Would You Leave it All to Follow the Lord?
1Kings 19:19 ¶ So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him.
1Kings 19:20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?”
1Kings 19:21 He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.
Elijah had been told by God who his successor would be and so he went out to find Elisha. He didn't find Elisha in some prophet school, or even doing what we might consider "prophet" work. He was a man out working in his fields. Interestingly if he had 12 yoke of oxen, then Elisha was a wealthy man. This was a successful farm but it was not one that he simply left to his servants, it was one in which he too was willing to work and do manual labor for he was working the twelfth. So here we find a successful man who is willing to work hard with his hands and suddenly, out of nowhere arrives Elijah the man of God. As Elijah comes by he throws his mantle over him and Elisha knew immediately what this meant. He was to follow Elijah and thereby the Lord. Elijah, I'm guessing, was a little embarrassed and so it appears that he did kind of a hit and run -- throw the cloak and run. Elisha had to run after him and told Elijah that he simply wanted to go and tell his family good-bye and then he would follow the man of God. At this Elijah was quite overwhelmed and wondered what in the world he had asked this man to do! Could he really ask Elisha to live the kind of life that he had been living? Not too long ago Elijah had been hiding in caves, hoping to stay alive!
What's amazing is that Elisha goes back home and takes all of those things which would signify his wealthy and he slaughters them. Why would he do that? So that he couldn't go back! He gave up everything that he had and left so that he could follow Elijah and be his servant. He did this in obedience to the Lord.
This story of Elisha's call shows us that the Lord wants to use any and everyone who will be open to listening to the call of God on their heart. I can't believe that this was Elisha's first time to be obedient to the Lord. While he was a farmer, I am guessing that his entire life had been one in which he was schooled in obedience. That's why the Lord knew that this was the man that Elijah should call! Therefore it doesn't matter the occupation or vocation, we are all called to obedience on a daily basis when it comes to serving God.
Serving God on a daily basis for Elisha meant that when the call came to leave everything, he was willing to go. All of God's children have a call to go; Jesus told us to "God into all the world…" and we are all being covered by the mantle of Christ in the Holy Spirit. The question is whether we are as willing to be obedient to that call as Elisha was. Whether it is a material giving up of things, or an emotional giving up of things, we must be willing to journey into that deeper walk with the Lord. If Elisha had hung onto the things at home -- his dad and mom, his farm, his oxen -- he never would have become the world changing prophet that God had prepared for him to be. He knew that at the moment of this call from Elijah he would have to leave everything behind.
God is calling all of his children into a deeper walk with him. He is asking us to live a life of radical obedience to him on a daily basis so that we will hear the call to a deeper walk. This isn't just about people being called into full-time ministry, this is about every single one of God's children. God's desire is that we be his holy people and we are made holy by living a life of obedience to him in all things. This means emptying of one's self and allowing ourselves to be completely and entirely filled with God's holy love. This changes who we are from the inside out and the passion of God within us calls us to let go of the things of the world and cling only to him. Everyone of us is being asked to leave it all and follow him!
Therefore we must ask ourselves what it is that we are holding onto -- which oxen mean so much to us that we can't give them up? Are any of them worth it in light of being wholeheartedly sold out go God?
Lord, help me examine my own life and heart, making sure there aren't any left-over oxen that I'm holding onto. Amen.