THE COMMITMENT OF ELISHA

 

Our lesson this morning begins with Elijah and how hid himself from Jezebel in cave because he thought that he was all alone. We pick up on this story in,

 

1 Kings 19:13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"14 And he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."15 Then the LORD said to him: "Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria.16 "Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.17 "It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.18 "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."

 

Elijah felt like he was alone in his battle for righteousness and that all of Godís people had turned there back on him. But God lets him know that he is not a lone and that he has work to do. He needs to anoint two kings and anoint Elisha to replace him as a prophet. So, Elijah gets up and begins to do what God has commanded him. Next, we read about how Elisha is called to be the next prophet.

 

1 Kings 19:19 So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him.20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, "Please 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?"21 So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen's equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

 

Elijah finds Elisha plowing in the field with oxen. Since there were 12 yoke of oxen being used, this indicates that this was large farm and that his parents were wealthy. Now we do not know if the other 11 men plowing were servants or sons, but we can see that Elisha was right their with them working away.

 

Elijah goes up to Elisha without saying a word and throws his mantle or cloak onto him. According to Zech 13:4, this mantel may have been a robe made of course hair that only prophets wore, which is why Elisha would have understood that this was an invitation to become a prophet.

 

Elisha didnít hesitate very long because he left his oxen and ran after Elijah. He was obviously excited about the prospect of learning from Elijah. Elisha asks Elijah if he go back and say goodbye to his parents. Now some have compared Elishaís response to that of those in the first century given to Jesus in,

 

Luke 9:59 Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."61 And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

 

These responses are not the same even though the second personís response looks similar. This is an instance where the English language doesnít give us the full meaning here. In the case of the man wanting to bury his father what is meant is that he wants to stay at home until his father dies and then he will follow Jesus and the case of the man wanting to tell his family goodbye he is saying that he wants to go home and get all his affairs taken care of and then he will follow Jesus.

 

But this is not the case with Elisha because he simply wants to bid his family farewell. Now when Elijah responds by sayingGo back again, for what have I done to you?" he is basically saying that he is not there to keep him from saying farewell to his parents and it was not Elijahís choice to choose Elisha, it was Gods.

 

On his way back, Elisha did a very interesting thing. He takes the pair of oxen that he was using and he kills them and boils their meat using the oxen equipment to fuel the fire. Then he gives the meat to people around him to eat. In doing this, Elisha was making it to where there was nothing for him come back to. His tools were destroyed and his animals were gone. With these things gone, there would be no temptation for him to return back to his old way of life. Basically, he was putting his past behind him, so that he could focus on his new life with Elijah. Thus we see the commitment of Elisha to follow Godís way.

 

One of the hardest things that a person must do when they become a Christian is to leave their past behind them and make the commitment to serve God and His way. As Jesus said, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

 

The apostles are a great example of what it takes to make commitment to follow Jesus. For example:

 

Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him.

 

Matthew didnít hesitate. He simply got from his job and followed Jesus and never looked back.

 

Mark 1:16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.17 Then Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."18 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets.20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

 

Peter, Andrew, James and John made their living by fishing, but Jesus called them the left their job to become fishers of men. Again, they did not look back and over all, they continued looking forward and they served God with all their might.

 

One last example comes from Paul.

 

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.

 

Paul had it made socially and he had all the money that he needed, but he realized that he needed to make change and Jesus showed him the way. He was willing to make the commitment to leave his past behind him and to start fighting the good fight of faith for the cause of God.

 

Again, this is not easy for some to do and so some choose to stay right where they are because they cannot make such a commitment. For instance the rich young ruler was like this. Remember how he came to Jesus and asked him what he needed to do and Jesus told him he needed to keep the commandments, and the young man said he had but then Jesus said,

 

Luke 18:22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.24 And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!25 "For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

 

This was too much of a commitment for this young ruler because after he considered the words of Jesus, he choose to cling to his riches. Now there is nothing wrong with being wealthy and money itself will not keep you out heaven. It is only when you start desiring money over God that it becomes a problem because then you are putting worldliness above godliness. God is a jealous God, and He doesnít want to be second or third in your life. No, He must be first as Jesus said,

 

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 

We need to remember Jesusí promise in,

 

Luke 18:28 Then Peter said, "See, we have left all and followed You."29 So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,30 "who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."

 

No matter how strong our desire is to remain in our old life, we need to realize that no matter how fulfilling it may be or how much pleasure it may bring that it is only temporary and cannot compare to eternity in heaven. The sooner we figure out in our minds that the life we have here on this earth is but a vapor and speck in time the easier it will be for us to put our old life behind us and make the commitment to serve God.

 

Another challenge for people is once they do make the commitment to change their lives and serve God, they must continue to live their life for God. Again this is very difficult for some. Jesus describes what I am talking about very well in the parable of soils. At first Jesus simply told the parable to his disciples without an explanation, but then later he explains it to them and that is the part I want us to read,

 

Matthew 13:18 " Therefore hear the parable of the sower:19 "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.20 "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.22 "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.23 "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

 

The hard soil describes those who are unwilling to change their lives and make a commitment to serve God.

The fourth soil is the good soil and represents the Christian who not only makes the commitment serve God, but continues serve Him for the rest of their lives.

The other two soil represent those Christians who initially make the commitment to follow Jesus, but it doesnít take long for them to find out that they were not as committed as the should be. Of course the shallow soil represents someone that made their commitment based on a emotional response and the soil with weeds represents someone who put some thought in their commitment, but in the end, their past worldly ways drew them back into a life of sin.

 

There have been many Christians that have fallen into this trap. For instance, notice what Paul said about Demas:

 

2 Timothy 4:10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world,

 

2 Timothy 1:15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

 

Even Peter and Barnabas feel into this trap in Gal. 2 because they were trying to go back to shunning the Gentiles as they did before they knew that Gentiles were equal in the site of God. So, if it could happen to them, we must understand that it can happen to us. While it is difficult to put your past behind you and become a Christian, it is even more difficult to stay committed and to keep your past from sneaking back into your life, but we must learn to put our past behind us and keep it behind us if we ever hope to move forward. Notice what Paul says about the life of a Christian in,

 

Ephesians 4:17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.20 But you have not so learned Christ,21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

 

If we want to be pleasing to God, we must learn to change our attitude and keep our minds focused on the goal of getting to heaven. We must do our best to stay away from worldliness as Paul said in:

 

2 Timothy 2:3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.6 The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops.7 Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.

 

This does not mean that we can take ourselves out of the world, but if we want to remain committed we must stay away from worldly things that cause us to turn away from the plow as I pointed out earlier.

 

Our best defense to make sure that remain committed to the Lord is by putting on the whole armor of God as described in Ephesians chapter 6.

 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints Ė

 

This means that we need to study our Bibles, meditate on Godís Word, and do our best to live our lives by the Word of God. We must actively pray to God to help us to remain committed and we must trust in God with our whole heart, mind, and soul. If we can learn to do that, then we can learn to be like Elisha, the apostles and every other faithful Christians that have kept their commitment to God. I hope that every Christian here this morning will do their best to remain committed to God for the rest of their lives and hope that if you are not a Christian, that you will open your eyes to fact that your time here on this earth is short and that eternity in heaven is far greater than living a life on the earth separated from God. I want close my lesson with words of Paul starting in:

 

Philippians 3:8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.12 ∂ Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.