By John McIntosh
Pastor Dan White tells of his friend Dewey who listened to the preacher at a local revival. After a while the preacher asked anyone who needed to be prayed over to come forward to the front of the altar. Dewey got in line and when it was his turn the preacher asked, “Dewey, what do you want me to pray about for you?
Dewey replied, “Preacher, I need you to pray for my hearing.”
The preacher put one finger in Dewey’s ear, and placed the other hand on top of Dewey’s head and prayed and prayed. After a few minutes, the preacher removed his finger, stood back and asked, “Dewey, how is your hearing now?”
Dewey said, “I don’t know Reverend, it ain’t till next Wednesday.”
Miscommunication is common in human relationships. What we are trying to say to someone somehow becomes unclear. There was nothing unclear about God’s communication to Elijah about the commissioning of Elisha to take his place as God’s prophetic spokesman in Israel (1 Kings 19:15, 16). The Lord was very clear about the name of the man, his father, and the place where he could be found.
The Scripture tells us that Elijah:
…”found Elisha, the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah”… (1 Kings 19:19, 20a).
These words give us the impression that Elisha was a wealthy farmer and engaged in spring plowing at a time the three years of drought had come to an end. Elijah appeared at the field, identified Elisha as God had instructed, and …”threw his mantle on him” (19b).
No words are recorded. As far as we know, nothing was said between the two men. But Elisha knew immediately what the symbolic act meant. It is reasonable to think that the Lord had been working in his heart. Elisha was being called into ministry and he was going to be replacing God’s fiery spokesman, Elijah.
When we read the accounts of Moses’ selection of Joshua, Samuel’s selection of David, and Jesus’ selection of the Twelve, we get the impression that the Lord is always calling people into ministry. In fact, because He is sovereign, He is always thinking several steps down the road beyond you and me.
That means that when He called you to do what you do, He also has your successor in mind. He is already at work in the heart of someone to eventually do what you do. It is our responsibility to be asking the Lord about this matter. It is our responsibility to be praying and asking Him to make it clear who our replacement will be.
The Apostle’s exhortation to Timothy was clear. He wanted his young protege to be thinking and praying about the men who would replace him. This would be his legacy. These people would be the ones to replace him when his time of effectiveness had come to an end. Once again his words were:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
It is our responsibility to embrace the fact that the Lord has our replacement in mind right now. We need to be talking with Him about it. We need to be pouring our lives into them.
The Scriptures tell us that Elisha ran after Elijah and secured permission to inform his parents of where he was going and what he would be doing. He quit his job, burned his farm equipment, cooked his oxen, and fed them to the people of the town. Then he followed Elijah.
These activities completely closed out his past and forced him into a dependent relationship with the Lord. And with this, God’s ministry continued effectively when Elijah was finally taken (2 Kings 2).
Remember, “Success without successors is failure!”
Editor’s Note: The 2007-2008 moderator of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, John McIntosh is challenging the fellowship to consider the leaders of tomorrow. He has been pastor of the Simi Valley (Calif.) Grace Brethren Church since 1983.