"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Monday, May 4, 2009

Raising the Standard: Loyalty Is Knowing And Following The Wishes Of Those Responsible For Me

This is the final aspect of Christian Loyalty. Next up will be Responsibility. Blessings.... The Albatross
How Does Scripture Illustrate The Importance Of Following Unspoken Wishes?
Two men entered the city and sat down to rest. The old and mighty prophet looked at his younger assistant.
"Why don't you wait here, for the Lord wants me to go on to the next city." The younger man wondered what the prophet meant. God had called him to learn from the older man and assist him. He noticed that the prophet was earnestly watching to see what his response would be. Sensing what the prophet's real wishes were, he answered, "I purpose before God that I will not leave you."
These words seemed to please the old man, but as they walked on to the next city his assist wondered what kind of test he was being put to and why.
At the next city, the same thing happened. The old prophet said, "You say here. God has called me to go to the river Jordan." This time the younger man answered more quickly, "I promise before God I will not leave you." When they reached the river, the mighty prophet took his cloak and struck the water. the sight of the cloak reminded the younger assistant of an incident that had happened in his past. Suddenly, he realized why the prophet was testing him. The cloak hit the water; the river divided, and they walked across on dry ground. When they reached the other side, the old prophet turned to his assistant and asked, "What wish shall I grant you before I am taken away?" "I want a double portion of your spirit," answered the assistant. "You have asked a hard thing," replied the prophet, "but if you stay with me until I am taken up, your wish will be granted. If you do not stay with me, you will not receive your request."
Those words confirmed what the younger man had suspected. The prophet wanted to see if he had learned a quality of loyalty that he had not fully demonstrated when he was first called.
He remembered in vivid detail the day he was plowing in the field. The mighty prophet came up to him, threw his cloak over his shoulders and kept on walking. That gesture signified the special honor of being chosen as his assistant. Yet he had stood, pondering whether he would forsake all to follow. By the time he had made his decision he had to run to catch up to the older man. Had he now learned to follow without any hesitation?
Shortly thereafter, a fiery chariot appeared and the prophet was taken out of sight. Only his cloak was left behind - a reminder to Elisha that loyalty to a leader involves being sensitive to his wishes. And what was the reward of learning this lesson of loyalty? It was a double portion of his spirit. (From 1 Kings 19:19-21 and 2 Kings2:1-14)
Why Was It Difficult For Elisha To Decide To Follow Elijah?
There were four things which could have discouraged Elisha from accepting this call. First, he came from a prominent family and had the prospect of inheriting considerable material goods. The fact that Shaphat, Elisha's father, owned at least twelve teams of oxen immediately after three and a half years of drought, meant that he was able to hire at least eleven meant to work the teams and that he had a large amount of land (1 Kings 19:19). Elisha was in the position of foreman and was evidently helping to manage the farm. Second, he had a good relationship with his family and it must have been difficult for them to part. Third, he was leaving the position of heir to his father's inheritance and foreman over at least eleven servants to assume a position of servitude. He was known, not as Elijah's co-laborer, but as his humble servant (cf. 2 Kings 3:11). Fourth, he was leaving a secure and peaceful life for one of danger, disrespect and physical hardship (2 Kings 2:23). Elijah was being hunted like an animal by Queen Jezebel for killing the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:2). King Ahab also hated Elijah and thought of him as his personal enemy (1 Kings 21:20).
Was Elisha Being Disobedient By Refusing To Remain Behind?
Elisha was Elijah's companion for at least six years (cf. 1 Kings 20:22, 26; 22:1, 51). During that time he learned to discern carefully the true wishes and desires behind his master's words. He would have been able to distinguish between a test and a command by the very inflection of Elijah's voice. That Elijah was pleased by Elisha's refusal to remain behind is clear. Elisha was no doubt aware of a similar situation which involved Elijah's former servant. After Queen Jezebel ordered an all out effort to kill him, Elijah fled to Beersheba in the kingdom of Judah. In a similar situation, he requested that his servant remain behind while he went into the wilderness to die. It is significant that, although the servant was not disobedient, it is the last mention of him in Scripture, and he was soon replaced by Elisha (cf. 1 Kings 19:2-3).
Why Elisha Greedy In Asking For A Double Portion Of Elijah's Spirit?
The expression found in 2 Kings 2:9, "...let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me," is a strange one. Literally, it reads "...let a mouth or two of thy spirit come upon me." The same Hebrew idiom appears in Deuteronomy 21:17 in the Mosaic Law. It refers to the right of the first-born son to receive twice the inheritance of his younger brothers since it was to be his responsibility to take over as head of the family. Elijah was considered to be the spiritual father of the "sons of the prophets", he had just visited in Bethel and Jericho (2 Kings 2:3, 5). Sense Elisha was to be his successor and assume the responsibility of maintaining Elijah's ministry, he was merely asking for a share of the spirit that possessed Elijah, twice as large as that of the other followers of Elijah. The request demonstrated faith, dependence and humility - not greed.
Example In Nature: How Does The Grizzly Bear Demonstrate Loyalty In Following Unspoken Wishes?
In a western timber range three grizzly yearlings playfully explored the woods near their den. Their wandering took definite direction when one cub caught the scent of food. The three began to follow the smell of a dead carcass and were lured farther and farther away from the protection of their mother. Wolves had buried their game near the entrance of their den, and the cub's curiosity drew them to danger. Four wolves crouched nearby, ready to spring. they had circled behind when they spotted the cubs approaching and without warning began their deadly attack. As sharp cries from the cubs pierced the air, the mother bear came roaring to their defense. The wolves fought savagely, trying to separate the mother grizzly from her young. The battle intensified until the bears managed to fight their way to a nearby hill for safety. At this crucial moment, the third and weakest cub ignored the protective wishes of its mother. Leaving the safety of the knoll, it naively sniffed out the cache and was surrounded in seconds by the wolf pack. Now the mother was forced to expose herself and the other cubs to a second death struggle. The leader of the wolf pack returned from hunting and immediately joined the battle, distracting the raging mother while the other four wolves concentrated their efforts on the weakest cub. Recognizing the desperate plight of her cub, the mother bear broke away from the lead wolf and roared furiously toward the others. She wildly swung her powerful paws in defense. Then, with the same fury and power, she drove all three cubs through a thick patch of brush and into a glacial stream. The smallest cub cringed on the shore, frightened and dripping with blood. The mother continued pushing it out into the water until the wolves no longer followed, ending the near fatal attack. The wounds which the young cub suffered were a lasting reminder of the consequences of not following the instruction of the one responsible for it.
Will an Unteachable Cub Starve To Death?
The female grizzly takes great care in protecting and training her young. She is fiercely loyal to her cubs throughout their extensive training and in return, she expects them to pay attention to the instruction she gives. Her protective dedication is so noteworthy that even Scripture refers to it:
"Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly." ~ Proverbs 17:12
A bear cubs chances for survival would be significantly reduced if it were to learn from its own experience rather than learning by building on the experiences of its mother.

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