First Kings 19:10-21
Elijah was a man of miracles. He was also a man of moods. When he was up, he was very up. When he was down, he was very down.
He had had an "up" at Mount Carmel. It was a "high" that evangelists dream of. The fire had fallen, and the whole congregation had rushed to the altar crying, "The Lord, He is God, the Lord, He is God!" It was heady experience. God had defeated the forces of Baal. He was once again in control of the world ... and of Israel.
But revival had been short lived. It was followed by a wholesale defection. Less than a week after the fire fell, not one convert could be found. Even the evangelist had had to flee for his life, and he was so discouraged that he wanted to die.
It seemed to Elijah that God had suddenly lost control. Wickedness appeared to have the upper hand. The prophet felt let down. He desperately needed reassurance. He needed proof... powerful proof that God was once again in command of the situation.
To be truthful, what he really needed was a repeat of the fire of Mount Carmel!
Man is always looking for spectacular proof that God is in control of this world.
Doubt demands a miracle ... a demonstration of power. When crossing Galilee in the storm, the unbelieving disciples demanded deliverance ... and got it. Then Jesus rebuked them with the words, "Oh, ye of little faith." Little faith demanded a miracle. Greater faith would have ridden out the storm, confident that, with Jesus aboard, they had nothing to fear.
Little faith looks for the strong wind that breaks rocks in pieces. Little faith requires earthquakes and fire. Little faith is unconvinced unless there is something spectacular to prove God's presence and power. But God is still in control even when He speaks with a still, small voice. It was a lesson Elijah had to learn. "Blessed are they," Jesus said, "that have not seen, and yet have believed."
God is not always obvious. His control is not always apparent. His voice is often still and small, but His power is not less simply because He speaks calmly and quietly. Why should the Almighty God use thunder? Why should the Omnipotent have to demonstrate His power? It is the impotent who seek to cover weakness with noisiness. Not so with God. He has no need to prove anything. Being totally in command, He can afford to speak in a still, small voice.
It is the voice of the One who will accomplish His purposes ... who will make the wrath of men to praise Him ... who will cause all things to work together for good to them who are the called according to His purpose. It is the voice of the One who's got the whole world in His hands!
The God who is in control told Elijah to anoint three men: One a pagan, one a pretender, and one a peasant.
All three were appointed to a God-given task ... but that's where the similarity ends. There is no way you can put an Elisha in the same category as a Jehu or a Hazael. Elisha was not only "used" of God ... he was also "approved" of God. Not so Jehu and Hazael. They were "used" of God, but they were not "approved" of God.
There is a difference, and we want to study it.
When Elisha prophesied that Hazael would become king of Syria, he fixed his eyes on him and wept (2 Kings 8:11). "I know," he said, "the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel."
Here was a pagan man whom God anointed. It had already been revealed to Elijah that Hazael would murder Benhadad and seize the throne.
Which brings up several questions. Does God commission wicked men to do evil? Does God condone violence? How can we explain the fact that Hazael was anointed?
The answer is, "We can't." Not really. When it comes to the triumph of evil, the atrocities in Old Testament history, the problem of pain, and the suffering and poverty of the masses, we are not asked to understand. We are only asked to have confidence in a loving God and to trust Him to know what is best for us. In other words, we are asked to have faith!
Life is full of imponderables ... but we do not have to understand the imponderables in order to have faith.
Faith and reason are not opposites. They are compatible.
They go hand in hand in the same direction. But there is a point beyond which reason cannot go. It is at that point that faith must take over and carry on ... still in the same direction. It cannot be otherwise. How else can we live in today's world? How else can we sleep at night when governments are being overthrown by revolution? How else can we account for the suffering of innocent people ... or the suppression of one race by another?
It is difficult to understand how tyrants are anointed of God to do what they are doing. How can that be right? How come God doesn't do something about it? We cannot say. What we can say, with the confidence of faith, is that God is in control, and that He will make sorrow and suffering accomplish an eternal good.
Careless seems the Great Avenger ... History's pages but record
One death grapple in the darkness Twixt world systems and the Word.
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne:
Yet that scaffold sways the future, And beyond the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadows Keeping watch above His own!
If it is hard to understand how a pagan could be anointed to accomplish God's purposes, it is even harder to understand how self-serving servants of God can succeed and prosper.
How can God use a pretender like Jehu?
It helps if we remember that, were God to use only perfect people, He would have to bypass all of us. It is a humbling thing to acknowledge that God does not use us because we have earned the right to be used. Rather. He uses us because it serves His purpose and because we are willing to be used.
But the fact that men will to be used does not necessarily mean that men "will" for the right reasons. Ambition and pride are great motivators, and many a man has been willing to be used of God whose motives were not acceptable to God. So it was with Jehu. By no stretch of the imagination could he be called a man of God. Yet he proclaimed his zeal for God. He called himself an Israelite, but his behavior was as pagan as was Hazael's. He did a work for God. He mouthed the Name of God. But his heart was far from God.
Though he was anointed of God, he was not approved of God.
All of which clearly shows that anointing is no measure of God's approval. The fact that God uses a man does not mean that God is pleased with that man. Being used of God is one thing. Pleasing God is quite another. It is possible to be used of God without faith, but it is impossible to please God without faith.
This is an awesome truth. But it answers many puzzling questions. There will be those who stand before God in the judgment who say, "Have we not done many mighty works in Thy name?" And He will answer, "Depart from me ... I never knew you!"
This explains how carnal men can have outstanding ministry in which sinners are genuinely saved and the sick mightily healed. It explains how God apparently "tolerates" the sins of servants of God, and it helps us understand that, although He uses them, God does not in any way approve of their ungodly acts.
How refreshing it is to turn from Hazael and Jehu and study the anointing of Elisha.
God may use a Hazael or a Jehu, but it brings no pleasure to Him to do so. His purposes will be accomplished. He will make the wrath of men to praise Him. But His pleasure is in men like Elisha who serve Him with their whole heart ... who deny themselves ... who turn their back on their ambitions and their professions ... who leave all to follow Him! What a comfort to those who have left father and mother, home and country, in order to be used of God!
Elisha was an unknown peasant when Elijah threw his mantle over his shoulders. He was a very ordinary man doing what ordinary people do. But he was not sitting around waiting for God to tap him on the shoulder for service.
a) He was applying himself to the task at hand.
He was giving the same degree of diligence to his plowing that he later gave to his preaching. No wonder God chose this ordinary man to do an extraordinary work. Elisha was approved of God before he was used of God!
b) The second thing about Elisha that God approved of was his readiness to leave all... to burn his bridges behind him.
So total was his commitment that he made a sacrifice out of the oxen and burned the implements with which he formerly worked. He said good-bye to his family, and having said it, he severed all ties and never went back to his plowing. "A soldier who goes to war," Paul says, "does not entangle himself with the affairs of this life." Good advice! Elisha did not attempt to supplement his ministry with farming. His commitment to his calling was complete. He did not divide his interests between plowing and preaching.
On the other hand, Elisha did not bum the plow because preaching was more profitable. He did not leave home because he saw godliness as a way of gain. While the ministry supported him, he did not look on it as a means of support.
He refused to use his ministry to gain riches. His thinking about such greed in the work of God was graphically demonstrated when Gehazi ran after Naaman for gold and garments. "Your pay will be Naaman's leprosy," Elisha told him. Obviously, Elisha was not in the ministry for what he could get out of it.
Self-serving servants of God like Jehu do not please God. True, self servers get a job done for God, but when the job is done, God is done with them. They have had their reward in self-gratification and self-fulfillment. They will hear no "Well done thou good and faithful servant."
c) The third thing about Elisha was his willingness to work without recognition.
He left a profitable business to follow a poor prophet who wore a garment of hair and a leather belt around his waist. He not only left a comfortable life, but he worked in the shadow of a man who got all the glory ... and attention. Elisha shared the poverty and suffering of Elijah, but got none of the recognition of Elijah. There is no record to indicate that Elisha was used of God to perform any miracles while Elijah lived. He merely followed and served! What a lesson!
It isn't hard to be number one. Most of us are quite ready to suffer and work if people appreciate what we are doing. We want a little glory and recognition for our self-denial and sweat! But how many are willing to be Elishas ... to be number two ... to work without being noticed ... to serve without thanks ... to suffer without sympathy ... and to deny ourselves with no apparent reward for sacrifice?
How different Elisha was from Hazael and Jehu ... who got fat on the fruit of their serving and enjoyed the acclaim of the multitudes. Hazael and Jehu were anointed. They were used of God, just as Elisha was used of God. But they were self-serving, and therefore God used them and then discarded them.
Not so Elisha. He pleased God and was approved of God long before he was used of God.
But his opportunity came. After long years of faithful serving ... after patiently waiting for God's time ... the day came when Elijah was taken home. The man of God who wanted to be used of God let nothing deter him. Three groups of prophets and a chariot of fire could not get him to take his eyes off Elijah. As the old prophet went up in a whirlwind, the promised double portion of Elijah's spirit became his. He had not asked for Elijah's power. He had asked for Elijah's spirit. And that is what he got.
To have power without Spirit is to have what Hazael and Jehu had. But by seeking a double portion of Elijah's spirit. Elisha received a double portion of Elijah's power as well. He became a man both approved and used of God.
The moral of the story of three anointed men is this: You can be used of God without being approved of God. You can win others to Christ and end up being a castaway.
You can gain a whole world of the glory that anointing brings and yet lose your own soul.
On the other hand, you can be approved of God and also be used of God.
It is faithfulness before the mantle falls that God is looking for. It is total commitment to the will of God that gets His attention. It is a willingness to work without recognition that pleases Him. The man with these credentials will be both approved of God and used of God.
May the credentials of Elisha be ours as well.