They went down to Bethel. Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha.
–2 Kings 2:2-3
Elijah was a man who poured into the lives of others by encouraging them. In 1 Kings 19, when Elijah was having a pity party for himself and complaining to God that he was the only one left who was faithful, God said basically, “Get over yourself, Elijah. You are not the only one. There are seven thousand in Israel who have not bent their knee toward Baal.” Among those seven thousand who had not succumbed to idolatry was a group of men known as the “sons of the prophets” (2 Kings 2:7). These were prophets in training, and they had two learning institutes where they were being trained as prophets of Jehovah. One was located at Bethel, and the other was located at Jericho. So it’s no accident that when Elijah made his road trip before he went to heaven, two of the places he went were Bethel and Jericho. He went to the seminaries to have one final word with these would-be and up-and-coming prophets.
Look at 2 Kings 2:3: “The sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; be still.’” Then in verse 5, when Elijah and Elisha came to Jericho, the sons of the prophets said the same thing. Elijah wanted to be a guest lecturer that day at both seminaries to share with those students.
We don’t have a record of what Elijah said to them, but can you imagine being in class that day to listen to this great prophet of God? What do you think he talked to them about? I imagine he related to these prophets how God had protected him from King Ahab’s wrath when he had the courage to accuse Ahab of idolatry. I’m sure he probably talked about how God had preserved his life at Cherith with that miraculous provision for food, and later at Zarephath. I’m sure he regaled them with the great dramatic encounter he had at Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal. I think he was probably very honest with them in confessing the bouts he had with depression and discouragement, but most of all, I think he probably encouraged them by reminding them that the same God who had been faithful to him throughout his life would also be faithful to these prophets as they served the Almighty God.
Elijah’s time with these prophets reminds me of the importance of people. I didn’t always understand that. When I was younger in ministry, I used to think that people were a means to an end. I thought God put people in my church to help me achieve the goals that we had, whether it was a chapel campaign, a building program, or a great evangelism effort. No, people are not the means to an end. They are the end. The life that counts for eternity is one that is spent investing in the lives of people, and one way we do that is by encouraging the people God has put in our path. The longer I live, the more I realize that everybody needs encouragement.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Leaving a Legacy That Lasts” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.