“Indignation and compassion form a powerful combination. They are indispensable to vision, and therefore to leadership.” (John Stott)
After fleeing death threats from Queen Jezebel and seeking refuge at Mt Horeb, Elijah is told by God to return to Damascus, anoint two kings and make Elisha his successor (1Kings 19). After completing his tasks, he is taken away from Elisha on the banks of the River Jordan on a miraculous fiery chariot sent by God. His mantle of prophetic leadership is passed to Elisha, who validates his new-found authority by striking the river with the mantle and crossing over to the other bank on dry ground, witnessed by all the other prophets.
Test of Leadership Transition
God’s Word tells us that Elisha recognises the significance of the mantle or cloak placed on him by Elijah as he is farming on his father’s farm. After settling his personal affairs and bidding goodbye to his family, Elisha sets off to become Elijah’s servant (1 Kings 19:21). Through an intensive time together, Elisha forms a strong bond with his master. In the story of 2 Kings 2:1–18, three times Elijah told Elisha to stay behind while he travelled to another place. Each time, Elisha refused, and stuck by his master’s side. We get a sense that Elijah is testing Elisha to see whether he is indeed ready to take up the mantle of godly leadership.
For Elisha, it is a bittersweet journey. He knows that he has been chosen to be Elijah’s successor. Yet, he knows that for this to happen, he has to “let go” of the great man whom he looks up to, one who is like a spiritual father to him. It might have been easier for him to avoid this painful event and stay behind, as Elijah urged him to do. But he is determined to see it through to the end.
Similarly, the life of an aspiring Christian successor is not an easy one. You will be repeatedly tempted to stay where you are instead of moving forward on the difficult journey ahead. But if the Lord has called you to assume biblical leadership in the local church or Christian community, you need to trust Him to develop the inner strength of character and fortitude to push forward despite every distraction, discouragement and resistance.
A Powerful Combination
From his own experience, John Stott stated that “indignation and compassion form a powerful combination. They are indispensable to vision, and therefore to leadership.” These twin qualities of leadership are seen in both Elijah and Elisha. Elijah is a man of few words. Yet, he is not afraid to confront and rebuke both King Ahab and King Ahaziah for forsaking the Lord and worshipping pagan gods. At the same time, he is filled with compassion for the widow and her ailing son in Zarephath. His passionate cries and prayer to the Lord to revive the widow’s dead son reveals a lot about his inner heart of compassion for the poor and sickly.
As for Elisha, he is driven to indignation at the dire disrespect and blasphemy the young men at Bethel show towards him and his God. “He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria” (2 Kings 2:24-25). Yet, we see his compassionate side when he heals a city of its polluted water source by pouring salt into its spring (2 Kings 2:19-22).
God’s promise to us
As we prepare for our move to the new place of worship and ministry early next year, the Lord has promised that His presence will go before us. He has enabled Hermon to finance the purchase and renovation of the unit amidst challenging times. By His grace, our younger generation of leaders are learning the ropes of leadership under the close teaching and guidance of the current church leaders. We are thankful that one of them has agreed to step forward to be elected into the Session. May the Lord raise more young and godly leaders in the coming years for the extension of His kingdom and for His glory. Amen.
– Eld Elgin Chan