Yesterday I shared that 2 Kings 2:1-18 is one of Scripture’s clearest pictures of spiritual fatherhood (i.e. discipleship). Like Elisha, we need spiritual fathers and mothers who teach us what it means to live for God through Christ. The Great Commission is a call for us to be spiritual fathers and mothers; to be an Elijah to an Elisha. What I want to focus on in today’s post is the blessing it is to be a spiritual father or mother, and the blessing it is to have one.
What a blessing it is to be a spiritual father. Back in 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah at the lowest point of his life. He was alone, depressed, hunted, and wanted to die. He begged God to take his life. He had nothing left to live for. He was a failure. God does not personally answer him there. Rather He sends an angel to feed him and give him strength so that Elijah could travel to Mount Horeb where God would speak to him. When he got there The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by” (1 Kings 19:11). He climbed up the mountain and found a cave and waited for God to come. A great wind came up the mountain, but God was not in it. Then an earthquake shook the cave, but God still was silent. Then fire broke out on the mountainside. Still silence. All these had accompanied God’s presence before, in fact He had appeared in fire when he had faced the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:38, and would appear in the wind that took him to Heaven in our text. Why was He not speaking as He had in the past? God wanted him to know that just because He seemed silent and distant, it did not mean He was, and so after the fire came a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12).
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:13-18, NIV).
How did God address Elijah’s loneliness and fear of failure? He tells him that Ahab and Jezebel and even all their house would not escape God’s justice. He tells him that he is not alone, that in fact there are 7000 who have not forsaken God, and He tells him to go find Elisha son of Shaphat and to anoint him as his successor. He tells him to take on a disciple, to be a spiritual father one last time.
What a blessing that was! God gave him a spiritual son who would always remind him that he was not alone, that he had God’s blessing, and that God would continue to speak to His people after Elijah was gone.
I have been learning that people are one of the great therapies of life. When things look like they are falling apart, going all wrong, when feel that we have failed, and feel all alone, like Elijah our first response is to retreat inward, to question ourselves, and even question God. Like him, we long for God to come in storm, earthquake, and fire and turn things around. But God does not often respond in mighty acts and divine reversals. Rather He more often quietly calls us to come alongside another to help, to guide, to serve. And soon we find that in helping them, in being fathers and mothers to them, we are helped too.
What a difference being a spiritual father made. At one point Elijah had given up and fell asleep praying for death to come. Now, even knowing his time is at hand, he is not looking for it anymore, but spends every last moment talking, training, preparing, his son. To be a spiritual father or mother is a great blessing.
The blessing of having a spiritual father. The greatness of the blessing of having a spiritual father or mother is seen in two ways.
First, it is seen in his answer to Elijah’s question, what can I do for you? Like young Solomon, he was in a position to ask for anything. But what he wants is to have a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. He wanted his blessing as if he was his first born son. He wanted to be the Elijah of his generation. He wanted to carry on his work. He wanted, more than anything, to be like Elijah.
What a great blessing it is to have such a person in your life. Someone who the Spirit of Christ shines so clearly that to be like him or her would make Christ’s Spirit shine brighter in you! I am reminded of what Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:15 (NIV), Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. There are few blessings in life that bring in more of God’s love, joy, and blessings than having a spiritual mother or father.
Second, it is seen in Elisha’s response to losing him. “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”…Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. That is not the response to losing a mere teacher. Elijah was no casual acquaintance. He was dear to him. He was such a blessing to Elisha that seeing the singularly angelic ascension of his father and the assurance of his blessing were eclipsed by the pain and grief over the loss of his master.
Tomorrow, we’ll wrap this up…
This is a great article. We need to know and understand how love is to be revealed in our lives. Thanks for this posting!