Elisha wasn't expecting to become a prophet on the day he set out from his home--not too far from
the home of his father Shaphat--to plow the land that would once again bring forth food for the whole family. No, he had been planning on doing the work demanded of him by his station in life--he knew that farmers had to work to live. So, he had taken all twenty-four of his oxen and yoked them together in pairs. Then he had lined the twelve yoke of oxen ahead of the plow and set the blade of the plow into the earth. At his command, the oxen surged forward and pulled the plow through the rocky soil. The land wasn't rich with nutrients or especially flat but it was all Elisha had and so he took care of it as best he could. After all, his life depended on his ability to deliver sustenance from hard and rocky soil. As they plowed, a prophet walked by and Elisha stopped to watch him. He knew this man to be Elijah and he took a moment to think of what Elijah's life must have been like. As Elisha stood behind the oxen thinking, Elijah took off his mantle and threw it over Elisha's neck. Elisha instantly knew what this meant--he knew what Elijah was wordlessly asking.
He left the oxen in the field and ran after Elijah to catch him since Elijah had not stopped walking since he threw the mantle. He caught up to him and said, "Elijah, if you'll wait a bit, then I'll go and kiss my mother and father goodbye and follow you." Elisha knew that the mantle had been Elijah's invitation for Elisha to become his student and follower. He also knew that following after Elijah would be the biggest change his life could ever know and likely meant he would never again see the face of his mother and father. Sometimes, callings make high demands and expect more than we are often comfortable giving--but that doesn't make them any less important or valuable.
Elijah responded, "Go on then, if you're going to follow me then it's going to be with a clean heart and conscience." Then, Elijah sat down in the road and prayed before his God--the same God whom Elisha prayed before every day and every night. Elisha drove the oxen back home and left them in their yokes once they reached his house. He ran to the home of his mother and father and excitedly told them what had happened by the road only moments ago. They were excited for him, as any good father and mother would be, but they, too, knew what it meant: a calling was taking their son away from them and they would never see him again. So, through tears and laughter, parents and son kissed and told their love and devotion. Then, Elisha ran back to his oxen with only one more plan in mind.
He took all twenty-four of his oxen and slaughtered them one by one. He had something in mind and couldn't leave the place of his birth and most of his life without doing one last thing. He broke down the plow that had been entrusted to him to farm the soil and set it ablaze. Slowly and purposefully, he began to roast the slaughtered oxen. The smell began to attract visitors and when they came they were given large portions of meat. Meat was a rarity at the time and this was a feast. It was some type of celebration and the crowds appreciated it but it was also lunacy for a man to slaughter his own oxen to feed onlookers. Sometimes a calling is lunacy not only in the eyes of the world but also in the eyes of the called.It must have been hard for Elisha to break those years of tradition but in roasting those oxen he further committed himself to a new tradition: the life and ways of a prophet.
Having fed the people the meat from his two dozen oxen, Elisha bid them farewell and returned to Elijah who was still praying on the road. "Ready to go?" Elijah asked.
"More than ever," Elisha replied.