We’re in a message series called “Faith Heroes.” When we speak of heroes in the Bible, oftentimes we elevate these people in our minds to unattainable heights. Some mistaken churches refer to certain people as saints, whereas the Bible refers to all believers as saints. There are many churches that relegate entire sections of the Bible simply to ancient history, thinking that we couldn’t possibly see or do the miraculous things they experienced. Yet, none of these beliefs are true or biblical. The examples of people of faith in the Bible were written, not only to tell us about what happened back then, but to inspire us to do the same things in our day.
James 5:16b-18 (ESV) The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
What is James saying here? In the context, James is encouraging people to pray for physical healing for one another. He brings up an example of Elijah, an Old Testament prophet, certainly a faith hero in the Bible. When Elijah prayed, the weather was altered for years, such was the power of his prayer. Notice that James says that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours. In other words, Elijah was not a super-hero. He had no anointing that is any greater than what is available to every Spirit-filled New Testament believer. We can and should pray the same type of powerful prayers that Elijah prayed.
Today, we’re going to look at the prophet who was Elijah’s successor, Elisha. Our message is entitled “Your Calling” and we’ll begin with the calling of Elisha. What is a calling? A calling is simply God calling you to do or be something for Him. Whatever God calls you to do, He will empower you to carry out your calling. What does God call people to do? God calls people to be saved.
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) But you are a chosen race … that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
God calls believers to live a holy life.
2 Timothy 1:9a (NIV2011) He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
God calls believers to be His witnesses
Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
These are general callings, for every person and for every believer. God’s callings always have a spiritual dimension. Fulfilling God’s calling for your life will impact eternity. So let’s begin by looking at the life of Elisha & use him as an example to learn about …
1 Kings 19:19a (ESV) So he [Elijah] departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth.
We see that Elisha was working as a farmer, supervising 11 other men plowing with 11 yokes of oxen, as well as plowing himself. Undoubtedly, Elisha and his family were fairly prosperous farmers to have 12 yoke of oxen. Elijah had just defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel by calling down fire from heaven. Then he became afraid of Jezebel and ran for his life. God met him and gave him instructions for the last phase of his life and calling, which involved anointing Elisha to be his prophetic successor. So, God has a purpose for your life and …
1 Kings 19:19-21 (ESV) Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. … And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
In the culture of those days, giving someone your cloak indicated a transfer of their calling and the ability to accomplish it. There was little recorded discussion between the two men, but Elisha knew that God was calling him as a prophet. He parted with his current job by sacrificing the oxen and holding a public feast. He left his parents and followed Elijah, becoming his personal assistant. The call of God on Elisha’s life caused a radical change in his career and lifestyle. Yet, Elisha still needed the power that Elijah had in his own life in order to fulfill this call. He faithfully served as Elijah’s assistant for the next eight years. Nothing is recorded about anything Elisha did during this time period, but God was preparing him to be …
2 Kings 2:1 (ESV) Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
This is the next time that Elisha is mentioned in the Scripture. Both Elijah and Elisha knew that the time for Elijah’s departure was approaching. Undoubtedly as they took their last journey together, they talked about the past and Elisha’s future. As they approached the Jordan river, Elijah took off his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water parted and the two of them crossed on dry ground. This miracle demonstrated the powerful anointing of the Spirit that was on Elijah.
2 Kings 2:9 (ESV) When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”
Elijah asked Elisha if he had a final request before he was taken into heaven. Elisha boldly asked for a double anointing, twice as much of the Spirit’s power in his prophetic ministry then had been in Elijah’s. Elijah replied, that if Elisha saw him when he was taken up, his request for a double portion would be granted.
2 Kings 2:11 (ESV) And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
They continued to walk and talk and suddenly chariots and horses of fire came down from heaven and took Elijah up into heaven in a whirlwind. And Elisha saw it, showing that he had the gift of being able to see into the unseen spiritual realm. As Elijah went up into heaven, his cloak fell to earth and Elisha picked it up. Only three people in the Bible have been taken directly into heaven, Enoch, Elijah and the resurrected Christ. As Elisha returned to the school of the prophets, he also struck the Jordan river with Elijah’s cloak and it parted for him, just as it had for Elijah. Elisha had been called and anointed by God for his calling.
Let’s talk a bit more about God’s calling on our lives. God’s calling has to do with what He is calling you to do to expand His kingdom. Oftentimes people speak of their jobs or careers as their calling. I do not believe this is biblical. The Bible never speaks of one’s job as their calling. Paul was a tentmaker by trade, but his calling was not as a tentmaker, but as an apostle. Elisha was a farmer by trade, but his calling was as a prophet.
There are times in our culture, where one’s career and calling are one and the same, such as for pastors and evangelists. However, most people have various jobs or careers, which often change throughout life. But what is their calling? Your calling will be in keeping with the spiritual gifts and abilities that God has given you.
You may be a plumber, for example, but your calling may be as a witness for Jesus to your clients. You may be an accountant, but your calling may be to provide extraordinary financial resources for the church and missions. You may be a medical person, but your calling may be to bring supernatural healing to people that will lead them to Jesus.
Your calling will remain the same, even though your job or career may change. As a farmer, God was preparing Elisha to take over Elijah’s prophetic calling. You are not defined by your job or career, God designed you for His calling. All callings are about …
If one goes through the miracles that the Bible records for Elijah and Elisha, you will see that Elisha had twice as many miracles in his ministry than Elijah. Elisha’s request for a double portion of spiritual anointing was granted. Let’s look at a couple of examples of meeting other’s needs with compassion through the power of the Spirit.
2 Kings 2:19 (ESV) Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.”
The city of Jericho that Elisha lived in had a problem, the water supply was not good. It had some type of contamination in it that made it ill-suited either for human consumption or growing crops. This may have been the result of Joshua’s curse on any people that rebuilt Jericho after it’s defeat in battle. Undoubtedly, the city has people living in it who were God fearers and some who were not. Rather than dismissing their complaint, which had to do with a physical rather than a spiritual problem, Elisha …
2 Kings 2:20-21 (ESV) He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.”
The bad water had resulted in people dying and pregnant women miscarrying. From a scientific standpoint, would through salt from a new bowl into a spring change the composition of the water? The answer is no. However, this was a supernatural miracle through the power of the Lord, that changed the character of the water from the spring. The next verse tells us that indeed, the water was healed and caused no more harm. Elisha had met the needs of the city through a miracle.
Elisha did many miracles throughout his ministry, but let’s look at one more, where he was sitting down to eat with men in his school of the prophets. Part of Elisha’s calling was to raise up other prophetic leaders.
2 Kings 4:40-41 (ESV) And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. He said, “Then bring flour.” And he threw it into the pot and said, “Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.” And there was no harm in the pot.
The stew had contained some wild gourds that were poisonous. As the men began to eat, they discerned that something was very wrong with the stew. I believe that somehow, the adding of flour to the pot, not only changed the composition of the stew, but also brought healing to the men who had eaten the poison. This was another supernatural miracle directed toward meeting the needs of believers.
I believe that these two miracles illustrate two main aspects of God’s calling on each of our lives. Your calling involves both meeting the needs of unbelievers in society and of believers within the church. Some may be used more in one avenue than the other, but everyone is called by God to meet needs with compassion both without and within the church. Expect and pray for God to use both your natural abilities and your supernatural giftings to meet needs of others. By serving the Lord with excellence in your job, you open the door for others to pay attention when you bring a supernatural dimension into the workplace. It takes courage to take a risk and pray for someone or speak to them about Jesus. But that’s part of your calling.
Although showing up for Sunday service is important, God calls every believer to involved in some aspect of ministry in the church, it’s also part of your calling. Your calling is to meet needs with compassion. Loving the Lord with all you have and your neighbor as yourself. Finally …
It is estimated by scholars that Elisha’s ministry, including his being mentored by Elijah, covered a span of 63 years in Israel. God used Elisha mightily under the reign of six kings in a time of great evil in Israel. But the time of the end of Elisha’s life was approaching.
2 Kings 13:14 (ESV) Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”
In the Bible, Elisha’s ministry is recorded as him being faithful from his call into ministry until the end of his life. Yet, Elisha is not taken up to heaven in a whirlwind like Elijah, even though he had a double anointing. Why? The Bible doesn’t tell us. The Bible answers the questions we need to know. As with most of us, we are taken into eternity through some type of sickness. Even when Elisha was basically on his death bed, he kept on fulfilling his calling, as the King of Israel came to see him.
2 Kings 13:17 (ESV) And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.”
Elisha prophesied that Israel would have victory over their enemy of Syria. He then told Joash the king to strike the ground with his arrows. Joash struck 3 times. Elisha was angry that he had not struck 6 times to completely defeat the Syrians. Now the victory would be incomplete. So, Elisha was functioning in his prophetic calling right up to his death.
2 Kings 13:20-21 (ESV) So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.
The anointing on Elisha was so powerful, that even his bones retained some type of spiritual anointing that raised a dead man to life. During their lives, both Elijah and Elisha raised one person from the dead. But now, even though dead, Elisha’s bones raised a second person, in keeping with his double anointing. In one sense, this was part of Elisha’s spiritual legacy. He also left a school of the prophets to continue his work. He fulfilled his calling to the end and left a spiritual legacy.
God calls each one of us to fulfill our calling to the end of our lives and to leave a spiritual legacy for the next generation. In our culture, we have a concept of retirement that is foreign to the Bible. Retirement is often seen as a time of doing no work and simply living to please yourself. Yet, we have seen that one’s calling continues, even if a person has retired from a particular job. In fact, the Bible calls everyone who is able, to continue to work in one capacity or another throughout life.
Oftentimes, retirement may be a time of life when one can do even more work for the kingdom than when employed full-time. Retirement should be seen as an opportunity for different work and ministry in keeping with your life-long calling. God desires for us to fulfill our calling throughout life.
Today, we’ve done a very brief survey of the life and ministry of Elisha, beginning with his call and ending with his spiritual legacy. God has a purpose for your life, just as He did with Elisha. You have a calling from God that is unique to how God created you. You have an anointing that gives you the power to fulfill your calling. Our calling has two dimensions. The first is to grow in our relationship with God. The second is to love others by meeting needs with compassion. We ought to look to meet the needs of both unbelievers and believers. Finally, our calling and career are not the same. Our calling continues throughout life. We never retire from God’s calling on our lives. God calls us to speak prophetically for him and to leave a spiritual legacy for the next generation. May God help each of us to understand and live out our calling for Him.