC with the Babylonian captivity. The kingdom divided into the southern kingdom of Judah, consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the northern kingdom of Israel that consisted of the remaining ten tribes. During this time there were some good kings who reigned in the southern kingdom and who brought about spiritual reforms. But in the northern kingdom all the kings were evil and there were no true revivals. All the kings of Israel the northern kingdom did evil in the sight of the Lord. In the midst of this degenerate and idolatrous kingdom ruled by vicious, cruel, and degenerate kings, the Lord called two men Elijah and Elisha, one the successor of the other. These two prophets stood as the messengers of God and His Word. Elijah’s ministry does not end with the call of Elisha who became Elijah’s attendant and student. Instead, it continued for several years as the mentor of Elisha. After his renewal by the Lord on Mount Horeb, Elijah began a ministry of mentoring or discipling Elisha. Mentoring others is one of the most important ministries any of us can have, especially leaders, but one that should not be limited to leaders. Actually, the ministry here was dual. Not only did Elijah minister to Elisha, but undoubtedly, Elisha became a great comfort and encouragement to Elijah. Elijah’s ministry was not only about performing wonders. He also carried the blanket of anointing to prepare the next generation leadership.
In verse 19, we find Elijah now moving out of the place of loneliness and discouragement. The Lord had sought him while he was in that condition and revitalized and restored him to his ministry through the spiritual insight he received from the Angel of the Lord. Restored with new understanding about the way God works, the prophet left the mountain and found Elisha. This illustrates how God’s Word works to restore and renew our lives. Graciously, He works to put us either on track or back on track to make us fruitful. Like Elijah, we too can easily find ourselves down, lonely, and discouraged, but the Lord is the God of all comfort and He has committed Himself to our renewal and restoration. What a loving and gracious Lord, but we need to make ourselves available to God’s resources for renewal and encouraging one another. Thus, Elijah first went to find Elisha who became an encouragement to the prophet. Elijah found Elisha “while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth.” This seems to indicate that Elisha belonged to a family of considerable wealth. To obey the prophetic call would mean doing so at a considerable personal loss, financially speaking. It would mean counting the costs. It meant counting his financial security as loss and becoming a soldier of the Lord in the trenches of a tremendous spiritual conflict. But Elisha’s responses in verses 20 and 21 show us he was a man of faith who was willing to do just that. Elisha had developed biblical values, priorities and eternal perspectives that had captured his heart which then controlled what he did with his life. As a result, he acted on his faith by following God’s call. He was willing to be uprooted from his quiet, peaceful, and rural life with its financial security to follow the Lord. Obviously he knew what his nation needed was the Word of the Lord. But I think it is also important to note where Elisha was when Elijah found him. Though he belonged to a prominent family, he was at work in the field with the rest of the field workers. Though wealthy, he was not irresponsible or lazy. It is interesting to note many great men of the Bible were called into some special ministry after they had already demonstrated their ability and willingness to work and where they had also shown faithfulness and loyalty. Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law. David was tending sheep for his father. Peter was a fisherman. Paul was a tent maker. The Lord Himself was a carpenter by trade who was trained by Joseph.
1 Kings 19:19 we see Elijah went up to Elisha and threw his cloak around him. Here we see few things: This mantle was the official garment of a prophet. The mantle automatically marked a man as a prophet, a spokesman of God. Throwing it over the shoulders of Elisha was a symbolic act denoting his summons to the office of prophet, but it was also a sure sign of God’s gift that enabled him to fulfill the prophetic office and ministry. This act by Elijah was a prophetic announcement that the gift of prophecy had been given or would come to Elisha. It was immediately understood by Elisha even without words. Today, every believer is a priest of God and is in some sense called to full-time service to represent the Lord even if their occupation is secular. As believers in Christ, we are God’s representatives and called to ministry according to the gifts God gives us. Part of this occurs in the work place, part in the home, part may occur in the church, and part may occur with a neighbor, etc. Every believer has a spiritual gift (or gifts) and this represents at least a portion of the mantle of God’s call on one’s life. What God has gifted you to do? What He has called you to do?
Elisha’s response was immediate. There was no hesitation from his side. As we will see, his request regarding his father and mother was not an act of hesitation. Rather, Elisha was decisive, which undoubtedly indicated the previous work of God in his life and the perfect timing of this event. For Elisha there was no decision to make. The fact of God’s call automatically made that decision for him. So it should be for all of us. Any other decision would only lead to futility, unhappiness and a lack of purpose in life. Elisha requested that he might go back to “kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you” (19:20). This was neither an attempt to put off the call nor an act of hesitation. Elisha’s request was prompted by two things: (a) It was an act of genuine respect and honor for his parents, and (b) it was prompted by a desire to celebrate his entrance into this ministry and to declare and confirm his commitment to follow the Lord before friends and family. We will see this in 1 Kings 19:21. Elijah allowed Elisha’s request. He said, “Go back again . . .” Then he added a word of caution and said, “for what have I done to you?” This statement seems to be an idiom that sounds rather abrupt or even meaningless to us. According to the idiom, we might translate it something like, “go back and bid farewell, for I have done something very important to you, but think carefully on what I have done to you, for your call is not from me, but from God!” The idea is that Elisha was accountable to God for what he did, not to Elijah. What Elijah had done was to express God’s call. Elijah would become Elisha’s spiritual leader and mentor, but Elisha must understand that ultimately, he was accountable to God, not to a man. As the servants of God, we must ever remember that we are ultimately accountable to the Lord for what we do with our lives. God uses men and women in our lives to reach us, to train us, to challenge us, etc., but they are only instruments God uses to point or guide us in the right direction. We are accountable to one another to some degree, but our primary accountability is to the Lord. The oxen and the implements, the wooden plow with the yokes, represented the tools of his trade and the means and basis of his past life. Verse 21, then, is basically Elisha’s declaration of his commitment to follow the Lord. In essence, he was burning his connections and counting his past as loss for the Lord that he might gain and attain the new life and ministry that God had for him as a prophet. Elisha was showing family and friends that he had new goals, aims, aspirations, new commitments, values, and priorities. It showed his determination to never look back, seek to go back, or leave the calling of God no matter how tough it might get. This is a must for believers and especially spiritual leaders.
Elisha became the attendant, the servant of Elijah (2 Kgs 3:11). His time with Elijah was not only an education in theology and in practical ministry to others, but in humility, submission to authority, loyalty, faithfulness, and obedience in being a servant. All of this was vital to his training and preparation for ministry. In order to lead, one must first learn how to be led. In order to give directions, one must first learn how to receive and follow directions. In order to be faithful, one must first learn faithfulness. God has placed a mantle, a call, upon every believer in Jesus Christ. As gifted ones, we are each to be good stewards of the stewardship He has entrusted to us regarding our time, talents including our spiritual gifts, treasures, and His truth. This requires the kind of commitment and surrender Elisha shown through his life and ministry. Without total surrender, we cannot be His disciples and be able to make the sacrificial decisions that following Him will require. Elisha, like Elijah, was an ordinary man, but he became extra-ordinary because he was available to the Lord, and God was able to use him in tremendous ways. ELISHA asked not for worldly honor, or for a high place among the great men of earth. That which he craved was a large measure of the Spirit that God had bestowed so freely upon him. He knew that nothing but the Spirit which had rested upon Elijah could fit him to fill the place in Israel to which God had called him; and so he asked, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” (2 Kings 2:9) Elijah’s mantle did not accidentally fall upon Elisha. The younger man had been trained under the older, and was the beneficiary of his companionship and counsel.
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit” Elisha knew that without God’s spirit, he could not do God’s work and he could not even take care of his own life. That is true. As mere sinful human beings we cannot serve God’s work. We can find in Luke 22:33 Simon Peter who said to Jesus that he was ready to go with Jesus to prison and to death but later we see him cowardly denied Jesus three times. But this same man Peter became a powerful and fearless servant of God when the Holy Spirit came upon him. To serve God and to be God’s servant, therefore, one must first receive the Holy Spirit. How can we receive the Spirit of God? Elisha received the Spirit because he asked. Elisha sought a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, probably because he could see himself as a weak, inexperienced and unwise man. He thought that to serve God’s work like Elijah he needed a double portion of God’s spirit. So he asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. To live as God’s people and to serve God’s work in this godless world, we also need the Holy Spirit. Let us ask God to give us the Holy Spirit so that we can take up the mantle of leadership for the next generation.