"He took up the mantle of Elijah...and smote the waters, and said, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah.'" 2 Kings 2:13, 14READ: 2 Kings 2:12-15
The following quote reminded me of the new prophet, Elisha, immediately after his mentor, Elijah, was taken into heaven. And it reminds me of each of us too:
"We have to keep trying things we're not sure we can pull off. If we just do the things we know we can do...we don't grow as much. You gotta take those chances on making those big mistakes."This quote of the month by actress Cybill Shepherd can be applied to all of us as well as to the account of Elisha in 2 Kings 2. Elisha had been an apprentice of the prophet Elijah for many years. After Elijah was translated and Elisha saw him go, he was left to begin his own ministry. The first thing that happened was that Elijah's mantle fell at Elisha's feet. This garment was the official prophet's garment, and this one was the same one that years earlier Elijah had thrown over Elisha's shoulder when he was called to be a prophet. Elijah had mentored him throughout the years, and Elisha had learned many lessons. Now he was on his own. Could he "pull it off" without Elijah?
This scripture reveals three things that Elisha did which brought him success in his ministry and which can be applied to us today as well:
1. He picked up the mantle of Elijah
By doing this he was accepting the official badge of a prophet and was stepping into the new role. This particular mantle was one made of animal skin as shown by the Hebrew words ad-deh'reth. What was so significant about this mantle was that it was not only a garment to be worn but it was a token of the descent of the Spirit upon him. He obeyed the summons of it and became Elijah's successor. He now had the rights and responsibilities of a prophet. Although the mantle automatically marked a person as a prophet, a spokesman for God, it was a symbol of sacrifice and commitment.
The mantle represented a person's gift, the call of God, and the purpose for which God had called him. The garment was more than a relic to be treasured--it was a useful tool just as was Moses' rod. When he picked up the mantle, he also picked up the load of service that Elijah had left for him to do. He didn't hesitate to pick up the mantle because he had already been called and trained for this day. By picking it up, he set in motion the wheels of his ministry. He began to move with God. He didn't just stand there in inactivity wondering what his next move would be.
Transition: How many times do we fail to "pick up" on opportunities that are right before our eyes because we stand back--waiting on the Lord when He is waiting on us. Sometimes we stand back waiting for someone to ask us to do something when it is all right to go ahead and just "do it." Eccl. 9:10 tells us "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
Illustration: There was an interview on TV about Bill Wilson who lives in Brooklyn in a warehouse, and he has been ministering to children and their families for 17 years in a crime ridden area. They have sidewalk Sunday schools where as many as 1500 children come to a Sunday school. There are several Sunday schools each day in different parts of the city, and it is estimated that there are 18,000 children per week in Sunday school. Murders and drugs are rampant in the communities. The staff of Metro Ministries visits the homes of these children every week. He has had this kind of commitment for 17 years because a businessman took an interest in him and sent him to kids camp. It has been a consistent ministry to prevent children from getting on drugs in the first place. In the interview he talked about the good things and bad things he encountered in the ministry. He said the call of God is where you see the NEED.
Maybe we are fearful that we can't "pull it off" or are unsure if God will be with us. Think about the times someone asked you to teach a Sunday school class or serve on a committee or to do any number of things that you have never done before. It can be a scarey experience. You ask, "Can I pull it off?" "Can I be sure God will be with me?" You will never know if you don't "pick up your mantle" just as Elisha picked up his. It was his to take. Picking up your mantle is taking that first step of faith.
Scripture doesn't say if there were fears going through his mind or whether or not he felt competent he could do the job. He was a man who had a completely different personality from Elijah. We don't have to be an exact copy of someone else in order to be effective for God. He was not the rough cut, outsider that Elijah was, and Scripture shows that he got along better with people and worked within the established system. We don't know what his fears were. He had the call of God and he had the credentials.
We, too, have our own spiritual gifts and this represents the mantle of God's call on our lives. Let us not hesitate to pick up our "mantle", develop our gifts, and put them to work. True this means making a commitment just as Elisha did --a re-evaluation of our values and priorities. Elisha, like Elijah, was an ordinary person who became extra-ordinary because he was available to the Lord and willing to pick up his "mantle."
2. He took action
It was necessary that he do more than just pick up the mantle. Not only did Elisha have the mantle which was the official badge of the prophet, the training Elijah had given him, and the God of Elijah to help him, but he took action to do what needed to be done. He went back to the Jordan River which represented barriers to the plan of God--barriers to what stands in the way of entering God's blessings or service. Crossing the Jordan, on the other hand, represented moving out under the power of God. It speaks of faith in God's ability to remove the barriers and allowed him to move on to fulfill God's call and work. 2 Cor. 10:4 tells us that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds."
Going back to the Jordan River was an important starting point for Elisha because it proved not only to be an encouragement to him, but it was a means of authenticating his ministry to the other prophets and to the people in Israel.
As Elisha stood before the Jordan River, he rolled up the mantle and smote the water just as he had seen Elijah do. He used the techniques he had learned from his mentor, and God did the rest. Elisha knew he was filling a large pair of shoes, and he needed confidence in the Lord. Overcoming the barriers of the Jordan stood as a reminder of God's power many times in the days ahead. Once he had broken through this difficult barrier, it helped build his confidence that God would help him with more difficult things in his ministry.
Transition: We often complete step one of "picking up our mantle" in the form of having credentials and training to do things. How many people hold a college degree in their hand but not do anything with it. We may have musical talent but never sing or have other gifts in our hands but never take action to put them to use. We may know God has gifted us to do many things but still let the barriers immobilize us from taking action. Many people have the expertise but never taken any action.
I would like to ask you, "Are there any Jordan Rivers in your life right now that need to be removed by faith and prayer so that you can move on with the Lord?" Such barriers could include fear, sorrow, procrastination, ill will against others, or any number of things. The removal of barriers at your Jordan becomes an opportunity for God to display His power and to become a testimony to others. It also stretches you to do things you never thought you could do. Sometimes we need to "jump in with both feet" by volunteering for something we've never done before.
In what ways can you begin to take action to overcome the barriers that are hindering you? To help you move toward identifying new experiences complete the following sentences:
Elisha rolled up the mantle and took action. Most of us need to take action in some area of our lives. You can begin today.
3. He called forth, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?"
He didn't call for Elijah to help him. Elijah had done his mentoring and his job was completed. Elijah had trained him well over a long period of time. As they walked along together, Elisha had soaked up what Elijah had been telling him. He now called for the God of Elijah to help him. He had his own experience with the Lord, and he was counting on the God of Elijah to be right there to help him.
It is of utmost importance that we have our own experience with the Lord and know how to pray and to see things happen. We cannot rely on other people to do our praying for us. In our crises experiences, we need to know that we know the God of Elijah and know how to get in touch with him. It is not a time for hoping or guessing. Oral Roberts used to say, "I know that I know that I know." We need to know how to pray for big things as well as little things.
Illustration: There is a story about a little 4 year old who was taken to the Emergency Room with a severe cough. She talked incessantly and the doctor finally said, "Open your mouth so I can see if Barney is in there." She immediately replied, "Jesus is in my heart; Barney's on my underwear." I think this little girl had the certainty of where the Lord was more than a lot of Christians.
Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Psalm 11:4 tells us, "The Lord is in his Holy temple..." which gives us a feeling of the awesomeness and greatness of God in relationship to the world. Psalm 145:18 says,
"The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon Him in truth...he will also hear their cry..."This tells us of the closeness of our God to us as individuals. He is not only transcendent but immanent.
The same God who worked for Elijah and Elisha is present today and available to work personally in our individual lives. Hebrews 13:8 tells us, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." God will work to enable us to do what He has called us to do. Phil. 4:13 reminds us, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."
Elisha had previously asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. Later Scriptures show that Elisha received this double portion and that he accomplished many great things for God. It was very important that Elisha keep his experience fresh and up to date with God if he expected God to work. Can we do any less?
Conclusion: Let's go back and look at our text verse again, "He took up the mantle of Elijah...and smote the waters, and said, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah.'" Take a look at where you are in relationship to this verse. Have you reached out your hand of faith to pick up the mantle as far as your service to the Lord? Maybe this is your starting point. New Christians, pick up your mantle. Those of you who have been saved a long time--pick up your mantle.
Have you begun to take action to move out into new areas of ministries--things you might be a little fearful of doing--like getting up to sing that first song, or teaching that first Sunday school class, or explaining the plan of salvation to that first person. Don't wait to be asked to do something. Begin to volunteer. Third, take a look at your experience with the Lord. Is it up to date and fresh. Are you like the 4 year old who knew for a fact where Jesus was?
Let us Pray:
Lord, let Your Word speak to all of us tonight about what you would have us to do. Help us to have confidence in Your Power to help us and change us into the people we ought to be.
Help us not to be fearful but to boldly come to you. Stretch our faith to believe you for great and mighty things in the days ahead. Teach us how to pick up our mantle and take action into productive service for you. Thank you Lord. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.
Dr. Marilyn S. Murphree
Valley Grove Assembly of God
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