Companions (1 Kings 19:19-21)

Depiction of Elijah anointing Elisha as a prophet, Aylesford Priory, Maidstone, UK

Elijah left and found Elisha plowing with a team of oxen; there were eleven teams ahead of him, and he was plowing with the last one. Elijah took off his cloak and put it on Elisha. Elisha then left his oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you.”

Elijah answered, “All right, go back. I’m not stopping you!”

Then Elisha went to his team of oxen, killed them, and cooked the meat, using the yoke as fuel for the fire. He gave the meat to the people, and they ate it. Then he went and followed Elijah as his helper. (Good News Translation)

Some background…

Elijah was a prophet during a very hard time in Israel’s history. Ahab, a terribly unjust and wicked king, had led the nation away from the worship of Yahweh and toward the worship of Baal. Things were bad – both religiously and meteorologically; there was a drought of rain and a drought of God’s words.

The prophet Elijah stepped out and took on the powerful king and his diabolical wife, Jezebel. As a result, he had to go into hiding and bide his time. For about three years, Elijah was mostly on his own, moving around, trying to avoid Ahab’s wrath, just trying to stay alive during the drought.

Although Elijah’s physical needs were cared for by the Lord, the years of aloneness took their toll.

Finally, things came to a head. There was a showdown between the hundreds of Baal prophets and the lone prophet of Yahweh, Elijah. It was a dramatic encounter marked by a huge victory of the Lord through Elijah’s faith and courage.

Yet, when it was all over, and spiritual revival was transforming the land, Elijah was physically and emotionally exhausted. In fact, the darkness of depression enveloped him.

So, Elijah had a “come-to-Yahweh-meeting” which was both gracious and much needed. The prophet took the time to sleep, eat, and experience the Lord.

But, going forward, things would be different. No more going alone for Elijah. He needed a companion.

So, God instructed Elijah to specifically go to Elisha and anoint him as the next prophet of Yahweh. Which is exactly what Elijah did.

Some help…

The prophet Elijah flat-out needed help; and God knew it.

Elijah had been in his own personal slimy pit experience of exhaustion and depression. The Lord helped him get out of it. God knows better than any of us that people need one another for encouragement, companionship, giving and receiving love, and being both a mentor and a mentee.

Sheer independence isn’t even what God does, so why in the world do any of us believe we need to be that way?

Christians serve a triune God of Father, Son, and Spirit. God is One, and God is also Community. As people created in the image and likeness of God, we were formed for unity and community with others. Therefore, it is necessary for us to have healthy dynamics of relational interactions. Elijah needed his inner balance restored through working with Elisha.

Some insight….

Not only does Elijah’s story enlighten our need for relational ministry, but Elisha’s experience also provides some insightful perspective on what it means to connect with others.

I can imagine what Elisha’s life must have been like before being anointed a prophet of the Lord. Having grown up on a midwestern American farm, I know the kind of work it takes. Elisha was out there every day. On one particular day, just like many of the other days of farm labor, he’s at the end of the work train – in the back slowly moving along with his animals, trying to get a field plowed.

Then, in the mundane dirty work of plowing, the prophet Elijah comes strolling along and puts his cloak on Elisha, thereby clearly communicating to him that he is being called to become a prophet himself.

Elisha immediately responds and goes all in with following Elijah. And with a demonstrative act of setting out on a new life, Elisha takes his means of making a living, the oxen, and kills them, cooks them over a fire made from the wooden plow and yoke, and feeds a bunch of people. He then walks away, for good.

Maybe Elisha was in his own slimy pit of depression, feeling like his life was going nowhere. We don’t really know. Yet, God chose Elisha, just like he chose Elijah, to be a prophet. Perhaps the Lord knew Elisha needed this as much as Elijah did.

Some reflection….

What, or who, do you need today?

I have found that it’s a common misunderstanding with many Christians that as long as they read their Bible, pray, and rely on the Holy Spirit, that everything will go peachy dandy. And when it doesn’t, they castigate themselves for being down or depressed or in dire straits.

It just could be that you’re trying to go it alone without the help of other people. It also could be that you have a history in which the folks you believe needed to help you, didn’t; and now you’re determined to do life alone without anyone hurting you again.

It might be that the Lord wants to use someone else besides the people you think ought to help. And it also could be that you’ve put limits on how God can work. But, really, who are you or I to tell God whom he can love us through?

Let yourself be open to the ministry of others. Be a companion.

Bless us with Love, O Merciful God;
That we may Love as you Love,
That we may show patience, tolerance,
Kindness, caring and love to all!
O Compassionate One, grant compassion to us;
That we may help all fellow souls in need.
Bless us with your Love, O God,
Bless us with your Love. Amen.

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