Summary: God teaches the importance of the gospel ministry, It's a gift that we should not take for granted.
Bullies, bears, and a baldy. Did I capture your attention when I read the Old Testament lesson this morning? It was a longer than usual reading, but if your mind started to wander, I bet you sat up when you heard how two bears mauled 42 young men for making fun of the prophet Elisha. What’s that all about? Who exactly was this Elisha that God would send bears as his bodyguard? Well that’s what we hope to find out over the coming weeks as we start a new sermon series on the prophet Elisha. I’ve entitled the series: “Bald ‘n’ Bold” because this describes Elisha. He may have looked unimpressive, but he was bold in word and deed because God had commissioned him to serve the Israelites with his message of salvation. Today we’ll look at the beginning of Elisha’s ministry and learn how we went from plough-hand to prophet.
Elisha lived about 850 years before the time of Christ in what was known as the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This kingdom was ruled by the wicked King Ahab whose wife Jezebel had done her best to stamp out worship of the true God. Fighting this menace was the prophet Elijah. But things were so bad that for a time Elijah was convinced that he was the only believer left in Israel. That was not the case, however, and to prove it, God sent Elijah to anoint Elisha to be his successor as prophet.
Elisha worked as a plough-hand for his father. In fact that’s where Elijah found him – out plowing his father’s fields with eleven servants – each driving their own yoke of oxen. In today’s terms Elisha’s father would have been wealthy enough to own and operate twelve tractors! Therefore Elisha was no lowly farmhand just trying to eke out a living; he came from a family that lacked for nothing. When you remember that fact, what happened next seems all the more striking. Elijah took his mantle, which I suppose looked something like a cape, and put it around Elisha. Not a word passed between the two men, but Elisha knew exactly what the gesture meant. It meant that God had called him to be a prophet – someone who would serve as his spokesmen.
What kind of thoughts and questions would run through your mind if God made it known that you were to leave your current place of employment to serve on a mission field? Wouldn’t you like to know where you were going and for how long? Wouldn’t you wonder what kind of benefits you were going to receive and how much vacation time? But Elisha did not ask any of those questions even though he was about to take a huge pay cut and enter into a calling that the king and queen were trying to stamp out. Instead Elisha simply asked permission to say farewell to his parents. And this was no delay tactic because the next thing that Elisha did was to butcher the oxen he had been using to plough and then cooked the meat over his farming equipment which he had chopped up into firewood. There was no going back for Elisha. He made a clean and complete break with his past.