Discomfort for the Glory of God
“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. “
– 1 Kings 19:19-21
The story of the call of Elisha is a fascinating one. Elijah is traveling to anoint the new kings of Syria and Israel and he passes by Elisha, who he is told is the next prophet to follow him. Elisha is apparently a wealthy man since he owns twelve yokes of oxen and uses them to plow his field. Elijah comes up and casts his cloak upon him. The interesting thing about this is that the word “cloak” can also be translated “glory”. Essentially, what is being said in verse 19 is that Elijah casts his glory upon Elisha signifying a passing of the torch to the next prophet.
In verse 20, Elisha immediately runs after Elijah and says he will follow the aged prophet. This is remarkable considering the circumstances and context. Elisha has it made to where he won’t have to worry about food or resources. Then, a prophet comes along to give him the mantle he has held for years and Elisha doesn’t hesitate or ask questions. He merely states that he wants to say goodbye to his parents and then follow Elijah. By our standards today, Elisha is insane for even considering this. He is leaving behind a comfortable life and following a man who has lived a life marked by being in uncomfortable situations (see 1 Kings 19:1-4).
Following Elisha’s request to say goodbye to his parents, Elijah’s next statement is a key one to understanding the role of a prophet. He says, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” Elijah has passed the mantle to Elisha. He then declared that he is not the one who has called Elisha, but rather he is implying that God is the One who has called Elisha. This is important because the authority of the prophet cannot rest in his own eyes but in the eyes of God. This heavenly authority carries with it the weight of being the mouthpiece of God.
Finally, in verse 21, Elisha takes his means of making a living and burns it. He takes the yoke, with which he plowed his field, and the oxen, with which he pulled the plow, and sacrificed them. He is fully committed to following God’s calling on his life. He has burned his safety net, so there is now no possibility of coming back and not following what God has called him to do. This seems foolish to get rid of the one sure thing in his life. What if being a prophet doesn’t work out or he needs to make some money? Elisha’s obedience to following God’s calling seems radical, and yet Jesus says in Luke 14:26 that this is the norm of the Christ-follower. The markings of a disciple of Jesus are abandoning everything in pursuit of following Him and being obedient to His calling, which results in a life well-lived. Elisha performed miracles and was able to speak to kings and rulers for the glory of God. The disciples brought the Gospel to the ends of the known world. They were martyred, not for calling themselves a Christian and sitting back comfortably, but for their fervency to spread the Gospel.
The questions that arise from the text can take a variety of forms such as: “What have I given up to follow Jesus?” or “Would I be willing to give up my livelihood to follow Jesus?” or even “Has following Jesus cost me anything?” God calls us to be fully devoted to following His leading. Charles Spurgeon said it best when he said, “The Lord wants no pressed men in his service; his soldiers must all be volunteers”. What are you willing to give up to be obedient to God?”
Pray: God, thank You for Your promises to never leave nor forsake me. Thank You for always being with me. Help me to be obedient to You no matter the cost. Help me to place obedience to You above a comfortable life.
First Baptist Broken Arrow