Reading 1 - 2Ki 13:14
"Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. 'My father! My father!' he cried. 'The chariots and horsemen of Israel!' " (2Ki 13:14).
These are the same words uttered by Elisha himself about his predecessor, Elijah (2Ki 2:12). Even the wicked king Jehoash realizes that Elisha, as God's prophet, is more powerful than chariots and horses, and expresses here something of his awareness of the presence of the Almighty. It is true enough, that wherever the word of the prophet is found, there is the power of the LORD! And that power is infinitely greater than all the "chariots" and "horses" of all the armies that ever were.
What the younger Elisha had seen earlier in the old prophet Elijah, as he was being taken away from him, is finally seen by another in the now older Elisha, as he also is being taken away. Elisha may scarcely have realized how and when it was happening, but over time the "mantle" of Elijah had truly come to rest on his shoulders, spiritually as well as literally. He had grown up to the office, and now -- at the end -- it was as though Elijah was once more taking his leave of men. In a similar way, many a young man has wondered if he might ever attain to the wisdom, and experience, and authority, and strength of his father -- to find, one day years later, that he has indeed. It has happened even as Jesus' parable suggests: "Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how"... until finally "the grain is ripe" (Mar 4:27,29)!
Reading 2 - Eze 3:19
"But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself" (Eze 3:19).
"God has committed to men such responsibility that Ezekiel and Jeremiah can warn and save, or refrain and be guilty of blood. And we know that this is true of us. In all our walks we can display Jesus or hide him; confess him or deny him. We can let our light shine as a light on a lightstand, that men may glorify our Father, or we can behave so that the way of truth is evil spoken of. In our own midst we can turn a sinner from the error of his way, or we can destroy him with our meat for whom Christ died. To hold forth the Word of Life is not therefore the voluntary pastime of a few of us; in some form it is the responsibility of us all" (Alfred Norris, "Preaching the Word" 8,9).
Reading 3 - 2Co 11:29
"Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?" (2Co 11:29).
"The word Paul uses for 'weak' is one which features frequently in his writings, and it nearly always refers to the spiritually weak (Rom 4:19; 14:1,2,21; 1Co 8:9,11,12). He was so sensitive to his brethren that when he considered their spiritual weakness, he felt the same. He identified with them, he could put his arm round someone who was slipping away and say, 'I'm with you', and so evidently mean it. He had a genuine and obvious sense of solidarity with them. He wasn't critical of them to the extent that he made a barrier between himself and them. They knew his disapproval of their ways, but yet it was so evident that his heart bled for them. And when Paul saw a brother being offended, he burnt. His heart burnt and bled as he saw someone drifting away with a chip on their shoulder. He didn't just shrug and think, 'Well, that's up to them, their choice.' He cared for them. That brother, that sister, and their future meant so much to him. If Paul had lived in the 21st century, he would have telephoned them, written to them, visited them, met with them week by week To be weak and to be offended are bracketed in Rom 14:21: 'thy brother is offended, or is made weak'. And in 2Co 11:29 we have the same idea... The parallels imply that if the weak brother was offended, Paul himself was as it were offended, even though he himself did not stumble. He could identify with the spiritual weakness of others to the point of feeling that he himself had committed it or was in the shoes of the sinner -- even though he himself was innocent" (Duncan Heaster).