Have you burned your plow?

by Daniel Ausbun, First Baptist Church, Moreland

One of the great Old Testament Bible stories is when the prophet Elijah anointed Elisha to succeed him.

What’s significant about their transition is what Elisha did when the Lord called him. I meet too many Christians who want to accomplish great things for the Lord, but their past haunts them.

I remember being a ministerial student during college at Samford University and talking with other young men who had been called into the ministry, but they majored in business to have something to “fall back” on.

Today most of those young men have already “fallen back” on their business career.

Elijah had an encounter with the Lord, and the Lord spoke to him in a soft whisper at the entrance of a cave. Elijah felt alone and no longer wanted to be a prophet. He believed everyone had abandoned God’s teaching and he was the only one left following the Lord (1 Kings 19:14).

You might also feel you’re the only one at work, school or in your family who obeys the teachings of God. You strive to live a righteous life, yet everyone else is bragging about their sin.

When Elijah felt this way, God reminded him that there were 7,000 people in Israel who had never bowed to the idol Baal. God sometimes has to remind us that He has followers. When everyone else is engrossed in immorality, the Lord knows His people.

Elisha was plowing the field with the oxen, and Elijah walked up and threw his mantle over him. A mantle during Old Testament Bible times was a cape that prophets of the Lord would wear. It was a symbolic act of passing the mantle when Elijah draped Elisha with his cape.

This meant that Elisha would soon succeed Elijah. God had selected Elisha and Elijah understood by anointing a new prophet, his time would soon come to a close. Elijah did not ask Elisha if he wanted to be a prophet. Elisha was honored by this calling and wanted to say “good-bye” to his parents.

Elisha took the oxen he was plowing with, slaughtered them, and then burned the yoke and plow he was using. He used the yoke and plow for firewood and cooked the oxen for a goodbye feast with his family (1 Kings 19:21).

Most likely the oxen, yoke and plow were given to him from his father.

He was working his father’s field, burned all his equipment and told his parents, “farewell.” Think about their reaction. Their son was leaving his duties to become Israel’s prophet.

I’m sure his family thought, “Why didn’t he sell the oxen, yoke and plow and at least make some money?” Because Elisha burned his plow and slaughtered his oxen — he was leaving no former life to fall back on. He wasn’t going to “give it a chance” at serving the Lord.

Elisha was serious about doing the Lord’s work. He knew if he didn’t burn his plow, when times got tough, he would be tempted to go back to his father’s field. Elisha closed the door of the possibility of becoming a backslider.

Being a backslider is a serious sin.

Jesus warned us about falling back to our old way of life. He declared, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). We burn our plows by completely cutting ties with our old boyfriends. We burn our plows by throwing away the laptop that has enslaved us to pornography. We burn our plows by telling our son they can’t play baseball became it takes time away from church, which is more important.

You’re serious about following the Lord when you burn your plow. A Christ-follower leaves no possibility of becoming a backslider.

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