1 Kings 19:19-21 – So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
God told Elijah to appoint Elisha as his successor as prophet in Israel, and so Elijah went and did just that. Elijah’s placing his cloak on Elisha’s shoulders is a symbol, the mantle is passed, and Elisha is next. Elisha asks permission to go and close up shop at his home, and Elijah basically tells him to do whatever he wants. Elisha realizes that now is the time to go, and so he does so.
What grabs my attention about Elisha’s calling is what Elisha does when he realizes that this is a right here and right now call of God on his life. He sacrifices the oxen with which he had been plowing the field. He boils the meat by burning the ox yokes. Then he gets up and goes.
Elisha made a clean break from one life to another. Burning the yokes and sacrificing the oxen is a no-turning-back kind of decision. He cuts off all ties to his former life, and he follows God by serving Elijah. And, as we will read in later chapters, this is the life that Elisha will live for all the rest of his days.
What we can learn from this, I think, is the call to burn the yokes. Like the legendary command of Hernando Cortez to burn the ships upon which his conquistadores had sailed to Mexico, we need to give the order to sever ties to our old life. To the follower of God in Christ, there is no other option. There is no turning back. There must be no embracing again of habits, life patterns, or sinful worldly thinking. Everything in us Is supposed to be new. All of our lives are to be changed.
Where do you need to burn the yokes of your past? Do you still do some of the things that you did before your conversion to Christianity that keeps your life tied to non-Christian thinking or behavior? Do you still make decisions in the same way that you did before? Do you still think the same about politics, entertainment, or morality? Is there an area of your life that you have not surrendered to the scriptures to be conformed into God’s image? If so, it is time to burn the yokes. It is time to cut the ties. You are a new creation in Christ (1 Corinthians 5:17), and you can not allow yourself to think or behave as you did before Jesus. Sure, if you loved baseball or lasagna before your conversion, you can still enjoy them; but they will never have the same meaning in or hold upon your life as before.
Dear Lord, I pray that you will help me to burn the yokes that tie me to my old manner of life. Help me to sever ties to worldly thinking. Help me to no longer feel, think, or behave in the same way that I did when I did not know you. Please reveal to me an area of my life where the change needs to be made. Then, please speak to me through your word to challenge me to make a clean and permanent break from it. I am yours, and you are my Lord. I desire to obey your will in my life. I do not want to look anything like I did before I knew you, so help me to make any adjustments necessary to live as a new creation in Christ.