Burning Your Oxen Behind You


When the prophet Elijah found Elisha, (I Kings:19:19-21) he was plowing a field with 11 oxen and Elisha himself filled out the team of 12.  In other words, Elisha had placed himself under the yoke.  Apparently, when Elijah walked past Elisha, he threw his cloak over him and Elisha knew he had been called to be a prophet.  In fact, Elisha would be Elijah’s successor.

This whole story lends itself to some imaginative thinking.  I only wish that Elisha would have had a different name.  It gets a bit confusing.  Having received the cloak, Elisha got himself out from under the yoke and ran after Elijah.  He only wanted to go back and properly say good bye to his parents.  I can just here his mother crying, “my son, my son.”  His dad wants to know who he expects to finish the plowing while he goes off on this wild goose chase with that, to say the least, rather odd prophet Elijah.

What does Elisha do?  He butchered the 11 oxen, used their yokes as firewood and cooked the whole lot.  That must have been some feast.  As you know butchering a beef cow entails a lot of work and then he does 11 oxen?  That even out does Abraham’s morsel of food that he provided the three visitors or the celebration the father threw for his Prodigal Son.  Besides all that Elisha’s action might be compared to wrecking all the machinery on a farm.

But these strange radical events fill the Bible from beginning to end.  God’s call takes priority over everything else.  Fishermen leave their nets, tax collectors leave their booth, Saul’s mission to annihilate believers in Christ is stopped in its tracks and Saul becomes Paul with a whole mission.  God’s expectations are nothing less than amazing.  He even expects his own perfect son to go to the earth, live among His creatures and finally be killed for everything that everyone ever did, thought or said against God’s.

The question then arises for us; what oxen do we have that need to be left behind to be about doing the will of God?

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