The call of Elisha, recorded in 1 Kings 19:19-21, is an interesting story. The prophet Elijah invited Elisha to come and join him in his prophetic ministry. (This reminds us of how Jesus called his disciples to come and follow him.)
Elisha appeared to have a good, comfortable life when he received his call. He was busy working the land with twelve yoke of oxen. He himself was driving one pair, which means that he had several others working for him. It seems that he had a successful farming enterprise going on. It would be quite a sacrifice to give that up in order to follow Elijah. It must have been a difficult decision to make.
Elisha didn’t hesitate. He said “Yes” to Elijah’s offer. The only request he had was that he be given time to say a proper goodbye to his parents, a favor that Elijah was happy to oblige.
Then Elisha did something that seems a bit odd. He slaughtered his yoke of oxen and burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and shared it with people. Then he set out to follow Elijah.
Why did Elisha burn his plow? Wouldn’t it have made more financial sense to sell it, or even give it away? Surely there was other wood available to burn for cooking the meat. Why did Elisha burn his plow?
He probably burned it so that he would not be tempted to return to his old life. He was making a permanent decision to leave his old life behind and go in a completely new and different direction. Burning his plow was his way of making a statement about his commitment to the new life that he was going to live.
The coming of a new year is a time when many people resolve to live their lives in a different manner. They promise themselves to make changes in their lives, small or large. I have a friend who got so much satisfaction from quitting smoking last year that he has resolved to quit again this year!
It is not always easy to keep our resolutions to live a different life. Maybe there is a way you can “burn your plow” in order to help you stay on your chosen path. You could let your decision be known publicly, like Elisha did. By doing so you can give others permission to hold you accountable to stay faithful to your promise.
Burning your plow might mean that you pour all your alcoholic drinks down the drain. It might be expressed by throwing out all your pornography. It might be accomplished by ending a sinful relationship. It could be that you need to stop hanging out with certain “friends”. Burning your plow could be expressed in giving your spouse full access to your cell phone and computer. It could mean that you give up a hobby that is threatening to destroy your family because it takes up far too much of your time.
There are times when a simple tweak of our lifestyle is all that is needed for improvement. However, there are times when the only solution is to burn your plow. What plow do you need to burn, my friend?