1Ki_19:21. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.
IT is an unspeakable consolation to an aged minister to see others springing up around him, who shall carry on the same blessed work in which he has spent his life, and promote among the rising generation the Redeemer’s interests, when he shall be removed to a better world. This happiness it pleased God to confer upon his servant Elijah. Elijah had thought himself alone in the kingdom of Israel; but God informed him, that there were no less than seven thousand others who had in heart adhered to him, though they had not openly testified against the worship of Baal. He moreover directed him to anoint Elisha to be a prophet in his room; and assured him, that the nation of Israel should continue to be benefited by the ministrations of his successor, when he should be removed from the world.
According to the direction given him, Elijah sought Elisha; and, finding him engaged in agricultural labours, called him from them to an employment altogether new and heavenly.
In this appointment of Elisha to the prophetic office there are two things to be noticed;—
His peculiar call—
Elijah, in passing by, cast his mantle upon Elisha. In this action there was nothing that could at all convey the intent for which it was done; nor did Elijah utter a word in explanation of it: on the contrary, when he saw Elisha instantly running after him, he said, “Go back again; for what have I done unto thee?” But there was a secret power accompanying this act, which wrought effectually on the mind of Elisha, and constrained him to devote himself wholly to the Lord.
Now this will serve to shew the true nature of conversion in general.
God makes use of different means for the conversion of mankind—
[Many he awakens by some remarkable dispensation of his providence [Note: Mat_27:54.] — — — Many he enlightens by the preaching of his word — — — and many, without any external means, he leads to the knowledge of himself by the teaching of his Holy Spirit — — —]
But whatever be the means, the work is his alone—
[There is not any more power in the creature, no, not even in miracles, to effect the conversion of men, than there was in the mantle cast upon Elisha. There were thousands who saw and heard all that took place at our Saviour’s death, as well as the centurion, and yet remained unaffected with it. Multitudes also heard the preaching of our Lord and his Apostles without experiencing from it any saving influence. The external call, by whomsoever given, has been resisted by myriads in every age [Note: Rom_10:21; Mat_23:37.]. That which alone has made the difference between one man and another, has been the influence of the Holy Spirit accompanying the word: “Neither Paul nor Apollos could effect any thing; it has been God alone that gave the increase [Note: 1Co_3:5-7.]:” He has “revealed his arm [Note: Isa_53:1.],” and made men “willing in the day of his power [Note: Psa_110:3.]:” He has “breathed upon the dry bones, and bid them live [Note: Eze_37:1-10.].”]
A divine energy was felt by Elisha; as appears clearly from,
His prompt obedience—
Instantly he ran after Elijah in token of his desire to become his stated attendant—
What appears to have expressed reluctance, proceeded in reality from no such feeling—
[Elisha desired to go home first and salute his parents, and then to wait upon Elijah. Had this arisen from a desire to defer his obedience to the heavenly call, it would have been wrong; because the call of God supersedes every other consideration under heaven [Note: Luk_9:59-62.]. But it arose from a love to his parents, and a desire to approve himself to them as a duteous son. He was sensible that they must wonder at the sudden change that had taken place in his views and conduct; and he was desirous to shew them at least that his zeal for God had not diminished his regard for them. In this view there can scarcely be a more useful example found in all the sacred records. Young people, when first made to feel the importance of a heavenly life, are apt to forget, that they ought by every possible means to win their parents. They should cultivate to the uttermost a meck, humble, conciliatory spirit; and shew, that, if they be constrained to act in opposition to the wishes of their superiors, they are not actuated by conceit or self-will, but by a sense of paramount obligation to God. They should be as careful as possible to evince the excellency of their principles by the modesty of their demeanour, and by their increased endeavours to fulfil every relative and social duty. This would render religion amiable in the eyes of many, who, in the conduct of their children or dependents, find nothing but stumbling-blocks and occasions of disgust.
The making a feast also of two of his oxen may appear strange: but we apprehend that it was done in much the same spirit as that which he manifested towards his parents. His destroying a yoke of oxen with their instruments might be intended, in part, to shew, that he henceforth renounced all secular employments; and, in part, to express love to all for whom he made the feast. In this view it strongly confirms all the foregoing observations respecting his parents; and teaches us to cultivate every benevolent disposition towards the people of the world, whilst we separate from their company, and condemn their practice. If from a sense of duty we “come out from them and are separate,” and shun all unnecessary conformity to their ways, we should give them no room to think that we either hate or despise them; but should convince them, that, like Noah, we would press them all into the ark, if they would but listen to our voice, and comply with our advice.]
He instantly became an attendant on Elijah, and “ministered unto him”—
[Though from his ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen it appears that he was a man of some consideration, yet he did not think it any indignity to wait upon Elijah as a menial servant [Note: 2Ki_3:11.]. His reasons for this were various. He did it doubtless from a sense of love to God. Knowing that Elijah was greatly beloved of the Lord, and feeling that he himself had received through his instrumentality the richest blessings to his soul, he delighted to express his love to God by his zeal in the service of this distinguished prophet.
Moreover Elisha hoped now to be himself useful in advancing the cause of God in the land. It was true, that, as a novice, he could add but little to Elijah: but he hoped to learn from that honoured servant of the Lord, and to receive from his instructions and example, lessons, which might be of the utmost service to himself in the future execution of his own office: and for the attainment of such benefits he judged that no sacrifice could be too great, no service could be too laborious.
This shewed that there was on Elisha’s mind not a mere transient impression caused by the novelty of this extraordinary call, but a real radical change of heart, agreeably to that which has been manifested by all true converts [Note: Exo_3:1; Mat_4:18-25; Mat_9:9; Mat_19:27.], and that which St. Paul represents as having taken place in the Macedonian Church; “They gave themselves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God [Note: 2Co_8:5.].”]
We shall conclude with a few words,
[We ask not whether any of you have ever been called either suddenly or in any extraordinary manner to serve God? but we ask whether your mind and heart have ever been so changed, that, from following nothing but this world, you have been brought to serve and follow the Lord Jesus Christ? This is a change which all must experience. This is conversion, in whatever way it is effected: and nothing but this constitutes conversion. Put away then all fanciful and enthusiastic notions about the time or the manner of conversion, and examine carefully into its effects as daily visible in your life and conversation — — —]
[If any of you are convinced that it is your duty to give up yourselves to God, guard against every thing that may cause you to waver in your purposes. Your dearest friends and relatives will be ready to say, “Spare yourself:” but you must not yield to any such entreaties. They will tell you, “That you will injure your worldly prospects:” but so did Elisha—“That there are few who approve and countenance such conduct:” but so Elisha found it, there being not one, except his master Elijah, that openly espoused the cause of God—“;That you will subject yourself to persecution:” but it was in a season of bitterest persecution that Elisha joined himself to Elijah. As to the manner of conducting yourselves towards your parents or superiors, we again say, Behave with meckness, with modesty, with love: “Kiss your father and your mother;” but do not prefer them before your God [Note: Mat_10:37.]. There are two extremes against which you must guard, namely, a rough, petulant, self-willed determination to follow your own way, without any regard to the feelings or sentiments of your superiors, on the one hand; and an easy complying temper that sacrifices duty to interest, on the other hand. The union of meekness with fidelity, and of love with firmness, is that at which you must aim; combining “the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove.”]