Summary: Change or transition is hard, but we can face it bravely and powerfully with God's help. The transition in leadership from Elijah to Elisha reminds us to pay attention, to seek the Holy Spirit's filling, and to bravely take up the task given us.
Prophets with a Purpose – Week 5
Today we’re finishing up a five-week series looking at various Old Testament Prophets and what they have to say to us. Little Samuel reminded us that God still speaks if we are listening. Jonah reminded us that all people matter to God. Moses advised us on how to know a true prophet when we see them. Isaiah reminded us that God is both great and good and very involved in our crises. And today we look at Elijah and Elisha.
These two were similar in names, and also in their spectacular miracles. They probably performed more miracles than any prophet other than Jesus. Yet, they were quite unique as individuals. Elijah was a loner who preached repentance and brought down evil kings in sensational challenges. Elisha lived among the people and showed a deep concern for the poor and downtrodden.
Today’s scripture points to their transition, which caught my attention. We all go through times of transition. At home, we’re watching the Winter Olympics. Last night we saw Red Gerard win the United States’ first gold medal at PyeongChang by taking victory in the men's snowboarding slopestyle final. How exciting for him and his family and his Colorado town. At his young age of 17, he might have two or three more Olympic events in his future, but the truth is, at some point, Red will transition. He might become a coach or a sports commentator for snowboarding, or he might sell cars. But he won’t be making triple flips forever.
I tried snowboarding once, but once was enough. Give me back my skis, thank you very much! Even if you’ve never snowboarded, each of you has gone through times of transition, of change. It happens to us all. Some of us get married, and later lose a spouse to death or divorce. We start a career, perhaps in the military. We retire. We go back to work in a different field, and we retire from that. We take on a committee position, and later we resign. We move from house to house, from church to church, from one level of care to another. We make friends and we lose friends. And most profoundly, we’re born and we die.
Every one of us faces transitions in life. So I wonder, can we learn anything from Elijah and Elisha about transitioning well? I think so. Consider the points on your outline. First, I want to encourage you to...
1. Pay attention to transitions.
This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how often we ignore them, pretending they’re not happening. Change is hard. We don’t like it when friends move away. We don’t like saying good-bye. We have trouble facing a terminal illness. Everyone believes in heaven, but no one wants to go, at least not yet.
Elijah and Elisha faced head-on their great transition, sort of a change of command ceremony for the lead prophet of Israel. Elijah notably went to each of the seminary extensions to personally say good-bye. That’s what these little companies or schools of prophets were. They were like our modern-day seminaries. That’s what Elijah was visiting when he traveled to Gilgal and Bethel and Jericho. He was saying good-bye to all of his “sons” in the faith.