Thursday, January 19, 2006


when i went to denver this year, the grace and beauty of the artists moved me deeply. seasoned artists who know who they are, they create works of power.

i've returned home to try and find my way. to try to bring something of that mountain top experience home with me. to live on the mountain in the flatlands, if possible.

i keep hearing the Lord whisper to my spirit, don't die with your mantle on. and this morning's prayer reminds me afresh:
Jonathan divested himself of the mantle he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his military dress, and his sword, his bow and his belt (1 sam 18:4).

the heir apparent of Israel did not covet the crown so much he could not lay down his mantle.

the story of elijah echoes this willingness to lay down one's authority on the shoulders of another. elijah had just seen the prophets of baal slain, was fed by ravens, heard God speak (remember the old, i alone am left line). and this is what happens next:
And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. (1 Kings 19:15-19)

the Lord says, let me break it down for you elijah, you're not alone. you've never been alone. i've got it completely under control and here is what i want you to do. you need some company, see, and there is this kid, elisha, whom i want you to anoint in your stead. so elijah sets out and lays his mantle on elisha.

mantles don't pass from one to another without being received. this is a two part story. elisha responds:
And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. (1 Kings 19:20-21)

let me make an offering before i go, elisha says. then feeds his family and runs off to follow elijah. it is not about taking folks, it is about giving. always about giving. we can't exhaust God's resources. we can, however, exhaust our own.

cut to second kings. we don't really hear all that much about elisha's ministry to elijah, which is fitting. but when it comes time for elijah to be carried away by the chariots of fire, he asks elisha what he has learned:

And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 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.(2 Kings 2:1-2)

elisha learned enough to know he cannot leave elijah. elisha cannot forsake his mentor. elisha's part in this whole drama may have been more of a supporting role until this point, but he knew his place well. beside elijah. (his devotion reminiscent of ruth's).

at Bethel they encounter "the sons of the prophets" who ask Elisha:
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. (v. 3)

it was no secret what God was doing. anyone who had ears to hear could hear it, but not all were in the place to receive what elisha was in place to receive. he was the anointed man prophetically, but he would not receive the fullness of his anointing unless he watched and listened.

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. (v. 4)

again, the persistence of elisha prevails. his devotion shows. he has learned well.

another town, same story,
the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. (v. 5)

God does not leave us guessing. He does not leave His church without a clue. that encourages me immensely.

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. (v. 6)

three times he tried to shake elisha off. three times elisha stayed true to his calling. there is something significant there besides the number three.

it was no secret what was happening:
And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. (vv. 7-8)

so everyone is amazed by this, but elisha knows he must cross over too. he will not leave his mentor. i admire him for this. elijah would have ditched elisha long before bethel if possible. but elisha had orders too. to receive the blessing. to become the man. to follow in elijah's footsteps.

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. (v. 9)

severely tested, elisha finally gets asked THE question. what wouldst thou have of me? elisha can ask for anything. he wants more of God. i dig elisha.

And [elijah] said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. (v. 10)

the blessing will not simply light upon elisha. he'll have to watch for it. he'll have to be present in the moment and grasp it, if you will. this challenges me more than you can imagine. i appreciate that elijah doesn't simply bequeath his "powers" if i can call it that, on elisha. but lays it down again on elisha's faithfulness. the test of elisha's readiness for a double portion is his attentiveness, his presence in the moment. powerful stuff!

so they're walking and talking, and lo! check it out:
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (v. 11)

you might think, how could elisha have missed THAT? but it must have been one of those spiritual eyes types of seeing. that kind of open their eyes so they can see what i see Lord. a way of looking into the heavens and the heart of God that doesn't just come to those who see the reality, the tangiblity before them (i think he must have been a poet).

And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. (v. 12)

a personal aside. i asked for a double-portion once. i knew that meant, i had to be paying attention. before getting online to check in with my mentor i was standing at the coffee pot and heard, the chariots of fire and the horsemen thereof. i knew my mentor was leaving me. and it was true. it was a mutual parting of the ways, and i don't know that i received the double-portion i requested, but i do know i saw him carried away from me. and that is significant.

He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; (v. 13)

he picked up the mantle. the thing that gets me about this elijah/elisha stuff is how there was mutuality. there was reciprocity. there was a holding of hands between them. they were both active participants in the passing of the mantle. one was receptive of the other's ministry (in more ways than one). this speaks to me immensely. there are so many gifted people whom i see at writers' conferences and such, and sometimes it seems like they are swarmed by so many leeches. but i think as mentees (or elishas) we have a vital role of ministry to the mentors (or elijahs). we are not just takers here. not just recipients of their great gifts. we are participants in a willing passing over of the mantle. and it all hinges upon presence. if we are present to them and they present to us, these great giftings can be passed, in double portion. from elijah to elisha.

then what?
And [elisha] took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. (v. 14)

oswald chambers has a great devotion about this passage. he says, this must come. we must let our elijah go and take up the mantle and walk across the jordan. we must let the wisest and bravest of us pass on into the glories of God, so we can rise up and take our rightful place. we must rise up so that we can rightly empower the next generation with our great gifting. (ozzie didn't say all that, but i am embellishing it).

And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him. (v. 15)

i'm sure it's not easy to empower someone for ministry. and the kind of impartation i'm talking about here is largely relational. but it is essential, i think. and part of the problem of so many powerless pastors, perhaps. we really do need each other in Christ. we really are part of some great, glorious unfolding. and personally, i can't wait to see who gets carried away from me in a whirlwind. or who comes after me and asks for that double portion.

No comments: