Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak on him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! What have I done to you?” Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to the people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah to serve him.1 Kings 19:19-21
And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”Luke 9:59-62
The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb… The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass.Revelation 21:14, 21
An Undivided Heart
Elisha left everything behind to follow Elijah. Detaching from family, friends, home, livelihood, and possessions, the son of Shaphat cleaved exclusively to God.
The urgent and radical call of Christ to follow him also demands an undivided heart. Like a plowman wholly focused on making straight furrows, the disciples of Christ fix their eyes unwaveringly on the kingdom of God.
Lose It All, Gain It All
Twelve, a biblical number of perfection and completion, signifies the total loss and gain in following Christ. Discipleship is not a zero sum game, however; all creation is nothing compared to the possession of the uncreated God.
Twelve yoke of oxen, fare thee well!
Shalom, twelve gates of Israel.