There are times in our lives when we have to say goodbye to the ones we love. It could mean saying goodbye to a family member or friend that we have visited, or a loved one who is dying. Parting isn’t always easy, but it is a necessary part of life. The passage we heard from 2 Kings 2 is an example of a parting of the ways.
Elijah knew that God was about to take him home. He tried to keep it a secret, but he didn’t know that God told Elisha and the prophets what was going to happen. Elisha had served and followed Elijah faithfully for many years, but when the time came for Elijah to leave, Elisha made sure he was there to receive God’s anointing to continue the ministry of his master. For this to happen, he had to see his master go and be ready to receive the Spirit of God that would empower him.
Faithfulness and loyalty to Elijah were essential traits for Elijah’s successor. Some suggest Elisha was disobedient in not staying, but Elijah was testing Elisha, and Elisha passed the test. When Elijah tested him a third time, Elisha still refused to put his own comfort first.
Why did Elijah want the group to stay behind? He wanted to spare them the pain of seeing him leave. Also, he knew God was going to perform a miracle to bring his earthly life to an end, and he didn’t want to “show off.” He knew God was going to give a new meaning to the Kenny Rogers song, “Let’s Go Out, in a Blaze of Glory.”
When Elijah struck the waters of the Jordan River with the mantle again, he implied that God was with Elisha as He was with Elijah. After they crossed the Jordan River, Elijah asked Elisha if there was anything he could do for Elisha. In response, Elisha asked for a double portion of the prophetic spirit. His request related to Deuteronomy 21:17 where the oldest son was entitled to a double share of the father’s estate. Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, the energizing power characterizing Elijah’s ministry. Elisha wanted to be designated as Elijah’s heir. Elisha wanted God’s empowerment far more than he wanted wealth. By receiving double what the other prophets would get, Elisha would become the leader of the other prophets. Elisha made a big request because he had come to know a big God. What “big things” might God be pleased to do in our lives if only we would ask Him?
Elijah knew that only God could grant this request. If God allowed Elisha to see Elijah when he was taken away, that would be a sign that God granted Elisha’s request to be Elijah’s successor. Elisha did see Elijah being taken away.
The chariot and horses of fire were likely an angel squadron on special assignment. Elijah’s exclamation speaks to the reason God commanded Israel’s kings not to stockpile horses or fear armies with chariots; every powerful resource is found in God, who fights for His people. The horse-drawn chariot was the fastest means of transport and the mightiest means of warfare in that day. Thus, the chariot and horses represented God’s protection, which was the true safety of Israel and is our true safety today. Just as earthly kingdoms are dependent for their defense on such military force as represented by the modern day versions of horses and chariots, one single prophet-Elijah-had done more by God’s power to preserve his nation than all their military preparations.
Elijah had placed his prophetic mantle on Elisha as Israel’s next prophet. Now Elisha demonstrated his acceptance of the call. We can depend on the Elijahs in our lives as long as God allows, but there will come a time for us when we have to step out on our own like Elisha. That’s the time when we are tempted to cling to our Elijah and feel that we can’t go on alone, but God says that we must go on. All of us need people who model what it means to follow Jesus, just like Elijah modeled for Elisha what it means to follow God. May God give us godly people who help us grow spiritually. May we also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, invest our lives in the lives of other people.
Crossing the Jordan represents a separation from those we have been clinging to and beginning to take our walk with God in total dependence upon Him. We can’t depend on anyone other than God to determine where we are to go and what we are to do. We have to take what we have learned from our Elijahs and learn for ourselves whether God is the God we have faith to believe Him to be. Only then are we ready to proceed to the other side of the Jordan.
Performing the same miracle as Elijah demonstrated that Elisha had received a double portion of his mentor’s spirit. This put him in the tradition of Moses and Joshua, who respectively parted the Red Sea and the Jordan River. Like Joshua, whose name means “Yahweh Saves”, Elisha would live up to the meaning of his name- “God Saves.”
So how can we inherit our own double portions of God’s power? There are three things we have to remember:
- We have to have a hunger for it. This hunger comes from God. Great anointing comes with great responsibility and great difficulty.
- Humility comes before honour.
- We must be totally committed to our calling.
Our human problem is to have a little bit of God’s power of compassion when we need a lot of God’s inner, gentle love for those who are suffering around us. We need a double portion of Christ’s selfless love for those who are hurting.
The passage of the mantle is what the church has been doing for thousands of years. In many ways we inherit a double portion of what has been before as we build on the foundation of everyday prophets, saints, and sinners, all the way back to the first witnesses of the resurrection. When we sow into someone with great favour like Elijah did for Elisha, we will reap some of that favour. Grace put them there to bring us favour. As we connect to them, new doors to save will open, and new talents will come out. When we as God’s people are on the march, and we are doing what He wants us to do, nothing can stop us.
Nothing worthwhile that is accomplished for God comes without a struggle. We will face active opposition from the world, the flesh, the devil, and sometimes other Christians. We should expect these troubles rather than being surprised by them. If we only do the easy things, we will fall short of His purpose for our lives. We should do what Elisha did and recognize obstacles as opportunities for God to display His power in our lives. Because he had God’s approval, Elisha was not swayed by the opinions of men. Because he had God’s power, Elisha was not discouraged by the opposition of men. We can rely on the Holy Spirit to equip us for the task-just like Elisha relied on God’s Spirit. Because we have God’s approval, we must not be swayed by popular opinion. Because we have God’s power, we must not be discouraged in the face of opposition.
Let’s consider for a moment the Elishas we know. They are good, faithful people caught up in a mess of someone else’s making, trying with everything they’ve got to hang on, playing their last card like a gambler with nothing left to lose. For example, a transgendered church member fits that description. Bullied by their roommates, despairing of a way out, they send up a Sunday morning SOS, tearfully begging the congregation for leads on a safe place to live. When they strike the church’s fount of blessing, the water parts to reveal an elderly couple, not on anyone’s list of potential landlords, who feel God is speaking directly to them. The service postlude has barely ended when the 80-somethings invite the 21-year-old and their service dog to come live at their house.
Elishas are the people who pass through the waters and then go on to work great wonders. We are often asked to be reasonable or practical, but this passage reminds us that God’s power is not controlled by the limits of our imagination. We must not be afraid to ask for what seems to be impossible. We should praise the God who makes a way out of no way and give thanks for the ones who provide a way over. Then smack those waters with all our might.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2013; p. 482)
- Dilday, R. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 9: 1,2 Kings (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 245-248)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Vikki Kemper, “Troubled Waters.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Os Hillman, “Thirsting After God.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Joel Osteen, “A Double Portion.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org\
- Ron Moore, “A Bold Request.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
- Dr. Paul Chappell, “Taking on Hard Things.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Ed Markquart, “2 Kings 2:1-12.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Estera Pirosca Escobar, “Someone Who Leads.” Retrieved from email@example.com