1 Kings 19:19-21
“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.”
Elijah responds to the Lord’s command, leaves Horeb, and travels to find Elisha plowing a field. This young farmer was the Lord’s choice for Elijah’s successor. Elijah cast his cloak upon Elisha—a sign of the prophetic office as well as an indication that he would take him under his care and mentorship.
Elisha apparently understood this, as is evident from his response.
I think it is significant the Lord chose Elisha from the everyday working world and not from the school of the prophets. Elisha was simply a farmer plowing his field. This is a reminder that spiritual leadership does not always come from the religious establishment. The best leaders are not always found in the seminaries or universities or church hierarchies.
I fear we often look in the wrong places for leadership. Remember what God said to Samuel: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16.7)
The decision that confronts Elisha is whether to be the servant of a prophet or the master of a farm. Included in that decision was the difficulty and danger that he would surely face if he chose to follow Elijah. The easy path was to stay on the farm; the hard path was to follow the prophet.
This reminds me of what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mt 7.13-14)
Elisha makes the decision to respond to the call of God and become the servant of Elijah. First, however, he wants to say goodbye to his parents. Elijah says, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” In other words, go and say goodbye, but keep in mind what I have just done to you. Remember that it is God who is calling you. Do not allow any earthly affection to detain you from obeying the Lord’s call on your life.
To demonstrate his commitment, Elisha offers his oxen as a burnt offering to the Lord, even using the yoke as the wood for the fire. Elisha also feeds the workers on his farm and people of his community with the meat from the sacrifice. This was a very symbolic and public way of declaring that he was leaving the farm and responding to the call of God to serve the prophet Elijah.
What comfort for Elijah to now have a companion and helpful servant, and what a privilege for Elisha to be mentored and discipled by so eminent a tutor!
The Lord doesn’t only call Elisha, he also calls you.