"Don't burn your bridges!" Has anyone given you that advice? It sounds good on the surface but there are situations where burning the path to the past would be a demonstration of commitment to the future. Such was the case with the prophet Elisha.
After a victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah retreated in fear. God was not finished with him, however, and revealed Himself to Elijah through the sound of a gentle whisper. Then, He gave him instructions, including anointing Elisha as his successor. Elisha was found plowing his field. "He was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the 12th pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him." (1 Kings 19:19) In Biblical times, the cloak was one of the most important pieces of clothing a person could own. It served many purposes—being used for protection against weather, bedding, a place to sit, a way to carry belongings, or a pledge for a debt. In this case, it represented the mantle of Elijah's calling from the Lord as a prophet. By transferring it to Elisha, Elijah was passing his responsibility and God's power to him.
Elisha knew full well what was happening to 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.' Elijah asked, 'What have I done to you?'" (1 Kings 19:20) Elisha went back and did exactly what we are told not to do. He burned any bridge to the past. "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 following Elijah and became his servant." (1 Kings 19:21)
It is interesting that there were 12 pair of oxen since 12 is the number of apostolic fullness and divine government. Elisha realized that the call on his life had changed. He proved it by burning the plowing equipment and sacrificing the oxen to feed his family and friends. Think about this scene and the prophetic nature of it. Remember that plowing is the first step toward harvest. Elisha would be plowing, planting and harvesting new ground. He positioned himself for the future by sacrificing everything from the past. There would be no retreating to the old lifestyle. He was all in!
We are in a new year and a new decade. What is God calling you to pursue? What do we need to "burn" so that we do not look back and can be free to press on to the call of God for the future with everything that is in us? We must look to our Messiah and His goal for us. Here is advice from the apostle Paul: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14) Jesus also warned those who would follow Him: "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) There is always more ground to plow in the place where you are called to plant and harvest. Let us move forward as the Lord leads us.
Joan E. Mathias