Occasionally, we’ll read a Bible account of God’s working in human lives and notice that some of His sovereign action involved animals and birds. We can think of Noah’s raven and dove, Abraham’s ram, Balaam’s donkey, Samson’s foxes, Job’s leviathan, Absalom’s mule, Jonah’s big fish, Amos’ sheep, Peter’s fishes or Jesus’ victory horse, to name a few.
Possibly, though, we have never really thought about Elisha’s oxen. The account is found in I Kings 19:19-21. There, God reveals to us that Elijah is about to be called to appear before Him. His ministry is almost complete and Elisha will be taking the prophetic mantle of responsibility. When he arrives near Elisha’s home, Elijah finds Elisha farming–plowing his field. In use is the plowing equipment and twelve yoke of oxen, one pair of which, Elisha himself is driving. Elijah approaches, casts the prophet’s mantle around Elisha’s shoulders and awaits a response. Immediately Elisha prepares to follow.
In waiting are the oxen.
Certainly these fine animals enjoyed a sort of ‘break in the action’ as the two prophets conferred with each other and God made apparent His choice of Elijah’s successor. What happened next certainly significantly altered the oxen’s meager existence and opens our eyes to a spiritual lesson.
As God grabs hold of Elisha, Elisha grabbed hold of the plowing equipment to make a fire and grabbed the oxen to make a sacrifice–perhaps not exactly the way the oxen had thought the day might end up. Yet here they stood: on one hand was the field of work and on the other was the fire of sacrifice.
In my imagination, wondering what it would have been like if the oxen would have possessed a rational mind to logically think through the options, they might have had reason to pause. At this point in the account, for them anyway, fresh bedding in a stall, fresh water in a bucket and fresh hay in a manger might have been a pretty good ending to the work day. But, as it was, they willingly walked to the fire of sacrifice as willingly as they had earlier walked to the field of work. WOW!
In a way, I deeply admire the oxen. And I find myself agreeing with a thought taken from the nineteenth century preacher C. H. Spurgeon. In a prayer, he calls to God and says: ‘Jesus accept me. I here present myself to Thee…Like [Elisha’s] bullocks, I stand between the plow and the alter, ready to work or to be sacrificed. And my motto is simply, “READY FOR EITHER”!’
May this ‘new year’s resolution season’ find us saying to our great God and Savior, ‘TAKE ME AND USE ME, FOR I AM YOURS! USE ME TO BRING GLORY TO YOUR NAME AND GLADNESS TO YOUR HEART. I’M READY FOR BOTH’. Amen.