Elijah had told God that he had had enough as he ran in the desert, fleeing the death threat of Queen Jezebel. This resignation came after he had already won many victories with the Lord, demonstrating a great faith and trust in Him. But God did not condemn Elijah for this. In fact, the Lord would later oblige him, but not in a way that Elijah could possibly imagine. He would go out in style.
But first, God had a lot of work for Elijah to do. He needed him to anoint and mentor his replacement, another man of great faith, Elisha. Elisha would request and receive from God a double portion of the Spirit given to Elijah, and would be used by God to perform many miracles.
The first thing we read about Elijah after he departs Mount Horeb is of him coming upon Elisha working in his family’s field. The new prophet was apparently from a very wealthy family, as they were plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. Typically, a family was doing well if they even had 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 him and simply threw his mantle over Elisha’s shoulders as he was plowing. No ceremony here!
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes this type of 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 throwing the mantle on his shoulders.
Elisha knew who Elijah was and what this all meant. He did not hesitate to accept his new role. Like Jesus’s disciples when they laid down their nets after a miraculous catch of fish to follow Jesus, Elisha put down his plough. He knew this was God’s calling, and decided then and there to follow Elijah and to learn all he could about his new duties.
As a good son, Elisha 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 his yoke of oxen as a sacrifice to the Lord and used the wooden plough equipment for the fire. He then gave away the boiled meat to 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 go along with Him. A friend of mine calls these events “divine inconveniences”. While they may seem like a disruption of our personal plans or goals, they will evolve into something much greater – an opportunity to work alongside God on a harvest of men and women for His kingdom.
Elijah passed the mantle of prophetic authority on to Elisha in a very abrupt way – throwing the mantle over Elisha’s shoulders as he was plowing in a field. But 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 wealth he was setting aside to follow after his new mentor and the Lord.
Lord, help me to value You more than the temptation of seeking more and more material things. You are priceless. Help me to treasure You and your Spirit in my heart. Guide me and help me to follow You when I encounter a “divine inconvenience”. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.