When it came time for the Olympic games in ancient Greece, athletes from around the country were handed a torch with a special flame. Every one ran his leg of the race and then handed off the torch to the next runner. Eventually the torch made it to an altar in Olympia and remained there. This Olympic tradition continues to this day.
At the beginning of time, God lit a flame and passed it on. It started with Adam and Eve. Later, Abraham passed the torch to Isaac, who in turn handed it to Jacob and thence to Joseph. In the Bible, passing the flame did not just happen between parents and children. Moses passed the torch to Joshua. Eli did the same with young Samuel. Jesus passed the torch to his apostles. The apostle Paul, as an old man, celebrated as he saw the flame of faith ignite in Timothy’s life.
In 1 Kings 19:15-21
Elijah asks Elisha to make an enormous sacrifice and follow in his footsteps as a prophet, to take a sacrificial step of faith. The Bible says nothing about Elijah’s background. He may well have been from a poor family and not have had too many career options. But Elisha is another story. This passage makes it clear that Elisha comes from a very wealthy family (they had twelve yoke of oxen). He will inherit a way of life that will keep him comfortable for the rest of his days.
But through Elijah, God has called him to walk away from his secure and wealthy lifestyle and follow him on a path that may easily lead to poverty, rejection, and the opposition of stubborn kings who want him dead. From the beginning, Elisha must have realized that following God’s plan for his life meant making significant sacrifices.
As they walk together, along the Jordan, waiting to see what God will to do, we can only imagine what is going through their minds. They have traveled so many miles together. God has used them to do amazing things. They have forged a wonderful friendship. But soon, Elisha will be alone.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a chariot of fire and horses appear, and the two men are separated from each other. Elijah is swept up into the arms of God; Elisha is left behind. Elisha cries out and tears his garments-a sign of grief and loss - as his friend, mentor, and leader is gone. Seeing Elijah’s cloak on the ground, Elisha takes it and rolls it up, just as he had seen Elijah do. He lifts his arm, just as he had seen Elijah do. He strikes the water of the Jordan, as he had seen Elijah do. And the water parts! Elisha crosses on dry ground. The mantle has been passed, the Spirit is alive in Elisha – he is ready to be a torchbearer for God.
From the beginning, God planned for his followers to be torchbearers. If we fail to rise up to this calling, each new generation is at risk! The question God is asking is clear: “Will somebody guard the flame? Will we continue the legacy and pass on the torch to the next generation?”