Elijah’s Mantle

Elijah's MantleThere has been much talk in recent years across the charismatic church, about allegedly receiving the “mantles” of those gone on before us. In context, much of this originates from the story of Elijah and Elisha.

As far as the prophetic ministry is concerned Paul Cain was well known and respected as a prophet across the Church. I honour him for how he walked consistently in the things of God over the decades. He experienced terrific stories that involve Church leaders, Presidents and world leaders since the 1940s.

Paul Cain, 1929-2019, He ran the race and finished well! Sorely missed.

I recall many of his personal stories and the sacrifices he made following in obedience. There has been a cost, but Paul, in humility rarely mentioned those things. Paul had been following the leading of the Spirit and enjoying his adventures with God before many who read this was born! If you want to read his story, some of it is found on his website.

As one of Paul Cain’s closest friends, however, I can tell you I don’t want his mantle. It’s not just Paul’s mantle – I don’t want Elijah’s, Smith Wigglesworth’s or Billy Graham’s either! (How comes nobody desperately wants Jonah’s ‘mantle’?) I’m not being ungrateful, arrogant or proud – let me explain.

» The debrief

Elijah, after confronting King Ahab, has an extraordinary 850 -1 encounter with the false prophets of Baal where he issues the challenge that the God who answers by fire, He is God. It is a familiar story; as Elijah calls on the name of the Lord, the fire of God falls and consumes the sacrifice, from the top to the bottom.

Elijah promptly declares the drought is over, and the rain is coming. After much prayer, the skies open with a torrential down-pouring. It is a remarkable story, but on hearing about Elijah’s exploits from King Ahab, Ahab’s psychotic wife Jezebel issues venomous death threats to Elijah.

Despite the overwhelming interventions of God, and with 400 false prophets put to the sword, Elijah is scared and goes on the run.

Simply put, Elijah wants to die, prays for premature death, but his objections are met by yet another intervention of God. He will later be informed by God that he is not unique; 7,000 others have not bowed the knee to Baal. In the interim God generously provides for him again. He is instructed twice to eat hot food and drink water prepared by the angel, sleep and then go to Horeb the mountain of God (Mt Sinai), the place where God made himself known in the key moment of Israel’s history. An unexpected

With the privilege of hindsight, we get to see that Elijah experiences some extraordinary encounters, especially for someone who believes there is nothing more to live for. On Horeb, hiding in the cave just waiting for God, he might have reflected on God’s history of protection, presence, love and relationship towards His people. I doubt it. He waits for God, cold, hungry, miserable.

If you are listening for that gentle whisper, remember it was the end of Elijah’s ministry.

Once more, you are familiar with the story; God sends a powerful wind that starts to tear the mountain apart. But the wind isn’t God. At that point, he sends an earthquake that shakes the mountain. But the earthquake isn’t God. Then he delivers fire as he sent on Mount Carmel at the time of Elijah’s most impressive victory. But the fire isn’t God.

Then comes “a still, small voice, a gentle whisper” but the New Revised Standard Version says it was “the sound of sheer silence.”  God turns up and asks, “What are you doing here?” Elijah should have replied, “Because you told me to!” But he is not me!

That’s the story. Elijah is told to anoint a king and a successor. If you are listening for that gentle whisper, remember it was the end of Elijah’s ministry. Everything is now about putting his house in order, so to speak.

We are notoriously prone when it suits us, to over romanticise the Bible and read ourselves selectively into narratives where we do not belong!

» A quick interlude

Remember Achan’s sin? In Joshua 7:19-24 Achan covets a beautiful robe from Babylonia along with silver and gold and conceals them in the ground in his tent. On being confronted about it he admits it and lists them in that order! The garment meant more than silver or gold. But when was he going to wear it without people pointing a finger and saying, “that’s not yours?”

Heart-searching question; Whose mantle are you wearing?

Joseph had an extremely nice coloured garment. The brothers shredded it, put animal blood on it and returned it. No one could wear that garment, nice as it was. It was Joseph’s.

AD33 and Roman soldiers take an interest in their captives’ purple robe that is seamless and cast lots for it. It belonged to the Saviour of mankind, who was about to give His life for the sins of the world. Another garment no one could wear without facing difficult questions.

» Back to Elijah

Here’s the deal. God told Elijah to go anoint Elisha as a prophet in his place. How would you feel about that? Elijah comes down from the mountain and goes looking for Elisha. When he finds him, he has an odd way of anointing him as a prophet. The word ‘anoint’ in the Hebrew means to smear or to rub. We are not told that Elijah did that here. There is a lot of time and distance mentioned in the narrative before Elisha takes his place for this to formally happen. What we are told is that Elisha is ploughing a field with 12 pairs of oxen, and he is on the last pair, working the field.

All the commentaries seem to infer that Elijah’s mantle is made from animal skin, a shaggy coat of untanned skin, with the hair outward. Elijah is not a man of wealth, and it could be considered that this garment has been worn in the field and is not a coat of many colours. It smells of Elijah; it likely needs cleaning, but it is snug. Such a garment seems to have been worn by the later prophets (Zechariah 13:4; Matthew 3:4) and to have been regarded as a sign of their profession up to the day of Isaiah.

Elijah’s mantle – It smells of Elijah. It probably needs cleaning, but it is warm.

As Elijah walks past Elisha the Hebrew text tells us he “threw” his cloak ((אַדֶּ֣רֶת ’ad·de·reṯ – literally cloak, but ‘mantle’ sounds so cool!)) on him. Does that tell us something about how Elijah viewed the recruitment process? The scripture tells us something interesting; Elijah didn’t stop. Elisha surely was surprised at first. It was almost like being assaulted! We are not told that Elijah said anything, all we know at this point is that Elisha has to run after him for clarity and direction.

Now we connect the dots. Elisha sacrifices the oxen he has. What sacrifice is this? Whatever it is, everyone joins in this departure celebration-are the attendees those from among the 7,000 who have not bent the knee to Baal? With a full stomach, Elisha has to track down Elijah again.

Later, at the far end of the story, Elijah seems to have reclaimed his cloak and as he approaches the Jordan, he rolls up the garment and strikes the waters. After Elijah is transported from him leaving behind the cloak, Elisha rolls it up and struck the water, and just like for Elijah, the Jordan waters separated.

The wet mantle of Elijah was now Elisha’s.

» Unhelpful jargon

A dead man is hurled into a cave and lands on the bones of Elisha and comes to life. It is a miracle, but he does not receive Elisha’s anointing. (2 Kings 13:21) Some people have been known to do some strange things in their longing for an anointing. It will not happen – instead we need to give ourselves with love and affection to and for Christ instead of a quest for an unnecessary and distracting “anointing-fix”.

Someone asked about Paul Cain’s mantle, and he responded, “Why? I’m not done with it yet!”

The somewhat misleading teaching about ‘the mantle’ has put the focus on a thing, rather than the person of the Holy Spirit. We treasure what Elijah possessed, or John the Baptist or Joel. Nowhere does the Bible advise us to seek after other people’s gifting or anointing. Someone asked about Paul Cain’s mantle, and he responded, “Why? I’m not done with it yet!”

The apostle Paul does not tell us to covet other peoples gift or calling, what we are advised to do is to eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy. Yes, go after what God places on your heart, but it is only as the Spirit of God enables you that you can achieve anything.

Here’s some good news. What happened at Pentecost is sufficient for you and you can experieince it – but you also are encouraged to encounter the presence and power of Spirit on a regular basis in your daily walk with God. We look back to Pentecost knowing that was just the beginning of what God is still doing, and for our part we can cooperate with him by being mindful of the things grieve or quench what the Holy Spirit is doing and avoid it. God’s glory and power come from that manifestation of His presence – the exact thing that happened at Pentecost.

» In summary

We have equated the word “Mantle” with “anointing.” The anointing you experience as you enjoy your life is sufficient for you to encounter the challenges that God sets before you, and to overcome them. You are called to a relationship with Him, not a collection of mantles.

The truth be known, if there was one mantle that you have, it is that you have put on Christ Jesus.

What happened to Elijah’s mantle? It grew musty, dried out at the edges and then began to deteriorate and slowly turn to dust. It no longer exists. His story does, and Hebrews 11 informs you about all the great champions of faith and their exploits, but only so that the writer can point you to with great confidence and conviction to the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus.

The truth be known, if there was one mantle that you have, it is that you have put on Christ Jesus. You have been enveloped with His righteousness, free from condemnation, shame and guilt.

JonHaving put on Christ you are reconciled to God forever, not just a friend, not just a servant – He has become your Father, and your sonship is eternal!