Today’s reading follows the passing of the prophetic mantle from Elijah to Elisha. It is a story rich in inspiration for me.
For instance, Elijah tried numerous times to shake off Elisha so that he would not be there when Elijah departed. Why, I wondered. What was that all about? Of course the text does not explain which simply invited me to ponder and meditate.
Maybe it was a way for Elijah to determine if Elisha was hearing from the Lord directly? All the prophets along the way clearly understood that Elijah was going to be taken that day. Maybe this was Elijah’s way to see if Elisha had the primary gift -hearing clearly the voice of God- necessary to take up the mantle of lead prophet.
When it comes time to pass the mantle of leadership on to the next leader it is important to know that the new leader has the primary gifts necessary for the task ahead. Maybe Elijah was making sure Elisha had the metal for the job as lead prophet. Such a mantle was a difficult and lonely position taking a huge amount of internal integrity and fortitude. Maybe all the walking here and there with constant offers or directives to stop and stay along the way was Elijah’s final test to see if Elisha had the personality and grind to fulfill the calling as lead prophet of the Lord.
Having the right gifts for a leadership task is one aspect; having the internal fortitude or calling for the pressure demands of the position is a second important facet of the position.
Then finally Elijah puts it directly to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied (9). This seems to be a final check, do you really want the position. If you can have anything what is it you want?
Elisha wants it all… double portion is what was given to the #1 son who inherited the father’s ‘estate’ and along with it the responsibility to care for the family. In simple terms, Elisha said, ‘I want to be Israel’s prophet, to follow in your footsteps, my father.’
‘Ok, then one last thing you must do… see me go.’
Having the gifts/skills and fortitude, does the person truly want to put on the mantle of leadership with the joys and hardships involved? Determining this is important, too.
And Elisha succeeds Elijah.
I had one final thought from the closing 3 verses, the strange incident of calling down a curse on those 42 boys… No matter how prepared we believe someone is for the position of leadership, there will be growing pains. Mistakes will be made. It occurred to me today that Elisha may not have fully understood the anointing of God that rested on him… that when he speaks in the Lord’s name it will happen. Note how he called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD (24). He didn’t just speak; he spoke in God’s name.
Just imagine how careful you must be if everything you spoke in God’s name came true.
I sense Elisha was learning the responsibility of his office…
These are some of the places the Lord took me as I pondered His Word today.
Oh, God, when it comes time for me to pass the mantle of leadership on to someone else, may I do it with the wisdom of Elijah. In Your name, Oh God, I pray. Amen.