A Strange Career Choice.
“And when they had come to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Say what you would have me do for you before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Be pleased to let a special measure of your spirit be on me.'” – 2 Kings 2:9 BBE
You’ve probably asked more than a few kids in your life, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I doubt a single one of them ever responded: “I want to be a prophet!” Even in Elijah’s day, being a prophet wasn’t exactly a popular career path choice. Prophets were anything but popular. As spokesmen for God they had unenviable position of speaking on His behalf and, typically, what they had to say was anything but good news. Like the news Elijah had for Ahaziah. “This is what the LORD says: Why did you send messengers to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether you will get well? Is there no God in Israel? Now, since you have done this, you will never leave the bed on which you are lying, but you will surely die” (2 Kings 1:16 NLT). So prophets weren’t exactly popular. It could be a very lonely position. As a prophet, you were typically appointed to the position by God Himself. These were men who were usually obscure and unknown, but who quickly gained a reputation for their outspoken nature.
In this story we have a somewhat rare picture of a man who aspired to the role of prophet. He longed for it and even requested that he receive the responsibility. Elisha had been serving alongside Elijah, the prophet of God, ever since Elijah had handpicked him (1 Kings 19:19-20). At that point Elisha was just an ordinary young man plowing in his father’s fields. Then along comes the prophet of God, who throws his mantle or cloak over Elisha. Elijah was simply following orders. God had told him to find Elisha and anoint him as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). It seems that Elijah was still somewhat in the midst of his pity party over the way things had gone with Ahab and Jezebel. Because when it came time to anoint Elisha, all he did was thrown his mantle over him. No introductions. No announcement. No ceremony. But even in spite of the way Elijah handled the situation, Elisha seems to understand. He knows who Elijah is and he willingly leaves his family and all that he has known to follow the prophet of God. At this point, he does not necessarily know he has been anointed as Elijah’s successor. But he follows.
It is interesting that three different times in this story, Elijah seems to give Elisha the chance to bail out on him. On three separate occasions, he tells Elisha that stay where he is while he goes on, but Elisha refuses, saying, “As surely as the LORD lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!” (2 Kings 2:2 NLT). And two different times Elisha is questioned about whether he was aware that Elijah was about to be taken away from him. And on both occasions Elijah makes it clear that he knew what was going to happen. But he stayed with Elijah anyway. He seemed to sense that Elijah was leaving, but that he was going to be the one to take on his role and responsibilities. God has been preparing Elisha for this moment. He had handpicked him to take up Elijah’s mantle – literally. He would be the next prophet of God in Israel, proclaiming the Word of God to the people of God. So when asked by Elijah what he wanted before Elijah was taken up by God, Elisha requested a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit. He asked from Elijah what any Israelite boy would ask of his father: a double portion of the inheritance. He had effectively become Elijah’s son in the faith. But rather than material possessions, he requested a double portion of what Elijah possessed: spiritual power. He knew he would need it. Elijah’s name means, “God saves,” and he was going to spread the news of God’s willingness to save, but also His requirement of repentance. That message would not be well received. He would need all the power that Elijah possessed and more. The days ahead would be difficult.
The story ends with Elijah’s miraculous departure and a clear indication that Elisha had indeed received the power he had requested. He had become the prophet of God. And it would appear that this was a position Elisha deeply desired. But he knew that he could not do the job without the power of God. His aspiration to be used by God would require the inspiration and power of God. And the thing is true of every one of us as followers of Christ today. We cannot serve God without the power of God. We can’t be used by God without being empowered by God. We can desire to serve God, but we must understand that we can’t do it without God.
Father, You want to use, but first You want to empower us. Keep me dependent on You for the strength I need to do what You are calling me to do. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men