By Rick Greve, Pastor, New Market Seventh-day Adventist Church, New Market, Virginia
Summary: We are not all asked to serve as Elisha served, nor are we told to sell everything we have; but God asks us to give His service first place in our lives, to allow no day to pass without doing something to advance His work in the earth.
Faster than a speeding bullet, he can leap tall buildings with a single bound, he stops a locomotive with one arm--It’s Superman, comic world’s greatest super hero. The newspaper reporter, Clark Kent, in a moment of national crisis, can disappear into a phone booth and emerge in a spandex suit complete with a colorful cape. With his cape on, Clark Kent has tremendous hang time.
I wonder if it would work for me? In this day of failed leaders and fallen heroes, there is a need for ordinary people to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways.--A need to go into the phone booth of prayer and come out with a changed experience.
An impressive résumé
As you look through the Bible, perhaps the greatest prophet of the Old Testament was Elijah. Talk about an impressive résumé! Elijah had done it all. He shows up in King Ahab’s palace saying, You know that canoe trip you were planning with the wife and kids this summer on the Jordan River? You might as well cancel it, because guess what? It’s not going to rain for a long time, Bucko! Elijah was a fireball. He wore a cape of camel hair that became symbolic of the prophetic office. Throughout Elijah’s life, he fought ferocious battles for God.
In one of the most incredible stories of the Bible, at the end of the drought, Elijah orchestrated a showdown between Baal and Jehovah on Mt. Carmel. God rained down fire on Elijah’s soggy altar, wiping out 450 false prophets. On the heels of this apparent victory came one of Elijah’s greatest challenges. The challenge wasn’t the fact that Jezebel wanted to kill him. Elijah’s greatest challenge was depending on himself to do all the work. As he is hiding from Jezebel’s hit men, he verbalizes an exhausted death wish. Then in conversation with God, he says, I’ve been working tirelessly for you. And what good has it done? The Israelites still worship idols and kill the prophets. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me.
Pass on the mantle
Do you ever tire of working for God and wonder if anyone else will pick up the ball and run with it when you’re gone? Who’s going to teach my Sabbath School if I don’t. Who will lead this ministry when I lay it down? I’ve given all my life for this church and what good has it done? I’m the only one who cares! Oh, poor lonesome little me!
That’s how Elijah felt. He was discouraged because he truly believed he was the only one battling the enemy. When you get to that point, it’s time to let go, and that’s exactly what God instructed Elijah to do. God says, You’re not the only one Elijah! There are 7,000 loyalists who have never fallen before Baal. And by the way, you’re not going to be around forever. There will come a time when that cape will be around someone else’s shoulders. And just so you get used to the idea, I want you to anoint your successor.
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him (1 Kg 19:19). This was the sign of awareness. The mantle was being passed to a new generation.
That is what is happening today. A new generation is emerging with the energy and enthusiasm required to finish the gospel commission. Those of us who are now involved in leadership need to recognize our responsibility in this process. We need to lead by setting a faithful example of service. But it is incumbent upon us that we don’t lead independently of those who will follow in our footsteps. The passing of the mantle requires a willingness on the part of the older generation to let the mantle go and an acceptance by the younger generation to step up and take it on.
Care and nurture
Subtly, slowly but surely the mantle is being passed. Even before Elijah saw Elisha, the young man was preparing to take it on. While living at home, he was faithful to his father. He respected his parents and teachers. In the process, he was learning to cooperate with God. Students, this can be your experience. Recognize in your elders and parents the higher authority God has given to them at this point in time.
When the mantle was placed on Elisha, he demonstrated respect for his parents. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ?Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye,’ he said, ?and then I will come with you’ (1 Kg 19:20). Radio preacher Daniel Poling tells of the death of an outstanding author, conference teacher and social leader--a lady lauded and applauded. Her son was a well-respected citizen in the town. Everyone was at the funeral to hear her son say, as he stood by the coffin, I don’t remember you for your books or your well-earned reputation. I remember you as the one with a Superman’s cape--warm and loving embrace, whose lips pressed on mine in days of doubt and uncertainty when I needed acceptance. I remember you as my mother. There are few outstanding authors, but there are millions of ordinary mothers and fathers and friends who shape the world generation after generation. Ordinary people doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways.
Be a mentor
Elisha became Elijah’s attendant. He followed faithfully learning to depend on God while doing menial tasks for the prophet. This is part of the process that may be unpleasant, but is very important. Elijah didn’t place the mantle on Elisha and let him keep it. Elisha had to prove himself worthy of the calling. He had to demonstrate loyalty, integrity and honesty.
For the mantle to be passed there must be a process of training where trust is developed and knowledge is handed down. In the Old Testament, Elijah had restored the system of education. As Elijah approached the end of his ministry, he visited the schools one last time. At each site Elijah told Elisha to stay at the schools and teach. This was a test of Elisha’s loyalty. For the mantle to be passed down he had to prove once again that he was ready to follow the leading of the Lord. Three times Elijah said, Stay here. And each time Elisha responded, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. What Elijah didn’t know was that the Lord had appeared to Elisha revealing to him the plan for Elijah to be translated. The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, ?Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?’ ?Yes, I know,’ he replied, ?but do not speak of it’ (2 Kg 2:5).
When the Lord in His providence sees fit to remove from His work those to whom He has given wisdom, He helps and strengthens their successors, if they will look to Him for aid and will walk in His ways. They may be even wiser than their predecessors; for they may profit by their experience and learn wisdom from their mistakes (Prophets and Kings, pg 228). In an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust God can do great things as the mantle is passed.
Life of service
When Elijah and Elisha left Jericho, they had to cross the Jordan River. Elijah took of his mantle and struck the water and the waters parted. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ?Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ?Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied (2 Kg 2:9). This was Elisha, tugging on Superman’s cape. I am ready to take the mantle. Elijah acknowledged that the power was not his to give. Only God could give it.
Elisha was sad. His friend and mentor was gone. But as he was standing there, something came floating down from the sky. What could it be? It was the cape of camel hair. . .the mantle was passed. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. ?Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he asked (v 13,14). And the waters of the rivers parted.
We are not all asked to serve as Elisha served, nor are we told to sell everything we have; but God asks us to give His service first place in our lives, to allow no day to pass without doing something to advance His work in the earth. Adults, you have seen the desire on the part of the emerging generation to accept the challenge. Now it’s up to us to let the mantle fall.