There is no greater responsibility than being a father
My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. – 2 Kings 2:12.
The word “papa” has been swirling around in our country as a light object caught in the rapids, a flowing river. It is the national tongue twister and any street jargon, so much so that I saw a car the other day bearing a bumper sticker “Thank God for Papa and not Mama”. I am still trying to figure out what that means.
There is no other area of responsibility greater than that of being a father. A nation is made up of homes and God’s desire and design was for the responsibility of a home to rest on the shoulder of the father. But ever since the fall of man and from century to century, the home has come under heavy assault and women are more and more having to pick up the mantle of responsibility for home life.
There is no greater and more beautiful memory of child or person, who can recite with fondness the role of their father in the chapters of their life. But sad to say, in many cases fondness gives way to sadness and emptiness.
I am told of a story of a father, who after his death, left bitterness in the lives of some of his children. He was twice married, the first ending in divorce and his second wife died before him. He never took a liking to his first children because of the fact that his sister convinced him that they were not his, but after many years he began to warm up to them. He told them that they were going to be straight and have nothing to worry about as all they had to do was go to a certain lawyer upon his demise. But on going to the lawyer, they found out that in his lifetime, he gave away all of his property and holdings to his other children. But our text today tells that a word given is a word received.
No matter what the faith may be – Islamic, Jewish or Christian – the Prophet Elijah is regarded as a very important prophet. He was not afraid to face mighty kings and false prophets, including Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel. Everywhere he went he healed, performed miracles and even gave instructions that the 450 prophets of Baal be slaughtered after the experience on Mount Carmel. People were convinced that Elijah’s God was the one and true God because He answered by fire.
The prophet Elisha’s work was in the area of both politics and prophecy, following the pattern of Elijah. He started out as a farmer and lived with his parents at Abel-meholah. There is suggestion that his father was wealthy since he was plowing with 12 pairs of oxen when Elijah met him. So great was Elijah’s influence on Elisha’s life, he became his constant understudy, traveling with him and seeing the great miracles he performed.
But there came a day when Elijah’s earthly sojourn was drawing near. The Lord took up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind. Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, “Tarry here, I pray thee: for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.” So they went down to Bethel.
But Elisha told Elijah that it mattered not what he said, he was not going to leave him. On reaching Bethel, a group of prophets who lived there asked Elisha, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?” Elisha told them he knew, but did not want to discuss it. They went to Jericho and the same thing happened – a group of prophets telling Elisha the same thing as the prophets at Bethel.
Elijah told Elisha that he was ordered by the Lord to go to the River Jordan and he was not to accompany him, but Elisha told him that as The Lord liveth and as his soul liveth, he was not going to leave him. So they went on, and 50 of the prophets followed them to the Jordan. Elijah and Elisha stopped by the river, and the 50 prophets stood a short distance away.
Then Elijah took off his cloak, rolled it up, and struck the water with it, the water divided, and he and Elisha crossed to the other side on dry ground. There, Elijah said to Elisha “Tell me what you want me to do for you before I am taken away.”
“Let me receive the share of your power that will make me your successor,” Elisha answered.
“That is a difficult request to grant,” Elijah replied. “But you will receive it if you see me as I am being taken away from you. If you don’t see me, you won’t receive it.”
They kept talking as they walked on, then suddenly a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire came between them, and Elijah was taken up to heaven by a whirlwind. And Elisha cried “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” And he saw him no more.
Elisha took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan.
Fatherhood calls for relationship. It calls for mentoring in ways that will be not for the good of one, but all. Further, it calls for the good of God, country and the brotherhood. To be a father is not to be biased and deceitful, and having favorites, and taking the children’s bread and giving it to the dogs. It is not about shortening the blanket of one so that the other would roll in warmth, even though there is awareness that the night is cold and bleak. Fatherhood not only holds true to the bloodline, but to those who are at the fore and responsible for the welfare and future of others – be it spiritual, educational, social or whatever.
Like the prophet Elijah, we must leave tangible holdings, virtues and morals for our children so that legacies will be upheld and forwarded. Like the father who promised, but all along knew that he was not speaking truth and left his other children out in the cold, means that cause strife and bitterness will erupt among those who are one of one.
It is my prayer that we as a nation, will begin to follow those whose lives, words, works and witness are worth the while to emulate, so that when the time comes to leave this world, the work of goodness, mercy and righteousness will prevail.
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