Elisha was chosen by God as the successor to Elijah. One might have expected God to select a prophet much like Elijah to carry on his work. But, instead, He chose two men who seem as unlike each other as oil and water.
Elijah was recognized by his long hair and rough-cut mantle; Elisha, by his staff and bald head. Elijah was a plain prophet of the wilderness; Elisha was well-to-do and enjoyed the peace of a home. Elijah rebuked kings and roared out God’s judgments; Elisha tended to be a friend of kings and his ministry majored on teaching and winning. Elijah was an exclusive and solitary figure; His successor was more social and approachable. Elijah’s ministry was fiery, fierce and abrupt—primarily prophetic. The ministry of Elisha was gentle, merciful and simple—characterized by miracles. Even the death of the prophets contrasted: Elijah disappeared in an extraordinary way; Elisha died of sickness in his old age.
One trait that stands out in Elisha’s life is his unassuming humility. He never drew attention to himself or put on airs. The Syrian military once suspected the prophet as a spy and came to arrest him. Elisha asked God to remove their sense of sight. Then he calmly led the soldiers to Samaria, prayed their sight back, and instructed the king of Israel to feed them and send them back to their homeland.
Excellent opportunities came for Elisha to brandish the astounding power God had loaned him, yet he humbly stayed in the background: When God instructed him to crown Jehu as king of Israel…when a Syrian military commander came to be healed of leprosy…when Elisha wanted to repay a woman who had showed him kindness—the prophet sent messengers instead of drawing attention to himself.
All the while Elisha was appointing and instructing national leaders, he was also training aspiring young prophets some might have neglected. Though he performed twice the miracles Elijah did, he performed them so quietly that the international reputation he gained as a select man of God is almost surprising.
What gave Elisha his spirit of quiet confidence? At dawn one day Elisha’s servant woke to find the house surrounded with thousands of Syrian soldiers. In answer to the servant’s terror the prophet simply prayed that God would open his eyes. Immediately the servant was able to view God’s almighty spiritual forces protecting them all around. Throughout his long life, Elisha knew that whatever danger or crises he faced, God was there. Elisha knew that the spiritual world around him was as real as all the physical hazards and challenges he might encounter, and he relaxed in the fact that God was on his side. That is reassurance.
What can we learn from Elisha?
Elisha was no show off. Something seems cheap and tragic about those who brandish God’s power as if it was their own. Whatever power God loans to us must be used wisely and with disinterested humility. Any honor received for God’s doings must be directed upwards. If we honor ourselves, our pride will eventually turn to shame.
Bible Verses about Elisha
1 Kings 19:16-19; 2 Kings chaps. 2-13;
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Elisha?
- What are the stories about Elisha?
- What miracles did Elisha do?
- How did Elisha help the Israelites?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis