Picture this: Elijah was running for his life—from the wicked queen Jezebel.
At a time when he needed all the friends he could get, Elijah found himself isolated in the wilderness battling fearful imaginations of Jezebel’s henchmen making good on her death threat. His servant was supposed to protect him, to stand with him—to run with him if necessary. Instead this unnamed servant stayed behind in Beersheba (1 Kings 19:3). The Bible says Elijah left his servant there, but there’s no indication that the servant even so much as tried to stay by his side.
That has always puzzled me. Elijah’s servant had just watched God bring rain to the land at Elijah’s word after a long drought. This servant had just witnessed Elijah call down fire from heaven. Elijah’s servant had witnessed the man of God defeat 850 prophets with his sword. God only knows how many other miracles Elijah’s servant witnessed. Yet at the first sign of trouble, the servant stayed behind in Beersheba, a fertile land of plenty, while Elijah isolated himself in the wilderness.
Well, Elijah’s servant missed out—that’s the last we hear of Elijah’s servant. He could have been in line for a double portion anointing, but he forfeited it by not sticking with Elijah through thick and thin.
God gave Elijah a new servant not too long after this. God gave him Elisha to carry on his ministry. In contrast to Elijah’s first servant, Elisha refused to leave his side. Elijah even commanded him more than once to stay behind and Elisha refused to leave him.
From the beginning you can see Elisha’s fervent spirit for the Lord. Elisha was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen when Elijah passed by him and cast his mantle upon him. Let’s listen in to the chronicle: “And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him?" (1 Kings 19:20-21, KJV).
Elisha served Elijah faithfully—and fervently. He was widely known in the kingdom of Israel as the one who poured water over Elijah’s hands (1 Kings 3:11). Through his faithful, fervent service to Elijah, Elisha was actually serving God’s purposes in the earth and being prepared to do even greater works than Elijah.
But when Elijah’s time was drawing to an end, would Elisha stick with him or rush out to launch his own ministry before God’s perfect timing? Would Elisha hang tough with Elijah no matter where he went or what he did? Or would he take any excuse to bail out when the warfare got intense like Elijah’s other servant did when Jezebel came calling? Elijah gave his apprentice three chances to leave his service.
It reminds me of when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” three times. Jesus was giving Peter more responsibility for the Church in that process. Elisha may or may not have realized it, but Elijah was about to give him a great responsibility—as his successor. Elisha had already been anointed as his successor, but now it was nearing time to take the mantle of responsibility and carry on where Elijah would leave off (1 Kings 19:15-16).
Elisha knew his master was about to go up to heaven. Instead of bailing on him, he stuck closely by Elijah’s side to draw everything he could to the very end. “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:9-10)
Elisha was bold enough to ask Elijah for a double portion of his anointing before he went on to be with the Lord. He knew he would need it to continue the work of the ministry. Based on his service up until that time, Elijah was willing to entertain the request. But would Elisha stick by his side until the end? Elisha would have to if he wanted that double portion.
"And it came to pass as they went on, and talked…” (2 Kings 2:11)
I like that. These two prophets—younger and older—walked on together and they talked. Can you imagine what they were talking about? Both men knew that their time together was now short. This was Elisha’s last chance to draw wisdom from his mentor; Elijah’s last chance to offer his spiritual son instruction. And while they were talking, a chariot of fire parted them and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into the heavens.
And Elisha saw it. And Elisha received the double portion anointing for which he petitioned. And here’s my point: Elijah’s other servant, the one who stayed behind at Beersheba, was a candidate for this double portion anointing. At the very least, he was in line to receive a mighty impartation from Elijah.
But Elijah’s other servant wasn’t willing to go with him through the hard times, to the hard places, with the hard words. Elijah’s other servant didn’t have this same fervent spirit, serving the Lord. So Elijah’s other servant disappears into Bible obscurity, without even so much as a name by which to call him. But the Bible says Elisha, by contrast, went on to do twice as many miracles as his mentor. Elisha maintained his fervency until the end.
In fact, Elisha was so fervent in spirit that the miraculous followed him after he was dead and buried: “And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet” (2 Kings 13:21).
How about you? Are you faithful? Are you fervent? Consider the anointing God has in store for those who faithfully—and fervently—serve Him at all costs.