One of the best examples of intentional mentoring in the Old Testament is found in Elijah and Elisha.
Elijah was God’s prophet, and God used him in powerful ways. He commanded it to not rain, and it did not rain for three years and six months (1 Kings 17:1, James 5:17). During the drought, He was supernaturally sustained by God at the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:2-7) and later through the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-16). When the widow’s son died, Elijah, with God’s help, raised him back to life again (1 Kings 17:17-24). He prayed down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel and then killed the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40). Later, Elijah prayed and it began to rain again (1 Kings 18:41-46, James 5:18).
But, Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are (James 5:17). He was a man who got weak and tired like anyone else. He got discouraged and ran for his life after the great victory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19:1-3). Despite his weaknesses and frailties, God greatly used him and helped him to be a wonderful mentor to Elisha. Elijah shows us that we don’t have to be perfect to train others. It is important that a mentor be willing to be transparent so that others can identify with them.
Elisha jumped at the chance to be trained for ministry (1 Kings 19:19-21). Elisha already had a job and some wealth, but, judging by the way he responded to Elijah’s invitation, he was not happy. He jumped at the chance to follow Elijah. He was willing his work, his possessions, and his family the ministry. He sacrifices are similar to the ones Christ asks of His disciples (Luke 14:26-27,33). Elijah on the other hand did not beg Elisha to follow him. Just like Christ, he did not want a half-hearted disciple (Luke 9:57-62). Over the few years, Elisha served Elijah. As Elijah’s servant, Elisha learned through watching, helping, and being with him. He was extremely committed to Elijah, as seen in 2 Kings 2. He would not leave Elijah’s side, and, when it came time for Elijah to leave, Elisha became his successor. He would go on to be used in even greater ways than his mentor.
What are some lessons we can learn about mentoring from Elijah and Elisha?
- Before we can really mentor and train others, we must be who we ought to be.
- Mentors are not perfect people, but they are willing to be transparent and to invest in the one being mentored.
- Mentoring requires a deep commitment by both parties.
- Mentoring is about service not position.
- Mentoring is a long-term commitment.
- Mentoring produces some of the finest leaders, who often do even greater things than the one who mentors.