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TEXT: I Kings 19:19-21
SUBJECT: Elisha #2: The Call
Last week we began to study the life of Elisha. Our man, please note, is not the prophet who went to heaven in a fiery chariot, but the other one. At first, he was Elijah's servant, and, later the man who replaced him as the chief prophet in Israel.
Elisha's calling was both hard and glorious. Hard, because the times were evil, his supporters were few, and his foes were many and powerful. But glorious, because he was God's partner in the salvation of the world. We often shy away from such wording because it seems to divvy up the credit-some for the Lord and some for us. It does no such thing!
The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to Thee alone.
Yet the Bible speaks of our partnership with God, and we should embrace it with reverence, gratitude, and a mind to work! The Lord has called us to work with Him. Maybe 'called' us is not the right word; He has 'honored' us by giving us a role to play in saving the world.
Are you working at it? By witnessing to the lost? By praying for them? By supporting missions? By showing them it's a joy to serve the Lord? No one today is called to be a prophet. But every believer is called to join God in His work of reconciling the world to Himself and each other.
Elisha's work began with his call. In looking at it, I pray God will call you into His service. Remember: the Bible is not about them, it's about us.
The story is short and easy to tell. Elijah is prophet of the Lord. For forty days he has been in the wilderness of Sinai grieving over the state of his people, and maybe sulking a bit as well. After a hurricane, an earthquake, and a fire got his attention, the Lord spoke to Elijah, giving him three assignments,
Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu, the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha, the son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, you shall anoint as prophet in your place.
God has named a new prophet and called the older man to fetch him and train him for the work. Elijah obeys. He makes his way northeast to the tribe of Issachar. There, hee finds the town of Abel Meholah. Walking through the surrounding fields, he comes to the big farm of Shaphat and there he stops. It's the spring of the year and men are working the fields that day, plowing behind twelve teams of oxen. The first eleven men are farm hands, but the twelfth is the farmer's son. As the son passes by, Elijah throws his cape on the young man.
The young man knows what this means-almost. Elijah has called him to quit his safe and comfortable life for the best and most dangerous life a man can life.
He accepts the call without hesitation.
But he has request. May he kiss his parents goodbye?
The prophet replies, What have I done to you?
This sounds rather harsh, doesn't it? Is Elijah a grouchy old man, unable to speak a kind word? No, he's a servant of God saying just what the Lord wants him to say. What then, do the words mean? They mean 'Why are you asking my permission? I didn't call you-God did!' People are going to think of Elisha as the older man's servant, but he won't be that. Yes, he will serve Elijah-long and well-but Elisha is the servant of the Lord! He needs to know that from the start.
Elisha, sensing God's permission, hosts a going-away party for himself that night. The oxen are butchered and the yoke fuels the fire. When the dinner party is over, he kisses his family and leaves them, without looking back.
For the next ten years, he's going to learn what it means to be man of God and a spokesman for the Lord.
That's the story. Now, what does it say?
It says a good many things about Elisha, two of which I want to underline:
His priorities were right. As the son of a wealthy farmer, Elisha's future is set. He'll marry and have children, inherit the farm and settle down to the happy and easy life of a country gentleman.
But God throws a monkey wrench into the plans. He can still stay home (if he wants to), but God will not be with him on the farm. He calls him to a life of danger and disgrace and doing without! The only reward He offers the man is.Himself.
What choice would you make? It's easy to say you'd choose wisely, but would you? Elisha didn't say what he would do, he did it! He did it for the simple reason: God is enough.
His approval is worth more to Elisha that all the benefits the world can offer. Like Moses, he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. In other words, Elisha did not think of serving God as a sacrifice--as though he were losing something in the bargain! No, in having God we have everything.
There's a story in the New Testament that fits in here. It's the parable of the hidden treasure. It's only one verse, Matthew 13:44,
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Imagine you're walking across an old, burned out, abandoned field. You stub your toe on a piece of wood sticking out of the ground an inch or two. You kick the stick and notice there's more to it. Curious, you dig around it with your hands and you find it's a box of some kind. Now you're really curious. You find an old shovel lying nearby, and dig up the box. It's full of gold, hundreds of pounds of gold. You can't carry that off without drawing attention to yourself, so what do you do. You call the man who owns the land and offer to take it off his hands for, oh, let's say, $25,000. To him the land is worthless and he jumps at the offer. The papers are signed, you take possession of the land, you dig up the box, and you're a zillionaire!
But wait a minute: you haven't got $25,000. But you've got two cars, grandma's silverware, a diamond ring, and those baseball cards you've been saving since you were ten. Looked at in one way, these things mean a lot to you. But, would you sell them to buy the field with the trunkload of gold in it?
In a second! And you'd do it, like the man in the story: with joy! Because the gold is worth far more than your cars, rings, silveware and baseball cards.
In the same way serving God is worth far more than any other life. Instead of hemming and hawing, you ought to jump at the chance-at the privilege-of serving the Lord.
The people who shook their heads at Elisha's choice are like the farmer who felt sorry for the fool who bought his worthless land. Because they didn't know a treasure was buried in it!
There is a treasure buried in every life lived for God. Elisha valued the treasure in his day. But do we? Do you?
Elisha's decision was right. The Bible follows the man's career pretty closely and has quite a bit to say about him. But it says nothing about his indecision. It never teaches or implies he ever thought of going back to the life he once led. Like the farmer he used to be, Elisha put his hand to the plow, and did not look back.
We ought to be decisive in serving the Lord. We don't have to perfect or especially gifted. What the Lord wants is plain old dull consistency-It is required in a steward that he be found faithful.
A consistent Christian life cannot be maintained by warm religious feelings. Most days we won't feel much, and some days nothing at all. But where does the Lord command us to feel obedient or prayerful or studious? He command us to pray, to read the Bible, and to obey. The believer who acts on duty will develop the habits pleasing to the Lord. The one who acts on feelings never will.
This is the kind of man Elisha was. The Bible doesn't say he wept or laughed or felt all warm and fuzzy inside. It says,
He rose, followed Elijah, and served him.
Not when he felt like it; not when the Spirit moved him. But until the end. That was his decision. And it ought to be yours.
If Elisha's call says something about Elisha, it says something about the One who called him. Several things could be said here, but I'll limit myself to one.
The Lord does not depend on us. Elijah was a great man, but the work of God went on without him. When he flew away in the fiery chariot, Elisha picked up where he left off-and did more than his old master. No men could be more different than Elijah and Elisha, but God used them both, and now, He uses neither, yet His Kingdom remains firm.
Why? Because the cause of God depends on one man only: Jesus Christ! Not Elijah, not Elisha, not Peter, not Paul, not Luther, not Calvin, not Billy Graham, not you, not me--nobody but Christ!
This means: we should do our part, but not think too highly of ourselves, as though God could not get along without us. He can. And it won't be long until He does.
It also means we mustn't idolize men. The holiest servant of God is only a servant, and nothing more. The Will and Grace that make him effective are the Lord's.
It means we must not despair if men, churches, or ministries disappoint us. For the battle is the Lord's, and He will win the victory, even if His soldiers are less than heroic.
The Lord uses us, and for that we ought to be very thankful. But He does not depend on us. Because His Kingdom is built on Christ, He can get by without Elijah, without you, and without me.
The practical effect of knowing this cannot be overstated! It means we can serve the Lord with confidence and without anxiety. With confidence because He uses us and blesses our efforts far beyond their worth! Without anxiety because He doesn't depend on us, and therefore, we can mess up! Our mistakes are hurtful, but they don't overturn the Plan of God! He fulfills it despite our mistakes, and even by our mistakes.
What a tremendous freedom this gives! I don't have to be perfect; I can make a mess of things, and God still loves me and uses me and fulfills His Eternal Purpose by me!
If the Lord uses us without depending on us, let's get to work serving Him with all we've go, and leave the results with God.
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