Apprenticeship – a period of time when a person learns an art, trade or job under the supervision of a skilled worker in that field – seems to me to be one of the best ways to learn. It also seems to be the Biblical way of training leaders. Joshua was Moses’s second-in-command for years. Elisha spent time alongside Elijah, and Jesus took a group of twelve men and worked with them for three-and-a-half years before His death.
Apprenticeship combines the theory (teaching) and the practical (actually doing the job) and is worked out in the real world over a period of time, acknowledging that it takes time to master skills (practice makes perfect!) Experience and wisdom can be passed on in this method.
Yesterday I mused on Elisha’s apprenticeship (pouring water on the hands of Elijah), and pondered the menial, unglamorous nature of ministry, commenting that service is the key to greatness in God’s kingdom. Today I read of the miracles Elisha subsequently saw: feeding a hundred with minimal food (2 Kings 4:42-44), ensuring poisoned food did not harm anyone (2 Kings 4:38-41), healing Naaman of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14). I read about his extraordinary prophetic gift in knowing what kings were planning in secret (2 Kings 6:8-23) or knowing what his servant did in his absence (2 Kings 5:24-27). The miraculous seems almost commonplace in the life of Elisha, proof that the double portion of Elijah’s spirit which had been his one request of his master had been fulfilled.
Proverbs 18:12 says that ‘humility comes before honour.’ There is nothing glamorous about apprenticeship; the apprentice must learn to do all the jobs, even the ones he would prefer to avoid. An attitude of humility can’t be exchanged for pride or arrogance even when the apprenticeship is over. But there is a clear Biblical precedent that we must learn humility before ever we can know honour. Elisha clearly learned this lesson well, and so must we.