Slaughter the Oxen, Burn the Plow

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I Kings 19:19-21

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.  Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

There was nothing wrong with what Elisha was doing before God called him to become a follower of the Prophet Elijah.  I imagine that Elisha was diligent in his work, a responsible son, obedient to his father and mother.  All good things.

And when Elijah threw his cloak over Elisha, which is symbolic of the Calling of God for ministry, he did not order Elisha to slaughter the oxen and burn the plow.  Some people would consider that to be a horribly insensitive and irresponsible thing to do.  After all, someone else might be able to use those tools.  They could be sold for a profit, or at the very least, left behind for another family member to use.  Why burn everything?

Elisha was leaving his old way of life behind.  He was not going to leave a “back door” open as a route of escape.  He was in this thing whole heartedly for better or worse.  There was no going back now.  He kissed his parents good-bye, prepared a good-bye feast for the people using his own resources, and set out to follow Elijah.

In his Evangelistic Crusades, Billy Graham used the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” to call people to make a decision for God.  The song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus- no turning back, no turning back.  Though none go with me, still I will follow- no turning back, no turning back.  The cross before me, the world behind me- no turning back, no turning back.”  Don’t leave an escape route open when you decide to follow Jesus.  Slaughter the oxen and burn the plow.

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