In our reading in I Kings 19 today we find that Israel had: rejected the rule of God; permitted a pagan queen and a perverted king to attack and demolish all but a fragment of the nation’s faith; the altars of God had been razed; the celestial flame had been extinguished in the tabernacle; the sacrifices for sin had ceased; and the priests and prophets had been put to the sword. Not a pretty picture to begin our story today.
We find Elijah, the prophet of God in the midst of a crisis of faith, quite a turn around from the previous chapters! He was totally focused on the futility and frustration of his and his nation’s situation and did not remember God’s faithfulness in his and his nation’s past. When our reading opens, we find Elijah in his enemy’s stronghold, Jezreel. It appears that the king, Ahab, had at least some respect and awe for Elijah and his exploits, but his queen, Jezebel wasn’t impressed and in fact was furious. Now God certainly hadn’t told Elijah to go to Jezreel and place himself in jeopardy and soon had to flee from her, relying on his own resources. We ultimately find him in the position of most of us when we get out of God’s will, sitting under a broom tree whining about our circumstances, and wishing we were dead!
But, an angel appears on the scene and prepares a meal for him. (Does that remind you of another story – Jesus in the wilderness?) Then the angel sends him on a 300 mile journey through the desert to Mt. Horeb – the place Moses met with God. Elijah has his own encounter with God there, needing desperately an attitude adjustment. Has God ever had to get you away from the crowd so that you could hear His voice? It will change your perspective on things! Elijah had a divine appointment with God; God’s timing and God’s place. Oh what a difference it makes when we quit our whining and complaining and begin to listen to what God is saying! Elijah didn’t think that God had been doing a very good job of taking care of him, but when he rose above himself and became aware of God’s purpose for his life again, he rose and began to do God’s will once again with renewed vigor and purpose. God sent him to anoint both the kings of Israel and Syria – Syria was later to be used in God’s judgment process for Israel. And, then to anoint a successor for Elijah. How many times do we limit our scope of God’s participation in our lives and our world by just focusing on the immediate area around us? When we do, we limit God and fall prey to the enemy’s designs for us.
When Elijah found Elisha (his eventual replacement), he was plowing in a field, the last in line with eleven teams in front of him. He was eating everyone else’s dust! That tells you something about his character, even though he was the son of the owner of this prosperous farm, he was willing to take the last place; the place a servant would normally fill. Elijah simply walks past him, tossing his mantel over Elisha. Immediately, Elisha’s focus changes from his team and his job of that day to Elijah. He realized that he had been called by God, and his life would change and never be the same. He throws down his reins, slaughters his team and feeds everyone, tells his parents goodbye and leaves to follow Elijah. Now, he left the farm he would have owned at his father’s death, left his responsibilities, his heritage, his family, his future and placed it in God’s hands. He left to be a servant and to learn God’s purpose for his life. He had received Elijah’s mantle, the symbol of his authority and power with God. This young man goes on to receive a double portion of Elijah’s anointing and I think we can understand why: he was humble, willing to be a servant, to sit at someone’s feet and learn, submitting himself to God.
How this generation, the church, this world and God needs Elishas! Young people who are willing to focus on God’s plan and purpose for their lives, willing to give up dreams of wealth, prosperity and influence. Willing to humble themselves and be servants to their generation. God needs people willing to do exploits for the Kingdom! God grant us this kind of young people; and older people willing to lead, train and teach those that are called and willing.
We have much to learn from this portion of scripture, especially in the world we live in. We are very similar to ancient Israel in the direction we are heading – God grant us Elijahs and Elishas to stand in the gap!