Spiritual LEADERS should ‘PASS ON’ their MANTLES of MINISTRY
April 14 Bible Reading: 2 Kings Chapters 1-3
"He (Elisha) also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, "The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha." And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him." (2 Kings 2:13-15)
Not too long ago, God had designated Joshua to take over the leadership of Israel from Moses (Num. 27:12–23; Deut. 31:1–8; 34:9; Josh. 1:1–9), and Joshua had led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, just as Moses had led the Israelites across the Red Sea from their land of bondage (Exo. 14; 15; Josh. 3). In the similar fashion, God had designated Elisha to be the successor to Elijah at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:16), which was later reaffirmed when Elijah had cast his mantle upon Elisha as a symbolic sign that Elisha would be his successor (1 Kings 19:19).
Elijah’s mantle was the symbol of the authority he had been given by God in his prophetic ministry. Now when Elijah was transported to heaven through a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire through a whirlwind into heaven (v. 11), the mantle that Elijah carried with him all along throughout his earthly ministry fell upon Elisha, who was witnessing this incident close by. With Elijah’s departure to heaven, Elisha took up the prophetic status and ministry that this mantle symbolized. Even though this mantle was only a symbol, but in the hands of Elijah it became an instrument of God’s power just like the rod had been for Moses in the past (Exo. 4:1–9; 7:9).
When Elisha cried out: "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" (v. 14), God reaffirmed the transference of the double portion of Elijah’s spirit by parting the River Jordan just as He did for Elijah (v. 8). The sons of the prophets had witnessed both the miracle of Elijah (v. 8) and the similar miracle of Elisha (v. 14), and affirmed that "the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha." They bowed in respect before Elisha as they recognized his prophetical authority now in place of Elijah.
After the resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ has passed on a similar authority to us as His followers with these words: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:18-20). The mantle of authority and power has been demonstrated through the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), which was promised by Jesus earlier in Acts 1:8.
Today, every believer is mandated by Jesus to ‘make disciples’, while every spiritual leader is now required to ‘mentor disciples’ to take leadership roles, just like Elijah mentored Elisha and passed on a double portion of his spirit when he left the earth. When spiritual leaders mentor able and qualified disciples, it would involve investing time, energy, labor and loving sacrifice in their lives. It is very important that spiritual leaders intentionally take effort to pass on their mantles of ministry to able disciples today, just as Apostle Paul did to his spiritual son Timothy through his two letters (1 & 2 Timothy). This way, the work of God will be carried forward to the next generation without any interruptions. May God give our spiritual leaders deep insights in the area of succession planning and preparation in these last days!