Today, we are starting a four-week message series on the life of the Old Testament prophet named Elisha. And I believe, for many of you, the next four weeks will be a defining moment in your relationship with God. I have one goal and one purpose only and that is to share with you the word of God, to build your faith, and to give you a ridiculous, a miracle working amount of faith. And so what I want to do is look at the life of Elisha, and first Kings chapter 19.
Let me give you a little bit of context as you find your place in your Bibles. First off let me tell you that there was a guy, a prophet, by the name of Elijah. Now some people get Elisha confused with Elijah, because their names are so similar, but Elisha actually studied under Elijah, he wanted to be like Elijah, and he was bold enough to ask God for a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. And so what we find is that God honored his request, and Elisha actually has more recorded miracles in the Bible than anyone except Jesus Christ. Now for me, I think that’s a pretty good place to be, you know, second-best to Jesus Christ.
So Elisha was bold, he was daring, and he was full of faith. What's really interesting about this guy is that he was just an ordinary guy. He wasn’t a king, a priest, or anything like that. He was just an ordinary guy who lived at home with his parents, working the family farm, when God called him to serve him. And isn’t that just like God, you know, we see that time and time again in the Bible; that somebody, whether Abraham, Joseph, Moses, or whoever, is just carrying out there ordinary daily life when suddenly God intercepts the mundane and daily activities of life. So here is Elisha, it’s about the ninth century before Christ, and he’s working on the farm, when God sends the prophet Elijah to anoint Elisha to follow him.
What I want to share with you this morning, is the response of Elisha, his commitment to the task at hand, to the call of God, and to burning the plow. Elisha was 100% committed and he leaves everything to follow God. And so before we dig in, let me give you a snapshot of where we’re going to go in this series. Next week we’re going to look at a story where Elisha asks some people to dig ditches, irrigation ditches, long before there’s any sign of water. In the third week, we’re going to look at a widow who was going through difficult times, yet discovers, that she had everything she needed to do what God had called her to do. And then in the fourth part, were going to see a crazy miracle, where an ax head falls into the water and the prophet makes it float so that it could be retrieved.
So over the next four weeks, we will be dreaming big, building your faith, and I believe God is going to help you get your spiritual edge back. This morning, we’re reading in 1st Kings, chapter 19, verses 19 through 21. Let's read those together. Verse 19 says this…
“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. 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. NIV
Today, I want to show you the ridiculous amount of faith the prophet Elisha had. Let's look at verse 19 again, there in the middle of the verse, the Bible tells us, “He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair” (1 Kings 19:19). Elisha was one who was committed to the task at hand. Here he was out in the field plowing, he was doing the same job that he been doing for a long time, he was working on his parent’s farm, and he was driving the yoke of oxen. Now you’ve got to imagine the monotony of what it would be like to plow behind a yoke of oxen every single day.
What we'll notice is he was doing the same job he had been doing for a long time. He was working on his parents' farm, and he was driving the yoke of oxen. Now, could you imagine, the monotony of what it would be like to plow behind a yoke of oxen every single day? Or maybe you do know what it’s like? Some of you are in sales or providing a service, and it’s just day in, day out, you make your quota, you do the job, and it starts all over again. Maybe you’re a student and for you, day in and day out, you get up, you study, and you study some more. Or for those of you that are parents, it’s like diapers, laundry, and dishes. Day by day, you repeat the same old story, it’s like oxen rears everywhere.
Just think about this. What does Elisha smell? What does he see? What is his scenery everyday? What do you see if you're behind a plow? Oxen rears right? That is your scenery day in and day out, and now some of you may feel a little bit like Elisha. You're not looking at oxen rears, but you're doing the same thing day in and day out. You're going to the same job, working with the same people and you just may feel like you are staring at oxen rears. Now I am not saying to call your coworkers “oxen rears.” That’s not what I’m saying but maybe that’s the way you feel.
And this is where Elisha was. But I want you to notice that he was being faithful in the task at hand. And God rewards those who are faithful in the little things. Jesus said it this way, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). When you're faithful with a little, God can trust you with much. And so Elisha, even though it might not have been his favorite thing to do or the most exciting thing to do he was faithful. And it was there that God found him, in the middle of his daily routine, and God sent something new to take him to the next level.
The end of verse 19 tells us, “Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him” (1 Kings 19:19). What Elijah was doing, this man whom Elisha would have looked up to, took his cloak, his covering, and he put it on Elisha, symbolically saying, “That which covered me will now cover you… that which I was under now you will be under… you will be my student and I will be your mentor… as God has been working through me… now God is going to work through you.” And he put his cloak over Elisha.
Now, number two, I want you to see how Elisha responds to the call of God. Elisha was committed to the call of God. God calls him to follow Elijah, he doesn’t know any details, he doesn’t know where they’re going, he doesn’t even know what they’re doing, but here’s the deal; you don’t have to know all the details to obey God. You don’t have to understand to be committed to the call of God.
You see here’s what happens, Elijah puts his cloak around him, and the Bible says that Elisha left his oxen. In verse 20, he simply said, "Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye and then I will come with you." Isn’t that amazing? Notice he didn't have to pray about it, he didn’t have to ask his pastor, he didn’t make a list of pros and cons, but he believed that this was God. He knew that God was in the details. He didn’t know everything, but he trusted God, and if this was God’s plan he was all in… He was on board.
And I don’t know about you, but I love that, because I’m not so much about planning for the future, as I want to plan to respond in the present. I want to be able to respond to the call of God, to the opportunities that I’m not intelligent enough to predict. I want to be available to jump on the divine opportunities that fall in our laps. So I believe being committed to the call of God is really about having a position…. a posture of spiritual readiness.
You see God will rarely give you all the details. And I believe God does this purposely, because so often we can’t handle the details, and if we knew everything we might not show up, or we’d just mess it up anyway. So God will often lead us with just one word, just showing us the next step, and so sometimes that is all that God will give and that needs to be enough. And there is so many examples of this in the Bible, but let me just share a few.
In the Old Testament, whenever God was giving Moses direction, you could summarize the directions in one word. "Moses, go." Or, "Abraham, go." "Go to the land I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). Or Peter in the New Testament, Jesus was walking up on water, Peter sees him and says, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus gives him one word. He simply says, “come.” One word. You don’t need to know the details, but you follow, “come.” (Matthew 14:28-29).
Maybe some of you, you may hear one word from God; I don’t know what it will be, but maybe you’re struggling in your marriage right now and you’re thinking about giving up, and you hear one word and that one word is “stay.” And you don’t have to understand everything to obey immediately. Stay.
Some of you, maybe you have a health situation and it doesn’t look good, or maybe it’s someone you love, and God gives you one word and it’s “trust,” and today you just need to hang on to that one word and obey.
Maybe you've got an idea, some ministry idea and you're like, "how" and "when" and "you don't understand." God gives you one word and that word is "start." You don't have to understand everything. Just trust and obey.
Some of you, have been in the church for a while and you're starting to grow with God but you're still on the outside, you’re just watching, and God may give you one word. “Commit.” Don't just watch what God is doing, get involved, commit. Like Elisha, Commit to the call of God. You don't have to understand everything to take the next step.
This morning, I believe some of you, you're going to hear one word from God and you're going to be crazy enough to say, "I don't know all the details but I don't care, I trust God, I love God, and I’m going to obey.” And I love that, because you’re one who’s like Elisha, you’re committed to the call of God, and you’re willing to burn the plow. You see that’s the kind of person that God uses.
Look at verse 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.”
Now this is amazing, because this equipment and these oxen were his livelihood. And yet the Bible says that he slaughtered them and he burnt the plowing equipment. Literally it says, that he burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat. He made a bonfire out of his plow and he cooked steak for his friends. That’s a crazy amount of faith! Elisha is burning his bridges. Elisha is not leaving room for plan B. There is no plan B there’s only plan A and that is to obey God.
He reminds me of when Peter met Jesus for the first time. Luke chapter 5 tells us, that Peter had worked hard all night and hadn’t caught anything. But Jesus gets in the boat and tells him, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Of course Peter was hesitant, but he says, “Because you say so, I will let down the nets.” And the Bible tells us, “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.”
“When Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
“Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:4-11).
Isn’t that crazy? You see here’s a question we need to ask ourselves. When God says something that is as ridiculous as "Burn the plow and kill the oxen" how are you going to respond? The Bible tells us, that the disciples left everything. They left everything to follow him. And I believe there are some of you here today, that God is going to speak to you, and he is going to give you the faith to burn your plows. You are never going to be the same, because God is going to give you the faith where you’re willing to do whatever it takes to follow God to the next place.
Maybe for you, burning your plow, is a career choice, maybe turning down a business opportunity, or the expectations of parents.
Maybe it’s sports, recreation, or nature. You know, the weather warms up and nobody sees you at church anymore.
Maybe it’s that guy who’s struggling with pornography. You know he loves God, he loves his family, but he keeps find themselves looking at things that hurt him, his loved ones, and his faith. He just can’t seem to find another way around and he can’t resist the temptation.
Sometimes you’ve got to burn some plows to leave where you are and to go where God wants you to go. This morning can we get serious about becoming the man or woman that God has called us to be? Are you willing to step out with that plow burning faith, to leave where you are, and to go where God wants you to go?
You see God has called us to be saved and to be changed, but also to walk in the freedom of the children of God. He’s called us to be made new in Christ, to be born again, born into the kingdom of God. And so this morning I’ve got to ask you “are you ready?” This morning will you decide to burn the plow? What is it this morning that’s holding you back, that you can’t get away from, that keeps you from experiencing God’s best in Christ Jesus? Are you willing to burn some plows?
It’s an invitation this morning. And I don’t know what that might be in your life, but if there’s anything keeping you from following God and serving God, you need to burn that plow. If there’s a sin that’s holding you back, burn that plow. If there are doubts and fears in your life, burn that plow. If there’s a relationship that’s holding you back, burn that plow. Don’t let anything keep you from following God. Just trust him and let it go!
Now some of you, you're holding onto something that keeps you secure. But God is saying to you this morning that he wants to be that one that you hold on to. He wants to be that one thing that keeps you secure. He wants to be that one. And in order to step toward your destiny, you’ve got a step away from that false sense of security. So God is speaking to somebody here today and given you the faith to believe that he’s calling you to something new. And maybe for you, you’ve been faithful in your place, you’ve been looking at the backside of your oxen today, but God is calling you to something even greater for his kingdom. He’s calling you to burn your plow, to go even though you don’t understand completely. He’s calling you to obey.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
February 08, 2015