As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said,“ Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
1 Kings 19
So Elijah went and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
Notice the contrast between the responses men gave Jesus when he called them to proclaim the kingdom of God, and the response Elisha gave Elijah. Elisha did resist his calling initially. When Elijah put his cloak around him, his response was very similar to some of the responses Jesus heard when he called men to go out and proclaim the Kingdom.
Elisha said to Elijah, “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.”
One of the men called by Jesus responded, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say goodbye to my family.” See the similarity? In fact, when Jesus answered that man, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” I think it was a direct reference to the calling of Elisha.
When Elisha was called, yes, he was hesitant at first, just as some of us were. But Elijah’s answer to Elisha’s request, that he first be allowed to go tell his father and mother goodbye, was meant to make Elisha stop and think about the significance of what had just happened. “Think about this Elisha. Think about who it is that just called you.” It wasn’t Elijah who called him, it was God. Well, Elisha didn’t think about it very long because in the next verse, we’re told how he cut up the oxen and used the wooden parts of the plows and yokes to cook the meat, which he in turn shared with all the people who lived nearby. In other words, he burned the plows and barbequed the cows. And once that was done, gone was his only means of making a living. He was fully committed at that point to putting his full faith and trust in God.
It’s also worth noting that Elisha is identified by name, while the men Jesus called in chapter 9 of the gospel of Luke are not. The same is true of the rich young man Jesus called in the 18th chapter of Luke, the one who went away sad after Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor. His name does not appear anywhere in the gospels. What if, after giving the matter further thought, what if Elisha had gone back to working the fields? We might not know his name either. Had Elisha rejected his calling, the account in 1 Kings 19 may have read something like this:
“Now Elijah went out and found a certain young man plowing a field with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you? But after giving it some thought, the young man returned to his oxen and resumed plowing his father’s field. Later that same day, Elijah came upon another young man. He threw his cloak around him and immediately the young man stopped what he was doing, left his father and mother, and followed Elijah. And his name was…………………………………………….” See how that might have been written if Elisha had not answered the call of God?
Even though he was a bit hesitant at first, Elisha did answer God’s call, and his name is forever etched in the scriptures. Yes, it’s true that the names of many wicked people are also recorded in the Bible. And there are others whose names are unknown to us who went out and proclaimed the gospel after Jesus touched their lives in some way. But men like Elisha and the other Old Testament prophets, and those Jesus called to be His disciples are known to us because they were chosen for a very special purpose, and we know their names because they answered when God called. But we’ll never know the names of those who made excuses and walked away when God called them.
Most of us will likely never be called to give up our homes and careers and our families to go and serve God in some full time capacity. Some will, but most won’t. Nevertheless, we must respond to God’s calling as if He DID call us to leave everything to follow Him. Our committment to follow the Lord must be as great as that of any of the apostles or Old Testament saints because we have in fact, been called to leave something behind. We’ve been called to leave behind our old way of living, our sinful habits, and rebelliousness.
A day is coming when God will open a book. The Bible says in Revelation chapter 21 that only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be allowed to enter Heaven. And those whose names are not found in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire. Those who have answered the call of God will be remembered, while those who turned away when God called will not. And it should go without saying that it’s far better to be remembered on that day, than to be forgotten!