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The Mantle

May 20, 2009, 8:34 AM

A mantle is a piece of garment that in ancient days and in Old Testament times was donned on people who were chosen to perform a special task, assignment or called to higher office. The equivalent in our day would be when a judge is taking oath before being installed; when the Speaker of the House takes up office or when someone is being conferred an honours degree for example. It could be the case when someone who has accomplished great deeds or a feat is being recognised or decorated for such achievement. Thus there are mantles of honour, for meritorious service, for achievements and for endangering one's life to save that of others.

In some instances in the Bible, the chosen people of God were anointed in other to receive the power they needed to accomplish the work for which they had been called. In this manner, Aaron and his family were anointed as priests by Moses upon the instructions of God.

Prophet Samuel consecrated Saul as the first king of Israel. "Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying 'Has not the Lord anointed you leader over his inheritance?" (1 Samuel 10:1) The same prophet anointed David as king over Israel. "So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him (David) in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power." (1 Samuel 16:13) David became no ordinary king.

Young Elisha was ploughing the fields when prophet "Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him." (1 Kings ) Thereafter Elisha became Elijah's attendant, his full-time disciple. It was not only an honour for Elisha to be associated with this great man of God, but it presaged a lot of things that would happen. These two biblical characters were to become unique and formidable prophets of the Old Testament times with Elijah subsequently passing the baton on to Elisha, as his successor.

In terms of the miracles performed, few prophets would come anywhere near Elijah. Elisha knew this, to the extent that when he sensed it was time for his master to depart this world, he would not for one moment part company with him. He stuck very close for fear he would lose something very valuable.

That valuable thing was known to Elisha alone it appeared. The day Elijah was to be taken up to heaven in a whirlwind both men were heading for Gilgal. Elijah asked Elisha to stay in Gilgal whilst he continued to Bethel. "Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel." Elisha's response came promptly; "As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you." (2 Kings 2:2) When they arrived in Jericho, he had an errand to run in Jordan but Elisha would not budge. The company of prophets in Bethel and Jericho had enquired of Elisha: "Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?" (2 kings 2:3,5) To that he replied; "Yes, I know, but do not speak of it."

All his attention and mind were focused on the master and his very imminent departure - not because he was going to leave him 'orphan', but because he wanted something badly from him. Being out of his sight would rid him of it. Elisha was determined at all costs to get what he was desperately looking for.

Elder prophet soon read through Elisha's mind. To cross the Jordan River, Elijah used his cloak (mantle), "rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground." (2 kings 2:8) It was then that Elijah asked Elisha. "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you." (2 Kings 2:9) This was the most coveted moment Elisha had been waiting for.  He had his answer already rehearsed: "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit." (2 Kings 2:9) No mincing words, the reply was direct.

When God was pleased with Solomon's sacrifice, He said to him in a dream, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." (1Kings 3:5) Solomon did not ask for riches or for power, he asked for intelligence to rule this stiffed-neck people of Israel. "So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" (1 Kings 3:9)

Prophet Elijah reacted to Elisha's wish in these terms: "You have asked for a difficult thing, yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours - otherwise not." (2 Kings 2:10) Needless to say Elisha never missed the opportunity to witness his master's ascension to heaven. It happened under his very eyes. And so he inherited his mantle along with the double he yearned for. It is with that same mantle that on his return he parted the river Jordan and went on his way to a successful career as a prophet.

We have a lot to learn from our elders when we are ready to sit, listen and observe; when we humble ourselves and see in others qualities that we could emulate in order to grow.

How many young people of this generation would go all out to understudy their bosses, to inherit the positive ways of doing things that they have been endowed with a view to add to their experience so as to excel in all they do.  It would require first for the disciple to see in his oversee the need to succeed him/her.

It is not just mere ambition or sheer wishful thinking to emulate someone who is successful - be it a merchant, politician, song writer, newspaper editor or newscaster. It is a sure way of attaining greater heights. 

When next the mantle is put on you, wear it because God has seen such potential in you. Seek also to emulate and exceed the standards set by those under whom you have seen great qualities.