So Elijah departed and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve teams of oxen, and he was with the twelfth team. Elijah passed by him and threw his cloak around him.
predict. (See Jeremiah 1:10; Ezekiel 43:3; Romans 4:17.) The reason is that their predictions are sure to be accomplished; and upon the same principle a true faith in the promises of God is said to be the "substance" or subsistence of "things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). It is certain that Elisha made provision for the anointing of Jehu; Elisha also informed Hazael that he should be king over Syria (see 2 Kings 8:13; 2 Kings 9:1-3). The call of Elisha was by the hand of Elijah.
I. THE CALL OF ELISHA WAS FROM GOD.
1. Elijah threw his mantle over Elisha.
(1) The prophet's mantle was the symbol of his office. It seems to have been the skin of an animal, or composed of some hairy material (see 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:5; Isaiah 20:2; Matthew 3:4). In allusion to this, perhaps, the popes invest their cardinals with the pallium - a cloak or pall made of wool.
(2) The mantle of Elijah thrown upon Elisha was the sign that he was to "follow him," to be his servant first, and eventually to be his successor. The mantle, accordingly, came fully into the possession of Elisha when his "master" was "taken from his head" (2 Kings 2:3, 16).
(3) The "spirit of Elijah" then "came upon Elisha." So essential to a prophet is the Spirit of God that prophets themselves are called "spirits." False prophets also are called "spirits," but for an opposite reason (see 1 Kings 22:22, 23; 1 Corinthians 14:32; 1 John 4:1, 2).
2. Elijah acted under Divine direction.
(1) After he had asked for himself that he might die, God expressly commissioned him to anoint "Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-Meholah" to be "prophet in his room" (ver. 16). The lame minister is God's gift.
(2) God knew the qualities of Elisha. The manner in which he received the call proved him to be a true man. God's order is, first "grace," then "apostleship" (see Romans 1:5). Those persons deceive themselves who, being destitute of godliness, affect apostleship (see Psalm 1:16). Nor can apostleship abide where grace is forfeited (Acts 1:25).
(6) Elijah found Elisha, not in the schools of the prophets, but ploughing in the field. The spirit of prophecy will not be tied down to human institutions, however venerable and respectable.
II. THE RESPONSE OF ELISHA WAS TO GOD
1. He accordingly renounced the world.
(1) He had something to sacrifice. The "twelve yoke of oxen" indicate prosperity. The glimpse we get of his home is sufficient to discover comfort and happiness. Everybody has something to give up for God.
(2) At the call of God he gave up all. Instantly he "left the oxen and ran after Elijah." There should be no hesitation in entering upon the service of God. Elisha did not go home to ask but to take leave of his parents. For the authority of God is above that of parents. His proposal to return to his home was not a pretext for delay, else he would have merited the censure of our Lord (see Luke 5:29; Luke 9:61, 62) The completeness of his renunciation of the world was expressed in his sacrificing the oxen together with the gear. Ministers, in particular, should be free from the entanglements of this life (see Matthew 10:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 9:14; 2 Timothy 2:4).
2. He followed Elijah.
(1) He had something to encounter. The life of a prophet was not without its privations and discomforts. And in following Elijah, whose life was threatened with an oath by Jezebel, he would expose himself to her malignity. The offence of the cross has not ceased.
(2) He encountered all cheerfully. Elijah responded to his request to let him kiss his father and mother before following him, saying, "Go, return; for what have I done to thee?" This answer was intended to throw upon Elisha the consideration of all that was involved in his call, so that his choice might be intelligent and free. He was not long in counting the cost. God had predisposed his heart (see Psalm 110:3). Soon we find him pouring water upon the hands of Elijah - lovingly serving the servant of his Lord (2 Kings 3:11). Observe:
1. Elisha, though evidently a great man at Abel-Meholah, could handle the plough. There is no disgrace in honest labour. It is even honourable.
2. While in pursuit of his business he was called of God. Business will not be honest if it prevent us from hearing God's voice.
3. He returned to kiss his father and mother and make a farewell feast with his household before following Elijah. Natural affection and social endearments, within proper limits, are respected by religion.
4. Elisha's parents do not seem to have hindered him. Those parents incur fearful responsibilities who, under worldly influences, hinder their sons from responding to a call of God to enter His ministry. - J.A.M.
And found Elisha.I. A MARKED CHARACTERISTIC OF ELISHA WAS, CONTENTMENT WITH HIS POSITION AND WILLINGNESS TO FULFIL ITS DUTIES, HOWEVER HUMBLE. How few, possessed of gifts, are willing to wait the call of God; how few, even without gifts, or else who imagine they have gifts, are willing to wait! It seems to be forgotten that incapacity to serve God in "a few things," is evidence of inability to serve Him in many, and he who cannot make it possible to be faithful in little, may never be entrusted with that which is great. There is a vast difference between Worship and service. We serve God in our own houses, having worshipped Him in His house. Service is work, and work for Him where He places us, not where we place ourselves. If we cannot or do not serve God in the humble place and in the daily duties which He has assigned to us, assuredly we never can nor will serve Him in any other place or circumstances.
II. EQUALLY MARKED WAS ELISHA'S READINESS TO HEAR THE CALL OF GOD. It is dangerous either to go before or to lag behind the providence or the call of God. If the Lord has work for us, He will call us to it. But we must cultivate a spirit of attentive, prayerful readiness. Not that we expect an audible call from heaven, nor trust to an inward voice, but that God will so dispose of all things as to make our duty very plain. For this we must be content to wait; when it comes, we must be willing to obey and to follow.
III. ANOTHER FEATURE IN THIS NARRATIVE IS ELISHA'S PERSONAL WILLINGNESS TO FOLLOW THE CALL OF GOD TO ITS UTMOST CONSEQUENCES.
(A. Edersheim, M,A. , D. D.)
1. Observe, then, in the first place, the care exercised by God in securing a constant succession of teachers for His people. He is always independent of any individual man. Jesus has declared that the gates of the grave shall not prevail against His Church; and just as, here, Elisha was ready to take Elijah's place, it will commonly be found that when one servant of the Master is removed from earth, or is sent to another field of labour, there has been, all unconsciously to himself perhaps, and to those around him, another led, through a course of training, to take the post which has been vacated.
2. Observe, in the second place, here, the honour which God puts upon industry in one's common daily work. Elisha was not called while he was engaged at his private devotions, though, judging of his character from the ready response which he made at this time, we are warranted in saying that his closet would not be neglected; but it was while he was following the plough that Elijah came upon him, and threw his mantle over him. God would thus teach us that we must not neglect our daily business, and that His rich blessing will descend upon us while we are serving Him, whether that service be of a specially devotional sort or of a more common and ordinary description.
3. Observe, in the third place, that special training is needed for special work. We saw that, for the stem duties which Elijah had to discharge, he was particularly fitted by the solitude of his early life, and the ragged grandeur of the scenes in the midst of which he dwelt. Elisha, on the other hand, was trained for the more peaceful and gentle ministry on which he was sent, by the home-life of his father's house, and the quiet influences of agricultural pursuits. Like many another minister, his first college was his home; and there, as we are warranted in believing, from the readiness with which they gave him up to his new work, his parents trained him in the nurture of the Lord. But this was not the whole of Elisha's training. For seven years after the incidents which we have been considering, he was the companion and friend of Elijah; and so he was under the best of preparatory influences for his work.
4. Observe, in the fourth place, that God finds use for the distinct individualities of His servants. There are "diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." All God's ministers are not made after the same pattern. There are individual features of character and disposition, as distinctive of each as are the outlines of the face of each. John is quite different from Peter, and Paul is distinct from both. What a contrast do we find between Elijah and Elisha!
5. Once more: the conduct of Elisha here furnishes us with a beautiful example of the spirit and manner in which we should respond to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have rightly represented his views as to the meaning of the act performed by Elijah on him, Elisha must have fully counted the cost of the step which he was about to take in responding to Jehovah's call. tie knew that he must leave his home. He knew, also, that with an Ahab on the throne, a Jezebel in the palace, and an idolatrous population scattered over the country, the duties of the prophetical office would be not only onerous, but dangerous. Yet he conferred not with flesh and blood, but promptly and decidedly arose and went after Elijah. Now, so it ought to be with us and Christ.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. THE DIVINE CALL FOUND HIM BUSY AT HIS EMPLOYMENT. Our Saviour called into the apostolate industrious, and not idle, men. Matthew from the customhouse; Peter, Andrew, John, and James from their work as fishermen; and Nathanael from the great spiritual labour of earnest prayer beneath the fig-tree; and Paul from his intended murderous industry as he toiled towards Damascus. It is so in the Old Testament. Moses was keeping Jethro's flock when from the bush burning, unburnt, there sounded the irresistible voice that sent him into one of the most illustrious pages of all history. The call came to Gideon when he was threshing wheat; to David, watching his father's sheep; to Amos, tending cattle; to Elisha, following the plough. There was a rode sagacity in that famous king who chased in his homely wanderings the idle loungers from the street with "Away, sirrah, and take to some work!" who encouraged the stall-women to have busy hands while waiting for custom, in a compulsory fashion, indeed; and if they would not be encouraged by his desire packed them and their stalls away. lie would avoid everywhere the various and widespreading evils of indolence.
II. THE DIVINE CALL WAS UNEXPECTED BY HIM. He was sought; he did not seek. God saw him in the rural obscurity, and challenged him forth into the national recognition and service. What had been his ambition — what the animating hope of his life? lie feared God above many, and doubtless desired to be a considerate master, dutiful son, true friend, the comforter of those cast down, a light at home and in the neighbouring village. And to think of English instances. How unlikely that a Huntingdonshire farmer would become England's noblest monarch, though without the crown, which he, indeed, could well dispense with. Or in a more recent day, how unlikely that a young English carpenter would become the apostle of the Southern Seas, or that a young Scottish gardener would become the apostle of Southern Africa. Thus God pours contempt upon human judgment, "that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
III. THE CALL WAS ONE TO SELF-SACRIFICE AND PERIL. It is clear from the narrative that Elisha was in easy circumstances. He had servants and much cattle; he was heir to these at any rate. A quiet, pleasant country life was his — with the great miracle of nature ever before his eyes — labour in the open field under the blue of heaven, yet "a life that led melodious days." A serene man this — moving amid serene surroundings, looking with contemplative mind upon the lapse of seasons, the faces of familiar men, and the sacred scrolls of Hebrew Scripture. Brethren, our call to Christ and Christian service involves some sacrifice. With reiterated emphasis Christ says that. lie has not painted His kingdom in the colours of fancy. He tells of cross as well as crown; of "much tribulation" as well as eternal throne.
IV. THE CALL WAS ACCEPTABLE TO ELISHA. Having cast his mantle upon Elisha, Elijah hastened on his way. He paused not to expound the call; expositions were to follow. He would compel no man into perilous companionship with himself. On he went, and the wondering herdsmen watched. And startled Elisha — for the thing had been done suddenly — recovers himself.
V. ELISHA'S ACCEPTANCE OF THE CALL WAS CELEBRATED BY A FEAST. The event was worthy of celebration. Honour, with whatever peril, had come to him, and brighter than any crown. The man kindled. He was aglow to be gone. He was henceforth to hold another plough. He left all — native village, friends, patrimony, parents. With their kiss and blessing, the feast ended. And comes no call to us? — to Christ, and then to Christian service? Let us accept it, and then angels will "begin to be merry," with a joy never to end! O heavenly celebration!
(G. T. Coster.)
1. The new life was one of devotion to Elijah. Elisha might have said, "To me to live is Elijah." Years afterwards he was known by this title, "Elisha, that poured water on the hands of Elijah." And you are called to a life of devotion to the Lord Jesus. Christ is to be the centre of your life. The call comes all the more urgently because of the dismay and despair in which the present century opened. "Arise and live for Jesus; be whole-hearted to make Jesus King."
2. The new life was one of separation. He could not cleave to Elijah without leaving the old home. New interests arose; new duties occupied his time; new desires and ambitions filled his heart. The old life had to be left behind; he was completely drawn away from it. And so it is with every true follower of Christ. Nearness to Christ brings about separation from the world. The new interests and occupations crowd out the old, just as the young green leaves of spring push from the branches the dead leaves that had held on through all the winter storms.
3. The new life was, at the beginning, full of hardship and peril. Elisha shared in Elijah's exile. His master was a marked man and a fugitive. The prophet's mantle was no robe of state. None but Baal's priests were received at court in those days. Elijah had none of the privileges and protection which a Christian government affords to God's servants in England. And for us, too, though we live in better days, there is the cross. It is still true; "Whoso doth not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple." Even to-day, you can evade your cross only by denying your Lord. We cannot live for ease and riches and pleasure if we follow Christ.
4. And the new life was one of special privilege and power. That mantle was a sign of both. So is it with all who accept Christ's mantle. You shall see God face to face, and share His secrets, standing always in His presence-chamber, so that you do not fear the wrath of men.
(F. S. Webster, M. A.)
1. First, the precious privilege of Elijah in being permitted to be the instrument in God's hand of calling so splendid a man as Elisha into the Lord's work. Elijah would never have been able to do this if he had not been a good man. Elisha felt this influence. It was not so much what Elijah said, nor yet what he did, but constant prayer and communion with God, fellowship with the Unseen, maintained about Elijah a spiritual atmosphere that had something of heaven in it. Elisha could not have described it, but he felt it, and when he was with Elijah, God and goodness and heaven were things the most real in the world, to please God seemed to be the only good, and to grieve the heart of God by disobedience seemed to be life s only real danger.
2. We nave here illustrated the right way to receive and answer the call of God. Elisha responds promptly. He runs after Elijah. He feels there is no time to lose. Elijah goes with a swift, long stride, and will soon be out of the field. If he lets him pass away unheeded he may lose the opportunity for ever, and so he runs after the prophet and assures him of his acceptance. Not only that, but he proceeds to burn all his bridges behind him. No, he makes it just as public as he can. He kills his yoke of oxen, and burns up his plough, and makes a feast of farewell, and boldly proclaims to all his neighbours that he has been called of God, and that he is going away with Elijah in answer to that call. And I say to every unconverted man or woman here, That is the only safe or wise course. God calls you to accept salvation through Jesus Christ. and to serve Christ in your daily life.
(L A. Banks, D. D.)I. Among other practical lessons suggested by the calling of Elisha, let us note THE VARIETY OF CHARACTER AMONG GOD'S SERVANTS. Never were there two individuals more opposite than these two lights of this age in Israel, — alike in training and in mental temperament. The one was the rough child of the desert, without recorded parentage or lineage. His congenial and appropriate home the wilds of Cherith — the thunder-gloom of Carmel — the shade of the wilderness juniper — the awful cliffs of Sinai; — a direct messenger of wrath from Heaven — THE PROPHET OF FIRE! The other is trained and nurtured under the roof of a genial home — mingling daily in the interchange of domestic affection — loving and beloved. And there are the same remarkable, the same beautiful diversities, to this hour, in the Church of Christ. Luther and Knox — the Elijahs of their times, — had their vocation in preparing the way for the Zwinglis and Melanchthons — the gentler messengers of peace; — blasting the rocks, — digging out the rough, unshapely, unhewn block, — to put it into the hands of these more refined sculptors to polish into shape and beauty.
II. We may gather, as a second lesson, THE HONOUR GOD PUTS ON THE ORDINARY SECULAR OCCUPATIONS OF LIFE. Elisha is found, — not engaged in temple worship in Jerusalem or Samaria, not even in meditation and prayer in the retirement of his father's dwelling, but at his plough — driving before him his team of oxen. This is another of the reiterated lessons in Scripture as to the dignity and sacredness of labour, and the Divine recognition of it.
III. Once more — observe, in the case of Elisha and his parents, THE SPIRIT OF JOYFUL SELF-SACRIFICE MANIFESTED AT THE CALL OF DUTY. Great, undoubtedly, as was the honour of becoming the consecrated prophet of God; — we cannot think of his acceptance of the high office, without, at the same time, having suggested the idea of self-renunciation. What a lesson for us, this abnegation of self for God and duty. What have we surrendered of our worldly ease, our pleasures, our money, our children, our advantages, for Him and His cause? What have we done to disarm the power of besetting sins,by cutting off, like Elisha, the occasion of them, — saying, "Let oxen, implements, tackling, all go, and perish in the flames, if they rob our hearts of Christ, or Christ of our hearts"? Matthew locked the door of his tollhouse behind him: he would never enter it again. The magicians of Ephesus burnt their magical books that they might never more incur the risk of being involved in their sorceries.
(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.I. HOW GOD CALLS HIS WORKERS. When in the seventeenth century one of the famous Cambridge Platonists, as they were called, passed to his rest, his sorrowful disciples exclaimed in the very words of Elisha to Elijah, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" thus expressing their sense of loss to that communion of the strength which marked their master's character. Again and again has God raised up men who, like these Cambridge Platonists, have reverenced the Divine gift of reason as well as of revelation, who, whilst they have stood aloof from Church parties and politics, have striven to teach and to show the character of God the Father, the example of God the Son, the love and fellowship of God the Holy Spirit, men who have felt sure that no long roll of years, no fresh discoveries of science could teach for the moment such a truth as this: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
II. THE INFLUENCE OF GOOD LIVES. But, further, the call of Elisha came to him, as it came to Matthew, in his ordinary work, in his farm and in his merchandise, and he was, let us remember, no longer the same man after it as he was before it.
III. SILENT MISSIONARIES. But again, when Elijah passed by Elisha it was certainly a personal influence, but it was also, so far as we know, and as it has been more than once noted, it was also a silent influence. And thus the action of the prophet at least suggests to us the consideration of that silent, impressive, testing influence by which we are all so closely surrounded. What a remarkable influence, for instance, attaches to that book so famous in the last century, and so popular then in England and America, Law's Serious Call. What a proof of the unfailing influence which attaches to the outpouring of a saintly and devout soul is furnished by the mere fact that William Wilberforce, John Wesley, Samuel Johnson all referred to that one book as the origin of their first serious impressions upon religion.
IV. THE INFLUENCE OF GOOD BOOKS. We come to the impressions which I doubt not have come to us all in some way or other from the perusal of a popular biography, from a brief memoir in the newspaper, from our favourite books of devotion. We may indeed be thankful for these many silent influences. They may be doing, surely are doing, God's work in the world. Our eyes have long been fixed, and in the face of recent events with fresh interest and fresh wonder, upon that marvellous people of the East, the Japanese. A short time ago an enterprising firm of publishers in Japan determined to issue a series of historical biographies. The first was the life of Confucius, the second that of Budda, the third that of Jesus of Nazareth. The biography of our Lord was edited by a young Japanese student, not himself a Christian, who wrote it simply as it stood in the Gospels without offering any opinion of his own as to its truth or falsehood. In a few weeks the whole of the first edition of that book was exhausted. Here, again, was a silent influence penetrating where the living voice of the missionary has never been heard to the quickening intellect and touching the heart. Can we doubt it that God the Holy Ghost, through the book, leads many to inquire whence hath this Man wisdom, whence the wondrous works?
(R. J. Knowling, D. D.)
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