Summary: Why did God choose Elisha to be Elijah's understudy? What characteristics did God admire in this man that we can copy?
OPEN: The story is told of a University professor who told his class he was going to prove that there was not a God. Then he looked up at the ceiling and shouted, “God if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you 15 minutes!” He kept taunting God… 5 minutes went by… and then 10 minutes, “Here I am God, I’m still waiting.” After 13 minutes of this, one of the football players at the college happened to walk by the door and heard what the professor was saying. The football player walked into the class room and then RAN at the professor and knocked him off the platform. The professor got up, obviously shaken and said “Why did you do that?” The football player smiled, “Well, God was busy; so He sent me!”
God… sent him??? Hmmm.
In our story today, we read about another man that God sent - a man named Elisha. Now, we hear a lot more about Eli -JAH than we do about Eli- SHA. In the book of Malachi it was prophesied that Eli -JAH would return to usher in the Messiah. To this day, there’s a special place set at Passover tables in Jewish homes in anticipation that Elijah will come. And (in the day of Jesus) the Jews were so eager for the coming of the Messiah that they often asked if John the Baptist and Jesus were Elijah. Later, when Jesus went up on the Mt. of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah were there standing next to Christ. And in the book of James we’re told that should pray the way Elijah prayed.
But Eli -SHA doesn’t get near as much press. He seems to dwell in the shadow of Elijah
One man noted that the 1st time he heard about Elisha, he wondered if Eli -SHA was just a different way to say “Eli -JAH.” Eli -SHA doesn’t even have a song written about him. I mean, you never hear people singing: “These are the days of ELISHA.”
But while Eli -SHA seems to have dwelt in the shadows, God was impressed with him. Eli-JAH had been a great prophet for a number of years, but the strain of ministry was wearing him out. So God sends Eli-JAH on a mission to find a partner/ a friend/ co-worker/ someone who can help carry the load. A man named Eli -SHA.
In 1 Kings 19:16 God tells Eli -JAH “you shall anoint … Elisha … to be prophet in your place”
What’s interesting is, there were a whole bunch of other prophets in Israel at that time, but God didn’t send Elijah to anoint any of those men. No, God sends Elijah to a FARMER out plowing in the field someplace! In fact, it appears - EliJAH had to WALK about 300 miles to get where Eli-sha was.
So, why would God do that? Why pick Eli -SHA to serve Him? Well, first, it appears that Eli -SHA was a man who was totally sold out for God. Eli -SHA was God’s man … long before Eli -JAH ever came to visit.
In 1 Kings 19:18 God told Eli -JAH: “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Now 7000 is not a lot of people. I mean, Logansport has approximately 18,000 residents, but in Israel only 7000 were faithful to God. That’s not a lot in a nation the size of Israel. But one of those 7000 (apparently) was Elisha.
Eli-SHA stood for God… and refused to bow to Baal.
But that was a dangerous decision for Eli -SHA to make, because a number of people had lost their lives – they’d been murdered - because they refused to worship Baal.
ILLUS: About a month or so ago I got an email from a missionary in Burma. He told me that thousands of civilians have been killed by the military… but the military especially went after Christians. He wrote: "the number of deaths continue to increase (156 were killed by snipers on Saturday alone, and even children were targeted). The military is invading neighborhoods and breaking into homes, shooting people in their homes, robbing people's money and precious possessions, burning down homes, arrest young ladies and raping them in prisons, using military jets to bomb three refugee villages, taking food from stores, shooting at teenagers and young men they see on the road, spreading lies, using spies in the communities to inform on civilians. They’ve even been using grenades against the unarmed protesters today.” SINCE THAT EMAIL I’VE NOT RECEIVED ANY FURTHER COMMUNICATION
Could you still be God’s man/woman in that kind of a culture, where it’s basically illegal to be a Christian? That’s essentially what Elisha had been. Elisha was a man who stood up for God in a land where it was illegal to do so.