Every once in a while Judy will say to me on a Sunday afternoon that she had a difficult time teaching her class that morning. She will tell me that one or two of the kids think they know all about the subject for that day. Sometimes they think that they know more than the teacher. They learned all about Elijah by way of Veggie Tales or some story through Adventures in Odyssey. It’s like some adults who know all about the exodus because they once saw a Charlton Heston movie. And you know all about Elijah and Elisha because you’ve been a Christian for twenty years. I once thought I knew these two until I opened up my ears for one more message and I heard things which I’d never considered before. Maybe this will be a message like that for you, if you’ve got ears to hear.
You know, of course, that these two with similar names were a very colorful pair. And you know they were the first major miracle workers in the Bible. Noah and Abraham were not blessed as the means to spectacular miracles. Moses was used to do some mighty things, but he isn’t known so much for his miracles. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel are known for their prophecies, but they didn’t raise the dead or heal. Elijah and Elisha were the first two human vessels to carry God’s miraculous power. And they were the last two – until the days of the Lord Jesus. God has given the ability to change the laws of nature to a very few select individuals.
Now, to you who know these two men, who was the greater? If these two disciples were arguing like Jesus’ disciples about who was the greater miracle-worker, who would have the stronger argument? The truth of the matter is that Elisha was involved in twice as many miracles as his mentor. Elijah raised one child from death; Elisha raised a child and a man. Elijah prayed for drought and rainfall; Elisha healed poisoned waters. Elijah slew two companies of soldiers; Elisha destroyed a whole army. Elijah multiplied oil and meal; Elisha multiplied oil and bread. ELISHA healed Naaman and inflicted Gehazi with leprosy, but Elijah didn’t do such things. Elisha caused an ax head to float in water; the best Elijah could do was float a few clouds. ELIJAH died, and his miracles came to an end; Elisha died and he still raised the dead. Elijah was essentially a loner, forsaken by his fellow man; Elisha had schools of disciples. Humanly speaking, it appears that Elisha was above his teacher, Elijah.
But, we need to remember not to look on the countenance of any man – or upon the height of his stature. To whom did people liken John the Baptist? Was it Elijah or Elisha? It was the teacher not the student. Who was it that was commonly believed would come before the Messiah, Elijah or Elisha? Which of those two men stood upon the Mount of Transfiguration speaking with Christ Jesus? To whom did the Apostles refer more often – Elijah or Elisha? It was Elijah. Let’s let God be God and exalt whoever He would choose. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” It may be at that time we learn that Andrew was perhaps a stronger disciple than Peter. It will be then that you and I will have to take a back seat to some little-known prayer warrior.
Elijah is well-known for his weather forecasting and his participation suffering and over-coming drought. He was the man who was fed by ravens as the sat by the Brook Cherith. And of course he was the central figure at Carmel, in the midst of God’s defeat of the 400 prophets of Baal. Was there anything in Elijah besides God’s power, which gave him that great ministry? There is no question that it had nothing to do with his personal strength, or even his faith. He was like Samson bearing the power of God like a gift. And like Samson he carried about a symbol of that gift – for Elijah it was his mantle. His power was not in that mantle but it was symbolized by it.
Of course, you know what a mantle is. When the word is spelled “MANT- EL” it refers to the shelf or hood over a fireplace. And when it is spelled “MANT-LE” it speaks of a cloak or loose outer garment. But did you know that the word “mantle” – the cloak – is found thirteen times in the Old Testament? And did you know that those thirteen references come from four different Hebrew words? This particular mantle was not just a cape or cloak; the word is once translated “glory.” The mantle of Elijah and Elisha was a part of their uniform – a symbol of their relationship to the glorious God of Heaven. From where did Elijah and Elisha’s power come? It was symbolized in the mantle – God’s mantle. And when Elijah was taken to Heaven, Elisha inherited the mantle. My question for this afternoon is this: “Why did Elisha receive his teacher’s mantle.” If WE desire the mantle of God’s blessings, maybe we should look into the reasons Elisha was blessed.
This outline has been moldering away in my files, unpreached, for at least 30 years. Maybe that is due to its simplicity, and that fact that you already know all there is to know about Elijah and Elisha.
Why did Elisha receive his master’s mantle? Was it because he was his UNCOMPROMISING companion?
“It came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.” Perhaps we should clear something away immediately – We may learn from our teachers, but our power to serve the Lord comes from Him, not our teachers. So even though I will be referring to Elisha’s relationship to Elijah, I’d like to spiritualize Elijah. I’d like to use him to represent the Lord, who is the source of our ministries and the source of our abilities. “It came to pass, when God the Father would take up His Son, Christ Jesus into heaven that Elisha went with his Master from Gilgal.”
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Did you know that Solomon makes that statement twice, changing only “which” to “that.” “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” There is the way of man, and even the way of good men and Christians, but it is not necessarily the best way or the way which God would choose for us. Our Lord has said, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” If we expect or hope to enjoy the Lord’s full blessings, then it is essential that we follow Him. “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His word, what a glory He sheds on our way.”
How did the student, Elisha, know that his Master was soon to ascend into glory? The sons of the prophets knew. But how did they know? Do you suppose that it was by revelation? It’s sad that Jesus’ disciples were looking for the Millennial Kingdom rather than Christ’s ascension. Shouldn’t they have known better? How did Elisha know that Elijah was soon to depart to be with his Heavenly Father? Is it possible that Elijah told him in some way? For example, do you suppose that they ever talked about Enoch? “Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Enoch chose to become a companion with the Lord, and God enabled him, until it was time to take him. Why do you think the Lord will translate His saints? Could it be that, at least in part, that He wants to enjoy their company? Elisha knew what he wanted. He desired to be useful, powerful, glorifying to his Master. So like Jacob, he sort of wrestled with him, and would not let him go until God blessed him.
Why did Elisha receive Elijah’s mantle? Did his CONSISTENCY have anything to do with it?
“And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.”
In the flesh it is not easy to be a worthy servant of the Lord. If the Lord is calling you into His service, you should expect to have to sacrifice now and then. Sure there will be rewards, but usually they are not tangible or comparable to the things others have. It is easy for some to live on sacrifice and some people thrive on dangerous work, but not everyone. How did the wives of Elijah and Elisha feel about their husbands wandering about the countryside risking their lives before lions and wolfs, infidels and Israelites? Wait a minute, neither man knew the joy of a wife and children. If Elisha was going to inherit God’s mantle, then he was going to have to leave father and mother, and wife and children – if he had them. Perhaps, in this case, the details aren’t important, but Elisha did leave everything to follow Elijah.
How consistent are WE in our Christian lives? As I was applying that question to my life, I realized that application could be done in a couple of ways. For example, before I went to Bible college, I was taught the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ. In Bible college, that instruction was reiterated and reinforced. Throughout my life I have been faithful to what I have been taught, teaching it to others because I believe it. I have been as consistent in this doctrine as Elisha was following Elijah around the countryside. But, have I been consistent in applying the doctrine of the imminency in every corner of my life? Does it shape my attitude when I begin each day? This could be the day of the Lord’s return. Does it make me more conscious of the lost condition of the people around me? Has it made me relax my grip on the physical things in my life. Am I more or less possessive? Has that doctrine changed my opinion about what is essential and what is not? The heart of Elisha \sect plain continually whispered to the man – “Don’t you want Elijah’s mantle? Let’s stay on our Elijah’s shoulder. Let’s continually and prayerfully speak to him. Let’s re-read what He has written. Let’s keep our eye on Him.” Elisha may not have talked with Elijah about his upcoming ascension. And he didn’t seem to be saying, “I want your mantle, if you ever decide to lay it down.” But nothing was going to dissuade him from closely following.
Why did Elisha receive Elijah’s mantle? Was it his undisturbed COUNTENANCE?
“And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.” How do the prospects of the future affect your heart and countenance? I just said that I believe in the imminent return of Christ – our Saviour could return before our next breath. But having said that, I believe Paul held to same doctrine, and the Saviour did not return in his lifetime. I believe that following our translation, the Lord will unleash horrible judgment upon Israel and upon the world, in preparation for His glorious return and the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom. But that does not mean that tribulation and problems won’t fall upon creation before our translation.
Elisha was convinced of his master’s upcoming ascension. And other godly men were reminding him of that very thing. But he refused to permit himself to be disturbed by it – he was resigned to the Lord’s sovereignty in the matter. The sons of the prophets were reasonably sure that one day their church was going to be pastorless, but Elijah knew that the Lord would handle it well. And if the Lord was in control then he wasn’t going to worry over it.
Why did Elisha receive Elijah’s mantle? Did COURAGE have anything to do with it?
The Lord knew that Elijah was going to be carried into heaven by a whirlwind, but did Elisha know that? Elisha knew that his master was soon to be taken from him. What was he expecting? Walking about in that wilderness area, the man might have lost his life to lion. If Elisha was right behind him, might not his life have been in danger? What if Elijah died in a lightning strike, how far away would Elisha have to be, not to be electrocuted? Would it have made any difference if he had known the manner of Elijah’s death? How could a tornado have taken one man and not the other who was almost beside him? Yes, it was miraculous. I know that. But I still have questions.
Among his other traits, Elisha was courageous. He was not afraid of tornados, lions, snakes or bears. He was certainly not afraid of other preachers, and he was not afraid of wicked neighbors.
Do you suppose that we don’t share God’s mantle because of fear in our lives? After the whirlwind had taken his mentor, there was his mantle laying on the ground. Was there any trepidation as he reached for it? Not only was there blessing and power in that symbol, but there was responsibility and danger. Oh, that more young men would be willing to pick that mantle today.
Why did Elisha receive Elijah’s mantle? After the fact, we see that he was a man of CONSECRATION.
Have you, for whatever reason, tried to wear two pairs of long trousers at the same time? Or two coats? Sometimes clothes are made in that way, to be worn in tandem. When we were still living in Canada, I would wear a suit coat and above that a top-coat or over-coat. But it would be impossible to wear my brown suit coat and my blue suit coat at the same time.
When Elisha witnessed Elijah’s departure, he was filled with a mixture of emotions. And when he saw that he was alone, but the prophet’s mantle lay before him, he knew what he’d have to do. Metaphorically speaking he didn’t have the shoulders for both his own cloak and his master’s mantle. “He took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces,” apparently throwing them aside. “He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him.”
If we really want to be adorned with the power and glory of Christ, then we are going to have to deliberately choose to cast aside our more worldly garments. If the Lord has called a young man into His mission field, he will have to leave the uniform he has been wearing to his secular job. He will have to forsake the places where he used to find his pleasure. He will have to give up some of his former recreations and paste-times. “When the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.” Wearing the mantle of God is not a simple thing. Oh, but it is a very good thing.