Introduction: Elijah had just come off a spiritual high. Through him, God performed incredible miracles at Mount Carmel. Elijah killed the prophets of Baal. The wayward Jews professed their loyalty to Yahweh, and King Ahab appeared to follow Elijah’s directions. Yet, things quickly changed when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah ran in fear. He considered himself a failure, and he asked God to end his life. Like Elijah, every believer experiences defeat and setbacks in their lives. When you experience failure, it is hard to know if you are following God’s will. Many times, your setbacks or failures are simply the results of Satan’s spiritual attacks. He will do anything to silence you and deter you from doing God’s will. From this account, God provides seven lessons on surviving Satan’s attacks. These include: (1) vigilance, (2) trust, (3) dependence, (4) encouragement, (5) prayer, (6) service, and (7) fellowship.
First, after killing the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, Queen Jezebel told Elijah that she planned to kill him. From this attack, God warns that you should be vigilant for Satan’s attacks when you serve Him. Second, upon hearing Jezebel’s threats, Elijah took his eyes off of God and fled into the wilderness. From Elijah’s mistake, God reveals that He wants you to place your trust in Him to protect you when Satan attacks you. Third, in the wilderness, the angel of the Lord fed and sustained Elijah. From this example, God reveals that He wants you to depend upon Him to sustain you when Satan attacks you. Fourth, after traveling to Mount Horeb, Elijah cried out to God in his sorrow. God then encouraged Elijah by allowing him to experience God’s presence through a gentle breeze. From this example, God reveals that He wants you to let Him encourage you when Satan attacks you. Today, instead of using a breeze, the Holy Spirit will minister directly to you. Fifth, also at Mount Horeb, God invited Elijah to share his burdens by asking him why he was there. From this example, God reveals that He wants you to pray for His guidance when Satan attacks you. Sixth, at Mount Horeb, God lifted Elijah’s sorrow by giving him a sense of purpose with three tasks to perform. From this example, God reveals that He wants you to serve Him when you feel depressed from Satan’s attacks. Finally, God directed Elijah to commission and train up Elisha as his successor and God’s future prophet. Elisha and Elijah gave each other fellowship and encouragement. From this example, God reveals that He wants you to find fellowship from His people and the Church when Satan attacks.
Jezebel swears to kill Elijah for killing the prophets of Baal. After discrediting Baal and killing off the 450 false prophets of Baal, the pagan Queen Jezebel retaliated by sending Elijah a threat that she would kill him within 24 hours: “1 Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’” (1 Kgs. 19:1-2). Jezebel was one of the most wicked women in the Bible. She is referenced in the book of Revelation as the spirit who corrupted many saints (Rev. 2:20). She was a Phoenician princess who married King Ahab and seduced him into worshiping Baal (1 Kgs 16:31; 21:25). After corrupting her husband, she then seduced the 10 tribes of Northern Israel with 850 false prophets of Baal and Asherah (1 Kgs. 18:19). What might have initially been praised as tolerance quickly turned into a slaughter when Jezebel personally gave the order for any prophet of God to be murdered (1 Kgs. 18:4, 13). She was even able to corrupt Judah when her pagan daughter became a queen there (2 Kgs. 8:18). Being a dual minded man, Ahab did as she asked of him. He initially told her in excitement how he had personally experienced the power of Yahweh through a fire from heaven (1 Kgs. 18:38-39). He then again witnessed God’s power as He lifted the three and a half-year drought. God’s prophet Elijah then honored him on the return trip home (1 Kgs. 18:41-46). Yet, after hearing that Elijah killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 18:40) Jezebel appears to have discounted everything else that Ahab told her. She must have dismissed the miracles as elaborate tricks that Elijah used to deceive her gullible husband. She sent Elijah a message promising to kill him to avenge her Baal prophets. What she really wanted was to scare Elijah to run away to discredit him. She might have realized that killing Elijah would have made him a martyr. His death would have inspired some Jews to revolt against her. Yet, his quick departure would leave the rebels without a leader.
Be vigilant to avoid Satan’s attacks. Just as Jezebel was at war with God’s prophets, including Elijah, God warns you to be vigilant against Satan’s attacks: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11; Gal. 5:17). If you resist the devil, he will flee: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7). When you are serving, are you staying vigilant against Satan’s attacks?
Your flesh is also at war with the Spirit. Jezebel also symbolized the flesh and its constant war with the Spirit. “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.” (Gal. 4:28-29). Satan seeks to put your flesh at war with God’s Spirit: “[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . . and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:7-8). “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:17). If you give in to your flesh, the devil will ultimately enslave you: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). If you then fail to ask for Christ to deliver you from your bondage, He will turn you over to your addictions until you repent: “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, . . .” (Ro. 1:24-33; Ps. 81:12). Thus, you must pick that which you will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). Jesus’ point is that you cannot lead a dual life. You are either serving God or Satan. Who gets the majority of your time, talents, and treasure?
Elijah runs into the wilderness in fear and cries out to God. Overcome with feelings of fear and defeat, Elijah ran into the wilderness and cried out for God to end his life: “3 And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.’” (1 Kgs. 19:3-4). Elijah had just come from a spiritual high at Mount Carmel. He ran ahead of Ahab thinking that Ahab would now welcome him as a prophet of the one true God. He must have had dreams of leading the nation of Northern Israel into repentance. He could never have imagined that his spiritual high would become a spiritual low as he fled for his life without a moment to prepare. Assuming that the Queen’s servants would kill him anywhere he went, he fled 80 to 100 miles from Jezreel to the southernmost city within Judah, called Beer-sheba. There, he sat down below a “juniper tree” (1 Kgs. 19:4), which is used to make broom brushes. He instantly went from being the most celebrated man in all of Israel to a wanted fugitive. During Elijah’s life, there would be no revival in Israel. Moreover, for the moment, Satan had spiritually defeated Elijah. Satan made him feel fear and plead for suicide. Although he had more faith than possibly anyone before Jesus, Elijah showed that he was a human capable of sinning like the rest of us. Yet, even though Satan won the battle, he did not win the war. God, however, needed to rehabilitate and encourage Elijah before He could use him.
God allows you to experience failure to prepare you for future spiritual battles. Because Elijah viewed himself as a failure, he asked God to end his misery by killing him (1 Kgs. 19:4). Suicide is never justified. Yet, many who actively serve God also experience intense feelings of failure at Satan’s hand. For example, Moses made a similar plea that God end his life: “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” (Nu. 11:15). Jonah also made a similar plea for God to end his life: “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life. . . When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, ‘Death is better to me than life.”’ (Jonah 4:3, 8). Job also repeatedly requested that God end his life: “Oh that my request might come to pass, and that God would grant my longing! Would that God were willing to crush me, that He would loose His hand and cut me off! . . . So that my soul would choose suffocation, death rather than my pains. I waste away; I will not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are but a breath . . . I loathe my own life; I will give full vent to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 6:8-9; 7:15-16; 10:1). Jeremiah also regretted that he was ever born; “Cursed be the day when I was born; let the day not be blessed when my mother bore me!” (Jer. 20:14). If you feel that you have failed in serving God, you are not alone. Yet, this is the voice of the enemy. God shows you the struggles of the heroes of the faith to let you know that you are not alone. God is always ready to listen to you and comfort you when you are depressed.
When times are good, don’t make the mistake of trusting in yourself. Elijah failed God’s testing by giving into his fear of Jezebel. He let his guard down by thinking that he now had King Ahab’s favor. It is in times of success and plenty that many stop trusting in God. As one famous commentator observes, “Elijah failed in the very point at which he was strongest, and that is where most men fail. In Scripture, it is the wisest man who proves himself to be the greatest fool; just as the meekest man, Moses, spoke hasty and bitter words. Abraham failed in his faith, and Job in his patience; so, he who was the most courageous of all men, fled from an angry woman.” (Charles Spurgeon on 1 Kgs. 19). When times are good, make sure your walk with Jesus does not suffer.
Trust in God and not in human leaders. By revealing the betrayal of Ahab and Jezebel, God also shows that believers cannot place their trust in human leaders. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). God’s righteousness and His desire that you lean on Him will appear foolish to the world. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). God was the Jews’ one true king. “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.” (Ex. 15:18). “The LORD is King forever and ever; . . .” (Ps. 10:16(a)). “The LORD sat as King at the flood; yes, the LORD sits as King forever.” (Ps. 29:10). “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King.” (Jer. 10:10(a)). God only allowed for earthy kings because the people lacked the patience to wait for the Messiah (Dt. 17:14-15). Today, people regularly become filled with hope in their favorite candidate or political party with each election. Yet, these people cannot save you. Have you placed your hope in Jesus or in people?
The angel of the Lord strengthens Elijah in the wilderness. In the wilderness, the angel of the Lord showed compassion for Elijah and provided for him in his time of desperation: “5 He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, ‘Arise, eat.’ 6 Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ 8 So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.” (1 Kgs. 19:5-8). To teach him humble dependence, God previously ministered to Elijah by sending ravens to feed him when he fled from Ahab during the drought (1 Kgs. 17:5-7). Here, to reinforce the message, God again taught Elijah to depend upon Him.
When you depend upon God, He will provide for your needs and restore you. While restoring Elijah’s strength, God taught Elijah to depend upon Him by sending the angel of the Lord to feed Elijah for 40 days and nights in the wilderness. The number 40 is associated with God’s testing. God tested Moses and taught him dependence when He twice provided for Moses on Mount Sinai / Horeb for 40 days and nights (Ex. 24:18; 34:28; Dt. 9:9, 18). God also tested and provided for Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days and nights (Matt. 4:2; Lk. 4:1-2). God also tested and taught the Jews to depend upon Him by feeding them for 40 years in the wilderness (Ex. 16:35; Dt. 8:2). God further ministered to Elijah the same way His angels ministered to Jesus (Matt. 4:11). Yet, unlike His prior encounter with Elijah, God showed compassion on Elijah by gradually rehabilitating him before his long journey. The destination of Elijah’s journey, Horeb / Sinai, was the same place where God met Moses in burning bush and where He gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex. 3:1; Lev. 27:34). The location of Mount Horeb / Sinai is debated today. Today, many believe that it was located in the Southern Sinai peninsula. Yet, Paul was clear that Mount Sinai is located in modern day Saudi Arabia, not the Sinai peninsula: “Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.” (Gal. 4:25).
When you depend upon Jesus, He will also protect you from your enemies. When the Jews faced overwhelming enemies in taking over the Promised Land, Joshua promised that the Jews’ enemies would flee if they would cling to God (Josh. 23:10). Moses made a similar promise: “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7; Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17; Gen. 22:17). For those who are obedient and take refuge in God in the face of the enemy, He promises to be a shield against the enemy’s fiery darts: “He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5(b); 2 Sam. 22:31). With God’s help, Jonathon killed 20 enemy soldiers (1 Sam. 14:14). Likewise, it was God’s blessing that allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). God also used Gideon’s band of 300 soldiers to kill 120,000 enemy Midianites (Jdgs. 7:16-22; 8:10). If Elijah had trusted God, Jezebel would have had no power over him. Are you clinging to Jesus when you need protection?
God encourages Elijah with His holy presence in a gentle breeze. After bringing Elijah to Mount Horeb, God encouraged Elijah not with His might but with a gentle breeze: “9 Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10 He said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’ 11 So He said, ‘Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.” (1 Kgs. 19:9-12). Because God is omnipotent, He knew the answer to His own question to “‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kgs. 19:9). Yet, He engaged in dialogue with Elijah to draw out his feelings of failure. Because the enemy had clouded his mind with feelings of defeat, Elijah falsely believed that he was the last person serving God (1 Kgs. 9:10). God’s question suggested that Elijah had a higher purpose awaiting him back in Israel. Yet, God first had to rehabilitate His shaken prophet. God frequently announced His presence to others with signs of great might, like fire (Ex. 13:21, 40:38; Is. 4:5), earthquakes (Is. 13:13; Heb. 12:26; Ezek. 38:19), and wind (Gen. 8:1; Ex. 14:21-22; Ps. 78:26; Acts 2:2-3). Here, however, God used a gentle wind to allow Elijah to experience His presence (1 Kgs. 19:12). This had two meanings. First, God showed that He is a God of comfort to His people. When you do His will, you never need to fear mankind: “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies And of the son of man who is made like grass,” (Is. 51:12). Second, this showed that God was quietly working at all times for His people, even when His hands might not be visible. “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”’’ (Zech. 4:6).
God encourages you by allowing you to experience His presence with the Holy Spirit. Many believe that the cave that Elijah went into was the cleft in the rock where God appeared to Moses: “Then the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.”’ (Ex. 33:21-22). As one commentator observes, “God knew what the depressed and discouraged Elijah needed. He needed a personal encounter with God. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with Elijah’s theology, but at the time there was something lacking in his experience. . . Like many others, Elijah probably only looked for God in dramatic manifestations. Certainly, God sometimes appears in such ways but He often appears in less dramatic surroundings . . . Elijah perhaps thought that the dramatic display of power at Mount Carmel would turn the nation around. Or perhaps he thought that the radical display of God’s judgment against the priests of Baal following the vindication at Mount Carmel would change the hearts of the nation. Neither of these worked. This example is important for Christian ministers today, especially preachers. It shows that displays of power and preaching God’s anger don’t necessarily change hearts. Instead, the still small voice of God speaking to the human heart is actually more powerful than outward displays of power or displays of God’s judgment.” (David Guzik on 1 Kgs. 19) (emphasis in original). Today, you don’t need to travel to Mount Horeb to have a personal encounter with God. After Jesus’ death, He has left you with the Holy Spirit to allow you to experience His Holy presence (Jo. 14:16). If you turn to Him, the Holy Spirit will comfort and uplift you: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty . . . He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” (Ps. 91:1, 4).
God allows Elijah to cry out in sorrow for guidance. To guide Elijah, God invited Elijah to cry out to Him in his sadness to prepare Elijah for his next calling: “13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 14 Then he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”’ (1 Kgs. 19:13-14). Because he was a sinner, Elijah knew that he had to cover his face, and he could not look upon God’s holy presence and live (Ex. 33:20; Is. 6:2; Jo. 1:18). For emphasis, God repeated the question first posed by the angel of the Lord: “‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kgs. 19:9, 13). Elijah again poured out his heart. Like many people, he felt as though he was a complete failure. He did not doubt God. Instead, he doubted himself. The enemy caused him to believe in his moment of loss that he was all alone (1 Kgs. 19:14). He made the same incorrect claim when he was on top of Mount Carmel (1 Kgs. 18:22). What is amazing about this text is that God did not rebuke Elijah for complaining or for professing false information. Instead, God showed compassion upon Elijah, even though Elijah sinned by failing to trust God.
God’s wisdom is free when you ask for it. God is also ready to pour out His wisdom when you ask for it: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Ja. 1:5). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6). If you are in need of guidance, are you seeking His wisdom?
God lifts Elijah’s sorrow by empowering him with a mission to serve His Kingdom. To rehabilitate Elijah, God empowered him with a sense of purpose through an opportunity to serve Him: “15 The Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; 16 and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18 Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”’ (1 Kgs. 19:15-18). In order to destroy Baal worship in Northern Israel, God gave Elijah three commissions. First, he would appoint Elisha as a prophet and train him to be his successor (1 Kgs. 19:19). Second, through Elisha in a private ceremony, God anointed Hazael of Aram in Syria (2 Kgs. 8:7-14). Third, through Elisha’s associate, God anointed Jehu as the new King of Northern Israel (2 Kgs. 9:1-3, 6). All three would slay the worshippers of Baal. Hazael and Jehu used physical swords to kill. In contrast, Elisha’s sword was the Word of God (Heb. 4:12). By the time these three men died, God’s plan to eliminate Baal worship as an official religion in Northern Israel was fulfilled (2 Kgs. 13:24). God’s remnant of 7,000 believers would be left to restart true worship.
When you suffer defeat, put your mind on Jesus by serving Him. When you withdraw from others in times of defeat or setback, you give the devil an opening to convince you to give up. To counter this, Jesus wants you to put your focus on Him by serving Him. God called every believer by name before the foundation of the world to do good works for Him: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10). “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:21). By serving others in love, you share the light of Jesus with others: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” (Matt. 6:14). You are also to comfort or encourage others with the comfort you have received from God (2 Cor. 1:4; Heb. 3:13). By your actions and words, are you a light to others who are lost or suffering?
When you serve others for Jesus, Jesus will transform others in ways you cannot see. Elijah assumed that he failed because there was no national repentance following God’s miracles on Mount Carmel. Yet, it was not the mighty miracles that won people over. It was instead Elijah’s faithful and quiet ministry over the years. One commentator observes: “Yet, all the while that vile idolatry was spreading in Israel, the worship of the true God was being retained by seven thousand faithful souls, though Elijah did not know that there was even one beside himself. How were they won to Jehovah? Certainly not by Elijah’s impressive demonstration on the top of Carmel, for they were loyal to the Lord before that . . . The still small voice had been doing for Israel what Elijah could not do.” (Charles Spurgeon on 1 Kgs. 19). If you are serving God, don’t feel defeated if you don’t see the fruits of your labors. Indeed, to keep you humble, Jesus promises that someone else will reap the fruit of your labor for Him: “For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.”’ (Jo. 4:37). For this same reason, when you reap great results for Jesus, don’t deceive yourself that you are reaping the fruits of your own labors. You are instead most likely reaping the seeds that someone else has sown.
God will always preserve a remnant of faithful believers. Paul used this account to reveal that God still planned to save a remnant of Jews despite their rejection of Jesus: “2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 ‘Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.’ 4 But what is the divine response to him? ‘I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” (Ro. 11:2-5). Many believers may look around and see nations compromised by the idols of the world and the flesh, just as it was during Elijah’s time. Yet, no matter how wicked the leaders and the countries around you may seem, God will always preserve a remnant.
Elijah commissions Elisha to serve with him and to train him as a prophet. To keep Elijah from falling into sadness again, God gave him the helper Elisha to disciple. The two would protect each other through accountability and fellowship: “19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. 20 He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, ‘Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.’ And he said to him, ‘Go back again, for what have I done to you?’ 21 So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.” (1 Kgs. 19:19-21). Elisha’s name means “God Saves” or “my God is salvation”. When Elijah gave Elisha his “mantel”, he gave him his cloak. This was symbolic of his position as God’s prophet. When plowed with 12 oxen, he was symbolically working to bring the 12 tribes together under God. He later received a double portion of the gifts of the Spirit given to Elijah, which allowed him to perform twice as many miracles as Elijah (2 Kgs. 9-10). Elisha ministered about 50 years, serving during the reigns of Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash. Yet, before leading, Elisha followed Elijah and served him for about ten years. During this time, Elijah trained him and encouraged him. Elijah and Elisha also strengthened each other through fellowship. “Elijah needed a friend; the core of his complaint before God was that he was alone. God let him know that there was a man ready to learn from the great prophet and be his disciple and companion . . . Elijah also needed hope, and since Elisha would be raised up as a successor to Elijah’s prophetic office, Elijah then knew that his work would continue even after his death.” (David Guzik on 1 Kgs. 19).
Fight together within the Body of Christ. God did not call upon Elijah to be a lone ranger for Him. Through God’s testing, God revealed to Elijah that the weight of the spiritual battle was too great for him to bear alone. Just as Elijah needed to learn to trust Elisha to fight with him, believers are called upon trust each other and act with one accord as the Spirit leads the body. “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Ro. 12:5). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12, 20-21). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:14). God regularly calls new leaders like Elisha to step forward and help those who can no longer lead. Are you preparing yourself for service and then responding for duty when God calls you to lead?
Find protection within the Body of Christ. Elijah and Elisha protected each other from discouragement. God also offers you protection when you are connected to fellow believers: “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:25). As stated above, Satan acts like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8). Believers are also called “sheep,” animals without natural defenses. (e.g., Jo. 21:16, 27). Lions usually attack animals that stray from the protections of the herd. Believers cannot claim to be accountable if they float in and out of a mega church or only watch sermons online. Are you accountable to others in a small church group? Or, are you a lone ranger for Christ?
Respond immediately to God’s calling. Elisha did not delay in responding to his new calling in life. He paused only to kiss his mother and father goodbye. Elijah agreed because it was holy for Elisha to honor his father and mother (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16; Eph. 6:2). His sacrifice and feast for his family was also holy because it symbolized a farewell to his old life. Elisha would learn that the secret to a successful ministry lies in having a servant’s heart (Mark 9:35). If Elisha acted properly, some might wonder why Jesus rebuked a follower when he asked to bury his father before following Jesus: “Another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.’ (Matt. 8:21-22; Lk. 9:57-62). The difference is in timing. The man who wanted to bury his father either did not have a dead father or wanted to finish his father’s business. He wanted to wait until some unknown point in his future to follow Jesus. In contrast, Elisha destroyed the tools of his trade when he slaughtered his beasts. He could not return to his old life. Like Elijah, Jesus wants His followers to respond to His calling without delay. If you feel Jesus’ calling in your life, have you delayed or offered excuses in responding?