Wednesday, July 20, 2022

2022.07.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 19:19–21

Read 1 Kings 19:19–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Elijah do, when the LORD finished talking (1 Kings 19:19)? Where did he go (cf. 1 Kings 19:16b)? Whom did he find there? What was Elisha doing? What does Elijah do? What does Elisha do (1 Kings 19:20)? But what does he ask to do first? How does Elijah respond to this? Then what does Elisha do instead (1 Kings 19:21)? Using what? For whom? With the means and materials of his old life out of the way, what does Elisha now do? What does he become?

How does God bring down evil dynasties?  1 Kings 19:19–21 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God often does great things through simple people and resolved commitment.

The reinvigorated faith of Elijah. Last week, in the first eighteen verses, we met a prophet who had a dim view of the effectiveness of his ministry so far. But God reminded him that he is just one servant among seven thousand even at that moment (1 Kings 19:18), and that he would yet be used to ordain a triumverate of enemy-exterminators (1 Kings 19:16-17) in following generations. 

How do we know that this Word took effect? Because Elijah immediately set his GPS for Abel Meholah. Elisha was supposed to be the final member of the triumverate, mopping up whomever the other two couldn’t. And that’s where Elisha was from, according to 1 Kings 19:16. So Elijah arrives in town, gets directions to the Shaphat farm, finds a young man attending his particular ox in the plowing, and throws his coat onto him as a way of conscripting him as prophet-in-training and chief hand-washer (end of 1 Kings 19:21, cf. 2 Kings 3:11). 

Sometimes, we come to worship deflated but are reminded that we belong to God, as does the fruit of our work. A good response is just to proceed with whatever our particular calling is. Going home, loving our wife, teaching our children, working our job, resuming attendance upon the public means of grace whenever they are offered. When we trust that God is using our lives, we resume the things that God says that He is using.

The simple man that the Lord is pleased to use. The 2 Kings 3:11 reference above shows the humility into which Elisha entered as servant in 1 Kings 19:21. But our little passage also shows us a simple, hard-working man. Certainly, his family came from some wealth. Twenty-four oxen (twelve yoke, 1 Kings 19:19) is nothing to sniff at, and it took two of them to feed the entire household at Elisha’s going-away party (1 Kings 19:21). But despite the number of servants available, the son is plowing the field, attending personally to one of the twelve oxen that are in use. 

All callings are dignified because in God’s providence they are callings. And often it is the Lord’s way to take someone who has been diligent and faithful in little (like attending to a plowing ox) and call him to something else little (like handwashing). And then sometimes, the Lord calls him who was faithful in little and entrusts him with much (like becoming the chief prophet). 

The wholehearted commitment that the Lord gives His servant. It’s significant that Elisha asks to kiss his parents. Rather than read stalling into 1 Kings 19:20, it is better to read eagerness. He wants to give dad and mom the definitive goodbye. In contact, Elijah seems to indicate that there’s no reason to think that the throwing of the mantle would forbid this. In fact, the anointing referred to in 1 Kings 19:16 is not described yet as having taken place.

Furthermore, by slaughtering the particular oxen to which he was assigned and using that particular yoke for the food prep, Elisha renounces his former calling and way of life. He is giving up everything to become a servant. Such commitment comes from the Lord. If we have it, let us bless His Name for it. If we lack it, let us take our lesson here and look to the Lord to make us live with wholehearted commitment in whatever particular callings He has given us in home, church, and nation.

In all of this, the main message is that the plan of God described in 1 Kings 19:15-18 is being carried out. And though He has not appeared to us to tell us His plan for our own life and its part in His work, aren’t we still sure that He is doing it? So let us not despise the day of small things but be grateful when He gives us reinvigorated faith, simple duties, and wholehearted commitment. The LORD is at work by these things!

What are your particular callings in life? When your diligence or commitment sags, where can you go for encouragement? Whose plans are you hoping to see fulfilled by your daily efforts in life?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for calling Elijah and Elisha for specific works and giving them the faith and commitment to obey promptly and completely. Give us such faith, too! Give us such commitment, too!  Forgive us for when discouragement dulls our zeal, or when we are unwilling to let go of other attachments to do what we know from Your Word that You have commanded. And work in us according to Your good will, in which we ask You to use us and make our lives bear the fruit that You intend, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH551 “We Plow the Fields”

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