Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Mantle of the Prophet

"He [Elisha] picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan" (2 Kings 2:13).

When it came time for Elijah to be taken up into heaven, he and his appointed successor, Elisha, were at Gilgal. Elijah suggested that Elisha remain at Gilgal, but Elisha insisted on going along with him to Bethel. At Bethel, Elijah repeated his suggestion that Elisha remain behind, but the servant insisted on accompanying his master to Jericho. At Jericho, Elijah urged Elisha to remain in the city, but Elisha insisted on crossing the Jordan into the wilderness with Elijah.

Elisha knew that if he were to succeed Elijah, it was important for the rest of the prophets to see him in the company of the master. Of course, an additional factor was his love for Elijah, and his unwillingness to be parted from him.

Elijah asked his servant if he had one last request to make of him before he left to be with God. Elisha knew that if he were going to follow in Elijah’s footsteps, he would need the strength of the Spirit of God. Elisha knew that the task before him was huge, and he felt his own weakness intensely, so he made bold to ask for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.

Elijah replied that this would be a difficult thing, but that Elisha would know he had been given it if he were granted the privilege of seeing Elijah depart this earth. What made the request difficult? It is not because it is hard for God to give a double measure of strength to a man. Rather, what Elijah meant was that it would be difficult for Elisha, because a double measure of strength would carry with it a double measure of responsibility and hardship.

After Elijah was taken up, Elisha found the prophet’s mantle lying on the ground. We can imagine his thoughts as he considered whether to take up that mantle or not. He thought about how Elijah had been persecuted and friendless, about Elijah’s lonely life in the wilderness. He knew that picking up that mantle would mean inviting scorn and hostility from his own people. We aren’t told how long Elisha looked at the mantle, but we are told that he picked it up. In the same way, we are called to take up our crosses and follow Jesus, knowing that it will bring us distress in this world. There can be no crown for us, unless first we bear the cross of rejection by the world.

There are no prophetic mantles for us to pick up, but as a child of the living God we have been given a full measure of the Spirit. While this should result in a characteristic joy, it also means hardship and crosses to bear. Take heart—God who was faithful remains so today.