We have been considering the call of Elisha. It almost seemed as though he was about to reject the call because he wanted to go and “kiss my father and mother goodbye.” As we saw yesterday with Jesus, this could mean a refusal to go into ministry until the parents have died! Elisha had in fact accepted the call for he said in chapter 19:20 … “and then will come with you.”
When a person is called into full time ministry in particular and also part time lay ministry, certain choices about the present and the future need to be made. These choices might indeed require far more sacrifices than one might think. In my case I got rid of tools like a Torque Wrench, Micrometers, Vernier and tools I would never use again unless I returned to the trade. Because I was so convinced that God had called me and confirmed this by giving me a Bible verse to hang onto getting rid of what could be a trapping to return to the old profession again. Now we return to Elisha and examine his call and his response …
Elisha Gave Unwavering Support and Confidence to the Call God Gave
1Ki 19:21 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.
In his heart he was convinced that God called him, he therefore made certain that his life of farming was over and done with by doing three strategic things.
(1) He slaughtered his oxen. He “got rid of the engine” of his farming equipment. What is the use of a farmer having a plough and no a tractor? The first thing he did was remove the “motor – the power” to prepare his land for farming.
(2) He chopped up his plowing equipment. I was not uncommon to borrow an animal from a neighbor for farming purposes … so now he takes the next step to make certain the temptation to return to farming is impossible … he burns up the wooden farming equipment.
(3) He made a braai and gave “the people” a feast. Whether these people were part of the nearby town or fellow farmers and workers I don’t know, but the point is clear … he said goodbye to the people which would have included his parents and possibly siblings. This does not mean he would never return home but it did mean his life as a farmer and a layman was over. He sacrificed his entire livelihood to depend upon God as he served Him in a full time capacity.
Once all this was done … “Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.” He was released from all that attached him to his previous employment once removed. Now he had freedom because he was emancipated. Nothing would disturb or hinder his ministry now … and off he went to find Elijah and become his apprentice prophet.
Please understand that what he did was not easy. The way the text reads it seems as so cut and dried but the reality is that it is hard and for some it is a mixture between emotions and separating oneself from one’s family and profession. Personally, I feel that be it full time or lay ministry, if you are undecided about making sacrifices, be it regarding parents, family, friends, colleagues, property, town or province, career, finances, working equipment, etc. … don’t do ministry until you are ready and comfortable to do it, otherwise you might be an unhappy person and unsuccessful in ministry.
Please notice a few issues in this verse that are important.
(a) Elisha’s parents gave their unconditional support. Whether people are single or married when God calls, a vital confirmation of their call is parent support. When I was, my dad asked … “How will you care for your wife and children at Bible School?” After I assured him that I believed God would supply our needs he was comfortable and even supported us in a number of ways. One needs to watch out for conditional support! Some parents give their support with conditions … meaning that they give their support to the call as long as their child (son or daughter and their family) remain close by. Not always, but this could cause limited benefit to the Gospel’s expansion because maybe the person called could have been more effective where God wanted that person to be. Personally I was placed in a different province quite far from my parents’ home and later called to a further province. In all, we were away for almost 35 years until the last parent died. This sacrifice affects grandchildren as much as grandparents … but praise God, there are holidays.
(b) Elisha renounced the world to serve God’s Kingdom. He would not be the last!
Mt 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. A clean break needs to be made when it comes to full time ministry workers.
Those who are called to lay ministry might need to make sacrifices but not to the same extent as full time workers. One serious handicap is that often churches cannot pay their staff (especially pastor) a proper salary. This might lead him to find an alternative income. This is noble but handicaps ministry. I know this from personal experience. Where churches need to enable the pastor to do ministry by receiving a living wage … more affluent churches ought to twin with poorer churches and help them financially. One last word … the greatest work ever is serving the Lord Jesus. Just think of leading just one soul to eternal salvation! There cannot be a greater joy!
Dear God, thank You that You chose ordinary people to do extraordinary work. Thank You that You empower people for serve and thank You that You provide their needs for Jesus’ Cause. Amen.