One of the things I remember vividly about my grandmother was all the quilts around her house. When we would go to visit, it was like going on an adventure. My Granny’s house had nooks and crannies, and rooms that took hours to explore. It was a hodgepodge of interconnected spaces with one overwhelming characteristic on winter nights… it was cold. Hence all the quilts in every room with a bed or sitting area. We stayed warm by snuggling down into the bed, covering up with those mantles of love, sleeping blissfully, peacefully, until we heard the bacon frying in the morning.
Today, the A/C in my home works very well. The walls and roof, properly insulated, keep out the drastic changes in the weather, whether hot or cold. I still like it on the cool side, so we keep the thermostat set lower than most folks. This allows me to relive my childhood and keep a blanket on my bed year round. Today I woke up to the cool breeze, produced by the ceiling fan, on my face. Yet, I was all snuggly and warm, because of the two blankets, one light, one heavier that stays on my bed. Today, now writing this story, I look back fondly on those childhood memories of staying over at Granny’s.
A mantle, or blanket, can carry such strong memories, and have significant meaning for some folks. There is one particular story in the Bible which has this effect for those who have ever been in leadership. For Pastors, Teachers, Worship or Sunday School leaders, there is a certain burden of responsibility that is carried like a mantle on your shoulders every time you’re exercising your gifts and calling, to serve God. At times it weighs heavy there, other times you barely notice its presence.
Elijah was God’s prophet. He stood in the gap between God and Israel, and Israel and Ahab, and his wife Jezebel (a priestess of the pagan god Baal). Baal was the Canaanite god who controlled rain, thunder, lightning and dew. In a great standoff, challenging this pagan god, Elijah does spiritual battle with 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Two altars are built, the prophets of Baal go first, Elijah second, to see whose god was really God.
Two oxen are slaughtered and put on top of the altars, and by noon the prophets of Baal began cutting themselves in panic, because their god hadn’t shown up yet. As evening approaches, Elijah orders his altar saturated with 4 barrels of water. When Elijah prays for God to demonstrate His LORDSHIP for all to see, suddenly fire falls from heaven. The fire consumes the water, the wood, the sacrificed oxen, and the stones of the altar itself.
At this point Elijah demands the death of the 450 false prophets of Baal. He prays for rain and the rain comes, ending the famine which plagued the countryside. Jezebel the priestess is livid at the death of her prophets, so she threatens to kill Elijah. This is where it gets interesting. Elijah flees, ending up in a cave in Horeb, where God speaks to him asking, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The mantle of leadership was weighing heavily on his shoulders.
Then God tells Elijah: [1 Kings 19:11-14]
So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
God would continue to use Elijah for years, and in the process raise up another younger prophet to take his place. If you’ve stayed with me this long, watch how this particular story ends.
1 Kings 19:19
So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him.
The mantle. It represented God’s calling, to be the next prophet. It wasn’t something Elisha was seeking. It wasn’t something he asked for. It was placed upon him, while the mantle still warm from Elijah’s back. God was still using Elijah to stand in the gap, but soon the mantle, and the responsibility to be God’s prophet would be fully given to Elisha.
I’m wondering as I write these words, what God has placed in your life as your mantle. Some are given leadership roles, others are given ministry roles that are never seen. The mantle (calling) of the Old Testament is very much like Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament. In the Old Testament God often used one person (prophet) to speak and lead the people. In the New Testament age (the church) God uses every person filled with the Holy Spirit at salvation, to minister to each other, and the unsaved people around them.
What is the mantle (spiritual gift) God has placed on your shoulders? Are you weary at times, of serving God in this way? If so, listen to the words God said to Moses, Elijah, and every other person before you, who stood in the gap for God:
1 Chronicles 22:13
Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.
I say to you today, be the servant of the LORD while the mantle is still warm around you.
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