Burn The Plow To Cook The Oxen!
By Raymond D. Sopp
1 Kings 19:19-21: "So he (Elijah) departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, ‘Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.' And he said to him, ‘Go back again, for what have I done to you?' So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements (plow) of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. THEN he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him."
Because Elijah was battle-worn, disillusioned and dispirited God commanded Elijah to seek out Elisha and transfer his calling to him. Upon finding Elisha, Elijah briefly tossed his mantle on Elisha to symbolize the transfer of Elijah's calling to Elisha. But afterward, Elijah kept walking without saying even one word to Elisha. Consequently, Elisha had to drop everything and run after Elijah. Then Elijah said to Elisha something very extraordinary, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?" That's right, immediately Elijah did his best to discourage Elisha from following God's will for his life, i.e., to succeed Elijah as God's prophet. In other words, God's testing of Elisha had begun!
Would Elisha let Elijah's words question and dissuade him from his call? How precious was God's call to Elisha? How strong was Elisha's faith? Did Elisha have the "right stuff" to succeed Elijah? Obviously, there was not any pleading, nor any encouragement of any kind from Elijah to help motivate Elisha. What would Elisha do? When he caught up with Elijah would he then thank Elijah, worship God, and just go back to work as if nothing supernatural had happened to him? Would he just go back to the cares and concerns of this world? After all, it is conceivable that this was just one of many milestones in his life! Or did Elisha inherently know within his heart that the life he once knew was forever changed in that very brief moment when Elijah's mantle touched him? Would Elisha be willing to pay the considerable price to be God's prophet!? Would Elisha be willing to literally lay down his life for God?
As it turned out, Elisha did have the right stuff. Elisha by faith, immediately destroyed the implements of his past profession so he could serve God UNDIVIDED within his heart. Elisha knew the moment God touched him through Elijah, his life would never be the same. In that instant, Elisha was changed from a child of the earth consumed with temporal earthly concerns, to a child and prophet of God consumed with the eternal concerns of God. In a very real sense, the old Elisha died and was born-again and entered into God's kingdom where God's will ruled and reigned! (Although Elisha still needed to wait for the fulfillment via Jesus' death.) Without a second thought, by faith, Elisha made a very public declaration by burning his plow to cook the oxen which pulled it: I have lost and destroyed my old life in order to gain my new life in God!
By so doing, Elisha had removed the temptation of ever looking back. There was now nowhere else to go but to follow God's will and calling. The decision Elisha made at the very beginning of his call to burn his plow to cook his oxen, which he then fed to the people, turned out to be the wisest decision that he would ever make, inasmuch as Elijah continued to discourage Elisha. 2 Kings 2:2: "And Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.' But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So they went down to Bethel." And again in 2 Kings 2:4, "And Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.' But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So they came to Jericho." And for a third time in 2 Kings 2:6, "Then Elijah said to him, ‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.' And he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So the two of them went on." In essence, Elisha was saying, I burned my plow and fed my oxen to the people so now there is nowhere else for me to go, but to follow God and His call. Therefore, in the face of Elijah's ambiguity, Elisha remained unwavering in his commitment.
Many may say, "But Elisha was called to be a prophet of God, I'm just a normal everyday Christian." But inherent in that answer is found the root of our apathetic and dispassionate attitude toward our calling to be saints -- the holy-ones of God. Let us first establish that becoming a Christian is not only a calling from God, but it MUST be a calling from God. As with Elisha, first the call must come: John 6:42-45, "And they were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven?' Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.'" And Romans 1:6-7: "Among whom you also are the CALLED of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, CALLED as saints (holy-ones)."
Second, let us establish the preciousness of our calling as compared to Elisha's to become a prophet of God. Jesus said in Matthew 11:11, "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Therefore, John the Baptist was greater than Elisha, but since Jesus said the LEAST in the kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist, we must then conclude that the calling on ALL Christians is indeed greater than Elisha's calling to become God's prophet. Inasmuch as our call is greater, does God require, or perhaps even expect more from us than He did from Elisha? The answer is yes! Luke 12:48: ". . . And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." So then, if Elisha enthusiastically left his earthly life behind to follow God, how much more does God expect from those who receive His call to be saints to also enthusiastically leave their old earthly lives behind. And if we do not, will not Elisha's act of courage and obedience admonish us before God!?
Are you saying that we must lose (forfeit) our earthly life in order to gain our new life in God? Yes! But then again, I'm only agreeing with Jesus when He said in Matthew 16:24-25, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.'" As with Elisha, if we do not willingly abandon our old earthly lives immediately upon receiving God's call and leave ourselves nowhere else to go, we may be tempted to return to the world as we ENDURE Satan's discouragements as we wait for the fulfillment of God's promise. Hebrews 11:13-16: "All these died in faith, WITHOUT receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them."
So then, we MUST count the cost of God's call to be saints -- born-again holy-ones! Luke 14:28-34: "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace. So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions [just like Elisha]. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?"
John 6:26-27: "Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.'" Let us NOT become one of those who seek God's call of salvation because we seek to have our earthly appetites well fed. But let us seek God's call simply because we have tasted and fell passionately in love with God's kingdom – even His holiness. Therefore, with faith and enthusiasm, let us burn our plow to cook our oxen, leaving our old earthly lives behind in order to gain the true treasure of God's divine nature. Matthew 13:44-46: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
Therefore, let us no longer consider ourselves a sinner saved by grace, but a saint -- a holy-one KEPT by grace. The statement, "a sinner saved by grace," embodies that which the Nicolaitans embraced, which Jesus both warned and admonished His church to repent of in Revelation 2:15-16, "Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth."
The Nicolaitans believed they needed Jesus to be saved, inasmuch as they were sinners and needed God's grace. But the Nicolaitans believed, because they were sinners, they could continue to sin as Jesus' death and resurrection only saved their spirit. They believed they could shamelessly compromise with the world, because their flesh and spirit were completely separate and could coexist without any consequence. Therefore, they looked upon Jesus' sacrifice as keeping them safe from any repercussions of sin; in essence, believing Jesus' sacrifice gave them the freedom to sin. But in actuality that blasphemous teaching of the Nicolaitans insulted God's Spirit of grace. Hebrews 10:26-29: "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?"
In contrast, we who once WERE sinners and are NOW born-again with God's Holy Spirit, find ourselves to be saints, the holy-ones of God that are KEPT by grace. We find grace at work to cover our stumbling, but we also know in our heart that God's grace could never be used to accommodate our fleshly appetites. Titus 2:11-12: "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." And 1 John 3:7-9, "Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices (lifestyle is) righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices (lifestyle is) sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices (has a lifestyle of) sin, because His seed (Holy Spirit) abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
That's right, as God's saints, i.e., holy-ones, we CANNOT continue to sin, because sin now vexes us from within as we are instructed by God's grace and Holy Spirit within to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. God's grace will indeed cover our sins and leave behind no regret; but only if we find ourselves to be one of God's holy-ones by virtue of God's awesome miraculous power of transformation, i.e., turning a SINNER into a SAINT by means of the death and resurrection of God's only Son, Jesus. Unless that miraculous transformation takes place, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God as you MUST be born-again. Just as Elisha instinctively knew in his heart he could not keep his life and follow Elijah at the same time so he wisely burned his plow to cook his oxen; should we not also instinctively know in our heart that we cannot keep our lives in this world and fulfill our earthly appetites -- our flesh -- and follow Jesus at the same time? Luke 16:13: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." And Matthew 16:24-25, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.'"
But so often I find many well-intentioned Christians invoking God's grace seemingly without their hearts being broken and vexed over the sin committed. And they also seem to so effortlessly explain it all away by using the excuse, I'm just a sinner saved by grace. Of course, the actual state of your heart is solely between you and God, but if the above describes you, please allow me to lovingly warn you. If you are still a sinner, you are neither saved by grace, nor born-again! John the Baptist put it this way in Matthew 3:7-8, "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.'" And Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice (lifestyle is) lawlessness.'"
The word John the Baptist used for repentance in the above paragraph means, to change one's mind solely due to the sinfulness of sin and NOT because you're worried about the potential consequences of sin. True repentance is born out of a genuine change of mind toward God's view of sin, and therefore acknowledges and adopts the same view as God has toward sin. And if you go on from there and become born-again with God's Holy Spirit by accepting God's plan of redemption, you have in fact become a saint, i.e., a holy-one. When you become a saint born-again with God's Holy Spirit, not only will your mind thirst and crave after God's holiness, but now even your spirit (heart) within will be repulsed -- even nauseated by sin and begin thirsting and craving after God's holiness. If this describes you, then those times you find your spirit willing, but your flesh to be weak, thereby causing you stumble, you will also find God's grace to be both abundantly and exceedingly sufficient to cover and forgive any and all of your sins.
Why did I write this commentary? I wrote this commentary to be a safeguard to you. I want to make sure you are rock-solid and born-again. That you have indeed BURNED your plow and COOKED your oxen so you will never be tempted to look back to the profession, i.e., the world you left, as the time of our Lord's coming is near. Luke 17:28-33: "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let not the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house go down to take them away; and likewise let not the one who is in the field turn back. Remember Lot's wife. (Genesis 19:26: "But his (Lot's) wife, from behind him, LOOKED BACK; and she became a pillar of salt.") Whoever seeks to keep his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall preserve it."
As we see the day of our Lord approach, may the words of the Apostles Paul and John keep all of us firmly IN the grace of our Lord and DEAD to the world. Galatians 6:14-15: "But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a NEW (born-again) creation." And 1 John 2:15-17: "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever."
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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