So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.
-1 Kings 20:21 (NIV)
So Elisha is out in the fields with his oxen, doing the daily plowing he was used to. Up walks Elijah, who promptly puts his cloak on Elisha, symbolic of passing the torch. Before he leaves to be Elijah’s assistant, Elisha proceeds to kiss his parents goodbye, and then immediately kills all of his oxen and sets his plow on fire.
I love the significance of Elisha’s actions here. The life of a successful plowman is all he had ever known. If the whole prophet thing didn’t work out, it represented a safety net. Most of us would love having that back-up plan before we took such a leap of faith.
But no, not Elisha. Instead of allowing his past to linger in the back of his mind, he completely destroyed everything that had something to do with his former lifestyle. For him this is a new beginning.
I think this story works on two levels for us today. First, when God calls us, do we show the same level of commitment and trust that Elisha did? Or do we leave fallback options, just in case? Secondly, when Christ called us to follow him and leave our life of sin, do we cut off all ties from our past lives? Or do we keep some sinful doors open, just in case?
You see, being called by God, no matter the gravity of the situation, oftentimes means cutting ties with something else. Unfortunately, it’s usually the things we’re most comfortable with… Things we cling to like our lifestyle, sustenance, and families. And that’s never easy.
But when God is moving, we must respond. Something big is about to happen. No safety nets, back-up plans, or fallback options allowed.
You gotta do what you gotta do. Slaughter your oxen, burn your plow.
There’s no turning back.