Elijah and Elisha 2 Kings 1-14
Elisha had been following Elijah for some time. Elijah, the great prophet, had been guided by God to find Elisha . When they met he threw his mantle/cloak over Elisha as the symbolic gesture that he was to be Elijah’s successor as Holy Man to Israel.
Here now they are walking together, Elisha had been learning what is involved in this calling, just how much he can trust God and how much God will ask of him.
Elijah has come to the end of his life on earth and Elisha is now ready to take his place in God’s plans.
Two things stand out for me in this passage.
- Elisha was totally committed to following Elijah.
When Elijah first called him, Elisha was in the field ploughing. He killed his oxen, made a fire with the plough and called all his family and friends to his farewell meal. He had finished with being a farmer growing grain or turnips or what ever, now he would be working for the growth of God’s kingdom.
When Elijah said he had to go on further and suggested Elisha waited for him Elisha refused to loose sight of his mentor. The modern phrasing in the version from ‘the Message’ ‘not on your life, I will not let you out of my sight’ I see as ‘not IN your life’. While Elijah was alive he, Elisha, would follow.
- Elisha had to keep focused
Elijah had promised a parting gift to Elisha and it was to be the anointing from God to be a holy man as Elijah had been. But Elisha was to receive that anointing ONLY if he was watching at the time Elijah was taken up from the earth.
He would miss the gift from God if he allowed himself to be distracted by anything. He had to keep his eyes on Elijah.
And of course we know he DID keep his focus, and he DID receive the anointing to become Israel’s next Holy Man – the parting of the river Jordan with Elijah’s cloak so that he could cross back over was all the confirmation he needed.
- Elisha was ready to give up all that had been important to him
- he committed himself to spending all his time with Elijah
- he kept totally focused and received the gifting from God to do all that was required of him
Jesus teaches on being his committed followers Luke 9: 51-end
We now hear Jesus’ teaching on following him and being fully committed. Some have heard him teach and seen the healing acts he had done among the crowds and are so impressed they want to follow him. BUT . first they must go and finish what they are doing; family obligations need to be settled, some work needs to be completed. They will follow ……. When they are ready.
Jesus tells them NOW is the time, following him is not something to be put off, the kingdom of God is for now not later. It not a matter of convenience, it about living as God’s people come what may. They have just had difficulty in passing through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem and Jesus uses that as a reminder that following him will not always be comfortable, there are plenty of rough times to be faced.
I’ve just had a lovely week in the Yorkshire Dales. We were staying in Wendsleydale but one of our walks was over the top of the moor into Swaledale.
The walk started following a path that gradually climbed the valley side and then leveled off before descending back into the valley again. Well, I’m not the best of hill walkers and I found the long upward path quite a struggle, stopping to admire the view or listen to the curlew were good ways to rest for a while and get my breath back. When I was feeling sorry for myself I tried to focus on the beautiful wildflowers in the field. They were so colourful.
Eventually it was good to be back down in the valley at the next village of Thwaite , have a cool drink and some of our picnic. It was a lovely place to rest , enjoy the surroundings and watch others enjoying it too. Refreshing!
Then we set off up the other side of the valley.
Well this was even steeper than before, a bit scary at times too when the path was narrow and gravelly, with a drop on the side. It took some mind over matter to get passed that, I can tell you!
Eventually I caught up with Nigel who was patiently waiting for me at the top. We found a lovely spot for the remainder of our picnic looking over the valley. We could see where we had walked, the stone walls all over the hillside , the sheep grazing and the cows’uses, – cow houses for the winter to you and I!
Then we walked down into the valley. By now I was very tired and it was as much effort going down as going up hill. Back into the village and few steps round the corner and there was heaven !!!!!!! in the shape of Mucker Tea Shop. A sit down and a freshly made cup of tea …… Wonderful.
Did I sit there thinking ’never again!’?
No. it was SO worth the struggle, the short time of fear of slipping, the exhaustion, was all part of the greater joy of being in that place, experiencing its history , its present , how it fitted into the whole picture of the Dales, the people who lived and farmed there.
That is what Jesus is saying to those who would follow him.
Belonging to the people of God is what is important, that is the goal. In times of doubt, hardships, struggles, when all seems to be wrong, nothing right, we remember we are on a journey, towards the new earth and the new heaven of God’s eternal kingdom . And those who keep their focus on Jesus will, like Elisha following Elijah, grow in faith and understanding and will receive the gift of God’s spirit .We too will become his ambassadors amongst the people we meet day by day. And if we are faithful , when we have finished our mission here, our ‘mantle’ will fall onto someone else who will run with it faithfully for God. His mission is not finished , and he needs people to follow Jesus closely , to carry on bringing the life of God to the world until his mission is complete.
We are all called to be focused on God’s eternal kingdom what ever the journey we expereince to get there.