Carrying Elijah’s Spirit
‘The sons of the prophets were at Bethel.’ -2 Kings 2
Elijah is getting ready to depart this world. The tide of his earthly days has gone out. The record of his life in 1 Kings reads like a Tarantino film: unpredictable, often dark, and gloriously gut wrenching. This son of the desert has fought good fights and finished his marathon. He is ending well. Elijah is now accompanied by his mentee and friend, Elisha. This successor will continue Elijah’s work and finish those parts of his mission that remain undone. Elisha has been loyal. His faithfulness to his older friend and teacher will soon be rewarded.
Elijah’s wardrobe, his mantel in particular, places him apart from the urbanites whom Jezebel―that Baal-snogging, Yahweh-blaspheming, prophets-blood-drinking, horror of a Queen―has fashioned in top tier Phoenician threads. Elijah doesn’t waste his time or resources trying to appear normal. And now that rough, camel-hair mantel is now about to be passed down to the next generation; a generation that must carry his spirit onward.
As Elijah travels, we see that he is leaving behind more than just Elisha. Throughout the journey they encounter pacts of zealous young men who are loyal to Elijah and eager to see Baal’s influence broken in their nation. Like the eldest brother in a Hebrew family, Elisha will get a double spiritual portion of what these other disciples get. But it should be noted that Elijah is not just leaving behind this one exceptional mentee. He is leaving behind a rambunctious movement of holy disciples that will carry on his spiritual DNA of mission, prayer, and faithfulness to God’s Word.
These are, in the words of Scripture, the ‘sons of the prophets’. The Hebrew word here is ben and it means ‘son’ in the widest possible sense―both literal and figurative. This group gets its name by following the teachings of Elijah and other recognised prophets. They are Elijah Men. They refuse the influence of the witch-queen that rules with King Ahab from Samaria.
These are not the sort of church boys we know in 21st Century Britain who are often nice in manners but weak in spirit. Elijah Men do not have a reputation for being weak. And, depending on who you ask, they don’t have a reputation for being overly nice either. These aren’t simply your kindly old, cardigan-wearing ministers that have all the backbone of a chocolate éclair. They speak bold words of words of repentance― though always given with tears.
They are scallywags for Yahweh. They are men who seek to reform themselves and their nation at any cost. They carry Elijah’s spirit: a violent fervour against the Jezebellic rats nest of spiritual compromise. They are a movement undoing all that Jezebel has created and are counterculturally turning Israel back to YHWH God. Apostate generations that give themselves to twisted tales and crooked promptings are always in desperate need of prophetic voices. They need Elijah Men who will roll away stones and call those who are dead in sin back to life.
Those who think our day is any better than Elijah’s need to stop popping their pills and petting their unicorns. We need to awaken to our evil condition that is somewhere far north of grotesque. It is urgent that in the midst of our apostasy we let the prophetic side of our discipleship shine forth. We must learn to carry the spirit of Elijah. When Peter stood up at Pentecost and preached that courageous sermon that smashed 3,000 hearts to repentance, he cited Joel’s prophecy that ‘your sons and daughters will prophesy.’ One of the reoccurring features of this apostolic phenomenon known as the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ is clear: and they spoke the word of God boldly. Perhaps no other sign will be so evident of the Spirit’s activity than that of men and women courageously and effectively speaking gospel truth.
Are we sons of the prophets? Are we playing or praying? Are we acting or agonising? Are we letting Holy Ghost filled men and women pour into our lives? Are we hyping or discipling? If you were taken away by God, who would you leave behind to finish the work you have begun? Part of our success is handing the baton on to a successor. Is our church like a refrigerator ― coolly preserving piety? Or are we like an incubator that hatches out new converts and grows young disciples? Are we learning to walk in a counter-cultural holiness and calling others to do the same?
It is our prayer that, in the midst of a generation drunk on its own special multi-flavoured variety of insanity that God would raise up a bold movement of nameless, faceless, unknown scallywags that would faithfully carry Elijah’s mantel. We pray for those who, in the spirit of Elijah, would drain Jezebel’s swamp that so much of the church finds herself paralysed in and proclaim Christ’s coming Kingdom in power.
In our day, Lord, bring it to pass.
Joshua D. Jones
Joshua D. Jones is the landlord at http://www.sanitys-cove.com and tweets over @BlueCheezWhisky. He's author of 'Forbidden Friendships' and after 7 years of student work in Nottingham, he became pastor of Therfield Chapel (just south of Cambridge, England). He enjoys music, his pipe, grace, coffee, his wife, whisky and his friends. SanitysCove@Gmail.Com