Elisha was a yond man plowing his father’s fields when he first encountered the prophet Elijah. Elisha immediately dropped everything to follow him. For years, he served as an apprentice while Elijah performed his duties as a prophet-often under and lows, to his courageous obedience and crippling doubts. He observed the way Elijah interacted with kings and commoners. He studied the prophet’s personal relationship with God.
Elisha absorbed the example set by his mentor. Elijah’s influence helped shape Elisha’s spiritual outlook. And when the time came for Elijah to depart-via a whirlwind to heaven-Elisha was ready to assume his own role as a prophet of God.
It’s telling that Elisha’s first act after Elijah’s departure was to use his mentor’s mantle to part the waters of the Jordan River. Elijah’s influence was obvious. Yet Elisha faced circumstances that Elijah never did. So when he was greatly influenced by his mentor’s example, Elisha had to walk the unique path God had laid out for him.
His first text came when the people of Jericho approached him about a life-threatening situation. The water of the area was bad, causing sickness in humans and livestock and preventing vegetation from growing. Elisha instructed them to bring him a new bowl filled with salt. He poured the salt into a nearby spring and pronounced God’s blessing on it. Immediately the water of the area became pure-sweet to the taste and highly effective for growing crops (1 Kings 2:19-22).
Elisha was quickly reminded that where God’s work is being done, there will be opposition. As he approached the town of Bethel, a group of boys gathered to hurl insults and verbal abuse at him. But in mocking Elisha-God’s representative to his people-they were also mocking God. So God sent a couple of ferocious female bears from a nearby forest into the crowd of mockers, and the bears mauled 42 of them (2 Kings 2:23-25). Needless to say, respect for Elisha and his work increased significantly after that.
When the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom joined together to fight the Moabites, they turned to Elisha in a moment of crisis. On the verge of battle, their soldiers had no water to drink. Their extreme thirst made them weak and vulnerable. Elisha told the kings to dig ditches, there they would find pure drinking water for the soldiers and their horses. First, though, he rebuked the king of Israel-to this face-for the wick-edness and idolatry that ran rampant in his kingdom. Elisha proclaimed God’s word boldly, with no fear for his own safety and with no concern for his future.
That partially explains why God used him to accomplish some remarkable feats. When the widow of one of the sons of God’s prophets told Elisha that creditors were going to take her sons because of her husband’s unpaid debts, Elisha gave her instructions that miraculously turned one small pot of oil into a surplus of oil that she was able to sell to pay those debts (2 Kings 4:1-7).
When the young son of an elderly Shunammite couple suddenly died, Elisha prayed over the boy’s body until God brought him back to life. When a military commander named Naaman was stricken by a skin disease, Elisha instructed him to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times in order to be healed. Naaman did as he was told an received God’s healing.
During his 65 years of service, Elisha became a revered and beloved fixture among God’s people. Like his mentor, Elijah, he was renowned for his fearlessness and faithfulness is serving the Lord. When he died, the entire nation of Israel mourned. Elisha had been schooled by one of the best; but ultimately his ministry, influence, and legacy were unlike anyone else’s.
2 KINGS 2:15 – “When the sons of the prophets from Jericho who were facing him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ They came to meet him and bowed down to the ground in front of him.”