We’ve been looking at service that results from Biblical worship. Because of the amount of material to be covered in this lesson, I won’t do a great deal of review. If you’ve missed any of the past 6 lessons, please review them. I would recommend—no, I beg of you to go back over these lessons, even if you were here for all of them! The principles taught in these lessons are important to each of us personally, and are vital to the continuation of our church program.

We have been looking at the life of Elijah and the examples from his life that apply to our service. Elijah’s life is a good example of Biblical service and our part in it. That’s not surprising, because the Scriptures tell us that he had a nature like ours. We saw that many of his reactions were human, just like ours. In spite of that fact, God was able to use him mightily. A fact that should give each of us encouragement in our service for and with God.

Today, I want to direct our thinking to the later part of Elijah’s life and service, and move on into Elisha’s life to see some very practical Biblical principles we need to understand and apply in our personal lives and our Church program.

After the great victory on Mt. Carmel, Elijah had a bout with despondency that resulted from turning his eyes from God to himself. This despondency was triggered by the threat from Jezebel. However, God, once again, gives Elijah the command to go and continue in the work to which he had been called.

1 Kings 19:15-16 Then the LORD said to him: "Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. 16 "Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.

Elijah’s new task, among other things, was primarily to appoint three people to positions of importance. Pretty dull and mundane stuff compared to calling fire down from heaven and killing the prophets of Baal. To top it off, Elijah didn’t personally get to anoint the two kings. He only anointed Elisha and trained him, so Elisha could anoint the two kings.

Four things we must see:

We saw these and many other truths in…

1 Corinthians 3:4-10 For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

When we are in the service of God, we are one with all others who are also in God’s service. Each worker has different tasks, but we are one. Elijah trained Elisha and Elisha anointed the two kings. Elijah and Elisha had different tasks, but they were one in the overall project. The project would not have been accomplished by either alone. No one person works in God’s service alone or as it pleases his/her personal desires. If it is God’s work, each one’s service must work in harmony with all others, and all that service must be according to the plan for the total. That truth needs to be applied in the local church program.

As we have seen, no matter how seemly mundane one’s part in God’s service may seem, God’s rewards are based on the attitude of the individual, as to their involvement in the whole.If our attitude is correct, even in the mundane tasks we do, we are rewarded on the same basis as the greater tasks. If our service attitude is for personal achievement, then we will suffer loss of rewards, and the total work will suffer.

Matthew 10:41-42 "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."

This "Body Function" of the church is a subject that should be explored much further. However, we must leave this subject and move on to other subjects in the lives of Elijah and Elisha.

1 Kings 19:19 So he [Elijah] departed from there, 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. 20 And he [Elijah] left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." And he said to him, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?"

Once again, we see Elijah back in proper form. God said go and he departed. No longer is he running pell-mell because of personal desires or fear. Elijah set out to look for Elisha, and found him busy at work plowing in the field. You would think that if God wanted another person to take the position of head prophet, in the stead of Elijah, He would have sent Elijah to look through a list of the Doctors of Theology and asked them to send in their resumes. For such an important position, you would certainly want someone with years of experience in phopheteering or whatever that profession was called, back then. If not someone with a Dr. of Theology degree or one with years of experience, then at least you would want someone who was in training at the "School of the Prophets". That would have been the plan, if God used human logic or patterned His program after the corporate standard.

Well, so much for human logic and corporate standards, when it comes to service for and with God. Human logic and corporate standards are right in their place, but when we enter the realm of Spiritual truth and divine actions, we must move to a higher level of logic. As you read through the Scriptures, you will find that typically God called people for His service while they were busy at their place of work.

1 Corinthians 1:25-29 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Elisha was no exception to those listed. He was plowing in the field with 12 yoke of oxen. The account does not tell us whether the field and/or the oxen were his, his father’s or shared ownership, nor would such knowledge make any difference. The point is, he was at work and he was good at what he did.

We can learn a number of things from this short reference to Elisha’s life and work habits.

From the text, it is not clear whether these 12 yoke of oxen were all on one plow, or if there were 24 oxen yoked in twos and each set pulling a plow. If all 12 yoke of oxen were on one plow, then it would indicate that Elisha was more than an excellent plowman! It would take some real ability to properly control 24 oxen on one plow and still get the field plowed.

More than likely, it was 24 oxen yoked in pairs and each pair pulling a plow, and one plowman with each yoke. 1 Kings 19:19 says that Elisha was with the twelfth or last yoke of oxen. Again the text is not clear as to whether Elisha was driving the twelfth yoke. In my opinion, more than likely Elijah was with the last yoke in order to watch and supervise the whole operation. The exact details of this operation was not what the Holy Spirit wanted to emphasize by this reference.

What is important and we need to understand by the mention of such a large number of yoke of oxen is that…

By any standard of the times, this was a large farming operation. This was no little gardening project.

To supervise 12 yoke of oxen and 12 plowmen in one field, would indicate that Elisha was a man of great skill. A skill of this type could only be gained by doing the job over and over again, and constantly striving for improvement and it would require that one carefully observe details. These features seem to be a lost to many of the younger generation, and quite a few of the past generation. By the way, the reason such attitudes are seldom evident in our nation’s youth, is because the older generation has not demonstrated those attitudes nor insisted upon them in their children. Parents, you have a God given right and responsibility to train your children in this manner, and to insist that they follow through with your training. More on this subject in our study of the Soul.

The attitude of many of today’s youth is slam-bang, get it done quick with no or little interest in proper details, little respect for property, other people or excellence in accomplishments. After all, I have a right to live as I please. I have no responsibility to others, parents, the church or its leaders. After all, the world owes me whatever I want.

It is sad to see such a generalized attitude even among Christians. However, it is exciting to see the real attitude of servanthood among a few. Thank God, proper respect and stewardship are not entirely dead in the up coming Christian generation, but such an attitude, in our society, is on life support.

Any one of those four above mentioned things could be a lesson or two in and of themselves. For this lesson, I want us to have these four in mind, so we can see why, or at least some of the reasons why God called Elisha to be the head prophet and why it is so unusual, from a human standpoint, that Elisha accepted the position.

There would not have been anything humanly wrong with God choosing a man from the structured formal education system of the day, they did have a "School of the Prophets". However, God is not nearly as impressed with the formal education of a special servant of His, as He is in quality of life that His servant has learned from the "School of Hard Knocks".

Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Tragically, this godly attitude toward Biblical service is seldom seen in those serving in our churches. Too many, who serve God through the church, do not try to do the job to the best of their ability. Instead, the attitude is often..:

"Let’s do it as quick as we can, with the least fuss.   
After all, its good enough for God, He’ll understand."  

Yes, He will understand (more than we might want Him to understand) and you will be rewarded accordingly. It is refreshing to find those who do truly give their best in the service of God, without regard for personal wants or gain. Few, if any of us will find ourselves in the exact situation Elisha experienced. It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely that some real prophet will walk up to us while we are at work, and challenge us to leave the security of family and job, to move on to a life of human uncertainty, that we call full-time Christian service. However, the principles presented in this story are not as unrealistic, for all of us, as they might seem at first reading.

1 Kings 19:19-20 So he [Elijah] departed from there, 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. 20 And he [Elisha] left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." And he said to him, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?"

Elijah, threw his cloak on Elisha. In that day, it was a common belief that clothing from a powerful person possessed some of the powers of that person, and such an act was a call to follow and serve the one belonging to the mantle or coat. Later on in this account, the mantle will not only be thrown on Elisha, it will become the possession of Elisha, and by that act, Elijah will transfer his authority to Elisha.

Elisha recognized this act of throwing the mantle for what it was, and willingly accepted the responsibility of following and serving Elijah. Elisha requested that he might, first, have a formal and intimate time with his parents, thereby showing proper respect and honor for his parents and then he would follow Elijah.

Elisha was a grown and mature man and this meeting was not to ask permission, but to share the fact of God’s call with his parents and later with his friends. In the case of adults, parents should not be the influencing factor for or against moving into fulltime service, but neither should they be ignored in the matter. Informing and including parents is simply a matter of common courtesy, a gracious consideration of others. A factor greatly needed in a servant of God, and one that is often lacking.

It was by God’s direction that Elijah found Elisha. He was not in the school of the prophets, not praying, not reading a sacred text but in the field plowing. Sure seems like a strange place to find a new Head Prophet.

It has been said and it is very true "Idleness is not man’s honor"  

Just as idleness does not bring honor, neither does having a honest vocation, in the world, bring disgrace. As we have already seen, God often calls people who are occupied, and well skilled in their occupations.

None of those, which we mentioned earlier in the lesson as being called from their work, were using their occupation as a stepping-stone to attain some position in the service of God. Because they were serving in their occupation "as unto the Lord", they were ready and in tune to God. Therefore, they heard His call without difficulty.

When our minds and lives are filled with God’s Word and we are living by the principles taught in God’s Word, it is easy for the Holy Spirit to give us direction from the Word. For many Christians, even if the Holy Spirit tried to communicate directly to them, they would have to answer "Huh?"…, because they don’t have enough of God’s Word in their minds to understand what the Holy Spirit said. You see, the Holy Spirit does not communicate in English, He only communicates in the language of God.

God’s language is His Word and for many Christians,  The Word of God  Is a foreign language!

In Scripture, those who were called from their work were, at the time, serving willingly and with skill. This prepared them to hear God’s call, and by enduring faithfully in that occupation, they were being prepared for the difficult service for God. At this stage of Israel’s existence, it was a very discouraging time for any prophet. It would have been a fearful time for a man to leave the security of a good job, and set out to become a despised prophet of God. A person who tested the winds of security, popularity and even life itself for direction would not have thought well of having Elijah’s mantle draped across their shoulder.

We must keep in mind that Elijah was not offering Elisha a position as the "Senior Prophet". If you don’t keep that fact in mind, you will miss the point of the story. As a matter of fact, Elijah was not even offering Elisha a position as a prophet, period! Notice the last part of 19:21…

1 Kings 19:21 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 served him.

Elisha was leaving a wealthy family, a prosperous business, a high position in the community, etc., to be a servant to Elijah!

Servant (1 Kings 19:21) = (Hebrew) To attend as a menial one or a worshipper; To be a contributor to

Elisha was not leaving a wealthy family and a prosperous business in exchange for a position of high visibility or one in which he could serve as he saw fit. Instead, he left all the "goodies" to lose his identity as a prominent person in business and the community, just to become one who would look after the wants and needs of another.

Until we each learn the skills of Servanthood, we don’t need to expect God to give us the position of "Head Prophet". In the natural course of things, as a servant, Elisha had very little chance of working up to anything other than a servant. Elisha’s whole goal was to accomplish the ultimate purpose through another, and he was going to accomplish that goal by what he could do to help the other. A servant is not engaged in a ministry of their own, but their time and efforts are spent to advance the ministry of another or others. That, by the way, is the way the church works or better put, that is the way the church should work… but that is not the way the church is working, in most cases.

Too often, the concern of the worker is not to accomplish the ultimate purpose of the church, but instead, to serve as they see fit, or for benefit to themselves or their family. As a result, neither is accomplished. Under those circumstances, the wants of the one serving are not accomplished, neither are the goals of the church. A church, in such a stalemate, will eventually die or change from a Bible teaching church. Look at what Christ had to say about a servant -- which is what we are supposed to be.

John 15:19-20 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
John 13:1320 "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 "Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. 18 "I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.' 19 "Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. 20 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me."

It is amazing how our perspective of Servanthood gets twisted, when we view Servanthood according to the manner of the world or the way false doctrine sees Biblical service. Look briefly at what John the Baptist had to say concerning his role as a servant.

John 3:30"He (Christ) must increase, but I (John) must decrease.

Some would say, "That was John the Baptist, but I’m a ‘Believer-priest’.., so I have right to serve as I please."

A statement of such a nature shows how little that person knows of what the Bible teaches about a "Believer-priest". Maybe we should reconsider our thinking about service, in light of what our Lord and Savior had to say about the situation.

Matthew 11:11"Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women (that just about takes us all in) there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Mark 10:42-45 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 "And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
The church, today, has way too many "chiefs" and not very many servants  

Oh, Yea! With all those chiefs doing their thing, there is a lot of activity in the church today, but the church is not accomplishing much, as far as making disciples, which is what Christ told us to do. Remember. Elijah heard the word and went and did, and Elisha followed that same and only pattern of true Biblical service.

Yes! We have a lot of people coming to church to see the performances, but we are not seeing many changed lives. Christianity is losing ground everyday, and many of the cults are gaining ground fast. One of the reasons for this, is that those who fall for the cults want to advance the cult (not themselves or their ministry) and they are willing to do so at any cost. While on the other hand, many Christians want to promote their own agenda at whatever cost to the church it might bring. Wouldn’t it nice to have church full of people who say, "I want to be a part of this ministry. Tell me what I can do."

Instead, we have those who want to hijack an established church program, so they can perform their ministry, without the work and responsibility of building such a ministry from the ground up. These seem to have little concern for the advancement of the established ministry, only their own. Well, I had better get off my soap box, and finish this lesson. In 50 years of ministry, I have seen this trend slipping into the church, but it is no longer slipping, it is now roaring at race track speed, and it makes me shudder to think what this church or any real church will be like in a very short time!

God may not be calling you to leave occupation and family to move on to the ministry of Head Prophet, but God has given all of us a ministry. A ministry that very few even recognize, and even fewer care to be a part of.

Yet, every Christian has been called to be an active part of this ministry  
2 Corinthians 3:12-15 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech -- 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.

A bit of background, so we will be up to speed on this passage. Moses went up to the mountain to receive the Law from God. He was in the presence of God for forty days. Moses was not attending some Deeper Life Conference or Enrichment Seminar. These have their place, but sad to say, they often replace the quiet presence of God with manmade excitement.

Elijah learned that fire, wind and earthquakes have excitement, but God was not in them. Instead, God was in the still small voice. If we had time, we could see that Moses learned that same lesson, right there on the same mountain where God taught Elijah, years later.

But we humans learn so slowly, don’t we?
We lust for the fire, the wind and earthquakes and we shun the still small voice.
When will we learn?  

When Moses came down from the mountain and from the presence of God, his face glowed because he had been in the presence of God. This glowing frightened the people, so Moses put on a veil. The problem was that God wanted to teach a lesson by the shining face. That lesson was, if you spend time in the presence of God, it will change you into the glory of His holiness. The longer you are away from the presence of God, the less will be the glow of God’s holiness in your being.

By Moses putting the veil on over his face, the people never realized that being in the personal presence of God brings glorious change and being away from the presence of God causes the glory to fade.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

In this Biblical account, only Moses was able to spend time in the presence of God. But now, every Christian has God, Himself, living inside of them in the person of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to go to the mountain to experience a change to the glory of God, that glory dwells within our lives. This change, from unholiness to the reflection of the holiness of God, is the ministry of every Believer, as we see in…

2 Corinthians 4:1-4 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 2005