Closing the Back Door

In the information technology world, a back door is another way to get back into a system or program. This other way is not obvious and it shouldn’t be the way you typically get into the system or the program. The reason back doors are present is in case someone does something foolish and blocks everyone from coming in the normal way. For instance, for those who still remember it, the movie Wargames featured a back door. In every day life we may not have a back door in the sense of the IT world, but for every rock that has that hidden space for a house key, or for those magnetic key holders you put in your wheel well of your car, you’ve effectively got a back door. We like back doors. We like ways of getting back to where we were in case something goes wrong. But when it comes to serving God, we must close those back doors.

So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”

So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.
– 1 Kings 19:19-21, NASB

Elijah has been told by God that Elisha will succeed him in the role as prophet. Elijah goes and finds Elijah and when he does, he throws his mantle around Elisha. I’m sure this came as a great surprise to Elisha, who had been plowing the land. Elisha asks a simple question, about whether or not he can kiss him mom and dad, which seems like an honest request. After all, following after Elijah could take him anywhere. He may never see his parents again. Elijah’s response seems odd. But look at Elisha’s words carefully, “I will follow you.” In other words, I will follow the man, Elijah. Elijah’s question back indicates to Elisha he wasn’t following Elijah. It wasn’t Elijah giving the call. God was. And as a result, when Elisha went back, he shouldn’t let the ties of family keep him from returning and following God’s call.

It is obvious that Elisha gets the message. Notice what he does when he goes back home. He takes the oxen he was plowing with and he offers them as a sacrifice to God. He throws a feast for the people. Once the feast is done, Elisha went back to Elijah. Those oxen represented Elisha’s back door. They were the tie to his old life and his old occupation. By sacrificing them, Elisha is making a firm statement that he will not return to his old occupation because he had sacrificed the very means for him to do so. Elijah closed the back door.

When it comes to God’s calling in our lives, we need to close the back door to what we’re leaving behind. Leaving the back door open is a trust problem. It either means we don’t trust God’s calling or we don’t trust ourselves in that calling. We have to realize God’s plan is perfect. We have to realize, then, that His calling is perfect, too. Often we agree with this in in our heads. We can reason that there’s no reason to doubt. But in our hearts we still do. Elisha didn’t. He cut off the old life to follow the new. That’s what God wants of us, too, when He calls us away from something. He wants us to let go. He wants us to trust Him. And it takes an intentional effort to make that break, to close that back door. Are there back doors in your life that need closing? Are there old ways God asked you to let go of that you still find yourself holding on to? Trust God and allow Him to show you the way forward.

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