Thursday, June 02, 2016

The Prophet Elisha: 7 Lessons from his life and ministry

Image source:

Elisha is reputed in Scripture as the Prophet who took the place of Elijah after he was taken up. He is also known as the young prophet who requested and received a double portion of Elijah's spirit.

But there's a lot more to him than being Elijah's understudy and eventual successor - he was a man whose life and ministry we could learn much from.

Elisha: the man and his call to ministry
First, a little on the man, Elisha. The first time we read of him in Scripture is in 1 Kings 19 when God told Elijah to "anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shapat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place" (v. 15-16).

In verse 19 of 1 Kings 19, Elijah finds Elisha "plowing with 12 yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth". We can rightly deduce that servants were plowing with the other 11 oxen, which is indicative that he was from a well-to-do household. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle (a garment like a cloak) on his shoulders (a symbolic gesture of being appointed/called to be a prophet).

Elisha accepted the call in a heartbeat, 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" (v. 20). He turned back, took a yoke of oxen, slaughtered them, boiled the flesh and gave to the people; "Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant." (v. 21) - an interesting, determined character Elisha is!

So with that at the back of our minds, here's 7 Lessons we draw from his life and ministry...

1. He was purposeful and visionary
"And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?" Elisha said, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." (2 Kings 2:9) - that is a man of purpose speaking!

Elisha knew exactly what he wanted out of his relationship with Elijah - a double portion of the Prophet's anointing. His goal was clearly defined without ambiguities - his answer tell us that.

This throws up some key questions for us to ask ourselves - are you sure of exactly what you want out of life, or are you an "anything that comes I'll take it" kind of person?
What exactly do you want out of that relationship with that famous anointed preacher, or that lady or that guy - have you clearly spelled out the purpose of that relationship?

If you do not or cannot clearly define what exactly you want out of life, and clearly define your purpose and goals, you'll jump on every bandwagon that comes around; which will ultimately lead to a life of frustration and underachievement.

So, what exactly do you want?

2. He was daring and dreamed big
Can you imagine the look on the face of Elijah when Elisha made his request? He didn't request for his anointing, but times two of it! That is daring and bold! What a man!

Do you know some of the things Elijah did, I mean the miraculous things God did through him in his day? Freezing the national economy by declaring a three-year drought... Restoring it by proclaiming an end to the drought... Calling down fire from heaven at least three times (once at the contest of Mount Carmel, and two other times when King Ahaziah sent two sets of 50 soldiers to take him - 2 Kings 1:9-12)... And much more... Yet Elisha said he wanted double portion of this man's spirit!

Sincerely, how many of us can dare to make such a grand request? If I were the one, maybe I would be comfortable with only 60% (or even less) of the anointing! But Elisha asked for 200%! Elisha dreamed double. Elisha wanted double. Elisha dared to dream, and he dreamed big. And was his big dream fulfilled? Certainly!

We also see this daring nature of his when he readily gave up all the comfort, safety and possible inheritance he had in his father's house to answer the call of a prophet. Prophets in those days did not live in furnished mansions, or rode on the best horses! Or say, not the kind of prophet Elijah was; but he threw away all that, and went with the wild and unpredictable, but ultimately hugely rewarding, option of being a servant of God!

If we can learn to think and dream big like God (Think like God, think big), and take daring and bold steps, there actually is no limit to what we can achieve with God!

3. He was determined and focused on the prize
Three times, Elijah, knowing he would taken up soon, attempted to separate himself from him, but Elisha (knowing too his master would be taken up soon) remained stuck in, refusing to let his dream slip away (2 Kings 2:1-8)! His responses to Elijah's instructions to stop him from following him were epic! "As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!" (v. 2,4,6).

Elisha was clearly a very determined and focused man. Despite best efforts to distract him from his aim, he remain focused, kept his eye on the prize. He must have said to himself, "it's either this double portion or nothing else"! His focus and determination also shine through in the story his call highlighted earlier - after Elijah threw the mantle on him, he went back and made sure he settled things back at home so he could focus on his assignment!

Can we get to that place in the pursuit of our God-birthed goals and visions, that place where we say to ourselves, "it's either this or nothing else"?!

This brings to mind the story of Jacob's name change to Israel in Genesis 32:22-29; he wrestled with the Lord's angel, refusing to let go, even with a broken hip, until he got his blessing and his story was changed forever!

Determination and focus are two very vital traits of the highly successful, without them nothing worthwhile can be accomplished, because there certainly will be distractions and challenges that want to knock you off your path and stop you from reaching your goals, but with a determined and focused mind, you'll pull through.

4. He had burning desire
Desire is the starting point of all accomplishment; it's like the strike of the match that sparks the big fire!

Elisha had a burning desire for what his maste. He desired it, he hungered for it, he most probably prayed earnestly for it - which explains why he could sense the time for Elijah to be taken away.

Jesus' words on the mount hold true, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). We know He rewards those who diligently seek Him, "And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your whole heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

There's truth in the saying that where there's a will, there's a way; where there's burning desire to do something, the challenges pale into insignificance.

5. He had a heart of service
Elisha served Elijah diligently. This is clear from the kind of relationship they enjoyed even till the end of Elijah's life on earth; Elisha called out, "my father, my father" (v 12) when Elijah was ascending in the whirlwind.

Do you think Elijah would have favourably considered his request if he had not served humbly, faithfully and loyally. I doubt that!

Elisha had a heart of service, Elijah knew this, that was why he was comfortable bequeathing such power to him because no wise master would hand such power over to a servant who does not have a heart of humble, faithful and loyal service; lest he'd misuse and abuse it! His heart for service to humanity was also clear in the miracles God did through him - from healing a spring of water near Jericho (2 Kings 2:19-22), to providing for the family of a deceased prophet (2 Kings 4:1-7), blessing the home of the Shunamite woman twice (2 Kings 4:8-37), the healing of Naaman, the Syrian army commander's leprosy (2 Kings 5:8-16), feeding one hundred men with twenty loaves of barley bread and "newly ripened grain" with some left over (2 Kings 4:42-44), etc.

God's anointing of His spirit is for service to humanity, not for self aggrandisement, nor for self promotion, nor for selfish interests. Christ ensured He drove this message home with His disciples before He left them, which was why He served them by washing their feet just before Passover (John 13:1-17). His words, "If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you." (v. 14-15).

As you serve, do so humbly, faithfully and loyally... "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." (Colossians 3:23-24).

6. He was sensitive and didn't operate by sight only
How did Elisha know the time was near for Elijah to be taken away? It was never recorded they had a conversation where Elijah told him anything about it. How then did he know? There could be only one answer, like Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:17, flesh and blood did not reveal it to him, but our father who is in heaven.

Some would have you believe that the world is purely physical, and that there's nothing but "blissful oblivion" beyond this realm.

But we know better, we know the world was framed by God's word, and that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:3). We know the spiritual realm- which God rules - controls this physical existence. Being sensitive to His leading in these times cannot be over emphasised.

Elisha would have missed out on the blessing if he had operated by sight only. He would have assumed that Elijah would go the way of normal mortals - that is, he would grow old, maybe become sick and frail, then die! If he hadn't switched to a higher frequency, that is God's leading, he could never have sensed what was coming.

So, too, we must be. We mustn't operate by sight or logic alone, we must switch to a higher frequency through the Holy Spirit.

7. He did not compromise his faith
Elisha lived at a time when moral and spiritual decadence was high in Israel; a time when idol worshipping was "trending" in Israel as their king Ahab led them into the worship of Baal. But he did not compromise his faith.

Evidently, he was one of the "seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that had not kissed him", which God said he had "reserved" (1 Kings 19:18). He refused to be swept by trends, but remained true to God.

God sees and knows all, even our hearts. He saw the young man who remained true and served Him diligently even in the midst of sin and idolatry, and elevated him! Today, Elisha holds a special place in the greatest book of all time - the Bible.

This is a lesson that so applies to us Christians in our day. The "trending" thing is not necessarily the "God" thing, even if it is trending in Church! Remain true to God, don't compromise your faith, and He who sees in secret will Himself openly reward you (Matthew 6:14).

This list by no means exhaustive, I'm sure there's so much more we can draw from the life and ministry of Elisha... But these can serve as a good basis for us to build on... What other lessons do you think we can draw from the prophet's life and ministry? Do share with us in the comments section.

This post is part of the Lessons We Learn series, and will be recurring feature on the blog more on that here. After now, it will be coming up on Wednesdays... Do sign up with your email address below and follow on Twitter @ssmallvoiceblog so you don't any update.
Meanwhile, you can read other insightful posts in the Lessons We Learn series here

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sharing is giving, and giving is generosity. Be generous, share this post with those you care about.