The prophet Elijah had told God that he had had enough as he fled through the desert, running away from a death threat by Queen Jezebel. His resignation came after he had already won many victories with the Lord, demonstrating great faith and trust in Him. But God did not condemn Elijah for his request. In fact, the Lord would oblige him, but not in a way that Elijah could have possibly imagined. He would definitely be going out in style.
But first, God had some more work for Elijah to do. He needed Elijah to anoint and mentor Elijah’s replacement, another person of great faith, the prophet Elisha. Elisha would request and receive from God double the portion of the Holy Spirit given to Elijah, and would be used by God to perform many miracles.
The next thing we read about Elijah after he departed from Mount Horeb is of his coming upon Elisha working in his family’s field. The new prophet was apparently from a wealthy family, as they were plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. Typically, a family was doing well if they had even one. Elisha was out there both working and supervising, manning the twelfth yoke in the rear.
19 So he (Elijah) departed from there (Mount Horeb), and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. 1 Kings 19:19 (NKJV)
Elijah passed by Elisha and simply threw his mantle over his shoulders while he was plowing. There was no ceremony there!
What is a mantle? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes a mantle as follows:
1a: a loose sleeveless garment worn over other clothes : CLOAK
b: a figurative cloak symbolizing preeminence or authority – accepted the mantle of leadership
“Taking on the mantle” or “assuming the mantle” is an expression used to describe when someone steps into a new role of authority or responsibility. The origin of this expression is believed to have come from this moment, when Elijah passed by Elisha and passed on his divine authority by simply throwing the mantle on his shoulders.
Elisha knew who Elijah was and realized what this meant. He did not hesitate to accept his new role and responsibilities. Just like Jesus’ disciples when they laid down their fishing nets after a miraculous catch to follow Jesus, Elisha put down his plow. He knew this was God’s calling, and decided there on the spot to follow Elijah and to learn all he could about his new duties.
As a good son, Elisha first needed to go back to tell his parents what was happening. He was fully on-board with his calling and, to demonstrate this, he offered a yoke of oxen as a sacrifice to the Lord, using the wooden plow equipment for the fire. He then gave away the boiled meat, sharing it with the people of the land.
21 So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant. 1 Kings 19:21 (NKJV)
We never know when God is going to approach us with a new calling or responsibility. But we do know that when He does, it is in our best interest to follow and go with Him. A friend of mine calls some of these events “divine inconveniences”. While they may seem at the time to be a disruption of our immediate plans or goals, they evolve into something much greater – an opportunity to work alongside God on a harvest of people for His kingdom. And like Elisha, may we assume the mantle when it is offered.
Even though Elijah passed along the mantle of prophetic authority to Elisha in a very abrupt way, throwing the mantle over Elisha’s shoulders as he was plowing in a field, Elisha was prepared for the unexpected and knew the full import of this event. His heart was in tune with God’s will, and he was not dissuaded by the need to set aside his pursuit of material wealth to follow after his new mentor and the will of the Lord.
Lord, help me to value You and Your will more than the seeking after more material things. Your worth and value are priceless. Help me to treasure You and the presence of Your Holy Spirit in my heart. Guide me and help me to follow You whenever I encounter a “divine inconvenience” of Your making. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.