Into the Hot Seat 1 Kings 19:15-21

The advert in the Jordan Times might have read something like this.
Wanted: prophet of God, to lead a band of prophets. Must be diplomatic and useful in battle and famines. Miracles, especially raising the dead, an advantage.
Well, Elisha did not become one of the most influential prophets in Israel’s history by answering a newspaper advert. So how did he end up “in the hot seat” as Elisha’s successor and God’s representative to Israel for 50 years in the ninth century BC?
You remember the story from last week, how Elijah the prophet was stressed out and worn out and burned out after the conflict with the prophets of the false god Baal on Mount Carmel. You remember how God cared for Elijah and revealed His Almighty power to him, and spoke to him in that still small voice of calm, that gentle whisper. And then God gave Elijah somebody to share the burden with, a sidekick, Elisha.
1 Kings 19 15 The LORD said to Elijah, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet …


19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.

His cloak was a symbol of the prophet’s gifting and calling. And Elijah went and put his cloak on Elisha’s shoulders. Elisha’s response to God’s call gives a perfect example of how somebody should respond when God calls them.
20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

Elisha didn’t just burn his bridges. He burned his plough and he burned his oxen. No turning back! For Elisha this was a radical break with the past. To follow God’s calling to a new destiny, with a new lifestyle, and new priorities.
Elisha was called. In the church it is not only ministers and missionaries who are called. All Christians are called by God. We are called first to be, before we are called to do. We are called from darkness to light and from death to life. We are called to be God’s children. We are called to be holy, set apart for God. And we are called to follow Jesus. We are called to serve God and to tell others about Jesus.
1 Peter 2 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
But answering God’s call to follow Jesus is only the beginning! A new Christian needs to grow in their faith and learn to serve God in the church and in the world.
And as we go on in our Christian lives we need to be open to the call of God to serve him in other ways. In the church, working with the children or as a youth leader. As Deacon or Home Group Leader. Maybe to serve God as a missionary or as a minister?
21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

Elisha became Elijah’s attendant, Elijah’s helper. Elisha became the Apprentice. The same word is used of Joshua’s relationship with Moses. Elisha needed a period as an attendant, a time of training, of growing, of learning from his Spiritual Elder before he could take over the role of Prophet to God’s people.
Elisha was discipled. By that I mean, Elijah took Elisha as his disciple. That is a vital part of passing the faith on from generation.
And Christians need discipleship. Learning and growing. Not just at the start of our Christian lives but all through our Christian lives. We need to be disciples of Christ. But part of what that means is that we learn from other older, wiser, more experienced Christians. They disciple us.
There are many things in life which we learn by watching others. The piano teacher, the driving instructor, the personal trainer and the life coach all show us HOW TO do what we want to do. The best way to learn to speak French is to spend time with a Frenchman. So also in the Christian life there are individuals who inspire and encourage us by their passion in prayer, their boldness in evangelism, their commitment to holiness and their complete devotion to God. From their examples we learn skills, attitudes and character. We learn hospitality, patterns of prayer and devotional reading. We learn how to cope with life. We seek to imitate their work/life/church balance. We are fired by their wisdom, zeal and love. They are our role models. We catch their faith. As other people share their lives with us, we learn from them how to share our own life with other people.
Older Christians – is there a young Christian you are supporting and teaching and encouraging in the early years of their faith? By your word and example?
Younger Christians – is there an older Christian you look up to and learn from and share with and pray with.
Especially for people starting out in the Christian faith we have a little course called Making Disciples One to One for New Christians. It is a series of eight meetings where you get together with a mature Christian to talk about what it means to be a Christian and how we can be sure of our faith. You talk about prayer and Bible study and witnessing and about the power of the Holy Spirit. If you would be interested in doing that course, have a word with me and I will suggest somebody you could meet with. Elisha had his time being Elijah’s apprentice, and Christians can benefit enormously from being discipled.
And then Elisha was being trained for the job God had for him to do as prophet of Israel. We need that kind of apprenticeship in the life of the church. Training for the next generation of Deacons and Home Group Leaders. Passing on the baton of service in the church.
Elisha was called. Elisha was discipled. But to be God’s prophet, to lead the band of prophets and become advisor to the King, Elisha needed more than that. Elisha would need God’s power to do God’s work. And he received it!
After many years with Elisha learning from Elijah as his apprentice, at the end of his life Elijah took Elisha out across the Jordan back into the desert.
2 Kings 2 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

Remember in those days the Jewish custom was that the first-born son and heir would receive the privilege of a double portion of the inheritance. Elisha asks for the first-born’s share of the Spirit of God who empowered Elijah to be God’s prophet.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.”
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
13 He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

In the Old Testament God the Holy Spirit came upon specific individuals at specific times for particular purposes. In particular it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets. The Spirit of God who inspired Elijah now rested on Elisha to make him God’s prophet.
For Christians it is different. Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit when we start the Christian life and are born again. It is the Holy Spirit which makes a person a Christian.
Acts 2 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
It is this gift of the Holy Spirit which makes a person a Christian. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit living and working inside them, making them like Jesus, helping them to pray and to understand the Bible,
And it is the Holy Spirit who inspires Christians and empowers them to serve God and to tell others about Jesus. And God will keep on filling us with His Holy Spirit again and again, as much as we need to be able to say and do the things He wants us to do.
The apostle Paul said this to his apprentice Timothy, who at a young age was leader of the important church at Ephesus.
2 Timothy 1 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
We all need to fan into flame the gift of God which is in each one of us. Some people thing if we have discipleship and training, that is enough. Other people think if we have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, that is enough. If we want to serve God in the church and in the world we need both!
I was going to call this sermon, “How God makes a prophet.” Elisha’s story reminds us how God wants to take and use every one of us. Every Christian is called by God. Not just prophets, not just ministers, not just missionaries. God has work for every one of us to do. Then every Christian can benefit from being discipled, having some time as an apprentice. And every Christian needs to be empowered by God by the Holy Spirit.
The world is full of “back seat drivers.” Full of good advice but never ever getting in the hot seat. And there are some back seat Christians too with lots of good ideas about what “somebody else” could do but never getting into the hot seat and doing those things themselves. Elisha was called. Elisha was discipled. Elisha was empowered. Then God put him into the hot seat as prophet. God wants to use us to change the world! Back seat Christians or hot seat Christians?

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