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Leaders for Every Generation

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Text:  1 Kings 19:19-21

Title:  Leaders for Every Generation

Textual Theme, Goal, Need:

Theme:  God raises up leaders for every generation

Goal:  to encourage Israel, that God always raises up godly leaders.

Need:  Prophets have been killed and some have fallen away.  Many could feel like Elijah, that they are the only ones left.

Sermon Theme, Goal, Need:

Theme:  God raises up leaders for every generation.

Goal: to encourage God’s people that he is continually raising up godly leaders.

Need:  People often wonder what will come when new leadership comes.

Textual Outline:

Textual Notes:

Sermon Outline:

  1. Introduction about how leadership is downplayed in the church.  Perhaps it leaves us with no leaders of the future.  That is a problem.  But God raises up leaders for every generation.
  2. Cloak throwing- yoking to each other.  Training and moving on into leadership together.
  3. The kiss good-bye- Elijah says it is okay.  Things are more urgent with Christ.
  4. The Big Barbeque-  Elisha was so committed to his new calling he destroyed his past commitments, and replaced them with his new priority.
  5. Conclusion:  Encourage new leaders to take on the yoke of leadership with us together.  To encourage the whole congregation to set their priorities.

Sermon in Oral Style:

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

          So my wife and I have set out on a new adventure this year.  We have made a real garden for the first time in our lives.  It is amazing how much work goes into creating a tiny little garden.  Many people here probably have little produce gardens and some flowers as well.

          Just working that little garden makes me think of days gone by. The days when a pair of oxen would do all the plowing in the fields.  It would be tough for the farmer.  Probably even more difficult for the oxen.

          This mornings passage brings us right into the fields where the farmers and the oxen are hard at work.  It’s probably one of the most unlikely places to find a message about faith a leadership, but that’s where our passage brings us.

          The passages just before this we hear Elijah crying out to God.  “God, I am the only one left who doesn’t love this world.  I am the only one left who has stayed truly committed to you.”  Elijah thinks, “After I’m gone, what then?”

          Elijah’s cry isn’t that different from the way we feel as well.  We’ve gotten to comfortable in our sinful world if we don’t sometimes feel like screaming out, “God!  What is going on here!  Why don’t people trust in you!  Our whole world is going to hell and no one seems to care!”  And like Elijah, we think about the future.  We see how Jesus Christ just doesn’t seem that important any more.  Faith isn’t important.  The church isn’t important.  And being a leader in the church just doesn’t seem all that important.

          Our passage gives us encouragement, especially on a Sunday where we ordain new elders and deacons.  God is never irrelevant.  He will always bring people to the faith.  And, for 150 years he has been raising up leaders in the Christian Reformed Church, leaders for every generation.

          Back in verse 16 we find that God tells Elijah not worry.  He is going to train a new prophet. 

          But Elisha isn’t a Levite or a priest or someone else that is familiar with the work of a prophet.  He is a farmer.  He knows farming.  He probably eats, sleeps and breathes farming.

          That’s how we find ourselves out in the middle of the fields to hear God’s message about faith and leaders for the next generation.  Elijah goes out into the fields to make Elisha the next great prophet to God’s people. 

          I say Elisha eats, sleeps and breaths farming because it is obvious that Elisha is part of a huge farming operation.  His family has 12 yoke of oxen for plowing.  That is a lot.  That means his family is probably constantly busy working expansive fields and caring for these important animals.

          As Elisha is out plowing Elijah goes out to him, and three weird but wonderful things happen.  Each of these weird but wonderful things God uses to promise he will pass on the faith to future generations, and to show that he will always train leaders for every generation

          The first weird but wonderful thing that happens is this thing with Elijah’s cloak.  It tells us that Elijah walks up to Elisha in the field.  Elijah has this cloak on.  Without a word, Elijah goes up to Elisha and he tosses this cloak over his shoulders.  Imagine that happening to you, some one sees you working, walks up.  “yeah, how can I help you.”  Whoosh.  Okay, that’s weird. 

          Tossing a cloak over someone is like passing on the power.  Elijah is now passing on the power of a prophet to Elisha.

          There is more to it also.  Just like Elisha was so used to yoking up the oxen to work the fields, Elijah tosses to cloak over him.  Elisha figuratively is yoked to the work of God.

          Instead of working the fields like his oxen, he is working people’s hearts and souls back to God again.

          Leadership in the church is not easy.  It comes with a measure of authority.  It comes with the respect of others.  But it is something that you will be yoked to.  It will be something that requires focus, and looking ahead, and pushing hard when there are hard times.

          The other neat thing about this image of Elisha have a yoke thrown over his shoulders is that a new ox is never just yoked in by itself expected to do the work.  When an ox is just being taught to plow, it is put in the yoke with another more experienced ox.  One that will bear the brunt of the weight.  One that will be slowed down and less productive for a time.  But the new ox is always yoked in with an experienced one. 

          With Elisha he isn’t to be yoked by himself, told to just manage on his own.  He is yoked in with Elijah.  In fact, after this story, you don’t hear of Elisha again for several chapters.  It says in verse 21 that he set out to follow Elijah and be his attendant.  For chapters, Elisha is on the side, learning, being encouraged helped along the way.  Apprenticed into this.

          That is the way we all should treat our brothers and sisters in the faith.  We are always yoked to each other.  We are always trying to help each other learn more of what it means to be a believer and a follower of Christ.  And when the row gets hard to hoe, we help carry each others burdens. 

          That is true of the leadership in council as well.  We are a team together.  New members on the council join, not to be left alone, but we help each other out bring each other along.  Encourage each other when the job is difficult. 

          That’s the first weird but wonderful thing that happens.  The next thing that happens is Elijah and Elisha have this weird little conversation.  Verse 20.  20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” [1]

    We can understand why Elisha wants to say good-by, but what is Elijah talking about.  Its almost like something you would expect from a Jedi master.  One of these statements that sounds really important but makes most of us go, “what is he talking about.”

          Elijah asks the question to make him think of the importance of the task at hand.  This isn’t something that you simply go into half way.  Being yoked to a Prophet is pretty demanding.  In fact, it will involve him going far away and possibly giving up his life.  Following the good teacher will involve huge sacrifice.  He may never see his family again.

          So he goes back and says good bye to his family.  He holds a feast for all those close to him. 


       Now, Christ had a similar situation happen to him in his ministry.  Maybe you remember this time.  Luke 9: 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”[2]   Almost the same situation.  Let me go back and say goodbye.  Jesus says no.  The reason why Elijah says yes, and Jesus says no is because the cost of following Christ is just that much greater than following Elijah.  Jesus had to pay the ultimate sacrifice.  His life for the sins of the world. 

As followers of Christ, as apprentices of Jesus, we must be ready to bear that huge cross to be a person who follows.  Apprentices who follow Elijah can take time to say goodbye.  Apprentices who follow Christ need to not turn back.  Only look ahead.  Don’t be insensitive or rude.  But do not get swayed at all.

And in a way that no-turning-back attitude for faith and leadership is exactly what Elisha lived up to.  We see it in the last weird but wonderful thing he does in the passage.  He goes back to have this goodbye celebration.  But did you notice what the main course of the party was?  He slaughtered his yoke of oxen.  One day they are the most important thing to him.  The next he slits their throats and uses their meat for a huge celebrations.  And to make it even more dramatic, he doesn’t just use any old wood for the barbecue.  He takes the wood from the yoke of those oxen.  He cooks the meat of the oxen over the fire of their own yokes. 

This is it.  This is the end of that old life for Elisha.  What this marks is a drastic change in priorities for his life.  He isn’t committing part time.  Maybe he isn’t busy he’ll get to it.  He has now made his following of Elijah priority #1.  No more yoking up the two oxen for a day in the fields.  He is now yoked to Elijah, to learn from him and be the leader of the next generation.

For us, our Christian life is the same.  When we give ourselves over to Christ, the old life is gone.  The priorities change.  What is holding you back from truly following Christ?  Life is not about wealth, or about free time, or even about family time, or company time.  Life is first and foremost about following Christ.  It is about being thankful that he has chosen us.  That he has thrown his cloak around us.  Its about living out that grace in our lives. 

And it is after we have decided to truly be yoked with Christ, and follow his lead and be trained by him that everything else in life makes sense.  With Christ’s lead we know how to be good spouses and good friends.  When we are yoked to Christ we know how to be good parents and we know what true quality time with the kids looks like.  Its when we are yoked to Christ that we run our businesses, build our buildings, crunch the figures, work for justice in the world all by the word; all of life makes sense when Christ is priority #1.  Get rid of what else has yoked us, and walking together with Christ.  Being a true follower of Christ.

And for you who were newly ordained today, we can be so thankful that Jesus Christ by his grace for every generation raises up leaders for every generation.  Now it is up to you to feel the weight of the yoke of Christ.  He tell us his yoke is easy.  His burden is light.  But it will require sacrifice, and it will require that you walk in step with Christ.  He’s leader in the yoke, but you need to walk right along with him.  The only way to be a true leader in Christ’s church is to cast off whatever yoke has been pulling you and giving yourself completely to serving Christ.  Serve Christ as a leader.  But first serve Christ with the rest of your life. 

Thank God, for Christ’s yoke being put on us.  Thank God for godly leaders that take an extra burden upon them.  Thank God for his grace through every generation..

This is God’s will from his word.  And all God’s people say, AMEN.


[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Ki 19:20

[2] The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Lk 9:61-62

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