What leadership and mentoring lessons do we find in the relationship between Elijah and Elisha?

Elijah was a prophet called by God who originated from Tishbeh in Gilead. (1) He served the Lord in the Northern Kingdom through the reign of a succession of kings – Ahab c.869-850; Ahaziah c. 850-849; Jehoram c. 849-842, descendants of Omri c. 876-869. (2) Waltke states that Omri usurped Israel’s throne, ushering in the worst rule in Israel’s history, establishing the Canaanite worship of Baal and Asherah as a state religion. (3) There has been some debate among scholars on the timeframe of the narratives of Elijah, whether they were part of the Deuteronomistic History or “preexilic redaction” of narratives or “post-Dtr additions” of 1-2 Kings. (4) These narratives showed Elijah to be the leader (master) of a group of prophets during this time who may have passed on information about him. (5) It is not clear if Elisha was a part of this “company of prophets” who were under Elijah’s tutelage. However, it is clear God called both Elijah and Elisha to magnify I AM and expose the wickedness of Israel. (6)

Elisha is first mentioned in 1 Kings 19:16 as the son of Shaphat in Abel Meholah, (7) when God tells Elijah to anoint him as a prophet to replace him. Elijah throws his cloak over Elisha as a symbol of the transferring of his authority onto Elisha. Elisha’s commitment to become Elijah’s understudy is evident when Elisha dismantles the plow he had been using and burns it, ready to say goodbye to his parents and follow Elijah. The mentoring begins.
The term “mentoring” is defined as “the practice of helping and advising a less experienced person over a period of time, especially as part of a formal programme in a company ….” (8) I agree with a few John Maxwell leadership principles evident in Elijah and Elisha’s relationship:

1) You have to want it. The Bible intimates that Elijah had leadership over a company of prophets, but only Elisha was singled out specifically. However, in that calling he had to completely surrender his former life and follow Elijah wholly, as evidenced by his burning of the plow and saying goodbye to his parents.
2) You have to wait for it. Elisha clung to Elijah for years, watching and learning, submitting to his master through their life experiences together.
3) You have to stick with it. During the course of this mentorship in the northern kingdom, the atmosphere was rough – the kings were ungodly and cruel. This had to create difficulties for these two prophets of God. But Elisha had wholeheartedly committed himself to his training under Elijah and persevered through the challenges.
4) You have to ask boldly for it. I believe that through the years with Elijah, there was such a confidence and trust in Yahweh learned by Elisha that he was able to boldly ask for a double portion of the anointing that had rested on Elijah … and Yahweh responded to his boldness by confirming his request with twice the miracles of Elijah. (9)

What I have found in my own experience is that God may call you as a leader, but there must be an agreement within you to allow Him to form you into the leader He calls you to be, just as He did with Elijah and Elisha. It takes a decision of your will to follow the Lord’s mentoring, pruning, obstacles, and trials through every stage of leadership. But if you will stay committed and not give up, His calling in you will come to pass and bear fruit that remains for His glory.
By Sue Schultz

(1) Who was Elijah in the Bible? | GotQuestions.org
(2) Bill T. Arnold and H.G.M. Williamson, Editors, Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books (2005), (IVP Academic, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, Nottingham, England), 251
(3) Bruce Waltke with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology, Zondervan Academic, © 2007, Grand Rapids, MI, 715
(4) Arnold and Williamson, 250
(5) Arnold and Williamson, 249
(6) Waltke, 716
(7) Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, Vol. 2 (2019), W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London, 512
(8) https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/mentoring; 2023 Oxford University Press
(9) https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/02/john-maxwell-profiles-in-leadership-elisha-the-mantle-of-leadership/

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